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.