A translator’s view: Gazing upon the audience


by Jeffrey C. Barnett

As I sit at my outdoor office with a glass of rum and smoldering cigar, I often wonder: are these long battles with words worth it? Will anyone notice that in the end I decided “sultry” was more apt than the bland word “hot”? Will my deliberate artistry go unnoticed? My question deals with this: do readers know, or care, that a translator experiences the same turmoil that the original author likely passed through as she searched for that one precise word?

books and booksLike the author we congratulate ourselves when we come up with a subtle turn of a phrase or alter the syntax to fit just right or, even better, when we devise an appropriate word play. With each page we’re mindful that the translator must cope with controlled intrusion. Yes, we intrude and even invade the original but are careful not to leave footprints behind…

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