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A tribute to Anthea Bell

Anthea Bell, a grande dame of literary translation, died today age 82. She was particularly known for her translations of Franz Kafka's books and Asterix, the famous series of French comics.


Anthea Bell

She was born in Suffolk in 1936 and lived in Cambridge. Her father was Adrian Bell, the first Times cryptic crossword setter. Her brother Martin is a former BBC correspondent and was an independent Member of Parliament for one parliamentary term. She was married to the publisher and writer Antony Kamm for 16 years. One of her two sons is journalist Oliver Kamm, a leader writer for The Times.


Anthea Bell's career spanned six decades. She worked from both French and German, translated works by Stefan Zweig, W.G. Sebald, Sigmund Freud and Franz Kafka, alongside a wide range of contemporary authors. She also specialised in children's literature, translating numerous Franco-Belgian comics. She first began translating Asterix in 1969 and her work on puns have been critically acclaimed for keeping the original French spirit intact. She was indeed a advocate of 'invisible translation'. Other comic books she has translated includeLe Petit Nicolas and Iznogoud.

She was appointed Officer of the Order of the British Empire (OBE) in the 2010 New Year Honours for services to literature and literary translations and she received the Order of Merit of the Federal Republic of Germany in 2015.


Some of her translations:

- Austerlitz by W. G. Sebald (2011, Penguin)

- Nicholas by René Goscinny (2011, Phaidon Press)

- Asterix the Gaul by René Goscinny (2005, Orion Children's Books)

- The Psychopathology of Everyday Life by Sigmund Freud (2003, Penguin Classics)

- The Life and Opinions of the Tomcat Murr by E. T. A. Hoffmann (1999, Penguin Classics)


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