Monday, May 21, 2007

Translation as a Log Cabin

Readers of this blog know that I like metaphors for translation. So I was happy when, while reading The Translator as Writer, an interesting book I will surely mention again soon, I noticed an essay called “Metaphors for the Translator” by translator Michael Hanne. In this piece, he reviews some of the many metaphors people have suggested for translators and the translation process and analyzes them. Here is one example:

“She [translator Margaret Sayers Peden] suggested that the best translators of literary texts act like curators transporting an old timber structure such as a log cabin to another location: ‘Carefully we mark the logs by number, dismantle them, and reconstruct them in new territory, artfully restoring the logs to their original relationships and binding them together with a minimal application of mortar’. She insists that the translator must avoid the temptation to ‘slather on the plaster’ beyond the point which is essential (Peden 1989: 14). Translation involves a demolition job followed by a reconstruction. This is an attractively ingenious image, which, on further consideration, turns out to be fundamentally mistaken. The problem is that, when you come to ‘reconstruct’ the text in new territory, you have to undertake the task, not with original logs, but with timber (language) that is indigenous to the target culture, has a different grain, a different colour, and is supplied in different lengths. Moreover, as literary scholars from Mikhail Bakhtin to Julia Kristeva and Roland Barthes remind us, all language is second-hand, which means that every literary text is made of fragments of earlier utterances. So, when we translate, the lengths of timber with which we reconstruct the log cabin are not only of a different species, but they have also been recycled and bear the marks of the previous uses to which they have been subjected in that territory/culture.” (212)


mahbube said...

I dont have thlis book.Recently I am doing research on the metaphors for translation .but there is no book on this issue in in IRAN where I am living now.I read comments on translation in this weblog .they are very useful for me as student of english translation.please send me a book on metaphors for translation.
sincerely ,

B.J. Epstein said...

Sorry, I have no book on this! Hope you find something!

Best wishes,