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The Translator's Answerability

In his blog--the unlight bearableness of translating a really great title--Russell Scott Valentino follows up on his previous post on Masha Gessen's review of the two new translations of Anna Karenina. He begins the post:

My previous post on Masha Gessen's review of the two new Anna Karenina translations, one each by Rosamund Bartlett and Marian Schwartz, attrAK Gessen reviewacted some criticisms. I'll respond in a couple of posts to make each one shorter.

Schwartz AKJohn Cowan comments, "You write as if the translator had no responsibility to the author at all, and it is all one whether the AK translator writes 'All happy families are alike' on the first page, or 'It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.'"

I hope this wasn't a widespread impression from my piece. But maybe I wasn't clear enough. A glance at the Weinberger essay I quote from should dispel any lingering doubts, especially where he writes: "Now obviously a translation that is replete with semantical errors is probably a bad translation."Bartlett AK Outside of parodying or otherwise hijacking a text for other purposes, it's hard to imagine a context where switching a Tolstoy line for a Dickens line would be seen as a successful translation strategy.

But why the "probably" in Weinberger's quote? Because "fidelity may be the most overrated of a translation's qualities." It is the easiest thing to get right. Not easy of course, just the easiest.

 

I'm looking forward to the next installment.