Translation is a recurring trope for queerness in Anglophone LGBTQ literature. For writers such as Edward Carpenter and Xavier Mayne in the early twentieth century, and Gloria Anzaldúa and Cherríe Moraga in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries , the translation trope has proven a crucial vehicle for claiming and rendering visible literary and cultural traditions and, perhaps most poignantly, the worth and value of queer peoples and individuals whose sexual practices and kinship formations have historically been disrupted, criminalized, derided and marginalized. Writing at mid-century, James Baldwin deploys the trope toward a different end. In his landmark gay novel Giovanni’s Room (1956), Baldwin fashions a narrator-protagonist, David, whose translation strategies of omission and evasion – what I term ‘translation failure’ – offer readers a powerful pedagogical tool with which to evaluate and learn from his rejection of love.1