Reflections on Translation

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Multilingual Matters, Jun 17, 2011 - Language Arts & Disciplines - 192 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


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

Chapter 9 Translation or Adaptation?
Chapter 10 Translating Style
Chapter 11 Telling Tales
Chapter 12 Pride and Prejudices
Chapter 13 Turning the Page
Chapter 14 Poetry in Motion
Chapter 15 When Translation Goes Horribly Wrong
Chapter 16 Living Languages
Chapter 17 All in the Mind
Chapter 18 More than Words
Chapter 19 Just What Did You Call Me?
Chapter 20 Lost in Translation
Chapter 21 Good Rhyme and Reason
Chapter 30 The Value of Comparing Translations
Chapter 31 Where the Fun Comes In
Chapter 32 Translators Making the News
Chapter 33 What Exactly Did Saddam Say?
Chapter 34 Native Strengths
Chapter 35 Whats in a Name?
Chapter 36 Food for Thought
Chapter 37 Family Matters
Chapter 38 Rethinking Theory and Practice
Chapter 39 The Power of Poetry
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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. Bassnettā??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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