Edith Marion Grossman (1936–2023): The Translator Who Brought Latin American Literature to the World
Edith Marion Grossman, renowned for her exceptional literary translations, left an indelible mark on the world of literature. Born as Edith Marion Dorph on March 22, 1936, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, she dedicated her life to bridging the gap between Spanish and English literature, introducing countless readers to the works of some of Latin America’s most celebrated authors.
Grossman’s journey in academia was marked by significant achievements. She earned her B.A. and M.A. from the University of Pennsylvania, delving into the world of literature. Later, she pursued graduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and achieved the pinnacle of her academic career with a Ph.D. from New York University. Her doctoral thesis focused on the works of Chilean “anti-poet” Nicanor Parra, showcasing her early interest in Latin American literature.
Transition to Translation
Although initially engaged in teaching roles at prestigious institutions like NYU and Columbia University, Grossman’s career took an unexpected turn in 1972. A friend, Jo-Anne Engelbert, approached her with a request to translate a story by Argentine avant-garde writer Macedonio Fernández. This pivotal moment marked her transition from scholarship and criticism to the world of translation.
In 1990, Grossman made the courageous decision to leave teaching behind and fully dedicate herself to the art of translation, a choice that would profoundly impact the literary world.
Edith Grossman became synonymous with the translation of Latin American and Spanish literature to English. Her translations included the works of luminaries such as Nobel laureates Mario Vargas Llosa and Gabriel García Márquez, as well as Mayra Montero, Augusto Monterroso, Jaime Manrique, Julián Ríos, Álvaro Mutis, and the timeless Miguel de Cervantes.
Awards and Honors
Grossman’s unparalleled contribution to literature earned her esteemed accolades, including the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation. In 2022, she was honored with the prestigious Thornton Wilder Prize for Translation, a testament to her unparalleled skill in bringing foreign literary treasures to English-speaking audiences.
Personal Life and Passing
Beyond her literary accomplishments, Edith Grossman was affectionately known as “Edie” to her friends. She married Norman Grossman in 1965, and the couple had two sons before parting ways in 1984.
Sadly, on September 4, 2023, Edith Grossman’s battle with pancreatic cancer came to an end. She passed away at her Manhattan residence, leaving behind a profound legacy in the world of literature. Her work will continue to inspire and connect readers across languages and cultures for generations to come.