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The Translator in Dialogue

发布时间: 2024-06-22 10:58:27   作者:etogether.net   来源: 网络   浏览次数:
摘要: When engaged in fruitful debate, the translator takes on the position not only of cultural mediator between source and...


These dialogues between translator and author are more frequent today when the demand for the translation of contemporary texts is greater than at any time in previous history. The authors of the great classic translations in English – Sir Thomas Urquhart of Rabelais, John Florio of Montaigne, Dryden of Virgil, Pope of Homer or even Scott-Moncrieff of Proust – were engaged in dialogues with dictionaries. But translators of literary work by living authors will often find it natural, if not essential, to seek advice and clarification from the authors of the original work. At times, translators may receive novels chapter by chapter, play scripts scene by scene or early drafts of film scripts with requests not only for translation but also for reaction. At one level, this interaction can produce material for amusing anecdotes. The novelist Hugh McIlvanney, after writing a novel set in Glasgow, tells of receiving a request from his Japanese translator for an explanation of what 'Partick Thistle' was. The puzzled Japanese assumed from the context that it was some arcane rite, while it is in fact a football team that plays in the west of the city. Conversely, the late William Weaver, the distinguished translator of Umberto Eco and Italo Calvino, tells of a discussion with an Italian author who insisted that the expression i morti should be translated, not as 'the dead' as Weaver had written, but as 'the deads'. The Italian argued, with impeccable logic but faulty semantics, that the corpses in question were more than one. When engaged in fruitful debate, the translator takes on the position not only of cultural mediator between source and target culture, but also that of participant in creative dialogue with the author. This status does, however, give birth to new dilemmas.

Some of these were examined recently by André Aciman in his trenchant critique of the recent retranslation of Proust's Recherche:

Should English resolve the ambiguities that were conveniently overlooked or left intentionally opaque in the original French? One might be tempted to say 'yes' but 'no' is the correct answer. An author says what he says in the very way he says it not necessarily because he is after the utmost clarity, or, for some mysterious reason, not unrelated to what we call the creative process, because he wishes to see so far and no further, to see one thing without highlighting all of its ancillary, shadow meanings, but because the words he has selected in the order that he selected them allow him to suggest things he does not wish to say or know how to come right out and say. (Aciman, 2005: 74)


If the writer chooses to leave certain matters unsaid, it may be because he does not know, not because he elects not to tell. What is left unstated has the same claim to the translator's respect as what is asserted or declaimed. There is a temptation to interpret, and at times a need to interpret among various competing meanings, but the translator has no right to impose where the original is ambiguous. Translation never confers the right to rewrite, nor to invent style.

The reflections of Alistair Reid, himself a poet and writer as well as translator of Pablo Neruda and J.L. Borges, are illuminating both on the nature of the writer–translator dialogue and on the dilemmas related to transferring style. In a poem significantly entitled What Gets Lost/Lo Que Si Pierde, Reid writes:

I keep translating traduzco continuamente

Entre palabras words que no son las mias

Into other words which are mine de palabras a mis palabras

Y finalmente de quien es el texto

Who do words belong to?

Del escritor e del traductor writer, translator

O de los idiomas or to language itself? (Reid, 1994: 221)


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