Susan Bernofsky on Translation and the Plurality of Language

55 Voices for Democracy





Aug 17, 2021


55 Voices for Democracy - Susan Bernofsky

August 17 - September 8, 2021

The series 55 Voices for Democracy is modeled after the BBC radio speeches, through which Thomas Mann, from his home in California, turned to listeners in Germany, Switzerland and occupied Netherlands and Czechia during the war. From 1940 until 1945, Thomas Mann pleaded to thousands of listeners to resist the Nazi regime and thus became the most important German voice in exile. His conviction that the “social renewal of democracy” is condition and warrant for its victory seems more relevant than ever. In this podcast series, intellectuals, artists, and activists will engage in conversations about how to renew democracy today.

Susan Bernofsky's new translation of Thomas Mann's novel "The Magic Mountain" is eagerly awaited. In conversation with Tom Zoellner, Bernofsky talks about Thomas Mann's multiculturalism and the challenges of translating between languages and cultures.

In this episode, the renowned translator also shares her personal experiences as a Jewish American in Europe and talks about the rise of the global, increasingly plural English language. Susan Bernofsky is the prizewinning translator of seven works of fiction by the great Swiss-German modernist author Robert Walser, as well as novels and poetry by Yoko Tawada, Jenny Erpenbeck, Uljana Wolf, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, and others. Her biography of Walser, "Clairvoyant of the Small", appeared in 2021. A Guggenheim, Cullman, and Berlin Prize fellow, she teaches literary translation at the Columbia University School of the Arts.




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