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Ethics of translating translation of original English quotation
Thread poster: Karen Tucker
Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
French to English
Dec 17, 2003

I am translating text for an art catalog. The text was written by the artist himself. In one text, he quotes William Blake, the 18th-19th century British poet, in French. I asked my client (an art gallery owner) to ask the artist where he got the quote so I could possibly find the original but he hasn't gotten back to me and the translation is due today. I don't feel comfortable translating a quote that was originally in English, and I'm sure I can't recreate his 18th-19th century English style. But it would take me a very long time to track down the original quote. I think that it should at least be made clear that it is a translation of the quote from French rather than the original quote. Any thoughts?

Thanks, Karen


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Deborah Shannon  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:07
Member (2002)
German to English
Temporary solutions Dec 17, 2003

Karen Tucker wrote:
I don't feel comfortable translating a quote that was originally in English, and I'm sure I can't recreate his 18th-19th century English style. But it would take me a very long time to track down the original quote. I think that it should at least be made clear that it is a translation of the quote from French rather than the original quote. Any thoughts?

Thanks, Karen


I'd call them up, check they've still had no reply from the author and ask if they'd rather deal with sourcing the quotes at their end, in which case I'd be happy to leave them and not include them in my bill.

Would a paraphrase work, or are they prominently displayed quotes?

If they have to be quotes, I'd consider returning the text as a work in progress, with a covering note explaining that this is just a temporary solution but the original sources need to be found. This would mean leaving the French quotes in position ["to assist in locating the original English sources"] and adding the (back) translations below in brackets.

By the way, have you posted these quotes as Kudoz questions? You never know...

All the best, Deborah


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Terry Gilman  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:07
Member (2003)
German to English
+ ...
Try Gutenberg - 2 Blake books (with full text) Dec 17, 2003

This is a handy site for just this sort of question; it contains hundreds of downloadable files of classics. I wouldn't back translate an author as well known as Blake. I just downloaded the "Songs" (first you have to pick a nearby server).

http://www.gutenberg.net/cgi-bin/search/t9.cgi

Another approach is to quote the translated version here (if it's not too long), and ask for help. It might be someone's favorite.

The look-up function available for some amazon books also works in a pinch.

For classic authors, it's best practice to find the originals (and also for an art catalog, i.e., both the source and the final text 'demands' it.) Who does the search is negotiable.

PS: Since you have already alerted the author to the need for the original, I agree with Deborah's recommendation to return the text as wip.

[Edited at 2003-12-17 15:15]


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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
thanks for suggestions Dec 17, 2003

Thanks to both of you for your insight and suggestions. I just talked to the client's wife and she's going to call the author in France. The Gutenberg search is an excellent idea, but I can't do it till I know the name of the book in which the quote appeared. The passage is too long for a KudoZ question: it's 9 lines.

I agree that it's not a good idea to back translate a quote from a prominent author.

Karen



Terry Gilman wrote:

This is a handy site for just this sort of question; it contains hundreds of downloadable files of classics. I wouldn't back translate an author as well known as Blake. I just downloaded the "Songs" (first you have to pick a nearby server).

http://www.gutenberg.net/cgi-bin/search/t9.cgi

Another approach is to quote the translated version here (if it's not too long), and ask for help. It might be someone's favorite.

The look-up function available for some amazon books also works in a pinch.

For classic authors, it's best practice to find the originals.


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Domenica Grangiotti  Identity Verified
Local time: 17:07
English to Italian
+ ...
Why not post the nine lines here? Dec 17, 2003

Some of us might be able to track them.
It's worth a try.

Regards
Domenica


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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
William Blake quote Dec 17, 2003

Good idea, Domenica. There might be some William Blake fans out there! Here are the lines:

Tout savant qui se réclame de Bacon de Locke ou de Newton
vit dans l¹illusion que la connaissance est une chose impersonnelle
et indépendante du sujet qui y accède, ce qui revient à dire
qu¹il ne reconnait qu¹un seul pouvoir, celui de la raison abstraite.
Une telle science nous donne une fausse image du monde.
Quiconque s¹en libérerait, abolirait la fausse éternité,
celle des instants qui ne cessent de retourner au néant ainsi que
le faux infini du prétendu espace qui n¹est autre que la durée indéterminée;
et il reconnaîtrait la vraie éternité et le vrai infini dans un présent éternel.


