Sunday, November 23, 2014

Translation Diary #17: On Terrorism Medieval and Modern

Source text: "Desde la otra orilla del Éufrates, que nunca volverá a cruzar, Abd al-Rahman presencia la degollación de su hermano y escucha, como paralizado en sueño, los gritos finales de su agonía y su terror."

My translation: From the far bank of the Euphrates, the one he would never cross again, ‘Abd al-Raḥman can just discern the beheading of his brother and hears his last cries of agony and his terror as though they were a nightmare in which he was trapped.

I'm going to continue to play with the clause about being sleep-paralyzed because I don't really like it as it is. (The editing is, I'm discovering, the biggest part of translating, but that's another issue.)

The reason I'm calling attention to this sentence now is because of how current it sounds: beheading emissaries of rival empires on the banks of the Euphrates. Might as well be ISIS. And it is that currency that is making me question my initial decision — which was not even a decision, really, as much as a reflexive resource to a cognate — to translate the Spanish terror as English terror rather than as any of the other synonyms I might use because of the way it doubles down the invocation of the modern "war on terror" and all its trappings.

Does changing the word make me less faithful to the original? Or perhaps more faithful, because it will not distract the reader by evoking the present day in the middle of an 8th-century history?

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