Paradoxes and Aporias in Translation and Translation Studies

Abstract

Many of us make use of translation, in one form or another, on a daily basis. We also talk about it, informally, perhaps not quite on a daily basis, but regularly. The terms in which we speak about translation are familiar to all concerned. We find ourselves perfectly at home in the standard images and metaphors we employ to characterise translation. Consciously or subconsciously we are all profoundly influenced by the way in which our culture denotes, delineates and, ultimately, constructs translation through various kinds of figurative usage. We take those ways of speaking for granted. We recognize what is happening, for instance, when translation is described by means of such metaphors as building bridges, as ferrying or carrying across, as transmission, transference, ' Über-setzung', 'trans-latio'. Further, similar metaphors could effortlessly extend the series. All convey the enabling function of translation. The enabling which translation brings about is to be achieved by a product, a finished translation, which is deemed to offer the user a reliable image of its parent text because it bears a close and pertinent resemblance to that which itself remains beyond reach. This is where we encounter the metaphors of translation or transparent pane of glass. Perhaps it is because these ways of speaking about translation look so familiar or even hackneyed to us that we are hardly aware of the metaphor hiding in a phrase like 'President Yeltsin was speaking through an interpreter' (what does it mean, speaking through an interpreter?) or the remarkable shorthand of a statement like 'I have read Dostoevsky', which, when we unpack it, means something like: what I read was actually a translation of Dostoevsky, but because it was a sound translation, it was, to all intents and purposes, as good as reading the original – just as the voice of Yeltsin's interpreter is, practically and pragmatically speaking, identical with Yeltsin's voice. One curious aspect of casual statements like these is their tendency to elide the translator's intervention. Yeltsin speaks right through an apparently disembodied interpreter, and like most other readers I cannot remember the name of Dostoevsky's English or Dutch translators. We feel we can be so casual about these statements, I suggest, because we construe translation as a form of delegated speech governed by the assumption of equivalence. Translators do not speak in their own name, they speak someone else's words. The consonance of voices, but also the …

Cite this paper

@inproceedings{Hermans2005ParadoxesAA, title={Paradoxes and Aporias in Translation and Translation Studies}, author={Theo Hermans and Brian D. Harris}, year={2005} }