Translation makes you more aware of shades of meaning
I am convinced that translation and writing go hand in hand and that you have to be good at writer to be able to translate. After all, what you produce at the end of the day needs to read like a piece written in your target language, so in effect it is like producing a new piece of writing, or at least transporting the original to new readers. I have just been reading this article in More Intelligent Life (a magazine that I am a fan of) about Lydia Davis, who is an accomplished writer and a prize winning translator of French.
Lydia has been described as ‘The best prose Stylist in America’ but up until recently she has been unable to drum up enough support for her writing in order to be able to dedicate her days to it. So she has worked as a Professional Literary Translator of French for many years, to pay the bills as it were, although it seems she gave her translation work as much care and attention as she would her own writing, working with extreme precision, searching for the RIGHT WORD in all occasions. Her most well known translation work is her version of Proust’s Swann’s Way and she is currently working on a translation of Flauvert’s Madame Bovary.
In recognition for her translation work Davis recently received a ‘genius’ (!) grant from the MacArthur foundation, as well as a prestigious prize from the French government. This grant has now enabled her to concentrate on her writing.
“Translating makes me much more acutely aware of shades of meaning,” she explains. “You have a set problem and you can’t get around it by avoiding it. You have to pick just the right word.”
thanks go out the More Intelligent Life for another great article!