Monday, 4 May 2015
Understanding as Translation
After Babel: Aspects of language and translation, 3rd Ed.,
George Steiner, OUP, 1998, page 26
The first chapter of After Babel sets out to illustrate, by means of examples from Shakespeare, Jane Austen and others, just how complicated good translation can be. Steiner explains:
An informed, avid awareness of the history of the relevant language, of the transforming energies of feeling which make of syntax a record of social being, is indispensable. One must master the temporal and local setting of one's text, the moorings whch attach even the most idiosyncratic of poetic expressions to the surrounding idiom. Familiarity with an author, the kind of restive intimacy which demands knowledge of all his work, of the best and the botched, of juvenilia and opus posthumum, will facilitate understanding at any point.
He contends that reading the works of an author is only preparing to read them.
But neither erudition nor industry make up the sum of insight, the intuitive thrust to the centre.