In his magnificent work "After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation" (1975), George Steiner points out:
- that translation, among other things, is:
- a work of self-denial,
- demanding that the translator serve the original
- rather than imposing himself or herself on it.
But he also points out that all translation, like all reading and even all listening, is:
a work of editing, a work of interpretation, determined by subjective and contextual factors.
- If the poet is a Maker and Creator, which indeed is the basic meaning of the word,
- then the translator is:
--- ideally, a highly skilled craftsman.
--- And we know that in ancient times, in both Eastern and Western civilization, craftsmen were slaves.
--- Self-denial is one of the cardinal virtues of slaves.
- But as the task of translation also involves editing and interpreting,
- the translator must also serve as actor.
--- The translator must imitate the author of the original work and
--- his translation must be a likeness of the original work.
- The translator must never strive to surpass the author,
- although the literary qualities of a translation occasionally and for various reasons
- may appear to be superior to those of the original work.
- A skilled translator, who masters the language into which he translates, (normally his mother tongue)
- is bound to use to his best advantage such prosodic, euphonic, and musical effects as his language places at his disposal.
- In doing so, he may add to his translation features that are not present in the original work.
- the more skilled the translator &
- the more acutely his ear is tuned to prosodic and musical features,
- the further his translation may deviate from the original text.
- A famous Swedish poet and man of letters of the 19th century once said:
- "Beautiful translations are like beautiful women, that is to say,
- they are not always the most faithful ones."
N.G.D. Malmqvist, "On The Role of the Translator," Translation Review #70