The following passage in an article in The Guardian titled Occupy was right: Capitalism failed the world (April 13, 2014) comments on Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the twenty-first century, a work of scholarship that has attracted worldwide attention.

“And indeed it has to be said that Capital in the twenty-first century is surprisingly readable. It is packed with anecdotes and literary references that illuminate the narrative. It also helps that it is fluently translated by Arthur Goldhammer, a literary stylist who has tackled the work of the likes of Albert Camus. But even so, as I note that Piketty’s bookshelves are lined with such headache-inducing titles as The Principles of Microeconomics and The Political Influence of Keynesianism, simple folk like me still need some help here.”

This is the first time I have encountered the expression 'literary stylist'. Does it refer to a characteristic of the writer, or to an established genre of literature or rhetorical mode? What does it mean? Is it a common term like 'fashion stylist'?

  • I have made a number of edits to your question. You might wish to confirm whether I have interpreted your intentions accurately.
    – Erik Kowal
    Dec 21, 2014 at 2:44
  • @Erik Kowal. Thanks for your editing. My question became much clearer and more gramatical. Dec 21, 2014 at 3:05

1 Answer 1


A 'literary stylist' is a person who evinces an accomplished and impressive literary style, at least in their professional output.

With respect to the case in point, it implies that the translator of Thomas Piketty's work has been at pains to render the French-language original text into elegant, idiomatically apt and resonant English.

Or — to put it another way — Piketty's translator, Arthur Goldhammer, has demonstrated his knack for finding the mot juste.

  • Interesting that the cited passage includes the phrase "such headache including titles as..." This is a transcription error. The linked-to article reads "such headache-inducing titles as..." Dec 21, 2014 at 2:34
  • @ Brian Hitchcock. You are right. I mistyped the words, and Erik Kowal kindly corrected it. Dec 21, 2014 at 3:05

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