369: A Good Translation.

If it were possible accurately to define, or, perhaps more properly, to describe what is meant by a good Translation, it is evident that a considerable progress would be made towards establishing the Rules of the Art; for these Rules would flow naturally from that definition or description. But there is no subject of criticism where there has been so much difference of opinion. If the genius and character of all languages were the same, it would be an easy task to translate from one into another; nor would anything more be requisite on the part of the translator, than fidelity and attention. But as the genius and character of languages is confessedly very different, it has hence become a common opinion, that it is the duty of a translator to attend only to the sense and spirit of his original, to make himself perfectly master of his author’s ideas, and to communicate them in those expressions which he judges to be best suited to convey them. It has, on the other hand, been maintained, that, in order to constitute a perfect translation, it is not only requisite that the ideas and sentiments of the original author should be conveyed, but likewise his style and manner of writing, which, it is supposed, cannot be done without a strict attention to the arrangement of his sentences, and even to their order and construction. According to the former idea of translation, it is allowable to improve and to embellish; according to the latter, it is necessary to preserve even blemishes and defects; and to these must, likewise be superadded the harshness that must attend every copy in which the artist scrupulously studies to imitate the minutest lines or traces of his original.

As these two opinions form opposite extremes, it is not improbable that the point of perfection should be found between the two. I would therefore describe a good translation to be, That, in which the merit of the original work is so completely transfused into another language, as to be as distinctly apprehended, and as strongly felt, by a native of the country to which that language belongs, as it is by those who speak the language of the original work.

Now, supposing this description to be a just one, which I think it is, let us examine what are the laws of translation which may be deduced from it.

It will follow,

I. That the Translation should give a complete transcript of the ideas of the original work.

II. That the style and manner of writing should be of the same character with that of the original.

III. That the Translation should have all the ease of original composition.

(Alexander Fraser Tytler, Essay on the Principles of Translation. London: J.M. Dent & Co., 1900, pp. 7–9).

369: A Good Translation.

368: The Masses Follow It.

The freedom that earlier resided on the mountains has today moved into the cities, and the masses follow it… It is above all the freedom of personality in the broadest sense that appears to be attractive; negatively expressed, liberation from the bonds of clan, of neighborhood, and of class domination.

(Werner Sombart; quoted in Andrew Lees, Cities Perceived: Urban Society in European and American Thought, 1820-1940. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1985, p. 213).

368: The Masses Follow It.

367: Deve-se Ler Pouco e Reler Muito.

Por tudo que sei da vida, dos homens, deve-se ler pouco e reler muito. A arte da leitura é a da releitura. Há uns poucos livros totais, uns três ou quatro, que nos salvam ou que nos perdem. É preciso relê-los, sempre e sempre, com obtusa pertinácia. E, no entanto, o leitor se desgasta, se esvai, em milhares de livros mais áridos do que três desertos.

Certa vez, um erudito resolveu fazer ironia comigo. Perguntou-me: “O que é que você leu?”. Respondi: “Dostoievski”. Ele queria me atirar na cara os seus quarenta mil volumes. Insistiu: “Que mais?”. E eu: “Dostoievski”. Teimou: “Só?”. Repeti: “Dostoievski”. O sujeito, aturdido pelos seus quarenta mil volumes, não entendeu nada. Mas eis o que eu
queria dizer: pode-se viver para um único livro de Dostoievski. Ou uma única peça de Shakespeare. Ou um único poema não sei de quem. O mesmo livro é um na véspera e outro no dia seguinte. Pode haver um tédio na primeira leitura. Nada, porém, mais denso, mais fascinante, mais novo, mais abismal do que a releitura.

(Nelson Rodrigues, “Uma Banana como Merenda.” In: O Óbvio Ululante. São Paulo: Companhia das Letras, 1993).

367: Deve-se Ler Pouco e Reler Muito.

366: Ingenious Manner.

The French newspapers which, in 1815, were subject to the censor, announced the departure of Bonaparte from Elba, his progress through France, and his entry into Paris in the following ingenious manner: — 9th March, the Anthropophagus has quitted his den — 10th, the Corsican Ogre has landed at Cape Juan — 11th, the Tiger has arrived at Gap — 12th, the Monster slept at Grenoble — 13th, the Tyrant has passed through Lyons — 14th, the Usurper is directing his steps towards Dijon, but the brave and loyal Burgundians have risen en masse and surrounded him on all sides — 18th, Bonaparte is only sixty leagues from the capital; he has been fortunate enough to escape the hands of his pursuers — 19th, Bonaparte is advancing with rapid steps, but he will never enter Paris — 20th, Napoleon will, tomorrow, be under our ramparts — 21st, the Emperor is at Fontainbleau — 22d, His Imperial and Royal Majesty, yesterday evening, arrived at the Tuilleries, amidst the joyful acclamations of his devoted and faithful subjects.

(The Museum of Foreign Literature, Science and Art, Vol. 18. Philadelphia: E. Littell, 1831, p. 93).

366: Ingenious Manner.

364: Shame the Devil!

GLENDOWER: Why, I can teach you, cousin, to command the devil.

HOTSPUR: And I can teach thee, coz, to shame the devil by telling truth: tell truth and shame the devil. If thou have power to raise him, bring him hither, and I’ll be sworn I have power to shame him hence. O, while you live, tell truth and shame the devil!

(William Shakespeare, King Henry IV, Part I, Act 3, Scene 1, 1623).

364: Shame the Devil!

363: A Case of Negotiation.

INTERVIEWER: In addition to the scholar and the novelist, there is a third persona jockeying for position within you — the translator. You are a widely translated translator who has written at length on the conundrums of translation.

ECO: I have edited countless translations, translated two works myself, and have had my own novels translated into dozens of languages. And I’ve found that every translation is a case of negotiation. If you sell something to me and I buy it, we negotiate — you’ll lose something, I’ll lose something, but at the end we’re both more or less satisfied. In translation, style is not so much lexicon, which can be translated by the Web site Altavista, but rhythm. Researchers have run tests on the frequency of words in Manzoni’s The Betrothed, the masterpiece of nineteenth-century Italian literature. Manzoni had an absolutely poor vocabulary, devised no innovative metaphors, and used the adjective good a frightening amount of times. But his style is outstanding, pure and simple. To translate it, as with all great translations, you need to bring out the anima of his world, its breath, its precise tempo.

(Lila Azam Zanganeh, “The Art of Fiction,” Paris Review, No. 197, 2008).

363: A Case of Negotiation.