Ah, but I love to translate.
Even things I don’t care a button about. On the one hand, there always is something to learn, some obscure scrap of knowledge to be gleaned, even in the worst cases – but that’s not really it.
It is the joy of the translation itself, the quest for the right turn of phrase, the right word, the right colour, the right mood, the right texture… It is the struggle to convey those things that have no exact match in another language, those shadows and iridescence of words.
And mind, I’m not speaking of fiction or poetry – I seldom translate those. But even when toiling on the dreariest piece of nonfiction, I love the feeling of pieces clicking in place into a picture that will make sense to the final reader. A reader who thinks along different lines, whose brain is wired differently – at least in part.
Why, I even love the search for published translations of cited works… It’s often painstaking, time-consuming work – and yet, running to earth the very paragraph you need out of a five-hundred-page tome has the thrill of a treasure hunt.
For all this, I must confess I haven’t much faith in translation – and almost none in literary translation. I was eighteen when I first discovered that between a book and its translation yawns an abyss. The kind of abyss that separates two worlds, swarming with unwritten, unsaid, untranslatable layers of meaning…
And yet, I keep translating. I keep trying to build bridges over the abyss – full knowing that all I can hope to do is convey bare meaning, and an image of the way meaning is shaped in words Somewhere Else. And savour the differences. And delight in the difficulty. And seek nuances. And, and, and…
Ah, but I do love translating.
- “The translator… (elartedelatraduccion.wordpress.com)
- Old translators never die (wrightonthebutton.com)
- Lost in Translation (postcolonialcrime.wordpress.com)
Davide Mana said:
Translations are a work of cultural intermediation.
You have to convey all thelevels of meaning, not just the bare-bones information.
This said, we can strive to be as faithful to the original as possible.
Re-reading in original works I cherished in translation, and discovering wholly different books was certainly an eye-opener, and a good lesson: some translators take their role as negotiators a little too far, wrecking the delicate machinery of the original prose.
But yes, translating can be fun.
la Clarina said:
“All the levels of meaning,” you say…
Ah, but – you see – that’s exactly what I don’t have faith in: an ability to convey all those levels. I should say that, by “bare meaning” I don’t mean “bare-bones meaning”. It’s different, it’s a matter of those unwritten things implied in the structure of a different language. Let us say that meaning throws different shadows under the light of different languages. And that is what I see inevitably lost in translation. What makes it such a fascinating lost cause.
(And, by the way, do you notice how closely this discussion parallels the one we had on endings? 🙂 )
Davide Mana said:
Our respective personalities cast different shadows from the same subjects 😉
But I agree – you can’t convey everything, but you can strive to convey the closest possible substitute.
Reblogged this on translation services.