Jacques Gélat’s The Translator in Words Without Borders

July 6th, 2013 § 0 comments § permalink

My translation of an excerpt from Jacques Gélat’s clever and charming 2006 novel Le traducteur is up at Words Without Borders in this month’s Postrevolution Iran issue. I did this piece in the summer of 2010, so I’m glad it’s finally seeing the light of day in a subsection on Writing about Translation.

As with all dramatizations, Gélat’s founding premise of forgotten punctuation is a bit of a stretch: practicing translators regularly rearrange punctuation, and how punctuation use differs between languages is one of much discussion among translators. However, his observations of what the act of translation can mean on a more metaphorical level are quite astute.

Every translator has dreamed of writing someday, and I was no exception. Sheets of paper have long dawdled in my drawers; diverse notes, vague plans for novels, even the beginning of a short story. But I’d always given up under the pretext of having a translation to start or finish. In truth these projects didn’t inspire me; they lent me no élan. Perhaps there would be a day for writing, but moreover, and most importantly, you must know just how daunting writing is for a translator.

I make definitive assertion: no one knows books better than we do. Readers, critics, editors—none of them know the weight of a word, the structure of a novel, its most intimate arrangements, as we translators do. I’ll go even farther: in many areas, writers themselves are less aware than we are of their work. Quite often their style, an instinctive reflection of their affect, gets away from them; they toss it onto the page, too busy to chase it down and make out the logic whose very workings we translators follow with a jeweler’s loupe.

Where am I?

You are currently viewing the archives for Saturday, July 6th, 2013 at EDWARD GAUVIN.