The art of translation

This article in The Economist doesn’t have the Bible in view at all but it does shed some interesting light on the process of translation.

Mr Hahn agrees that the idea of total fidelity to the original text is impossible. “I don’t think there’s any question that we want to be faithful,” he says, but “the question is what we are choosing to be faithful to. Sometimes you’re being faithful to the spirit of the book in ways that are quite profound and subtle and have very little to do with meaning.”

Which is interesting enough but it was this next sentence which really grabbed my attention.

But the act of translation is about alchemy, not inserting yourself into the text. “I have no self-expression that needs to be fulfilled through this process. That’s not how translation works,” he says. “I have a desire for someone else to be able to express themselves via me” (emphasis added).

That I think is a pretty good articulation not just of translation but of inspiration.

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