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Looking for quotes on the topic of translation
Thread poster: Ester Vidal
Ester Vidal
Local time: 07:39
English to Catalan
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Oct 3, 2002

Does anybody know some web page where I can find sentences about translation, quotations...?

Thank you very much.

[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-10-03 19:54 ]

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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:39
English to Spanish
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Don´t know a webpage but do have some quotations... Oct 3, 2002

Here they go...

Quotations on Translation

From my “private” collection…

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 (b. 1930), U.S. novelist. “The Dialect of the Tribe,” Country Cooking and Other Stories (1980).

Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat ... where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.

Ursula K. Le Guin (b. 1929), U.S. author. Address, 1983, in Poetry Series, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington, D.C.. “Reciprocity of Prose and Poetry,” published in Dancing at the Edge of the World (1989).

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 (1892-1940), German critic, philosopher. “The Task of the Translator,” Illuminations (1955, ed. by Hannah Arendt, 1968 )

Poetry is what is lost in translation.

Robert Frost (1874-1963), U.S. poet. Quoted in Robert Frost: a Backward Look, ch. 1, Louis Untermeyer (1964).

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

Leonardo Sciascia (1921-1989), Italian writer. Guardian (London, Aug. 5, 1988 ).

\'A translation is no translation,\' he said, \'unless it will give you the music of a poem along with the words of it.\'

John Millington Synge, Irish playwright. (1871 - 1909) The Aran Islands ( (1907)) pt. 3

The vanity of translation; 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 to another the creations of a poet. The plant must spring again from its seed, or it will bear no flower.

Percy Bysshe Shelley, English poet (1792 - 1822), A Defence of Poetry (written (1821))

Humour is the first of the gifts to perish in a foreign tongue.

Virginia Woolf (1882 - 1941), British novelist. The Common Reader, 1925

An idea does not pass from one language to another without change.

Miguel de Unamuno y Jugo (1864 - 1936) Spanish writer. The Tragic Sense of Life, 1913

The original is unfaithful to the translation.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986) Argentine writer. Referring to Henley\'s translation of Beckford\'s Vathek.

Saludos Ester!


[ This Message was edited by: on 2002-10-03 20:20 ]

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François Lozano
Local time: 07:39
English to French
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"Traduttore, tradittore" Oct 4, 2002

\"translator = traitor\"

About the difficulty and impossibility of translation.


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Jack Doughty  Identity Verified
United Kingdom
Local time: 06:39
Member (2000)
Russian to English
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Ode to the Single Economic Market Oct 4, 2002

I\'m not sure if this is quite the sort of thing you are looking for, but you may like it. It was published in the journal of the UK Institute of Linguists at the time of the creation of the Single Economic Market in the EU (of EEC as I think it was then).


(to the tune “Ode to Joy” in Beethoven’s 9th Symphony)

Freude am Eoraip now united,

Joie au rêve de Jacques Delors;

Single Marghadh (nun heiratet):

¡Regojico evermore!

Gioia e pace sia per noi

Ce mariage (de convenance?)

Deutsch mit Française, Dansk to English,

Español con Nederlands.

Fédération? Groupe de nations?

Heller Himmel, Zollverein?

Help our weaker fellows onwards

- And the English not to whine.

Seid umschlungen, alle Menschen;

Lass uns alles Brüder sein.

De som vil det diskutere

Schlagen wir sein Schädel ein!

cara, Brussels’ SEMiotics,


Logogriphic acronymics –


Traduttore, traditore,

But they never lack employ.

¿Más pays veulent farsi miembros?

Zelfs meer talen? Oh what joy!

Look we back or look we forward,

Nous voyons un åge d’or:

Will we soon elect the first new

Whole Euroman Emperor?

Europe loue em jubilação

The free market’s Heiligtum:

Coletivista aberração?

No. Bundeselysium!

Elysium! Elysium! Unserer Elysium!

Michael E. Martin

Hugh Baird College

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diana bb  Identity Verified
Local time: 08:39
English to Lithuanian
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From Brodsky Oct 7, 2002

This is from \'The Child of Civilisation\', Brodsky\'s essay on Osip Mandelstam. Unfortunately, I am reading it in Lithuanian, so I had to translate the sentence myself:

Translation is a search for the equivalent, not for the substitute.


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Local time: 22:39
Spanish to English
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Nabokov on Translation Oct 14, 2002

Before he was a writer in English, Nabokov was one of the greatest translators ever. Here is his take on the subject:

What is a translation? On a platter

A poet\'s pale and glaring head;

A parrot\'s screech, a monkey\'s chatter,

And profanation of the dead.

Quoted in Harper\'s, September 1981


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Local time: 22:39
Spanish to English
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George Bernard Shaw Nov 7, 2002

Can\'t resist adding GBS\' aphorism:

\"Translations are like women. They are either beautiful or faithful, but not both.\"

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Aurora Humarán  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:39
English to Spanish
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Mr Shaw.... Nov 7, 2002



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Sunshine Wang  Identity Verified
Local time: 22:39
English to Chinese
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From Nancy Mitford Nov 8, 2002

\" I do love translating it is the pure pleasure of writing without the misery of inventing.\"

Nancy Mitford (1904-1973): letter to

Evelyn Waugh, 11 Juanuary 1949

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Maria Eugenia Farre  Identity Verified
Local time: 02:39
English to Portuguese
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More translation quotes Dec 11, 2002


There are more translation quotes available at

my semi-abandoned translation-only weblog

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Jacek Krankowski  Identity Verified
English to Polish
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More Nabokov Dec 12, 2002

\"In the first place, we must dismiss, once and for all, the conventional notion that a translation «should read smoothly» and «should not sound like a translation» (to quote the would-be compliments, addressed to vague versions, by genteel reviewers who never have and never will read the original texts).\"

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Maureen Holm, J.D., LL.M.
United States
Local time: 01:39
German to English
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Creative Prerequisite: Jan 24, 2003

‘Translation must be entrusted only to those who have creative experience of the art over which they are engaged.’

(1952 essay, Rolfe Humphries, translator of Federico García Lorca’s ‘Poet in New York’)

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Local time: 07:39
French to English
don't shoot the messenger Jan 24, 2003

To read a work in translation is like kissing a beautiful woman with a handkerchief over her face.

- Belinsky

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