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On translators and translation
Thread poster: Aurora Humarán
Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Argentina
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English to Spanish
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Apr 1, 2005

Milan Kundera was born in Brn, Czech Republic, on April 1, 1929.


"Common European thought is the fruit of
the immense toil of translators.
Without translators, Europe would not exist;
translators are more important than members
of the European Parliament."



Milan Kundera, Czech writer

[Edited at 2005-04-01 02:22]


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Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
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Member (2004)
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Almost transparent Apr 1, 2005

Au, thanks a lot for presenting this opinion to us. Some times we are almost transparent, although I would not trade my occupation for any other. It is a pleasure to see great minds acknowledging our work, our talent, and our service to others.

[Edited at 2005-04-01 02:28]


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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Ouch... Apr 1, 2005

Translation is the art of failure.
Umberto Eco



[Edited at 2006-09-18 02:39]


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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Hola, Luisabel! Apr 1, 2005

Luisabel wrote:

Au, thanks a lot for presenting this opinion to us. Some times we are almost transparent, although I would not trade my occupation for any other. It is a pleasure to see great minds acknowledging our work, our talent, and our service to others.

[Edited at 2005-04-01 02:28]


I think that we have to reflect on our profession more often than we do; about our main tool (language), about the way the world sees translators these days. (If we don't buy it, we can't sell it.)

I will be posting quotes from famous writers which I will not always endorse. I would like them to serve as an excuse for rethinking 'our world'.

Enjoy them!

Contributions are more than welcome.

Au

[Edited at 2005-10-22 01:47]


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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(unfortunately) writer is anonymous Apr 1, 2005

Many critics, no defenders,
translators have but two regrets:
when we hit, no one remembers,
when we miss, no one forgets.


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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Octavio the Great Apr 1, 2005




"In theory, only poets should translate poetry; in practice, poets are rarely good translators. They almost invariably use the foreign poem as a point of departure toward their own. A good translator moves in the opposite direction: his intended destination is a poem analogous although not identical to the original poem. He moves away from the poem only to follow it more closely. . . . The reason many poets are unable to translate poetry is not purely psychological, although egoism has a part in it, but functional: poetic translation . . . is a procedure analogous to poetic creation, but it unfolds in the opposite direction."

Octavio Paz (Mexican writer)

[Edited at 2005-10-08 08:55]


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
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More quotations on the subject Apr 1, 2005

What makes literature interesting is that it does not survive its translation. The characters in a novel are made out of the sentences. That's what their substance is.
Jonathan Miller
1934-, British Actor, Director

As far as modern writing is concerned, it is rarely rewarding to translate it, although it might be easy. translation is very much like copying paintings.
Boris Pasternak
1890-1960, Russian Poet, Novelist, Translator

A great age of literature is perhaps always a great age of translations.
Ezra Pound
1885-1972, American Poet, Critic
Laughter translates into any language.
Graffiti

Translation is the paradigm, the exemplar of all writing. It is translation that demonstrates most vividly the yearning for transformation that underlies every act involving speech, that supremely human gift.
Harry Mathews
1930-, American Novelist

When one man dies, one chapter is not torn out of the book, but translated into a better language.
John Donne
1572-1632, British Metaphysical Poet

God employs several translators; some pieces are translated by age, some by sickness, some by war, some by justice.
John Donne
1572-1632, British Metaphysical Poet

The original is unfaithful to the translation.
Jorge Luis Borges
1899-1986, Argentinean Author

Prayer is translation. A man translates himself into a child asking for all there is in a language he has barely mastered.
Leonard Cohen
1934-, Canadian-born American Musician, Songwriter, Singer

The best thing on translation was said by Cervantes: translation is the other side of a tapestry.
Leonardo Sciascia

I do not hesitate to read all good books in translations. What is really best in any book is translatable -- any real insight or broad human sentiment.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
1803-1882, American Poet, Essayist

Poetry is what is lost in translation.
Robert Frost
1875-1963, American Poet

The guru, if he is gifted, reads the story as any bilingual person might. He does not translate-he understands.
Sheldon Kopp
1929-, American Psychologist

Nor ought a genius less than his that writ attempt translation.
Sir John Denham
1615-1668, British Poet, Dramatist

Mathematicians are like Frenchman: whatever you say to them they translate Into their own language, and forthwith it is something entirely different.
Source Unknown

Humour is the first gift to perish in a foreign language.
Virginia Woolf
1882-1941, British Novelist, Essayist

It is as impossible to translate poetry as it is to translate music.
Voltaire
1694-1778, French Historian, Writer

Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.
Voltaire
1694-1778, French Historian, Writer

Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information -- hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.
Walter Benjamin
1982-1940, German Critic, Philosopher


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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On translation... Apr 1, 2005

No problem is as consubstantial to literature and its modest mystery as the one posed by translation. The forgetfulness induced by vanity, the fear of confessing mental processes that may be divined as dangerously commonplace, the endeavor to maintain, central and intact, an incalculable reserve of obscurity: all watch over the various forms of direct writing. Translation, in contrast, seems destined to illustrate aesthetic debate. The model to be imitated is a visible text, not an immeasurable labyrinth of former projects or a submission to the momentary temptation of fluency. Bertrand Russell defines an external object as a circular system radiating possible impressions; the same may be said of a text, given the incalculable possible repercussions of words. Translations are a partial and precious documentation of the changes the text suffers. Are not the many versions of the Iliad–from Chapman to Magnien–merely different perspectives on a mutable fact, a long experimental game of chance played with omissions and emphases? (There is no essential necessity to change language; this intentional game of attention is possible within a single literature.) To assume that every recombination of elements is necessarily inferior to its original form is to assume that draft nine is necessarily inferior to draft H–for there can only be drafts. The concept of the "definitive text" corresponds only to religion or exhaustion.



Borges and his translator into English Norman Di Giovanni.


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Alexander Alexandrov  Identity Verified
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Translators are the draught horses of culture. Apr 4, 2005

Translators are the draught horses of culture.

-Aleksandr Pushkin


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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On translation Apr 6, 2005



"Say what we may of the inadequacy of translation, yet the work is and will always be one of the weightiest and worthiest undertakings in the general concerns of the world."

J. W. Goethe


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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On translators... Apr 6, 2005

"Perhaps…the translator’s work is more subtle, more civilized than that of the writer: the translator clearly comes after the writer. Translation is a more advanced stage of civilization."

Borges



Borges and my great grand-aunt, whom Borges loved and whom he dedicated one of his most famous stories: The Aleph. Estela Canto was also a writer and a translator.

Proud Au

[Edited at 2005-07-01 19:21]


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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Translations... May 9, 2005



God's hand is in every translation, and His hand shall bind up all our scattered leaves again for that library where every book shall lie open to one another.

John Donne

[Edited at 2005-10-08 08:56]


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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the curse of Babel May 17, 2005



It were as wise to cast a violet into a crucible that you might discover the formal principle of its colour and odour, as seek to transfuse from one language into another the creations of a poet. The plant must spring again from its seed, or it will bear no flower–and this is the burthen of the curse of Babel.

Percy Bysshe Shelley
1792- 1822


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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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On translation... May 17, 2005

Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.

Anthony Burgess



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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
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Our challenge May 17, 2005

As my Italian improved [in Italy], I realised that to understand a word you have to live it […] I became an alert, greedy eavesdropper. From the ironic snarl in a bus conductor's voice, I finally grasped the meaning of magari (try looking up that many faceted word in a dictionary). Listening to the simplest words, I learned how an inflection can change their meaning. Spoken in a certain way, 'sí' can actually mean 'no'.

William Weaver (literary translator)


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