Thursday, October 16, 2014

Novel translations ... wrap up!

After all the tooth grinding and pacing lets hand over to a translator and get some firsthand insights:

"I believe that serious professional translators, often in private, think of themselves—forgive me, I mean ourselves—as writers,  no matter what else may cross our minds when we ponder the work we do, and I also believe we are correct to do so. Is this sheer presumption, a heady kind of immodesty on our part? What exactly do we literary translators do to justify the notion that the term “writer” actually applies to us? Aren’t we simply the humble, anonymous handmaids-and-men of literature, the grateful, ever-obsequious servants of the publishing industry? In the most resounding yet decorous terms I can muster, the answer is no, for the most fundamental description of what translators do is that we write—or perhaps rewrite—in language B a work of literature originally composed in language A, hoping that readers of the second language—I mean, of course, readers of the translation—will perceive the text, emotionally and artistically, in a manner that parallels and corresponds to the esthetic experience of its first readers. This is the translator’s grand ambition. Good translations approach that purpose. Bad translations never leave the starting line.
As a first step toward accomplishing so exemplary an end, translators need to develop a keen sense of style in both languages, honing and expanding our critical awareness of the emotional impact of words, the social aura that surrounds them, the setting and mood that informs them, the atmosphere they create. We struggle to sharpen and elaborate our perception of the connotations and implications behind basic denotative meaning in a process not dissimilar to the efforts writers  make to increase their familiarity with and competence in a given literary idiom."

"The undeniable reality is that the work becomes the translator’s (while simultaneously and mysteriously somehow remaining the work of the original author) as we transmute it into a second language. Perhaps transmute is the wrong verb; what we do is not an act of magic, like altering base metals into precious ones, but the result of a series of creative decisions and imaginative acts of criticism. In the process of translating, we endeavor  to hear the first version of the work as profoundly and completely as possible, struggling to discover the linguistic charge, the structural rhythms, the subtle implications, the complexities of meaning and suggestion in vocabulary and phrasing, and the ambient, cultural inferences and conclusions these tonalities allow us to extrapolate. This is a kind of reading as deep as any encounter with a literary text can be."

Read more:

Whatever you do in the future - don't sell me a cat when the original book barks. 
Or I shall haunt you, translator! Beware of the bilingual reader...