On Friday, November 23, the Real Academia de la Lengua Española (Royal Spanish Academy) announced its newest academic member, the literary translator Miguel Sáenz, author of world-renowned Spanish versions of works by Thomas Bernhard and Günter Grass, among many others. Sáenz, who is also a member of the Deutsche Akademie für Sprache und Dichtung (German Academy for Language and Literature), has been awarded translation prizes in Spain and Austria. Moreover, throughout his prolific career in literature, he has also earned accolades for his personal narrative work, as well as an honorary degree in Translation and Interpretation from the University of Salamanca.
Miguel Sáenz Sagaseta de Ilúrdoz was born in Larache, Morocco, in 1932, and graduated in Law and German Philology at the Complutense University of Madrid. There he also earned a doctorate degree in law with a thesis on aviation law, one of his specialties, which he was able to develop thanks to his time in the Ejército del Aire (Spanish Air Force). His translation work, which he developed parallel to his military and law activities, spans works by Alfred Döblin, Franz Kafka, W. G. Sebald, Salman Rushdie and others—besides Bernhard and Grass.
On giving his inaugural speech, Sáenz will take up the chair marked with the letter b as a full member of the Royal Academy, where he will be in the company of fellow translators Javier Marías and Pere Gimferrer (who, in addition to their own outstanding literary production, are responsible for translations of works by Laurence Sterne and Samuel Beckett, respectively). In his first comments after being elected, Sáenz expressed his hope that his participation will “serve to renew the essential and yet so seldom recognized value” of literary translation. May it indeed be that way!
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