Wednesday, February 10, 2010

The Relationship between Translators and Editors

The title of the new book Translation in Practice, edited by Gill Paul and published by Dalkey Archive Press, is a misnomer. It is a very short (70 pages) book that seems – judging by the title and some of the topics mentioned – to want to be an introduction to various issues on translation but actually is mostly on the process of editing and the relationship between translator and editor. It would have been better called The Role of Editors in Translation or The Relationship between Translators and Editors, or something along those lines. A book on that subject would be interesting and worthwhile and if one focuses on that aspect of Translation in Practice, then one gets something out of it.

This books briefly introduces information about issues such as the role of the outside reader, picking a translator, what a sample translation is and if a translator should get paid for it, what it means for two translators to collaborate on a topic, contracts (both in terms of money and also in terms of relationships, such as establishing boundaries between translators and writers), schedules, publicity (though just one paragraph on this), style, particular challenges such as swear words or humor, what it means to be edited, the use of UK vs. US English, and so on. The issues have generally been discussed in more detail in other texts. It also offers ideas that it doesn’t really explain, such as by defining a bad translation as a “flat” one (69), which is a definition that needs more exploration, or by saying that translators should be paid if their work is used in a relay translation (53), which in fact is something that rarely happens, although Translation in Practice doesn’t analyze why that is the case or how to change it.

But the main part of the text, as already mentioned, explores the jobs of and relationship between the translator and the editor. It offers lists of dos and don’ts for translators and editors. For example, translators should “keep careful notes of changes and decisions made in the process of translating” and “carefully recreate the nuances of the original language” (this last point is one of the major difficulties of translation!), but not “take major liberties with the author’s text without reference to both editor and author” (what is a “major liberty”?) or “anglicize a book beyond recognition” (where is the border here?) (57-8). An editor should “approach the text as an original book rather than a translation” (a debatable point, I’d say) and not “rewrite the text in their own voice, changing the vocabulary choices that the translator has made.” (70-1) The book assumes that English is the target language, so it does not look into issues relevant to the publishing industry elsewhere, though the process of working with editors and publishers in other countries would be fascinating to learn about. Still, what it does discuss regarding the editing process in English-language publishing companies is interesting.

One other comment on the Dalkey book is that oddly, a couple of times a translator is quoted but not named or a translation is mentioned but the name of the translator is not provided (such as on pages 2 and 42-3), so the translator remains invisible. Of course, if this person chose to be anonymous, that should be stated. But if not, this shows how far translators still have to go in terms of visibility.

Translation in Practice tries to cover a lot of ground, but not in any great detail. So it is a good overview, but definitely not the final word.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yet another Dalkey enterprise aimed at "organizing" translators. This kind of advice is better in the hands of professional translators' associations.