The Voice of a Generation is now Silent


Rafa Lombardino

Last week was a sad one for the literary community. The renowned translator Gregory Rabassa, the voice of a generation of Portuguese and Spanish authors introduced to English-speaking audiences, passed away at the age of 94.

Rabassa was born in New York City in 1922 to a Cuban father and American mother. He served during World War II before starting his academic career as a professor at Columbia University, Queens College and City University of New York.

Working with major Latin American authors from the 1940s, 1950s and 1960s, Rabassa’s translations introduced authors such as Julio Cortázar (Argentina), Mario Vargas Llosa (Peru), José Saramago (Portugal), and Gabriel García Márquez (Colombia) to the English-speaking world. He also translated Clarice Lispector’s “The Apple in the Dark,” Jorge Amado’s “Captains of the Sands,” and Machado de Assis’ “Posthumous Memoirs of Bras Cubas” and “Quincas Borba.”

He was the recipient of the 1977 PEN Translation Prize for his translation of García Márquez’s “The Autumn of the Patriarch,” the inaugural U.S. National Book Award in Translation in 1967 for his work on Cortázar’s “Hopscotch,” and the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 1982, among other awards and distinctions.

Legend says García Márquez waited three years for Rabassa to become available and translate “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” which went on to become one of the world’s most well-known novels in translation. The author himself read the Rabassa version in English and deemed it even better than the original, calling his translator “the best Latin American writer in the English language.”

More on Rabassa:


Other Literary Links:

Ask a Translator with Daniel Hahn

Man Booker International Prize

The Rise of Hispanic/Latino Canadian Literature in Translation

Contemporary Literature from Spanish into English

Much more than waffles and fries

National Museum of Taiwan Literature

Moving Beyond the “Saving Muslim Women” Memoirs

Hrabal, Translation, and “Owning” Languages

Influences and Translation in Culture

Refugee Literature vs. National Literature

“It was really true, there was no longer
anything about him that could interest me.
He wasn’t even a fragment of the past, he was only a stain,
like the print of a hand left years ago on a wall.”

Elena Ferrante, translated from Italian to English
by Ann Goldstein in The Days of Abandonment

rafa orangeRAFA LOMBARDINO is a translator and journalist from Brazil who lives in California. She is the author of “Tools and Technology in Translation ― The Profile of Beginning Language Professionals in the Digital Age,” which is based on her UCSD Extension class. Rafa has been working as a translator since 1997 and, in 2011, started to join forces with self-published authors to translate their work into Portuguese and English. In addition to acting as content curator at eWordNews, a collective blog about translation and literature, she also runs Word Awareness, a small network of professional translators, and coordinates Contemporary Brazilian Short Stories (CBSS), a project to promote Brazilian literature worldwide.


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