Los peligros del traductor / Heriberto Yépez

The Dangers of the Translator

Reading is more valuable than writing. But there’s a form in which reading and writing become vice versa to each another: translating. And its dangers.

I’m speaking of literary translation, that voice-guard, that looks after the realized variation and election.

The first danger of translating is betraying the other (the translated) without betraying oneself, the mine-myself.

Translating for the sake of what’s translatable.

Fixing, normalizing, “improving.” To bring the other “correcting him.”

If the translator is a great writer, the reader knows him better. But let’s not fool ourselves: translation shouldn’t be a branch of plastic surgery.

Translating should be strangeness. A translation should always be a third way with languages that bump into each other. Translating should differ from both.

If translating the words and leaving the original syntax would be illegible, to naturalize an author in a different language is to reduce him to content and ignore his form (not his alone!).

The most beautiful translations almost always impoverish that difference.

The aesthetics of translation (divergence) struggles against the aesthetics of style (purification).

What is most translatable is the easiest and idiomatically standard literature. What is most translatable is the least literary.

Another danger lies in what we translate. Let’s be frank (that is, dictators): translation is colonial.

What is translated, for example, into English, French or German? The literature made by Noble Savages!

Rarely will a culture (an editorial market) translate a foreign literature that will throw its own understandings out of orbit, send its hegemony into crisis. What is translated almost always confirms the historical prejudices or the provisional imaginaries of the political moment.

Generally, unsubmissive foreigners are not translated and instead marketable or functional foreigners are chosen. We translate what is exemplary. What serves as an example of something we want to make visible in our own culture.

To translate is to make visible.

Frequently at the expense of making (it) audible.

Some translators want to distance themselves from this hegemonic tradition and seek to translate toward the dissonant and the unassimilable.

One mission of the translator is how to translate without producing assimilation, with the knowledge that assimilation is funest.

Translation should show us that there are many forms; it fails when it makes us feel that our language, our culture, our mode can do everything.

Translation should be, on the contrary, wanting to transmit the sensation of being incomplete, of being insufficient and, yet, doing it without creating the impression that what is foreign surpasses us, that we need to convert to it.

As the attentive reader can hear, translating should avoid the colonial.

The colonialist translator and the colonized translator. Translating as imperialism and translating as autocolonialism.

Translating is the greatest literary danger.

{ Heriberto Yépez, Archivo Hache, Suplemento Laberinto, Milenio (México D.F.), 27 October 2012 }

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