9 may. 2006

Here's a mystery of translation. Why don't we feel the need to read works written in our own language in foreign translation? I have a few books by Kerouac and Frank O'Hara in Spanish, but I feel no need for the experience of reading them. They are more like curiosities for me. I know the obvious answer to this enigma: I have access to the originals. The translation adds nothing. But this doesn't quite satisfy me. I do feel the need myself to translate certain texts into Spanish, for my own reading pleasure. Maybe it has to do with the kind of texts.

3 comentarios:

Thomas Basbøll dijo...

I'm not sure if this is a counter-example, but here's my experience. My first language is Danish but my English is better than my Danish from years of exile. I do like to read, say, Kierkegaard in English translations. There are of course problems with them, but I do feel a need to look at them.

Also, like you, I sometimes translate Danish texts into English (often this makes them more pleasing to me). All this may just prove that Danish is not my first language in any practical sense.¨

I definitely do not approach Danish translations of English works as anything other than "curiosities" as you put it.

An exception may be Hamlet. But that really is an exception.

Stephen Baraban dijo...

A teacher of beginning French, from France, at the French Institute/Alliance Francaise in New York City told us pupils that she had tried to read Lacan in French and couldn't make anything of it. She said that in later years she read an English translation & had a lot more understanding.

I would imagine that this is because the English translation had to make choices & simplify the wordplay.

Melissa Jones Fiori dijo...

Funny, Hamlet is an exception for me too - in German. There is a musical sparity, or sparse musicality, to certain passages in the German translation I read which (as my dogmatic instructor in particular argued) transcends the original. (Hated the instructor but agreed on the wondrous felicitousness of several of Hamlet-the-character's speeches.)

That much said, despite being a translator myself - and a poet - I find myself put off by English poems translated into German. I don't like them. I feel sorry for them. They've lost the thing I loved.