Friday, March 12, 2010

Whispers.

Translations. Weird things, but necessary evils, right? I mean-- at the root I have to blame myself for not knowing Spanish when it comes time to read Gabriel García Márquez or Jorge Luis Borges; for not knowing German when I'm reading Rainer Maria Rilke; Japanese for Haruki Murakami. That said, what is the other option, ignoring great works that aren't written in your mothertongue? That is no good, especially if you are a straight white male like me. So you play the game of Telephone. It is doubly tricky here, isn't it? When word choice can be the whole beauty of a book, when the construction of a sentence or a line of poetry is the whole point. The architecture of the work is in jeopardy the second you start trying to gut it out & replace it. I can't understand why there aren't more rockstar translators. Okay, you've got some in the classics, but then that hardly counts, & besides-- when we're talking something like Homer, there will always be the historical question, the riddle of scholarship-- what does X even mean? With more modern writers you have cultural & linguistic difference, but at least the place still stands! So why aren't there darlings of translation, people you could follow & trust? & how much credit do the translators that exist now deserve? More than they are getting, I think. I guess if I was a genuine polyglot, or a linguist, I'd know more about this. I just feel like I should be told more about this!

4 comments:

Realmcovet said...

The second time I watched 'Hero' I was floored by how much beauty was stripped away from the poetry of what they were saying it was english dubbed; my first watching of it was in Mandarin with english subtitles. Translations can really ... take away so much! But then again, as you say; translators don't get as much credit as they deserve.

Peter said...

I think I might take this as an excuse to post my translation of the Wanderer on Monday.

mordicai said...

Subtitles definitely have a place-- I'm more forgiving of dubbing in cartoons where...well, even the original voice actors are dubbed.

mordicai said...

Also, please do Peter!