Tuesday, June 01, 2004

No More Translating

Yesterday was Memorial Day. The windy weather wasn't pincnic perfect but the Husband and I managed to spend some time in the garden before the rain clouds blew in and sent us running for cover. The rest of the day was spent being appropriately lazy and, what else, reading. The New York Times has an article about Gregory Rabassa. He has worked as a translator for years, giving us over 50 books in English by the likes of Gabriel Garcia Marquez and others. Rabassa has a book of his own out, not a translation. In the article he states that the book's thesis is that translation is impossible. An intriguing statement from one who has spent so much time as a translator. And I must agree with him. To translate word for word from one language to another would ruin the text. As Rabassa says, "When I talk about it, I say the English is hiding behind his Spanish. That's what a good translation is: you have to think if Garcia Marquez had been born speaking English, that's how a translation should sound." I find translating to be a fascinating art. After reading the article I wish I had a better facility with languages other than English. It isn't for lack of trying. I have tried Spanish and I have tried German and after three years of each language I always hit a wall I couldn't climb. While my classmates seemed to jump the hurdle into the beginnings of fluency, I was still struggling to translate what was said to me into English and what I wanted to say into Spanish or German. And then there was my horrible accent. Anywho, if you are interested in issues of translation, check out the blog Open Brackets. Gail is a working translator and often has interesting and insightful and funny things to say about translating and language in general.