Monday, February 19, 2007

Translation and Censorship

I’ve never compared translation to censorship before, but this interesting quote from poet Joseph Brodsky, which I noticed in the book Translating Milan Kundera by Michelle Woods, does just that:

“What translation has in common with censorship is that both operate on the basis of the ‘what’s possible’ principle, and it must be noted that linguistic barriers can be as high as those erected by the state.”

Obviously, the major difference is that censorship attempts to keep something out, whereas translation has to find a way to get around the cultural and “linguistic barriers”. That’s the challenge involved in being a translator – you have to escape the censorship that cultures and languages attempt to impose, whether they do so intentionally or not.

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