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Farewell to Manuel Serrat Crespo
Farewell to Manuel Serrat Crespo
18 Sep, 2014

Last month, CEATL lost one of its co-founders and honorary members, the Spanish translator Manuel Serrat Crespo. His friend and colleague Peter Bergsma has written an obituary.

In the early hours of Saturday 23 August, sitting at his computer – how could it have been otherwise? – Manuel Serrat Crespo passed away. He was, to paraphrase a Dutch poet, a man who translated faster than God can read, as witnessed by his oeuvre of over six hundred translated titles in a fifty-year career. Although Catalan born and bred, Manuel translated from French into Castilian and not into Catalan, because in the Franco era, when he was at school, it was forbidden to teach Catalan, so he had mainly a command of the spoken language and, at least by his own assessment, an insufficiently good grasp of the written one.

For his extensive oeuvre as a translator Manuel was named Chevalier de l’Ordre des Palmes Académiques (1999) and Officier des Arts et des Lettres (2003) by the French state. The author Daniel Pennac, whose regular Spanish translator he was, as well as being a good friend, made him the main character in his novel Le dictateur et le hamac. As well as being a translator, Manuel was also an author of works including the novel Autopista (1969), the play Anna o la venganza (1987) and, under the pseudonym of Maruyme, Maruyme, Diario de viaje (published in 2009).

Aside from being a translator and an author, Manuel was also a tireless campaigner for the concerns of literary translators, first as a committee member of the Catalan translators’ association ACEC and later as the ACEC representative in CEATL, which he helped to found in 1987. Within CEATL he never shied away from expressing his opinions, if necessary reinforcing them, like a real Nikita Khrushchev, by banging his shoe on the table.

When he left CEATL he was named an honorary member, and as proof of this, as the only honorary member so far, he was awarded a calligraphic certificate that hung proudly over his desk. Many long-standing members of CEATL have lost a cherished friend, and from now on CEATL will have to do without an honorary member – a member of honour in the true sense of the word.

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