Earlier this week, The Times reported on the death of Michael Henry Heim, 69, one of the leading figures of the small, unseen and largely unknown circle of men and women who translate the world's literature into English. Heim, a UCLA scholar, spoke six language fluently and could read six more, and he translated works by authors such as Gunter Grass, Bertolt Brecht, Milan Kundera, Thomas Mann and Anton Chekhov into English.
But what the world didn't know until his death is that Heim had privately funded dozens more works by other translators. Heim was the anonymous benefactor whose gift of $734,000 created the PEN Translation Fund in 2003.
On his translation-focused blog Three Percent, publisher Chad Post revealed the news Tuesday. The New York-based PEN American Center followed up the next day with a press release confirming the donation.
With their gift, Heim and his wife Priscilla "created a legacy that recognizes the unique place of translators and translation in our literary life," Peter Godwin, president of PEN American Center, said in a statement. "He stood for that because he knew so well how translation serves us all by providing the key in our own language to all the world’s literature.”