Arthur Goldhammer

Four-time winner and honorary award recipient shares insights on Translation Prize

Arthur GoldhammerAt the 28th Annual Awards Ceremony of the French-American Foundation and Florence Gould Foundation Translation Prize on June 10, 2015, the Foundation presented an Honorary Award to four-time Translation Prize-winner Arthur Goldhammer, translator of Thomas Piketty’s bestselling Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) in 2014. Prior to the ceremony, Goldhammer joined us to discuss his work and longstanding history with the Translation Prize.

Goldhammer, Co-Chair of the Contemporary Europe Study Group at the Harvard University Center for European Studies, has translated more than 125 books from French, for which he won numerous awards. These include four French-American Foundation Translation Prizes for his translations of The Ancien Régime and the French Revolution by Alexis de Tocqueville (Cambridge University Press) in 2011, Democracy in America by Alexis de Tocqueville (The Library of America) in 2004, Realms of Memory: The Construction of the French Past, Vol.1 by Pierre Nora (Columbia University Press) in 1996, and A Critical Dictionary of the French Revolution by François Furet and Mona Ozouf (Belknap Press of Harvard University Press) in 1990. Goldhammer has a B.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics from MIT and has taught at Brandeis University and Boston University.

In this last year, you translated Thomas Piketty’s bestselling book on income inequality, Capital in the 21st Century. What was your first impression of this book? How did it come about that you became the translator of this book?

As anyone who has read Piketty’s book knows, it’s a rather lengthy and ambitious pursuit. What was your reaction to being faced with 600 pages of economic analysis?

The book was very successful not only in France and Europe but also in the United States? What has been the impact of this success on French literature, nonfiction, and the translation thereof?

It seems like there are fewer books being translated from French to English? What explains this phenomenon?

Obviously, the publishing industry is changing quite a bit with the Internet, eBooks, and new technologies. How have these changes impacted the publication of translations? Are there new opportunities for translators being presented?

We’re here tonight to honor you, your career in translation, and your history with the Translation Prize, having won in 1990, 1996 2004, and 2011. What do the Translation Prize and the honors you’ve received mean for you as a translator?

You’ve translated more than 125 works from French to English, but we’re recognizing you not only for this work but more largely for the contribution your work has made to the intellectual exchange between France and the United States. How would you define the intellectual relationship between these two nations, and what would you say makes it special?