It is said that translating is rewriting, interpreting. There is no way to translate without losing something, without distorting the text, without disturbing the meaning in some way. But something new is also discovered. Because she who writes something never says everything, and in the process of translation something unsuspected is revealed. I once heard a writer, after reading his translated work, declare: "I didn't know I said that!” That was very insightful! Translating is also a critical essay, which generates new perspectives. Some people see translation as a process of violation, of destruction. I say it is nothing of the sort! To violate is to force, to carry out something which is against the sanctity and integrity of something or someone. Translation enters through doors and gaps that were deliberately opened to test assumptions and possibilities, to question, to raise doubts. Yes: translating is in a way a kind of mischief, but it is a mischief in which nothing is broken; it is only that the solidity and structure of a text is tested. And the original always continues to exist. There is much discussion about what the limits of a translation should be. Because, and here we all agree, translating is not interpreting. It may have some elements of it, but only that. Translating is, above all, understanding what has been written with the greatest clarity, precision and justice. But this is not always the case. For example; The Flowers of Evil, by Baudelaire. I went to buy a copy and was surprised and confused when I saw so many translations. I selected a specific poem and read it in all the versions that were there. I was perplexed; since I don't speak French, I didn't have a basis on which to compare, so after reading several versions I just gave up, which gave me a strong negative feeling. There were confusing translations and others that were very simple, or very technical. And when it comes to poetry, correct word selection is everything. The problem is that translators often believe that they have actually penetrated the soul of the authors and assume that their version is immaculate and has the aesthetic and intellectual power of the original, and they end up believing that their version is even better than the original! I've heard that said. Does this mean that The Flowers of Evil is untranslatable? Of course not. Especially when it comes to a language with which we have so much in common. It just means that the process of translation falls into an inevitable game of moving the pieces so that they end up saying some things differently and, as I said, reveal hidden facets. And you also have to take into account the fact that all languages are different and that there are words that exist in one language and not in another and that the same phrase or word can have a different connotation. On the other hand, it is easy to fall into the temptation to interpret. This happened to me with a text I translated by Chesterton, into my own language, Spanish. But that is a freedom one should not take. Especially when one is faced with texts written in languages so far removed from one's own, both in structure and in the time in which they were written, and so the task becomes considerably more complicated and the result will be strange. Let us take the example of the Spanish translation of Oku no Hosomichi (The Narrow Road to the Deep North), by Octavio Paz. In the prologue it is noted that "The translators have approached the original with respect and love, although without having any illusions about the possibility of transplanting a text that is elusive even in Japanese, into Spanish". It is therefore clear that there is no such thing as a faithful translation. To translate is to fight. It is a selfish process in which we try to grab, however possible, the original text. But we already know that there is no way to achieve this with cleanliness and clarity. Translation also changes over time; it is culturally conditioned by time, society, culture; a translator is usually affected by his or her state of mind at the time of doing his or her work. But what I believe is the most important value of translation is its ability to connect the world through language. Here’s to that! Let’s hope we can you do the same with your certified translation needs. As ever, thanks a lot for reading.
Some thoughts on translation
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