Monday, July 16, 2012

Translation Diary, Entry #8

I always tell my students that translating a text is one way of interpreting it, that translation is just one more interpretive technique, like close reading or source criticism. As I'm working on my translation project, I'm appreciating more and more how much translating is also just like writing. Only this morning that's not a good appreciation. At the moment, I am working on the first of what will be at a minimum three revisions of the first chapter before I send it off to the author. For starters, I'm very much regretting having started with the first chapter, since that is the one that is most clearly written in the author's own voice, which I'm sure I'll have a better sense of once I've translated the whole rest of the book, the chapters that are less self-evidently written in his voice but that, obviously, of course, are. (In fact, I'm starting to suspect that in the end, I may chuck this whole first version of the first chapter and go back and retranslate it de novo. That does pose a bit of a problem for me now, though, since I'd told the author I'd get something to him by the end of the summer, which is fast approaching and still full of tasks yet to accomplish.) But for the moment, what I'm noticing is a real change in my own translation about five pages in. That's sort of the moment when my prose (or, rather, my English version of his prose) becomes fluid and consistent and less Spanish sounding; that's how long it took me to get myself into the text. So, just like with writing, the end result is in front of me and the first five pages are crap. But unlike something I'd written myself, I don't really have the option of throwing these away and starting from what's good. Writing is ultimately about editing; and so here, I'm going to have to adopt a more refined editorial practice than my usual slash, burn and start over.

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