Famed Translator’s Huge Donation is Revealed Upon is Death

Few people stop to think about the importance of translation when it comes to the world of literature. Many of the most popular books in the English-speaking world were originally written in other languages. These books have helped shape our culture and to understand other cultures outside our own. The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Crime and Punishment, Don Quixote, Anna Karenina, Candide, and The Three Musketeers were all originally written in other languages but became wildly popular for their English translation. The professional translators behind these works are often upraised and underpaid. Michael Henry Heim was one such translator, and he passed away earlier this month. His amazing work was only made more triumphant when people realized that he was responsible for an anonymous and enormous donation to the PEN translators fund in 2003.

Heim Translated Some of the Most Popular Works

Michael Henry Heim passed away at the age of 69. His life was full of translations, and he graduated from UCLA able to speak six different languages. His published translations included those of Gunter Grass, Milan Kundera, Bertolt Brecht, and Thomas Mann. While professional translations are an essential part of literature, translators are often underpaid. The work is labor intensive and requires a high level of intelligence and skill. Regardless, it isn’t easy making a living with a career in translations. For that reason, many people wonder how Heim was able to make such a generous gift to the PEN Translators fund.

The Generous Donation Required Frugality

Heim and his wife Priscilla made a donation of $734,000 to the PEN Translators fund. With such a small income, many people wondered how he made the hefty donation. According to his wife, the family had money from a death benefit paid to Heim’s mother after the death of his father. They saved the money carefully by eating in, rarely going out for entertainment, and wearing the same clothes for years. Their frugality paid off, as the donation helped fund a wide variety of translations. Armenian, Lithuanian, Basque, Farsi, Estonian, and German translations were all made possible by the donation.

When you’re trying to read a book that was written in another language, translation apps and free online translation services won’t cut it. Instead, translators work hard to bring you literature in an accurate and logical format. Without them, many now-famous books would have gone unread here, and our culture would remain sheltered.

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