The Night Watchman

A Small Beacon in the Night of Unreason
raised and maintained by Per-Olof Samuelsson


The Art of Translating

I found the following years ago in a book the title of which I have forgotten. The first three translations are from this book; the fourth one I have added myself.

From German

The from the German into the English language translation by no means a so easy task as it appears is. It is ever important for a translator on the one hand to preserve as far as possible the delicate shades of meaning of the author's thoughts, the height-depth and the light-darkness of his not only never-decreasing but also ever-increasing ego-personality, and on the on the hand to render him into recognizable English while at the same time retaining the wonderfully variable if perhaps rather sometimes often somewhat over-flexible German idiom. A translation is a union-conjunction of two embodied soul-spirits, the author self-revealed through his writing consciousness for the one part and the translator self-submerged while at the same time self-expressed for the other part. By the finished two-product the reader is enabled to explore through a language perhaps known and perhaps unknown to the author the recesses and abscesses of his mind-brain through the spiritual medium of the interpreter-translator. The author and the translator twin-kindred soul-minds together-linked in self-subconscious personality-union must be; so a wonder-fine translation produced is. Naturally!

From French

To translate from the French tongue is quite another thing. He has it in the French tongue a clarity and lucidity who engages one to logical thought. It is necessary that one knows that which one wants to say, and then says it. With the French it is not necessary to say him two times; one time suffices. Through consequences, then, it is rigorous for the translator to decide what the author wants to say and having decided to select English words who will give him signification. This is not always easy because many of the English words have not of intention; nevertheless one cannot omit them. It is curious. By cause of this it is possible that the traducer loses that which there is to it of clarity within the mentality of the author. Precise thought, that exists not without precise expression; one can hope, nevertheless, that he who reads an English traduction of a French book can ordinarily obtain the original French, to which he can refer when he wishes to discover that which the author wishes to say. The French books do not cost so dear as the English traductions.

From Russian

No one can read Russian. That is why their books must be translated. The Russian language is very queer. It is very much like English in many ways, but is has not the jollity of George Gissing or A.E. Housman. Go, little translator, and render the big Russian books into your little mother-tongue.

From Swedish

When one shall translate from Swedish concerns it for the first to realize the Swedish language's own-character; not for not has one of our greatest bards called it "the honor's and the heroes's language". The Swedish is rugged and own-minded in its turnings. Many translator has hewed in stone when he searched to clothe our great authors' works in foreign language-attire. The peculiar "clause-plait" is it especially many who have failed with. Here it is indeed not only to translate word for word! No, greater sharp-earedness for the shadings and differences the languages between requires it here.

A whole part of people believe that the Swedish stands the English so near that one who can both the languages not has it the least difficult to translate from the one to the other, but so is not the case.

The here has been written by a mothertongue-teacher, but especially much English can he not!

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Published by : Per-Olof Samuelsson, Järnvägsgatan 13, SE- 645 31 STRÄNGNÄS, Sweden
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