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Kevin Fulton
United States
Local time: 11:07
German to English
Try Google Dec 17, 2003

You might "Googling" a short phrase or two, or try entering the name of the artist and "William Blake" This has worked for me on a few occasions. Can't hurt.
Kevin


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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
I tried Dec 17, 2003

I did try that extensively, with no luck. Karen

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Sabry Hameed  Identity Verified
Egypt
Local time: 17:07
Member (2004)
English to Arabic
+ ...
only indicate that it is in french quotation Dec 17, 2003

Karen Tucker wrote:

I am translating text for an art catalog. The text was written by the artist himself. In one text, he quotes William Blake, the 18th-19th century British poet, in French. I asked my client (an art gallery owner) to ask the artist where he got the quote so I could possibly find the original but he hasn't gotten back to me and the translation is due today. I don't feel comfortable translating a quote that was originally in English, and I'm sure I can't recreate his 18th-19th century English style. But it would take me a very long time to track down the original quote. I think that it should at least be made clear that it is a translation of the quote from French rather than the original quote. Any thoughts?

Thanks, Karen


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Kirill Semenov  Identity Verified
Ukraine
Local time: 18:07
Member (2004)
English to Russian
+ ...
Dear Karen Dec 17, 2003

Unfortunately, I do not know French,
but maybe you will find the appropriate passage on this page (from "Selection from Milton"):

http://rishi.serc.iisc.ernet.in/books/Poetry/Blake/Collected/chap-28.html

or on this one (from Blake's "Jerusalem"):

http://rishi.serc.iisc.ernet.in/books/Poetry/Blake/Collected/chap-29.html


I hope it helps a bit.

As for the ethics: basing on my experience with publishing houses, the most appropriate way for dealing with quotations is to find a "classical translation" (in Russian, we have such a notion).

And in such cases as described by you I cannot possibly see any other way than to find the Blake's original words. However good we, translators, may be, we cannot guarantee that we will not distort the initial wording of an author, and so we are probably have no rights to do a "back and forth" translation, especially when it concerns great authors (and William Blake is surely great).


My best regards,

Kirill


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Özden Arıkan  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:07
Member
English to Turkish
www.bibliomania.com Dec 17, 2003

Hi Karen,

I suggest you give a try to the above link.

Best of luck...


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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
excellent resources Dec 17, 2003

These are excellent resources, Kirill and Xola, especially the collection of Blake's poems (though I'm not sure this is a poem; it might be from an essay). I've already spent way too much time on this passage, so I'll wait to get the reference from the artist before trying to find it. Even if I don't find the passage in English, you've alerted me to some great resources. Karen

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OlafK
United Kingdom
Local time: 16:07
English to German
+ ...
Translating a quote back into the original language Dec 18, 2003

If you can't find the original quote you can just use reported speech and say something like "William Blake said that..." if the context allows for this.

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RobinB  Identity Verified
Germany
Local time: 17:07
German to English
Excellent Blake website Dec 18, 2003

Karen,

Are you sure that this is by Blake, rather than *about* him? It's just that the passage you quote looks rather measured, even sensible. Not your usual intense, rather OTT Blakean metaphors. Maybe something got lost in the translation

Anyway, try this website:

http://blakearchive.org

The original MS plates have been beautifully digitized, but the search function is full text. I thought your passage had to be from Jerusalem, because Bacon, Locke and Newton appear there several times, but I couldn't identify it at all. Maybe you'll have better luck.

Robin

[Edited at 2003-12-18 07:56]


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Karen Tucker  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 11:07
French to English
TOPIC STARTER
Blake quote Dec 18, 2003

Hi Robin,

Actually, when doing research I did come across the Blake archive, but it must have been down because I tried unsuccessfully several times to access it.

The artist wrote at the top of the quote: "William Blake dit:"
Maybe he's paraphrasing. He doesn't use quotes so it's hard to say. He still hasn't gotten back to my client. I will mention the possibility that it's a paraphrase.

If it is a direct quote, maybe it sounds different from his usual writing because it comes from an essay rather than a poem.

Thanks for your suggestions.

Karen


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