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THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF TRANSLATION DONALD WELLMAN.

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Presentación del tema: "THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF TRANSLATION DONALD WELLMAN."— Transcripción de la presentación:

1 THE IMPOSSIBILITY OF TRANSLATION DONALD WELLMAN

2

3 Poetry is never transparent. It is always material.

4 My notes taken recently on Walter Benjamins, The Work of the Translator, echo the notes I took more than thirty years ago. Is there some eternal truth latent to this perceptible redundancy? No! Nonetheless, I do not intend an exercise in reverence. I have imbibed Benjamin without worshipping him. With respect to my topic, the impossibility of translation, Benjamin is of foundational importance in the area of translation theory, offering a constructive critique of common expectations. I will also apply my Benjamin to the demands of reading poetry, in any language. In the spirit of an assemblage that attempts to speak for itself, most of the slides that follow are citations.

5 Some texts have a quality of translatability, others do not. Translation is properly essential to certain works: this does not mean that their translation is essential for themselves, but rather that a specific significance inherent in the original texts expresses itself in their translatability. (Rendall 153). La traducibilidad conviene particularmente a ciertas obras, pero ello no quiere decir que su traducción sea esencial para las obras mismas, sino que en su traducción se manifiesta cierta significación inherente al original (Murena 129). Übersetzbarkeit eignet gewissen Werken wesentlich – das heißt nicht, ihre Übersetzung ist wesentlich für sich selbst, sondern will besagen, daß eine bestimmte Bedeutung, die den Originalen innewohnt, sich in ihrer Übersetzbarkeit äußere.

6 Translations that are more than transmissions of a message are produced when a work, in its continuing life, has reached the age of its fame. Hence they do not so much serve the work's fame (as bad translators customarily claim) as owe their existence to it. In them the original's life achieves its constantly renewed, latest and most comprehensive unfolding (Rendall154). Las traducciones que son algo más que comunicaciones surgen cuando una obra sobrevive y alcanza la época de su fama. Por consiguiente, las traducciones no son las que prestan un servicio a la obra, como pretenden los malos traductores, sino que más bien deben a la obra su existencia. La vida del original alcanza en ellas su expansión póstuma más vasta y siempre renovada. (Murena130). In ihnen erreicht das Leben des Originals seine stets erneute späteste und umfassendste Entfaltung.

7 Essences, with which the logos is in several senses equivalent, especially in their most intimate manifestations cannot be caught; writing can at best present variants. This is true of each unfolding of an essence in each language of its residence. In this regard

8 no translation would be possible if, in accord with its ultimate essence, it were to strive for similarity to the original (Rendall 155). no translation would be possible if in its ultimate essence it strove for likeness to the original (Zohn 73). ninguna traducción sería posible si su aspiración suprema fuera la semejanza con el original (Murena132). keine Übersetzung möglich wäre, wenn sie Ähnlichkeit mit dem Original ihrem letzten Wesen nach anstreben würde.

9 immanent tendencies can arise anew out of the formed work. (Rendall155) las formas creadas pueden dar origen a nuevas tendencias inmanentes (Murena132) immanente Tendenzen vermögen neu aus dem Geformten sich zu erheben. I am using concepts of folding and immanence in a Spinozistic sense following the model of rhizomatic growth developed by Giles Deleuze and elix Guattari in Milles Plateaux.

10 One can extract from a translation as much communicable content as one wishes, and this much can be translated; but the element toward which the genuine translator's efforts are directed remains out of reach. It is not translatable, like the literary language of the original, because the relation between content and language in the original is entirely different from that in the translation. In the original, content and language constitute a certain unity, like that between a fruit and its skin, whereas a translation surrounds its content as if with the broad folds of a royal mantle. For translation indicates a higher language than its own, and thereby remains inappropriate, violent, and alien with respect to its content. In the translation, there is a fracture between the content and language that constituted a unity in the original (Rendall158). The language of the translation is always inadequate or broken with respect to the content of the translation. I am about to posit an eternal inadequacy of language with respect to content.

