vendredi 26 août 2011

A well-known fantasy writer defends translators

A friend sent along a link to a blog post by one of her favourite authors in which he discusses the difficulty of translation ( The author, Patrick Rothfuss, recalls receiving an email from a reader, complaining that translation shouldn't take so long: "I don't really see what the big deal is. You wrote something great. You made something out of nothing. But they're not doing that. They're not really making anything, they're just copying it."

I swear, if I got a letter like that there would be steam coming out of my ears. Just like I get red-faced when I hear someone ask "can you just write this in French for me?" As if it was as simple as just "writing" it in another language. No one thinks about the *process* that goes on, the subtle (and not-so-subtle) differences between languages, cultural differences, naming differences, etc.

It's so true that people think like that, though. If you've never tried it, you can't imagine how hard it must be. (Rothfuss himself admits to being oblivious to the problems translators could face until he had his book translated and started fielding questions from translators.)

It's like painting abstract art - everybody thinks, "oh, anyone could do that" Then you try, and realize there's more to it than just slapping paint onto a canvas! (Well, depending on the type of painting, of course).

I grinned when I saw Rothfuss write that translation is more than a simple mathematical equation. 1+1 in one language does NOT necessarily equal 2 in another language. I usually pull out the math analogy when people in my workshops ask for "the answer" to a translation problem, or when people say that you should always be able to recycle previous translations as is. (Just because it was translated one way before doesn't mean it should be translated the same way again -- it all depends on context, type of text, end-user, deadline, client, purpose of the text, etc.)

"Translation is not a science, it is an art. And as such, it belongs solely in the realm of humans."

Rothfuss gains major points for defending translators so prominently. Now I want to read his book(s).

(Well, not just because of his blog post -- because his blog post led me to the introduction to his book -- it looks like a great read!)

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