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Letters & Essays: 1980s

Letters & Essays of the Day

Denis the Pirate

By Denis Johnson

Ever since the earliest humans learned to sail boats on the sea, there have been pirates. Their main job is to steal treasure and bury it in secret places, but they also sink ships, take prisoners, collect strange animals, and perform bizarre tricks of magic. The most bloodthirsty and terrible pirate ever to sail the Caribbean Sea was my own great-great-great-great grandfather, Denis the Pirate. In the early 1700s no man lived who did not fear his name.

from a new translation of Marcel Proust's In Search of Lost Time

By Richard Howard

The great works are ageless, but their translations date; indeed, as Walter Benjamin remarks, the subsequent translations of great works mark their stages of continued life. In most cases, even the case of so extensive a work as War and Peace, translations appear at intervals of about a generation. The Tale of Genji, for all its length, has lately found a second translation, for none is definitive (not even Arthur Waley’s).