The unholy trinity of translations

The most divisive coexistence in literature is that between authors, translators and their readers. Each of the three has her own dilemma. The author is only an author in relation to the translator, who in this configuration is the author’s only reader. The translator is torn between being a transformer and an author herself, open to the temptation of coming forth as an author encroaching on the jurisdiction of the translated author. As for the readers of a translation, they have to decide whose voice they are reading, the author’s or the translator’s.

The tripartite unity of a translation-in-action is unstable and may collapse at any point. We are accustomed to view a translated written work simply as a transposition, a switching contraption responding to the demands of comprehension. Like changing one word with another and making sure it makes sense. But a good translation is never just about that. The best translation, in my view, is one which never succeeds – it’s one which multiplies the interrogation about authorial intention and remains trapped in the space between choices. The best translation never sees the light of day because it never manages to commit. There are no best translations, because all available translations have been completed. But then whose work do we read? And what about the author, who are her readers in all this?

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