Richard Bernstein, Howard’s Way, The New York Times Magazine, Sept 25, 1988
Editor: An interesting article on Richard Howard, the translator of the first book of Foucault’s to appear in English: Madness and Civilization.
THE INSPIRATION CAME EARLY, AS Richard Howard, translator of more than 150 books from French into English, once told Charles de Gaulle. Howard was working on de Gaulle’s memoires, and the President of the French Republic had invited him to the Elysee Palace on the Rue du Faubourg St.-Honore for lunch.
”And where, young man, did you learn French?” the Great Man inquired.
”In a car, mon general, between Cleveland, Ohio, and Miami, Florida, when I was 5 years old,” Howard replied. Howard, on that childhood trip, was in the company of a Viennese cousin who, to help pass the time on the long journey, decided to teach him some French.
Since then, Richard Howard has passed a number of literary milestones. There have been long stays in France and meetings with Cocteau, Genet, Barthes, Foucault, Mauriac, Beckett and other members of the literary avant-garde, many of whose works he has put into English, gaining along the way general recognition as among the most skillful practitioners of a craft often considered best performed when it is least noticed.