A Tribute to Michael Henry Heim (1943 – 2012) – Asymptote

I wrote a brief tribute to translator Michael Henry Heim on Asymptote Journal as I was preparing an interview with him when I learned of his death on September 29. Reading about his singular career and reading so many of the amazing books he translated was and will continue to be a truly inspiring experience.

*Update: Five minutes after I posted this I saw that translator Susan Bernofsky revealed on Translationista that the secret donor behind the PEN translation fund turns out to have been . . . you guessed it, Michael Henry Heim. So on top of translating half of everything translated, he also paid for a lot of it. That’s a lot of slack to be taken up now.

Below is just a selected list of his translations. The best tribute of all would probably be to go read one of them you haven’t read (and to think how difficult it is to read all these books, imagine translating them!):




  • Anton Chekhov’s Life and Thought (University of California Press), The Seagull, Uncle Vanya, Three Sisters, The Cherry Orchard (various theaters in the US, Canada and England). From the Russian.
  • Milan Kundera, The Book of Laughter and Forgetting (Knopf/Penguin), The Joke (Harper & Row/Penguin), The Unbearable Lightness of Being (Harper & Row/Penguin), Jacques and His Master (Harper & Row/Penguin). From the Czech.
  • Bohumil Hrabal, The Death of Mr. Baltisberger (Doubleday), Too Loud a Solitude (Harcourt Brace), Dancing Lessons for the Advanced in Age (Harcourt Brace). From the Czech.
  • Vassily Aksyonov, The Island of Crimea, In Search of Melancholy Baby (Random House). From the Russian.
  • Henri Troyat, Chekhov (Dutton). From the French.
  • Danilo Kiš, Encyclopedia of the Dead (Farrar Straus/Penguin), Early Sorrows (New Direcions). From the Serb.
  • Karel Capek, The White Plague, Talks with T.G. Masaryk (Catbird). From the Czech.
  • Sasha Sokolov, Astrophobia (Grove). From the Russian.
  • Péter Esterházy, Helping Verbs of the Heart (Grove). From the Hungarian.
  • Dubravka Ugresic, Fording the Stream of Consciousness (Northwestern). From the Croat.
  • Felix Roziner, A Certain Finkelmeyer (Norton/Northwestern). From the Russian.
  • Jan Neruda, Prague Tales (Chatto & Windus/CEU Press). From the Czech.
  • Eduard Uspensky, Uncle Fedya (Knopf). From the Russian.
  • Milos Tsernianski, Migrations (Harcourt Brace). From the Serb.
  • George Konrád, The Melancholy of Rebirth (Harcourt Brace). From the Hungarian
  • Bertold Brecht, The Wedding. (Produced at The Mark Taper Forum, Los Angeles). From the German.
  • Josef Hirsal, A Bohemian Youth. (Northwestern). From the Czech.
  • Aleksandar Tisma, The Book of Blam. (Harcourt Brace). From the Serb.
  • Hans-Magnus Enzensberger. The Number Devil. (Henry Holt). From the German.
  • Günter Grass, My Century. (Harcourt Brace). From the German.

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One Comment on “A Tribute to Michael Henry Heim (1943 – 2012) – Asymptote”

  1. 04/10/2012 at 11:18 am #

    I was stunned when I saw that news on Susan Bernofsky’s blog. Even though I don’t know as much as some about the translation world (and especially not in the US), it was very clear that this was an amazing man.

    Later, when I saw a list of his translations, I went over to my bookshelf and saw that a couple of my Kundera books were his translations (I’d never noticed…).

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