11 Por importante que sea la parte de comunicación que se extraiga de ella y se traduzca, siempre permanecerá intangible la parte que persigue el trabajo del auténtico traductor. Ésta no es transmisible, como sucede con la palabra del autor en el original, porque la relación entre su esencia y el lenguaje es totalmente distinta en el original y en la traducción. Si en el primer caso constituyen éstos cierta unidad, como la de una fruta con su corteza, en cambio el lenguaje de la traducción envuelve este contenido como si lo ocultara entre los amplios pliegues de un manto soberano, porque representa un lenguaje más elevado que lo que en realidad es y, por tal razón, resulta desproporcionado, vehemente y extraño a su propia esencia. Esta incongruencia impide toda ulterior transposición y, al mismo tiempo, la hace superflua, (Murena135)

12 Genauer läßt sich dieser wesenhafte Kern als dasjenige bestimmen, was an ihr selbst nicht wiederum übersetzbar ist. Mag man nämlich an Mitteilung aus ihr entnehmen, soviel man kann und dies übersetzen, so bleibt dennoch dasjenige unberührbar zurück, worauf die Arbeit des wahren Übersetzers sich richtete. Es ist nicht übertragbar wie das Dichterwort des Originals, weil das Verhältnis des Gehalts zur Sprache völlig verschieden ist in Original und Übersetzung. Bilden nämlich diese im ersten eine gewisse Einheit wie Frucht und Schale, so umgibt die Sprache der Übersetzung ihren Gehalt wie ein Königsmantel in weiten Falten. Denn sie bedeutet eine höhere Sprache als sie ist und bleibt dadurch ihrem eigenen Gehalt gegenüber unangemessen, gewaltig und fremd. Diese Gebrochenheit verhindert jede Übertragung, wie sie sich zugleich erübrigt.

13 My conclusions, concerning the argument so far: The object of the translator is the language that he faces. The object of the poet is a feeling that will come to exist in words. However, there are English language schools of poetry that since Derrida have taken language in this sense, as opposed to sentiment as their object. The object of translation has become not the essence of the original but a relationship to the language of the original, seeking some essence or reverberation between the two languages, during the act of translation.

14 However, unlike a literary work, a translation does not find itself, so to speak, in middle of the high forest of the language itself; instead, from outside it, facing it, and without entering it, the translation calls to the original within, at that one point where the echo in its own language can produce a reverberation of the foreign language's work (Rendall 159).

15 Unlike a work of literature, translation does not find itself in the center of the language forest but on the outside facing the wooded ridge; it calls into it without entering, aiming at that single spot where the echo is able to give, in its own language, the reverberation of the work in the alien one (Harry Zohn 76)

16 Porque la traducción, al contrario de la creación literaria, no considera como quien dice el fondo de la selva idiomática, sino que la mira desde afuera, mejor dicho, desde en frente y sin penetrar en ella hace entrar al original en cada uno de los lugares en que eventualmente el eco puede dár, en el propio idioma, el reflejo de una obra escrita en una lengua extranjera. (Murena 136).

17 Die Übersetzung aber sieht sich nicht wie die Dichtung gleichsam im innern Bergwald der Sprache selbst, sondern außerhalb desselben, ihm gegenüber und ohne ihn zu betreten ruft sic das Original hinein, an demjenigen einzigen Orte hinein, wo jeweils das Echo in der eigenen den Widerhall eines Werkes der fremden Sprache zu geben vermag.

18 What is pure language, how does translation serve it? Translation alone possesses the mighty capacity to unbind it from meaning, to turn the symbolizing element into the symbolized itself, to recuperate the pure language growing in linguistic development (Rendall162). Por el contrario, en las lenguas, esta última realidad fundamental que es lenguaje puro, si está sólo ligada a lo lingüístico, es la riqueza única e inmensa de la traducción (Murena 140) Von diesem sie zu entbinden, das Symbolisierende zum Symbolisierten selbst zu machen, die reine Sprache gestaltet der Sprachbewegung zurückzugewinnen, ist das gewaltige und einzige Vermögen der Übersetzung.

