Reflections on Translation

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Multilingual Matters, Jun 17, 2011 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 227 pages
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This collection of essays brings together a decade of writings on translation by leading international translation studies expert, Susan Bassnett. The essays cover a range of topics and will be useful to anyone with an interest in how different cultures communicate. Bassnett draws upon her personal experience to explore issues such as why the same things cannot be expressed in all languages, why translators in war zones risk their lives for their work, whether humour can travel across cultures, why translated menus are often so bad and whether poetry does indeed get lost in translation.
 

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The Most Holy Virgin was tall and well-proportioned. She seemed so light that a mere breath could have stirred Her, yet She was motionless and perfectly balanced. Her face was majestic, imposing, but not imposing in the manner of the Lords here below. She compelled a respectful fear. At the same time as Her Majesty compelled respect mingled with love, She drew me to Her. Her gaze was soft and penetrating. Her eyes seemed to speak to mine, but the conversation came out of a deep and vivid feeling of love for this ravishing beauty who was liquefying me. The softness of Her gaze, Her air of incomprehensible goodness made me understand and feel that she was drawing me to Her and wanted to give Herself. It was an expression of love which cannot be expressed with the tongue of the flesh, nor with the letters of the alphabet.
The clothing of the Most Holy Virgin was silver white and quite brilliant. It was quite intangible. It was made up of light and glory, sparkling and dazzling. There is no expression nor comparison to be found on earth.
The Holy Virgin was all beauty and all love; the sight of Her overwhelmed me. In her finery as in Her person, everything radiated the majesty, the splendour, the magnificence of a Queen beyond compare. She seemed as white, immaculate, crystallized, dazzling, heavenly, fresh and new as a Virgin. The word LOVE seemed to slip from Her pure and silvery lips. She appeared to me like a good Mother, full of kindness, amiability, of love for us, of compassion and mercy.
The crown of roses which She had placed on Her head was so beautiful, so brilliant, that it defies imagination. The different coloured roses were not of this earth; it was a joining together of flowers which crowned the head of the Most Holy Virgin. But the roses kept changing and replacing each other, and then, from the heart of each rose, there shone a beautiful entrancing light, which gave the roses a shimmering beauty. From the crown of roses there seemed to arise golden branches and a number of little flowers mingled with the shining ones. The whole thing formed a most beautiful diadem, which alone shone brighter than our earth's sun.
The Holy Virgin had a most pretty cross hanging round Her neck. This cross seemed golden, (I say golden rather than gold-plated, for I have sometimes seen objects which were golden with varying shades of gold, which had a much more beautiful effect on my eyes than simple gold-plate). On this shining, beautiful cross, there was a Christ; it was Our Lord on the Cross. Near both ends of the cross there was a hammer, and at the other end, a pair of tongs. The Christ was skin-colored, but He shone dazzlingly; and the light shone forth from His holy body seemed like brightly shining darts which pierced my heart with the desire to melt inside Him. At times, the Christ appeared to be dead. His head was bent forward and His body seemed to give way, as if about to fall, had He not been held back by the nails which held him to the Cross.
I felt a deep compassion and would have liked to tell His unknown love to the whole world, and to let seep into mortal souls the most heartfelt love and gratitude towards a God who had no need whatsoever of us to be everything He is, was and always will be. And yet, O love that men cannot understand, He made Himself man, and wanted to die, yes, die, so as to better inscribe in our souls and in our memory, the passionate love He has for us! Oh, how wretched am I to find myself so poor in my expression of the love of our good Saviour for us! But, in another way, how happy we are to be able to feel more deeply that which we cannot express!
At other times, the Christ appeared to be alive. His head was erect, His eyes open, and He seemed to be on the cross of His own accord. At times too, He appeared to speak: He seemed to show that He was on the cross for our sake, out of love for us, to draw us to His love, and that He always has more love to give us, that His love in the beginning and in
 

Contents

Chapter 1 Language and Identity
1
Chapter 2 Original Sin
12
The Old Dilemma
16
Chapter 4 Dangerous Translations
20
Chapter 5 How Modern Should Translations Be?
24
Chapter 6 Status Anxiety
28
Chapter 7 Under the Infl uence
32
Chapter 8 Reference Point
36
Chapter 22 Womens Work
94
Chapter 23 Plays for Today
98
Chapter 24 Between the Lines
102
Chapter 25 Playing on Words
106
Chapter 26 Pleasures of Rereading
110
Chapter 27 On the Case
114
Chapter 28 Gained in Translation
118
Chapter 29 Layers of Meaning
122

Chapter 9 Translation or Adaptation?
40
Chapter 10 Translating Style
44
Chapter 11 Telling Tales
51
Chapter 12 Pride and Prejudices
55
Chapter 13 Turning the Page
59
Chapter 14 Poetry in Motion
63
Chapter 15 When Translation Goes Horribly Wrong
67
Chapter 16 Living Languages
70
Chapter 17 All in the Mind
74
Chapter 18 More than Words
78
Chapter 19 Just What Did You Call Me?
82
Chapter 20 Lost in Translation
86
Chapter 21 Good Rhyme and Reason
90
Chapter 30 The Value of Comparing Translations
126
Chapter 31 Where the Fun Comes In
130
Chapter 32 Translators Making the News
134
Chapter 33 What Exactly Did Saddam Say?
138
Chapter 34 Native Strengths
144
Chapter 35 Whats in a Name?
148
Chapter 36 Food for Thought
152
Chapter 37 Family Matters
156
Chapter 38 Rethinking Theory and Practice
160
Chapter 39 The Power of Poetry
164
Select Bibliography
169
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About the author (2011)

Susan Bassnett is a leading international expert in translation studies, and author of best-selling books in the field that have been translated into some 20 languages. A bilingual who has practical experience of translation and interpreting. Bassnett e(tm)s accessible, jargon-free writing has made her work popular with students around the world. The forthright essays collected in this volume reflect ten years of writing regularly for professional translators and general readers.

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