Can Google Help Translate a Classic Novel?

A classic of Argentine literature, Antonio Di Benedetto’s Zama is available for the first time in English. The novel, about a provincial magistrate of the Spanish crown named Zama, is a riveting portrait of a mind deteriorating as the 18th century draws to a close. Esther Allen brilliantly translates Di Benedetto’s novel, and talks about the six-year process of bringing the book to U.S. readers.

No, Google Translate was in no way useful to my translation of the 1956 Argentine novel Zama: let’s get that out of the way first thing.

However, during the six years I worked on putting Antonio Di Benedetto’s masterpiece into English, I performed an experiment. Every so often, I’d run the first line through Google Translate, to see what it came up with.

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