What We Talk About When We Talk About Translation

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It is a gorgeous, late-summer day—much too gorgeous to be indoors translating grotesque advertising copy for bathroom fixtures that the manufacturer describes as if they were the holy chalice: mirrors and sinks that transform your life, faucets that render everyday “gestures” heroic and meaningful.

But there it is: We think of Hawai’i and of what we have to do to get there. We think of what one thing and then another thing are worth.

And still there is something so gentle in this breeze, in this air, in the very light that is the opposite of my work this morning, this act of translation that seems born in violence and clamor, a Sisyphean wrestling of words like enormous stones into place, a victory gained very slowly, and only ever partially, by wedging meaning into spaces that were never intended to hold it.

Please sign my petition, Professional Standards for Written Translations in English.

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Posted on 8 September 2008, in Crimes Against Translation and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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