A short article by Daniel Hahn, a writer, editor and translator, really resonated with me when I came across it recently.
It’s called “The curious condition of being a translator” and has been published in The Author, the magazine of the Society of Authors, in spring 2014. As evident from the title, there’s a good deal of humour in there and he captures the essence of the business of translating so well.
My work is in academic – rather than literary – translation, yet the issues and concerns in trying to express something in a different language are very much the same. There’s a different vocabulary, of course, and with that come different connotations, traditions and resonances. Daniel Hahn helps explain how hard it can be to find the ‘right’ equivalent!
What is made, then, is a new piece of writing – creative writing, but within certain incredibly rigorous constraints, construed and constructed creatively (that series of hard cs subtly denoting something laborious and mechanistically complex – please find a way to maintain this alliteration when translating that phrase – thanks), designed to operate on the same terms as yours, to create the same effects as yours, but using entirely different tools.” Daniel Hahn (@)
And of course, there’s the same relationship with the author whose meaning and style one wishes to render as well as possible. A great challenge but so rewarding when it all works out!