Being obsessed, as I am these days, by The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, I was immediately attracted by the title of this book, which, for the ones who haven't read Douglas Adams' masterpiece, refers to the Babel Fish, an amazing creature that performs instant translations.
The book, just about to be published by Penguin, is written by David Bellos, an English-born translator and biographer who teaches French and Italian and Comparative literature at Princeton University.
Wikipedia calls it "an irreverent survey of translation theory", and this is probably enough to make it interesting.
The synopsis seems also promising: " (...) Is That a Fish in Your Ear? ranges across the whole of human experience, from foreign films to philosophy, to show why translation is at the heart of what we do and who we are. What's the difference between translating unprepared natural speech, and translating Madame Bovary? How do you translate a joke? What's the difference between a native tongue and a learned one? Can you translate between any pair of languages, or only between some? What really goes on when world leaders speak at the UN? Can machines ever replace human translators, and if not, why? (...)"
And finally, this delightful video where Bellos himself introduces his book made me definitively want to buy it. Enjoy!