In Los Angeles in the early summer of 1966, literary translator Sam Hileman sums up the condition under which he is working in a letter to his friend Carlos Fuentes, the young Mexican novelist. Hileman is battling against time to complete a translation of Fuentes’ new novel, Cambio de piel, with a young family and in severe fi nancial straits, lacking even the money to post the fi nished manuscript to the publisher. He is struggling to come to terms with a task that is overwhelming him:

You would never know it, but I hate translation more than I hate anything in this world. I am constantly afraid while doing it, afraid that I won’t get it good enough . . . either not close enough or not strong enough. Or either too close. It is a miserable business, at best always a failure, at worst a disaster.1