The Three Crimes of Translation

Discussion in 'Language Notes' started by kunh al-naqiibah, Apr 27, 2008.

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  1. Well khadiinii, it's the 15th century. the verb. To hum: humming. arabic: hamhama/ yuhamhimu / hamhamatan!

    well, I'll come clean: I originally put a cheeky comment. which I later removed because I thought it was mean. but didn't know how to rescind the message fully. nabakov's adage cannot be applied to ma'moon's translators or indeed people like Zaid b Thabit -a companion. nor those in heraclius's or negus's courts. Unless
    of course they had agendas that warrant unfaithfulness to the text or the original author. Treachery can only be so consciously and deliberately. but perhaps I overreact. 'Memri' the zionist organisation translate a lot of stuff would certainly feel the blow from nabokov's ax on the sAhyuunii nape..
  2. why the hmmmmmmmmmm sidi? do you not agree with the supreme prose stylist of the english language in the 20th century? [btw is there a verb meaning 'the act of going 'hmmmmm'?]
  3. The greatest writer ever to make a successful journey across the language frontier, Vladimir Nabokov, enumerated, in his "Note on Translation", the "three grades of evil [that] can be discerned in the strange world of verbal transmigration"[...]

    "The first, and lesser one, comprises obvious errors due to ignorance or misguided knowledge," Nabokov wrote. "This is mere human frailty and thus excusable."

    "The next step to Hell," Nabokov says, "is taken by the translator who skips words or passages that he does not bother to understand or that might seem obscure or obscene to vaguely imagined readers."

    The third and worst crime of translation, in Nabokov's opinion, was that of the translator who sought to improve on the original, "vilely beautifying" it "in such a fashion as to conform to the notions and prejudices of a given public".


    As a part-time translator I can well concur with Mr. Nabokov's learned opinion. It is true as the adage goes, 'all translators are traitors'!


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