I always find the ethics of translation to be a fascinating topic, so it was interesting to see it come up for the second time within a year in Randy Cohen’s Ethicist column in the New York Times Magazine.
In Sunday’s column, a woman writes that her father, a translator, was hired to translate pages from a diary of a woman whose husband suspected she was cheating on him. Was it ethical to translate the diary pages? Mr. Cohen says that the translation was legal, but not moral.
I agree with his assessment and I hope I would have turned down the assignment, but the fact is that translators don’t always get to see (or know much about) the work before they accept it, although certainly a translator could turn down the job once she or he sees the document in question. Also, some freelancers might truly be desperate for money and unable to say no to any work.
What do you think? Would you have accepted this job? When does something cross the line for you from being an acceptable job to one you feel obligated to refuse?
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