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Pilar Vázquez, 1952-2020

Nonconformist Translator

Luis Fernández-Galiano 

The philologist Pilar Vázquez Álvarez, who was part of the editorial staff of AV/Arquitectura Viva in 1991-92, passed away in Madrid last 10 May. During the five years before joining us she had translated art and architecture books for Hermann Blume, works as complex as Dora Wiebenson’s series on architectural treatises or as literary as Romanticism and Realism: The Mythology of Nineteenth-century Art, by Charles Rosen and Henri Zerner, but none as close to her maverick sensibility as the two small volumes by John Berger, And Our Faces, My Heart, Brief as Photos and About Looking, with which she had initiated her collaboration with the Madrid publishing house, as well as her friendship with the British writer and art critic, whose entire oeuvre she would render in Spanish. As Ives Berger has written in a posthumous homage to Pilar, “the ‘voice’ of my father in Spanish is also hers. Her role was not secondary, but essential”. The translator, too, of bestselling novels like Girl with a Pearl Earring, by Tracy Chevalier, and classics like The Grapes of Wrath, by John Steinbeck, Pilar loved Chrissie Hynde’s Pretenders and UB40, so much that when we hear the song Don’t Get Me Wrong or the latter band’s version of Red Red Wine, it is she they will evoke, just as John Berger was evoked in her farewell tribute to him at the Círculo de Bellas Artes in 2017. And now it is his most attentive interpreter we bid goodbye to.

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