H. T. Lowe-Porter

H. T. Lowe-Porter

Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter (born Helen Tracy Porter, 1877, Pennsylvania; died 1963, Princeton, New Jersey) was an American translator, most celebrated for her translations of the works of Thomas Mann.

Helen Porter was the daughter of Clara Holcombe and Henry Clinton Porter. She was the niece of Charlotte Endymion Porter, a well-known literary figure of the day. She married the paleographer Elias Avery Lowe in 1911, and took the married name of Lowe-Porter. The couple lived in Oxford; after 1937, their residence was in Princeton, New Jersey. One of their daughters, Frances, was the maternal grandmother of London Mayor Boris Johnson.

Lowe-Porter was the translator who for more than twenty years enjoyed the exclusive rights to translate the works of Thomas Mann from German into English. She was appointed in this capacity by Mann's American publisher, Alfred A. Knopf, in 1925.

In her essay "On Translating Thomas Mann", Lowe-Porter said it is not so important that the translator be a great scholar of the foreign language, as few literary practitioners are really and truly bilingual, but that it is very important indeed that he/she be a master of the resources and subtleties of his/her own. She also said, in her note to her translation of Der Zauberberg (The Magic Mountain):

"The violet has to be cast into the crucible....The organic work of art must be remoulded in another tongue....Since in the creative act word and thought are indivisible, the task is one before which artists shrink and logical minds recoil."

In addition to her translations, Lowe-Porter wrote an original play, Abdication, which received its first production in Dublin in September 1948.

Read more about H. T. Lowe-Porter:  Thomas Mann Translations, Critical Reaction