Monday, 16 February 2009

"Traduttore, tradittore" or “Translator, traitor”

This Italian saying might sound provocative until we undress the ramifications.

In spite of my background as a linguist, I’ve never enjoyed translating as a literary pursuit. It’s an excellent exercise in understanding how languages work, interact and misunderstand each other, but the impossibility of success frustrates my creativity rather than igniting it. For example, the cadences and connotations of English cannot exist in Spanish (and vice versa).

I’m far keener on using the original as a point of departure for my tangents, but then this is also what I do when reading poetry in English. On second thoughts, perhaps I too am a translator and traitor at once, but in my own language, from one poem to another, from reader to writer and on to further readers, just as all poets are.

1 comment:

  1. We're always translating, or "trans-coding/decoding", when we read, trying to understand, in our own words, what it was originally written, or translating into our own understanding the original words. Even when we're writing down our own thoughts we're, somehow, acting as a translator as well as a traitor to ourselves. That's the magic of words, the magic of languages, which allows all sorts of games to express even unutterable thoughts.
    By the way, congratulations to Mr Stewart for such a great, deep and meaningful blog.