Friday, December 04, 2009

Translation Interview

Here's a interview with me about translation from the U of Iowa Translation Program journal Exchanges (the publication of which was the occasion for my reading last night).

5 Comments:

Blogger Brian said...

good interview. I like what you said about surface patterns. And also about the impossibility of replicating a poem, or often just a word, in the target language (the 4-syllable word with a "k" in the middle). Thus the importance of patterns.

9:07 AM  
Blogger R. Sanford Smith said...

Lots here to chew on, but I'm was immediately struck by your speaking on the way translating a work is / can be, actually, a kind of distancing in the need to spend so much time interacting with the surface language. As the interviewer's question prompted, it seems intuitive to think of it as the other way around.

3:08 PM  
Blogger Adam Siegel said...

That was a great interview. Not only was it great, but it was instructive: I realized that one of the things I most dislike about "translation culture" (and there is a better phrase to describe and dismiss what I'm thinking of, but I can't think of one right now) is the lazy pursuit of the foreign that works the same way as the domestic (there are, unfortunately, a couple of translations in that same issue of Exchanges in which an uninteresting, obvious lyric poem has been rendered in equally uninteresting and obvious ways in two languages).

I used to look back at early modern Europe as this Eden, in which all sorts of interesting _material_ -- classical tragedy, medieval romance, Faust legends, picaresques -- moved easily and without fuss from one language to another, informing and enriching as they went. This state of affairs may be the rule and not the exception, the problem being that most of the time, throughout history, but particularly in the last sixty or seventy years, the _material_ (the stuff destined for translation) has tended to be so boring.

It's hard to think of many instances in the last century where translation really constituted an irruption in literature -- the one that comes to mind is modernist French literature (say, from the Symbolists to the Surrealists).

10:19 PM  
Blogger Kent Johnson said...

It's a great interview.

Just to throw something into the mix that connects at different spots with Johannes's observations, there is this piece I wrote, in "collaboration" with Eliot Weinberger's "Notes on Translation":
http://jacketmagazine.com/36/kent-on-translation.shtml

Kent

8:54 AM  
Blogger adda said...

It's amazing how translators have different approaches. Have heard a lot working with Tomedes . I liked yours -
"I started noticing that generally what’s considered “closeness” to a text is when you’re almost looking through the language…you’re so close to it. But I think by translating it, you pay so much attention to the surface of the words, it’s actually a kind of distance. At some level you become more distant and what happens then is that perhaps you pay attention to things like patterns, surface patterns."

1:48 PM  

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