Monday, February 14, 2005

For Val: Where love lies

Let's not kid ourselves: everyone hates translations. The evidence is everywhere in the history of literature.

Cervantes wrote that reading a translation was "like looking at the Flanders tapestries from behind: although you can see the basic shapes, they are so filled with threads that you cannot fathom their original luster."

Goethe took issue with translators themselves, whom he likened to "enthusiastic matchmakers singing the praises of some half-naked young beauty: they awaken in us an irresistible urge to see the real thing with our own eyes."

Gide observed that the translator was "a horseman who tries to put his steed through paces for which it is not built."

Madame de Lafayette equated the translator with "a lackey whose mistress sends him to pay someone a compliment; whatever she said politely, he renders rude."

And Milan Kundera sketched a portrait of the translator as good-natured dope, the shaggy dog of letters panting at his author's heels:

I meet my translator, a man who knows no Czech.
--Then how did you translate it?
--With my heart.
And he pulls a photo of me from his wallet. He was so congenial that I actually believed it was possible to translate by some telepathy of the heart.
Wyatt Mason, behind the New Republic's wall of money.


Blogger Kombinat! said...

Yes, but there is a book called "Five People you meet in Heaven" which is really really horrible in english, but tranlsated in Polish it's much much better (well, still horrible).

2/21/2005 7:51 AM  
Blogger Tom Matrullo said...

I would love to read it, except my Polish, being nonexistent (except in my heart) is worse than I guess its English.

2/27/2005 9:53 AM  

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