Writers› Thoughts on Translation

Italo Calvino’s respectful thoughts on translation:

I, too, am interested in everything that is done to improve the difficult art of translation, although I used to hesitate when I heard translation called an “art.” Yet, if “art” is understood as the skill at performing a certain task, especially such a skill that is acquired over time and through practice, then translation is indeed an art.

Another point I love about this short passage is “translators are the only sure readers of a text – of everithing (sic!) inside the text.” It would certainly be difficult to find a more careful reader than the translator, who will consider each and every word, each and every phrase, each and every possible connotation and meaning. Even the most careful readers will walk away with a general impression of a text, whereas translators don’t deal in generalities. We have to be specific in meaning while also conveying the style of the original. A surefire recipe for that “perpetual dissatisfaction and frustration” perhaps, but also a surefire recipe for an interesting day at work.

(Source of Calvino’s text: The Paris Review, the Art of Fiction)


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