Edith Grossman was born on March 22, 1936, and grew up in Philadelphia. During high school, she became interested in Spanish and pursued her interest at the University of Pennsylvania, where she received a BA in 1957 and an MA in 1959. It was during her undergraduate years that Grossman published her first translation, a poem by Nobel Prize-winning Spanish writer Juan Ramón Jiménez, in the university’s literary magazine. She continued her studies at the University of California, Berkeley, and in 1962, traveled to Spain on a Fulbright scholarship. She returned to New York to finish her PhD in Latin American studies at New York University.
Grossman’s first professional translation was of a story by the Argentine writer Macedonio Fernández. In the late 1980s, Grossman published three translations, including Ariel Dorfman’s Last Waltz in Santiago and Other Poems of Exile and Disappearance (Penguin, 1988) and Gabriel García Márquez’s Love in the Time of Cholera (Knopf, 1988), which the Los Angeles Times acclaimed as the 1989 Novel of the Year. Among the many other authors whose works she has translated are Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, Mayra Montero, Antonio Muñoz, and Álvaro Mutis. Grossman is also the author of Why Translation Matters (Yale University Press, 2010).
Grossman’s translation of Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote (Ecco/Harper Collins, 2003) is considered one of the finest translations of the Spanish masterpiece in the English language. Of the work, Carlos Fuentes wrote,
This Don Quixote can be read with the same ease as the latest Philip Roth and with much greater facility than any [Nathaniel] Hawthorne. Yet there is not a single moment in which, in forthright English, we are not reading a seventeenth-century novel. This is truly masterly: the contemporaneous and the original coexist. Not, mind you, the “old” and the “new.” Grossman sees to it that these facile categories do not creep into her work. To make the classic contemporary: this is the achievement.
Grossman won the PEN-BOMC Translation Prize in 2001 for her rendering of Mario Vargas Llosa’s Feast of the Goat. In 2006, she received the PEN/ Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation for lifetime achievement in the field. She also received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2008 and was elected to the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.
Before devoting her time solely to translating, Grossman taught Spanish for more than twenty-five years, at the City University of New York (CUNY), New York University, and several other colleges and universities. Currently, she lives in New York, New York.