19 Pure speech is language that breaks the bond between the symbolizing and the symbolized, breaks the transparency of reference, the convenient ligature or coding that seeks to regularize the relationships between languages. Speech is never pure. It is always multivalent and internally in consistent. It is polysemous.

20 The issue of polysemy is central to Derrida in his Platos Pharmacy. Pharmakon is one of those words with multiple even contradictory senses that make translation impossible. In certain sentences it may have one meaning, in others, the contrary. In this analysis of the Phaedrus, writing is first offered as an aide to memory, a cure or a remedy. The god, representing the logos, Thamus (Ammon), who the created word, rejects this gift, proffered by Theuth, as a form of poison, for poison is anther meaning implicit in the Greek pharmakon. The king contends that because of this drug the living meaning of words learned by heart will now disappear into a technically contrived form, writing. I chose this interpretation to disclose the indissoluble links that bind one word and how the analysis of the semantemes in a second language unravels those bonds..

21 Of course there is a further unraveling, there always is with Derrida. It seems that while has played with various terms associated with pharmakon, for instance, pharmakeus, which can mean magician or sorcerer, he has neglected to cite the very important concept enshrined in phramakos or scapegoat. Socrates who does not write will in fact commit ritual suicide in a form of purification, by some lights of the city. Pharmakos is of course the living being that is sacrificed for the welfare of the community. All scenes of the pharmakon complex now collide in a multivalent polysemy that makes translation impossible

22 In John Ashbery in which language has in some senses broken down.

23 Excerpt from John Ashberys, On Leaving the Atocha Station The worn stool blazing pigeons from the roof driving tractor to squash Leaving the Atocha Station steel infected bumps the screws everywhere wells abolished top ill-lit scarecrow falls Time, progress and good sense strike of shopkeepers dark blood no forest you can name drunk scrolls the completely new Italian hair…

24 Here is a translation by Julio Mas Alcaraz El desgastado taburete resplandece palomas del techo conduciendo el tractor para aplastar Saliendo de la estación de Atocha acero golpes infectados los tornillos pozos por todos los sitios abolida la cubierta mal iluminada cae el espantapájaros Tiempo, progreso y sentido común huelga de comerciantes sangre oscura ningún bosque que pueda llamar ebrio desplaza el completamente nuevo cabello italiano…

25 With respect to phonology, the sounds of Chinese, Greek, Romance and Native American languages have transformed the sounds of English. It is in the resonance between sounds that one language most comes to embody qualities that arrive by means of translation, that is where translation is purest, though not perhaps for the purists among us. To complete my impossible discourse, I will cite a passage from Charles Bernsteins Artifice of Absorption.

26 Charles Bernstein: A dense or unfamiliar vocabulary can make a poem hard to absorb, not only by calling attention to the sound qualities of its lexicon but also by preventing any immediate processing of the individual words meaning. At some point, the appropriate reference sources may be consulted but this is by no means the only way to hear or understand the work. Un vocabulario denso o no familiar puede hacer que un poema sea difícil de absorber, no solamente al llamar la atención sobre las cualidades sonoras de su léxico sino también por impedir el procesamiento inmediato de cualquiera de los significados de los vocablos. En algún punto, la apropiada fuente de refencias puede ser consultada. Pero esta, de ningún modo, es la única manera o entender la obra. ( tr. Heribierto Yepez ).

27 My conclusion: The siting / citing of sounds and words in lines is now the task of the translator and the task of the poet, facing any or all languages.

28 My texts: Jacques Derrida. Platos Pharmacy in Dessemination. Tr. Barbara Johnson. Chicago University of Chicago P Originally El pharmakon de Plato Benjamin, Walter. The Translators Task, Tr. Steven Rendall, Erudit: TTR. Volume 10, numéro 2, 2e semestre 1997, p , Benjamin, Walter. The Task of the Translator in Illuminations. Tr. Harry Zohn. NY: Schocken, Benjamin, Walter. Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers. In: ders. Gesammelte Schriften Bd. IV/1, S Frankfurt/Main Benjamin, Walter. La Tarea Del Traductor en Angelus Novus, tr. H.A. Murena. Barcelona: Edhasa, 1971.


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