The image of the tightrope walker illustrates the interpreter's balancing act. Compelled to move forward at a pace set by someone else, interpreters compensate for pressures and surges that might push them into the void. The author starts from the observation that conference interpreters tend to see survival as being their primary objective. It is interpreters' awareness of the essentially face-threatening nature of the profession that naturally induces them to seek what the author calls "dynamic equilibrium", a constantly evolving state in which problems are resolved in the interests of maintaining the integrity of the system as a whole. By taking as a starting point the more visible interventions interpreters make (comments on speed of delivery, on exchanges between the chair and the floor), the author is able to explore the interpreter's instinct for self-preservation in an inherently unstable environment.
This volume is an insightful and refreshing account of interpreters' behavior from the other side of the glass-fronted booth.