Friday, July 14, 2017

Of the Translator as Neologist

It was one of those afternoons when I was doing work research and got distracted by other topics while assidiously avoiding upsetting news articles, toxic facebook and useless instagram. I've been hiding out on twitter and even begun avoiding reading day-to-day news since those bring even less happiness.

Found and read the first chapter of Alain Damasio's 'La Horde du Contrevent' (2004) in both English and French. The first chapter has been translated into English as 'The Horde of Counterwind' by Alexander Dickow. However, the rest of the book hasn't been translated. Sci-fi. Fantastic plotlines. 23 elite Windwalkers seeking the source of the wind. "pour atteindre le mythique Extrême-Amont, la source de tous les vents." Not sure if I'd download the e-book. In its original French, I'll never be able to thoroughly understand its references.

Then I stumbled upon Alexander Dickow's recent essay in Asymptote about 'Portrait of the Translator as Neologist' (July 12, 2017). Much of what he said reasonated with my feelings about translated versions of books and articles. Such is the bane and angst of deciding which words to use, while knowing that the translation might never capture the nuances of the original. But without the translations, many of us won't even be able to access the wealth of ideas and perspectives from many authors. I'd rather read something that has seen much effort and collaboration put into than not/couldn't have read it at all.

This is the basic principle generally at work when translating neologisms: rather than moving closer and closer—asymptotically, let’s say—to a workable solution, the translator must instead move further and further away from literal solutions. 

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