I am a Translator

It sounds like a confession…announcing an intention to face the consequences, good or bad…

Sometimes I have to clear away a bit of my own conceptual debris, shards of received wisdom and “common sense” that hold things up .  Just now it’s the idea that translators are no more than glorified copyists, unable to produce anything of their own.  Ann Briggs, in This Little Art (London: Fitzcarraldo, 2018), made the counter argument elegantly on her own terms, gently showing how a translation is in fact a new work, with infinitely many potential relationships to the source.  In order to prepare such a work, she wrote, skills, imagination and aesthetic judgment must be brought to bear.  I agree, certainly, but probably would make a slightly different kind of argument.  I seem to be able to immerse myself in language to the exclusion of almost everything else for hours on end. It gives me a curious sort of pleasure, and a very definite sense of being in touch with something older and larger and stronger than I am myself.  I have an odd suspicion that for me, translation might be prayer.  

Author: Nancy Roth