Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Attempted rambling refinement of my thoughts on Waldrop/Dryden:

"One does not translate words" strikes me as patently false. Words are the smallest stand-alone units of meaning, and are what everyone writes in. How could translation be any different? After all, I wrote mine word-by-word. It is by no means a negligible unit of meaning, but must be kept in mind. Mindfulness of broader sense is important too, but I think it's a mistake to suborn one to the other. The sentence as unit-of-meaning seems like some step towards this, a compromise between higher-level meaning and what one's author actually wrote, what the text is as written.

And as for his other views, It seems to me that what is meant by '"The smallest unit of prose that can be thought of as translatable is the sentence and it is not incorrect, at most an exaggeration, to say that the real unit is the entire text." (Waldrop 100) While this seems holistic and unhelpful at times "OK, so how does that help me with this one clause," it seems to be a fallout from a higher principle, that meaning is encoded on multiple levels, and that one must make judgment calls where appropriate. But the author built up text-level meaning from...well, individual words.

My main principle, if I had to elaborate it, in dealing with Fuks was "look to the author above yourself, except where forced otherwise, for you're not as clever as you think you are." I guess it's easier to render as "Trust the author." Perhaps this is only valid due to my experiences with a sparse yet rigid structure, and with sentences lending themselves to literal translation. But if he could build meaning and sense that way in Czech, I don't see the need to dick around with it in English.
In any event, I'm sure I fucked up my share of things. It's certainly a very personal, and, quite simply, a ridiculous endeavor. *shrugs* It keeps everyone else from having to learn Czech, and, as it's not the original and never will be, perhaps it must hint at compromises made and sense lost. We wouldn't want to make the language obsolete.

And as for the ridiculous,

"In an attempt to make a prose version of one of the poems, I somehow tricked myself into making versets. It seemed, when I realized what I was doing, a ridiculous thing, but what is a little flirt with the ridiculous, compared with the immense impossibility of translating any literary text? " (105)

That I understand. Damned necessary enemies. Now I have to find more of his stuff.

7 comments:

The Earthtopus said...

Hmmm. Of course it presumes to quite a large degree to say "waht the author actually said" and yeah, there is sort of a three-step process. Read sentence word-by-word in original, translate word-by-word...and then the adaptation. Hmm.

Better Red than (brain)Dead said...

Doesn't translation always carry something of imperialism in it? I mean, in every text that is translated into English, you can catch a whiff of cannon fire. It seems to me that translation is premised on the assumption that it is possible: that a text written in another language can be translated into yours. It's an act of obliteration: the text is destroyed, and resurrected in English, the language of the colonizer (sometimes the oppressor).

The Earthtopus said...

Well, the hubris inherent in each act does assume that a text can be transferred, doesn't it now?

And there's nothing saying it necessarily has to be in English, but it's next to impossible to translate something into a language that's not your native one.

So I like a text in Czech, and like it a lot; do I tilt at windmills trying to get people to learn Czech, or do I bring it across, knowing full well it won't be the same, but hopefully, at some point down the line, instilling in someone else a desire to learn the source material themselves?

The Earthtopus said...

Also, it's almost a matetr of course for me to say that, as regards my own work, there's no way I would offer it up as a replacement of the original, or even as a replacement of the process of learning the other language that led me to the text in the first place.

Anonymous said...

I ated the whole pie

- Jesse

Better Red than (brain)Dead said...

Killer grammatical critique on Ben's "it was less of an exhibition and more of a brutal bloodbath rivalry" piece!

The Earthtopus said...

Well, the funny thing is it wasn't that so much, and I did just edit someone's master's thesis for them--I was in shape for it.

*shrugs* And he did ask, after all.