- --- In Czechlist@yahoogroups.com, "Vitezslav Ruzicka"
> "If there is one, try to find it. If there is none, never mind it." :-)There is a chapter in After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation
by George Steiner (
http://www.bohemica.com/index.php?m=catalog&s=258&a=140 ), which
suggests that the literary translator sometimes has to tune in to some
ineffable common language of the soul like this.
I wouldn't necessarily be critical. It might be a useful mental trick
to get into the right frame of mind for translating literary texts. I
don't know. As you say, no harm in trying to grok it out if it is
there. But the idea always leaves me feeling a little tantalized and
disappointed, because I rarely get to hear any solid examples (which
are not commonplaces) of this ethereal universal language of thought
in practice, whereas I hear plenty of specific examples of
untranslatable elements e.g. involving humour (see Dilbert discussion
So how DOES this idea help the translator exactly?
Anyway, as I've said often enough in the past, when I read literature
in translation, I WANT to smell and touch the otherness. I want to
remain conscious of the remoteness. The often sad awareness that we
can never come close to a protagonist's experience is often an
important part of the literary adventure IMHO :-)8, particularly with
foreign literature. The last thing I want is for some smartipants
translator to homogenize this experience for me:-). That's why I get
annoyed sometimes when idioms and sayings are consistently and
smoothly recast in some more 'digestible' form (and maybe this awkward
desire of mine to reproduce the 'local colour' [dreadful expression]
spills over into other genres and is one reason why I tend to retain
all the academic titles after names in legal and administrative texts
- a lot depends on the type of text, mind. You know my attitude - we
translators are like actors - they pay you for stiff and formal, you
give them stiff and formal...).
Talking of idioms and sayings (and to go off on another tangent):
"Ze te huba neboli!"
Here's an example of a turn of phrase that to my mind is so neat in
the original, it would often be a disservice to lose it in a 'smooth'
translation. "It's a wonder you don't have mouth/gob-ache!" - that
would often be my approach, even if it does sound a bit odd. :-)
Translating the "ze" is an awkward one too.
The most merciful thing in the world, I think, is the inability of the
human mind to correlate all its contents.
- H. P. Lovecraft