On Overtranslation

Decadent translation? Joy translation? Baroque translation? Spicy translation? Spurrilous translation? Debauched translation? Indulgent translation? Overtranslation? 
Overtranslation sounds like something bad, which I guess is part of the appeal of calling it overtranslation. I think that's part of why Ryan is reclaiming the term. But I think in the non-literary, non-experimental world, overtranslation is defined as something bad. Say at Proz.com, a site for professional translators where the term is defined as "unnecessary translation, translation giving information that is not in the original or using words in broader meaning." One immediately thinks something is wrong, something was done badly. The translator was dishonest or playing around too much, not taking his "craft" seriously enough. Or the classic cliché of translation disaster: something was lost. The translation missed something because it wasn't "literal" enough. In any case, I think the commercial trade translators of Proz.com use different criteria, say the criteria of money-making and a certain sort of professionalized, permanently impossible, unattainable "literal" translation.

I think Ryan's talking about something else, a kind of poetic creativity while dealing with creative texts. Since all writing is a translation of something, whether the original is literary or cinematic or experiential or something else, I think a kind of decadent translation is an important move. A translator who refuses to be tamed or to take translation as a simple parlaying of word and meaning from one language to another. A translator who insists on appearing, who declines to dissappear innocently (and impossibly) into the background, a simple carrier pigeon for the all-powerful author and reader.

As a friend asked me a few days ago (a friend who doesn't really think about this stuff at all), do you have any books? And I said yes, the books I've translated. And he said, yeah but I mean your own work, not someone else's work. I insisted that no, these translation were also my work. And he said, no but it's like if you're a construction worker and you build a house, the house isn't yours, it's for the person who's going to own the place.

And last night I dreamed about construction workers, except the construction workers had taken over the house as the built it. The owner was away. Bricklayers putting origami creatures inside the walls. Painters dappling the walls in patterns and psychedelic spirals just barely visible in a certain light. Stucco slappers adding texture and a certain spackling on the walls and the ceilings that would be easy to miss unless the viewer stopped and felt the surfaces. Carpenters nailing and gluing fantastical doorways and windows that opened like explosions or flowers instead of sliding up and down, but no one would ever know unless they tried to open the windows. Indulgences then. Decadent turns. Overwrought.

I woke up and started translating again.

1 comentario:

Ryan dijo...

You can tell your friend that translation isn't really a commodity like houses are. But the comment is interesting, because too often that is exactly how translation is viewed. I would prefer this: if I perform a cover of a song I might improve upon it or muck it up, but either way, the version is mine.