mardi 31 janvier 2012

Literary Translation

"I believe that serious professional translators, often in private, think of themselves--forgive me, I mean ourselves--as writers, no matter what else may cross our minds when we ponder the work we do, and I also believe we are correct to do so. Is this sheer presumption a heady kind of immodesty on our part? What exactly do we literary tranlators do to justify the notion that the term "writer" actually applies to us? Aren't we simply the humble, anonymous handmaids-and-men of literature, the grateful, ever-obsequious servants of the publishing industry? In the most resounding yet decorous terms I can muster, the answer is no, for the most fundamental dfescription of what translators do is that we write--or perhaps rewrite--in language B a work of literature originally composed in language A, hoping that readers of the second language--I mean, of course, readers of the translation--will perceive the text, emotionally and artistically, in a manner that parallels and corresponds to the esthetic experience of its first readers. This is the translator's grand ambition. Good translations approach that purpose. Bad translations never leave the starting line."

--Edith Grossman, Why Translation Matters. Yale University Press, 2010.

Praise for her book:

"Edith Grossman, the Glenn Gould of translators, has written a superb book on the art of the literary translation.  Even Walter Benjamin is surpassed by her insights into her task, which she rightly sees as imaginatively independent. This should become a classic text."-Harold Bloom

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