Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Subjectivity, Translation

I have been . . . thinking about ways in which books get not only reread but also rewritten--both in one's own language (with the ambivalence of the writer and the back-and-forth between editor and writer), and in translation. The liberties translators take that enhance; the ones taken that diminish. And for me, the alarm. There's always the threat of not being taken seriously, of having the work reduced to social anthropology, of having the politics of one's own language, the politics of one's own language bury, rather than expose, the reader's own politics.
--Toni Morrison, "Home," The House that Race Built

In the last post, I was trying to show that it's not just the "text," not just the "language" in linguistic terms, that matters in translation. One's personality, one's own person, matters more. Those who insist on "accuracy," or on "style," or on "equivalence" sometimes forget the very personal issues. Toni Morrison, for instance, reminds that if a reader's subjectivities are buried, then a translator has not done his or her work fully.

And Beth of Sunlight and Shadows, for example, blogs her top ten reasons she won't tone down her "crazy feminism." She starts: "10. Because I grew up going to Sunday school and learning about the men in the Bible, but not the women." and counts down more . . . "7. Because male pastors aren’t expected to suppress their gender identities." . . . "3. Because putting women in a box puts men in a box too." Now if you're reading her post, and if you haven't let it expose your own politics, then you may have a bad translation of the Bible, and you may be just looking for textual "accuracy," or "style," or "equivalence."

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