In essence, Sofia Coppola was right — there’s quite a lot that is Lost in Translation. Of course, she wasn’t only thinking about the literal process of translating something, whether it was a simple thank you note or Jorge Luis Borges’ Circular Ruins. The essential meaning, the intended one, the sense of relations or the way relations are handled or things are perceived, I could go on, all those things can be lost. In Translation. Literal or otherwise.
But what can be the result if we reverse the question and ask — what can be gained in translation, particularly when one’s personal writing is concerned? Of course, it is not a new question, and a lot of writers have tried to answer it by being translators themselves. From above mentioned Jorge Luis Borges to the likes of Charles Baudelaire, Haruki Murakami and Anthony Burgess or even Nostradamus. The list is quite extensive.
It is not only gaining insight into another concept of thinking and set of human relations but also into another concept of writing, arranging words, even their meaning and use of words that completely correspond between languages or words that completely differ. For writers, translation shows the possibilities of transforming, even transfiguring, not only the meaning but also the vessel it is transported by — words.
In a way the process can be compared to the one the brilliant guitarist and composer John Fahey used when he practically invented a new set of ‘folk music’ expression terms with his Transfiguration of Blind Joe Death, by not only inventing a character but by ‘translating’ existing musical terms into something completely new.
So it might be no wonder the founder of the British “Translators Association” prize for translation in his article for “Guardian” claims that translators are the vanguard of literary change.
Of course, not all writers are versed in one or more other languages than their mother tongue to be in a situation to translate works from other languages. But parallel translations of same works, particularly in English and in different English speaking countries do exist and can not only serve as a source of comparison but also as a source of inspiration, transformation and even transfiguration.
To learn more about me, please check my LinkedIn page at www.linkedin.com/profile/preview?locale=en_US&trk=prof-0-sb-preview-primary-button.