Monday, July 31, 2006

Dancing a Translation

In an interview by/with translator Esther Allen, the writer Alma Guillermoprieto says, “Translation is a notoriously thankless profession: there is absolutely no money in it; it involves a severe submersion of the self into another; the hours are long and you get about as much recognition for your efforts as the telephone repairman.” Ms. Guillermoprieto then asks her translator what the satisfactions are and Ms. Allen replies, “(T)o write in a certain language is to adopt many of the givens of the people who speak it. Translating is a way of going beyond that, reaching a different context—which is especially important in the face of the global dominance of English. As for the “severe submersion of the self”—you make it sound like a mortification of the flesh! But in fact, what makes translation so enjoyable—which is why I do it, and why most translators do it, I suppose—is that it combines the pleasure of reading with that of writing. I’ve always translated books I admire and care about, like yours; translation takes you much farther into a book than simply reading it ever could. It's the difference between listening to a piece of music and performing it—dancing it, I'm tempted to say.”

As Ms. Allen says, translation takes you “much farther” into a text than just reading it; in a way, translators are, or should be, the best, most careful readers and performers of a text.

Dance on, translators!


Anonymous said...

that is absolutely wonderful. thank you so much for sharing it.


Brett Jocelyn Epstein said...

You're welcome! I'm glad you enjoyed the quote.
Keep dancing!

Best wishes,