Dari Translation in Practice:
Copyeditors have to look out for unacceptable or controversial usage.
Most translators have not worked in a publishing house, and are unaware of the pressures involved
To treat a translated book in this way is to treat it more as a museum piece than as a vibrant literary work
The new work, the translated work, is already an interpretation of the original, and unavoidably so
Every book is different and presents its own problems.
There is no doubt that there are ‘bad’ translations, but these are not always the sole responsibility of the translator. Many are the result of crossed wires between editor and translator, or inadequate communication at the outset.
All translators know the importance of “fresh eyes” on the translation
… because ultimately word choices are subjective.
The process of translation can be a lonely and often frustrating job, and even the best translators can struggle to find exactly the right words, or to get across an idea/a theme.
Even the best translator may not be appropriate for every book that comes along.
A translation should have the same virtues as the original, and inspire the same response in its readers.
If readers will baulk at “croque monsieur”, it’s easy to add an unobtrusive description (for example, ‘the cheese oozed over the salty ham of his croque monsieur sandwich’) to enlighten them. There is no reason, either, why general explanations cannot be offered from time to time; for example, adding ‘three miles out of the city’ after a town that someone local to the region would know instinctively, adding a paragraph describing the ingredients of a particularly native culinary dish, or even giving background to a cultural practice or event by giving a character more dialogue. Sometimes it’s best to be vague, e.g., substituting ‘a fragrant spice mix’ for “Ras al-hanut” (Moroccan).
The translator walks a tightrope between author, editor, publisher and reader. Where should our primary loyalty lie? Sometimes, if you’re loyal to the author, the editor feels the text is inaccessible to the reader. But if you adapt to the limitations of the putative reader, you may feel you are being disloyal to the author.
The publisher is mindful of commercial considerations and wants to ensure the book will sell, which may affect their editorial stance. It is in this tension that the translation dilemma resides, and there is no simple answer. Articulating this tension and discussing it in these terms is a step towards resolving the ethical question it raises.
The translator is not a ferryman for the meaning of the words but the author of their web of new relations. – Mahmoud Darwish
Just as the translator needs to empathize with the text, so does the editor. – Ros Schwartz
Not every pun in the original is translatable – Robert Chandler
Humour, of course, tends to be what gets lost most easily in translation. – Robert Chandler
What I love most about this work is the challenge, but challenge requires energy, and energy diminishes over time. – Lisa Carter