Saturday, January 21, 2012

Readings in Progress–Umberto Eco

While I enjoy writing very much, I also enjoy reading.  In fact, my love for writing has probably grown out of my love for reading.  The two are closely related, and I believe the research will bear out the relationship—those who read more will tend to be better writers; when you find a good writer, you can almost bet he or she is a reader.  So, I thought I’d bring it all together here and write some about what I’m reading!

Translation - Eco

Eco has long been a noted author, know best in our part of the world for novels such as The Name of the Rose and Foucault’s Pendulum.  In this particular work, Experiences in Translation, Eco talks about the difficulties of translation, using his own works in large measure to show us that the process of translation is a difficult, multi-layered task.  I first became aware of Eco’s interest in this area of writing when I saw his work in Mexico – Decir casi lo mismo…because that is what translation ends up being—saying almost the same thing. 

Two of my favorite lines in the book so far are:

“Every sensible and rigorous theory of language shows that a perfect translation is an impossible dream” (Introduction).

“…Every language has its own genius…every language expresses a different world-view” (p.12).

My own interest in translation was born during my graduate studies as I dealt with literature from different languages, from from different cultures and from different time-periods (ancient to contemporary)…as I wrestled with ancient Greek and Hebrew, French and Middle English.  When I moved first to Venezuela and then to Mexico, my interest grew even more as I learned a second language (Spanish) to the point of fluency…and I was able to compare how translations were made in both directions—from English to Spanish…and from Spanish to English.  More interesting and more curious still were the differences I found between how Venezuelans translated something and how Mexicans translated the same piece.  So, my fascination and interest in translation has grown over the years.

While I am not a professional translator by any stretch of the imagination, I still enjoy writing and translating pieces at times (English/Spanish)…and I want to better my ability (and so you know, it is much easier for me to write something original in Spanish than it is for me to translate something from English to Spanish).  Eco’s work is showing me the difficulties, pitfalls and joys of translation from yet another perspective.  If you have an interest in languages and their interplay, if you enjoy translation and want some great examples of when folks have gotten it all wrong or if you simply want to see that books “in over 20 languages” don’t just “happen,” you’ll enjoy a read of this work.

Jon

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