sobre traduzir… “just do the best you can”

14 03 2008

“An indispensable part of the translator’s craft is the ability to make decisions.”  (Elborg Forster)

Um artigo delicioso e pé-no-chão sobre tradução, escrito por quem sabe o que diz porque fala do que faz.


I suppose most people have no more than a vague idea of what is involved in transferring a text from a “source” to a “target” language. They think that as long as the translator knows both languages, he/she can “just do it,” as if it were a matter of drawing a map. But the fact is that the transferral can only be done by means of rewriting, for no two languages are totally congruent in their structure. And rewriting is a form of writing, which is why different authors will translate the same text in sometimes amazingly different, yet equally “accurate” ways. Translations, I often think, are like musical or theatrical performances: the conductor and the soloist follow a precise score, the actor follows a text, and yet the symphony sounds very different when conducted by Furtwèngler or by Bernstein; Laurence Olivier and Kenneth Branagh gave us very different Henry Vs.

Ou eu muito me engano ou o que ele descreve abaixo é uma abordagem de esquerda neste ofício tão importante? Vade retro! Nesse aspecto estou com Forster.

 In recent years a whole school of Translation Studies scholars has begun to insist that fluency and transparency in a translation are hallmarks of cultural imperialism, particularly if the target language is dominant, as English is in our own time. These theoreticians, people like Douglas Robinson and Laurence Venuti, start with the useful concept of systems-theory. By this they mean that the translator must be familiar with the “representational” and psychological systems in which both languages are embedded. So far so good. But then our theoreticians object to the kind of re-writing that makes the source-text fit into the mental, social, even political patterns of the target culture. (Putting it rather more simply, I keep reminding myself that any expression I use in a translation must “ring a bell” with the reader.) But the modern theorists feel that this would be a “hegemonic” proceeding, and in order to avoid it, they advocate “foreignizing” the translation. This, they claim, will make it sound strange and thereby “enrich” the target language. This may actually be legitimate in high literature, where even the source text often uses techniques of strangeness (Verfremdung) to focus attention, but in the kind of work I do, I believe that “foreignization” only creates awkwardness and confusion.

E, finalmente, uma visão humilde do que é traduzir:

“Just do the best you can.”

This just might be the motto for all translators.



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