Dancing on Ropes (Hardback)

Translators and the Balance of History

Anna Aslanyan

Horizon-expanding tales of how translators altered the course of world events

Would Hiroshima have been bombed if Japanese contained a phrase meaning 'no comment'? Is it alright for missionaries to replace the Bible's 'white as snow' with 'white as fungus' in places where snow never falls? Who, or what, is Kuzma's mother, and why was Nikita Khrushchev so threateningly obsessed with her (or it)?

The course of diplomacy rarely runs smooth; without an invisible army of translators and interpreters, it's hard to see how it could run at all. But though such go-betweens tend to be overlooked, even despised, the subtlest of them have achieved a remarkable degree of influence.

Join veteran translator Anna Aslanyan to explore hidden histories of cunning and ambition, heroism and incompetence. Meet the figures behind the notable events of history, from the Great Game to Brexit, and discover just how far a simple misunderstanding can go.

Publication date: 20/05/2021

£16.99

ISBN: 9781788162630

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: History & Classics

Dancing on Ropes (Ebook)

Translators and the Balance of History

Anna Aslanyan

Preorder from

Horizon-expanding tales of how translators altered the course of world events

Would Hiroshima have been bombed if Japanese contained a phrase meaning 'no comment'? Is it alright for missionaries to replace the Bible's 'white as snow' with 'white as fungus' in places where snow never falls? Who, or what, is Kuzma's mother, and why was Nikita Khrushchev so threateningly obsessed with her (or it)?

The course of diplomacy rarely runs smooth; without an invisible army of translators and interpreters, it's hard to see how it could run at all. But though such go-betweens tend to be overlooked, even despised, the subtlest of them have achieved a remarkable degree of influence.

Join veteran translator Anna Aslanyan to explore hidden histories of cunning and ambition, heroism and incompetence. Meet the figures behind the notable events of history, from the Great Game to Brexit, and discover just how far a simple misunderstanding can go.

Publication date: 20/05/2021

£17.99

ISBN: 9781782835523

ISBN 10 / ASIN: B08HBBC8SC

Imprint: Profile Books

Subject: History & Classics

Reviews for Dancing on Ropes

'This richly stocked treasure-house of stories about the amazing exploits of translators introduces us to a huge cast of heroes. With engaging lucidity, Anna Aslanyan explains the complexities and conundrums that language professionals have grappled with over the ages, showing just how much skill, courage, ingenuity and wit they have deployed to keep the peace, spread the word and foster conversation among the peoples of the world'

David Bellos, author Is That A Fish In Your Ear?

'A colourful tribute to the translators and interpreters slogging away throughout history, oiling - or clogging - the wheels of diplomacy and culture. Flitting from saints to cheats, drudges to adventurers, pedants to geniuses, Aslanyan sketches a lively history of an underrated art. Highly enjoyable'

Gaston Dorren, author Lingo

Anna Aslanyan

Anna Aslanyan

Anna Aslanyan is a journalist, literary translator, and public service interpreter. She grew up in Moscow, lives in London, and feels most at home in books.