Sunday, August 29, 2010



posted Monday, 15 February 2010

How many people worry about reading translations of fiction works? Do they avoid them because they feel that any translation cannot possibly reflect the true work itself stylistically? Or do they treat the translation as a new work in itself and judged accordingly? Or do they not think about it at all?

I ask this in the light of linguistic nuances etc in various words.

As a great lover of Proust (in English) (although I have read the first volume in French back in the heady days of 1968) - I am a torn personality on this issue. (As you can possibly tell from my 'real-time reviews', I put a lot of weight on semantics, graphology, phonetics and syntax).

I suppose the question is (acting a bit as Devil's Advocate) -- there is so much good English Literature originally written in English (all of which one will never get through in one lifetime) that it seems counterproductive to resort to reading translations that are (however good a translation) at least one step removed from the original, the original with all its potential nuances of language etc.??

One possible answer to that question --- a translation is a new work in itself and should be judged separately from the original. Indeed, the translator may be more skilled than the original author - or a synergy of the translator and original author is better than the original author in his own language???

I think this topic of 'translations' indicates that nothing is ever an exact science. Religion, politics, literature, business, philosophy, even science itself, all subject to dynamic changes of consensus and individualisation ... all in the attempt to maintain - throughout or via continuous Toynbeean challenges-and-responses - a human need to prevent life becoming 'lost in translation'.

RIDER: This is a lesson for many discussion forum threads, I feel, just as long as the new-fangled interweb provides both opportunity for opportunity as well as dangers of loss...but, whatever you think, for good or ill, the interweb is an already indelible challenge-and-response in the above process.

comments (1)

1. L.P. left...
Tuesday, 16 February 2010 1:49 am ::
I favor the academic approach of reading a work in its original language. The poetry of the Romance languages is lost in most English translations. Outside the walls of the university, the average reader tends to prefer works in their native tongue. Sadly, there really isn't an emphasis on second languages in America. I recently read that English has overtaken Chinese, and it is rapidly becoming the Latin or universal language of the twenty first century, especially among business classes the world over. 'Toynbeean' reminds me of Ray Bradbury's 'The Toynbee Convector.'

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