Gregory Rabassa, ComM (March 9, 1922 – June 13, 2016), was an American literary translator from Spanish and Portuguese to English. He taught for many years at Columbia University and Queens College.
Rabassa was born in Yonkers, New York, to a family headed by a Cuban émigré. After serving during World War II as an OSS cryptographer, he received a bachelor's degree from Dartmouth. He earned his doctorate at Columbia University and taught there for over two decades before accepting a position at Queens College, City University of New York.
Rabassa translated literature from Spanish and Portuguese. He produced English-language versions of the works of several major Latin American novelists, including Julio Cortázar, Jorge Amado and Gabriel García Márquez. On the advice of Cortázar, García Márquez waited three years for Rabassa to schedule translating One Hundred Years of Solitude. He later declared Rabassa's translation to be superior to the Spanish original.
He received the PEN Translation Prize in 1977 and the PEN/Ralph Manheim Medal for Translation in 1982. Rabassa was honored with the Gregory Kolovakos Award from PEN American Center for the expansion of Hispanic Literature to an English-language audience in 2001.
Rabassa had a particularly close and productive working relation with Cortázar, with whom he shared lifelong passions for jazz and wordplay. For his version of Cortázar's novel, Hopscotch, Rabassa shared the inaugural U.S. National Book Award in Translation.
Rabassa taught at Queens College, from which he retired with the title Distinguished Professor Emeritus. In 2006, he was awarded the National Medal of Arts.
Rabassa sometimes translated without having read the book beforehand.
He wrote a memoir of his experiences as a translator, If This Be Treason: Translation and Its Dyscontents, A Memoir, which was a Los Angeles Times "Favorite Book of the Year" for 2005 and for which he received the PEN/Martha Albrand Award for the Art of the Memoir in 2006.
Rabassa died on June 13, 2016, at a hospice in Branford, Connecticut. He was 94.
A profile of Gregory Rabassa, the man who brought One Hundred Years of Solitude, Nobel Prize-winner Gabriel García Márquez' masterpiece, to the English-speaking world.