Subjects — T

Translation Quotations

Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.

Any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information — hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.

Nor ought a genius less than his that writ attempt translation.

I do not hesitate to read all good books in translations. What is really best in any book is translatable — any real insight or broad human sentiment.

The test of a given phrase would be: Is it worthy to be immortal? To “make a beeline” for something. That’s worthy of being immortal and is immortal in English idiom. “I guess I’ll split” is not going to be immortal and is excludable, therefore excluded.

Poetry is what is lost in translation.

To translate, one must have a style of his own, for otherwise the translation will have no rhythm or nuance, which come from the process of artistically thinking through and molding the sentences; they cannot be reconstituted by piecemeal imitation. The problem of translation is to retreat to a simpler tenor of one’s own style and creatively adjust this to one’s author.

Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat … where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.

There are few efforts more conducive to humility than that of the translator trying to communicate an incommunicable beauty. Yet, unless we do try, something unique and never surpassed will cease to exist except in the libraries of a few inquisitive book lovers.

Translation is the paradigm, the exemplar of all writing. … It is translation that demonstrates most vividly the yearning for transformation that underlies every act involving speech, that supremely human gift.