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We all know a bad translation when we see one… or do we? Translations of all sorts can, at best, ensure our shared survival. And at worst, mistranslations have had varied, far-reaching and often disastrous effects, as basic as “all your base are belong to us” or as serious as botched postwar food aid.
This time it’s all about translation. What is it? Is it an art or a science? What does it mean to translate something correctly— and, more importantly, what happens when translation goes wrong? I spoke to Jay Rubin, translator of bestselling author Haruki Murakami, among others, to find out.