Gregory Rabassa, a Premier Translator of Spanish and Portuguese Fiction, Dies at 94

Gregory Rabassa, a distinguished translator from Spanish and Portuguese who brought the work of luminaries like Gabriel García Márquez and Mario Vargas Llosa to a wide English-speaking public, died on Monday in Branford, Conn. He was 94.

His family confirmed the death.

A longtime faculty member of Queens College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York, Professor Rabassa was widely considered one of the foremost translators of any kind in the world. He was known in particular for making the wave of dynamic and powerful fiction, much of it magic realist, that emerged in Latin America in the 1960s and afterward — a literary phenomenon known there as “El Boom” — accessible in English.

Foremost among those novels was “One Hundred Years of Solitude,” Mr. García Márquez’s epochal multigenerational saga, first published in the author’s native Colombia in 1967. Professor Rabassa’s critically acclaimed translation, issued in the United States in 1970, marked the inaugural appearance in English of both the novel and its author.

The novel, in Professor Rabassa’s rendering, became a best seller. Mr. García Márquez, who publicly described Professor Rabassa as “the best Latin American writer in the English language,” received the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1982.

Writing in The New York Times, John Leonard reviewed “One Hundred Years of Solitude” — which centers on the fortunes of the mythical South American town of Macondo and includes such spectacularly routine phenomena as ghosts, mass insomnia and tumbling clouds of butterflies — calling it “superbly translated.”

He further called the novel, in an encomium that speaks to the translator’s skill as well as the author’s, “a cathedral of words, perceptions and legends that amounts to the declaration of a state of mind.”

Read more: NY Times

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