By Harry Obst
Harry Obst began his career in the mid nineteen sixties and worked his way up from staff interpreter to director at the Office of Language Services in the U.S. Department of State. During that career, he interpreted for several U.S. presidents, many foreign heads of state, and countless U.S. and foreign dignitaries. Obst gives a detailed and interesting look at the necessities and idiosyncrasies of interpreting in the diplomatic environment and he also helps readers better understand the profession of diplomatic interpreting.
He discusses the unique challenges of adjusting to participants’ preferences in a conversation and tells humorous anecdotes where his positions and actions were vindicated. In his book, Obst paints an informative picture of his work environment and enables the reader to imagine interpreters’ excitement and exasperation in this field.
By focusing on his experiences, Obst includes a limited description of interpreting techniques to bring readers to a common level of understanding. He emphasizes some of his career highlights, gives examples when professional practice was promoted with flexibility, and shares lessons that helped him broaden his experience. Regardless of the area in which an interpreter works, it is apparent that more than just linguistic proficiency is needed to be successful.
White House Interpreter is a recommended read not just for practicing interpreters, but also for others that will better understand the challenges faced.
Thank you to Tram Bui, Division Administrator Nominee, Proposed Southeast Asian Language Division, ATA for recommending this book and giving me a copy.
Link to Amazon book: https://www.amazon.com/White-House-Interpreter-Art-Interpretation/dp/1452006156