Sunday, 10 January 2010

Translators on translation

Translation students read a lot of secondary literature in Translation Studies but may not read much that is written by translators themselves. Translators' own discourse on translation sometimes gets short shrift from scholars, rather unfairly it has always seemed to me. So here are a few links to interviews, reflections and blogs by translators which I have found helpful and/or interesting:

Author-translators get lots of critical attention because their translations tend to be all assertive and sexy and to enter into a dialogue of equals with the source text. Try Kenneth Rexroth on poet-translators. I am very fond of Eliot Weinberger's article 'Anonymous Sources'. Kent Johnson opens a dialogue with Weinberger in the Notes on Notes on Translation. Lydia Davis talks about translating Proust in an audio interview here.

Professional translators can have interesting things to say about their work which are well worth close scrutiny by students of translation as well as by readers of translations. There's a very nice interview with Howard Goldblatt on translating Chinese literature. Or try Natasha Wimmer on translating Roberto Bolaño or Anne McLean, another highly prized translator of Latin-American and Spanish fiction. Anthea Bell, recently awarded an OBE for services to literature and literary translation, has been interviewed lots, including here. The best of these essays say a lot not just about what translators do, but why they do it.

Translation is a process, and an experience which can be difficult to track. The translator's mind is a bit like a black box. We tend (like Jeremy Munday in his talk at Imperial this week) to turn to texts for evidence of how translators approach a translation. But we can also Ask A Translator. Four inside glimpses of the process of translation that I find very compelling are:

Daniel Hahn's blog on translating Agualusa's Estação das Chuvas (Rainy Season); Jo Clifford on translating Calderón's La vida es sueño and other plays; Peter Bush on translating Juan Goytisolo; and my favourite, David Macey's 'Beginning the Translation', published in an issue of the journal SubStance and available online here. I have probably mentioned this essay before and will again - it's a brilliant reflection on translation from the inside. Enjoy.

It used just to be literary translators who had their voices heard (not very loud). The web has provided a space for other translators to talk too - I came across some nice interviews with translators from Chinese recently which I recommend to anyone worrying that their background is too 'unusual' to build a career as a translator...:)

That's more than enough for one day. I hope to come back with more links on this later, but meanwhile if anyone else has good links to translator interviews, blogs or essays, why not drop a line and post them in a comment?


sunny south coast said...

Jon Evans suggests this interview with the French translator Christophe Claro at Coincidentally, it's also from The Quarterly Conversation - lots of good reviews an' t'ings here.

Jon said...

Graham Harman, philosopher and translator of philosophical texts, on translation (and editing) here:

sunny south coast said...

Nice post! Thanks Jon :)