“When I met Michael Henry Heim in the mid-Eighties,  I was surprised he was a being of flesh and blood. I had expected an urbane,  Borgesian phantasm  composed of libraries and dictionaries,  an angelic messenger of subtle powers,  who could acquire another difficult language between spring and  summer every year. He was all that. But he was also a smiling, warm enthusiast, generous and modest, and a  passionate Los Angeleno – alive to  issues of Californian ecology and utopian politics. Mike was one of literature’s greatest advocates,  who  threw open door after door –  to individual writers, to worlds of reading,  to his idealistic vision of ‘Happy Babel’. The Man Between gives us a valuable manifesto about translation as a crucial way of making literature, as well as a  marvellously rich, polyphonous portrait of a uniquely brilliant mind and a most wonderful, kind man.”
—Marina Warner
“This is a wonderful and illuminating account of a wonderful and luminous writer. Heim’s impact on American letters was profound and far-reaching. [The Man Between] pays handsome tribute to the work of a uniquely adventurous translator, and shows just how much we all owe to him.”
—David Bellos


The Man Between: Michael Henry Heim & a Life in Translation

by Michael Henry Heim
Edited by Esther Allen, Sean Cotter, and Russell Scott Valentino

Open Letter Press, October 2014


When Michael Henry Heim—one of the most respected translators of his generation—passed away in the fall of 2012, he left behind an astounding legacy. Over his career, he translated over sixty works from more than eight languages, books by Milan Kundera, Dubravka Ugresic, Hugo Claus, and Anton Chekov. 

But Heim was much more than that. His UCLA classes on translation inspired a new generation, and his work to heighten understanding of translation within and outside of the academy will impact perceptions for decades to come. 

If that weren’t enough, upon his death it was revealed that Heim was the anonymous donor responsible for the PEN Translation Fund—the largest fund in America supporting up-and-coming translators. 

Hundreds of people in the literary community were directly affected by Heim’s life and actions, and this book is a tribute to this quiet, humble man. Comprising a short autobiography (translated from the Romanian), pieces from authors he worked with, and essays detailing his impact on our literary culture, The Man Between opens a window onto the life and teachings of Michael Henry Heim. Like David Bellos’ Is That a Fish in Your Ear? it will be of great interest to anyone who cares about language, international culture, and the art of translation.

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