[b-hebrew] Robert Alter on Translation
peter.r.kirk at ntlworld.com
Fri Aug 15 09:49:29 EDT 2003
On 15/08/2003 06:28, Stoney Breyer wrote:
>[SB:] But doesn't failure to express literary features of the original
>compromise accuracy and clarity, too? For that matter, what features of
>the original are *not* literary? I hope you're not suggesting that
>structural features are merely ornamental, while all the meaning that
>matters is conveyed at the local level.
You are right, of course. Literary and structural features are part of
the meaning of the text, and so they need to be rendered in a
translation, as far as possible, by literary and structural features
which have the same function in the target language. That doesn't mean
that they have the same form.
As a hypothetical example, the form we are used to as a limerick may be
very similar to the form used as a funeral elegy in another language.
Does that mean we should translate that language's funeral elegy into
English as a limerick?
But there must be a trade-off. In many cases it is simply impossible to
preserve in a translation all of the meaning of the original, at the
structural and literary levels as well as the local level. In deciding
how to make this trade-off one needs to consider carefully the target
audience and the nature and purpose of the translation. To use one of
Nida's examples, when translating an aircraft maintenance manual it is
vital that the instructions are accurate at the word level, and at the
structural level, but literary features are unimportant. However, for
translations of some kinds of poetry it may be more important to
preserve the feel, the alliterative content etc even if the literal
sentence level is not accurately translated. And when we are talking
about the Bible ... well, that's another long story, but few people will
thank you for a translation which is inaccurate at the sentence level,
however poetically beautiful it might be.
peter at qaya.org (personal)
peterkirk at qaya.org (work)
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