Continuing Conversation on Translation Issues

I wrote a post here, and decided to move my server, but before I did, Dr. Gayle responded:

Thank you very much for your post. I most appreciate your bringing attention to the problems of AIDS for so many, no, for all of us! (I hope neither of us has minimized the problems of leprosy – and would direct people to the work of Dr. Paul Brand, who’s done much caring work with victims of that disease).

Sometimes a translator gets away with a lot. Sometimes the choices bring attention to things that are too much ignored. I was shocked to attention when watching Romeo and Juliet recently – the Australian and American film version called “William Shakespeare’s Romeo + Juliet.” Although the actors speak Shakespeare’s original language, the violence at the end is with guns! And the imagery throughout was contemporary. The old was new. The different was the same. It had much the same effect on me as Clarence Jordan’s translations have had on me. Jordan translates Matthew telling of the Simon is, not the leper, not the AIDS patient, but “the wino.” The effect of reading that on those of us who know recovery is to bring a dimension to Jesus’s tolerance and love that we’d not imagined as easily. I could keep going with examples. Some of the best translation work I know of the NT, especially in regards to homophobia, is Ann Nyland’s. Her rendering of Paul’s Romans 1:27 goes like this: “And the same goes for males too. The males got rid of natural sex with the female and burned with their mutual yearning – males producing indecency with one another, and as a result got what was coming to them for their mistake.” That AIDS is so associated with males who are gay, I think it’s appropriate to bring in the possibility, the nature, of how Mark and Matthew have Jesus showing love, in the context of gender issues and of societal shunning.

Jennifer makes a great point about “teacher/student” settings. One thing I insist on in translating is showing the original as much as possible with the translation. Maybe the effect on one not so familiar with the original languages is that it’s pedantic and inaccessible (”all Greek to me”) – but the original text as we can reproduce it has been produced by real people. It’s important not to shove their words away in our ideal of “original.”

So now, if you’ll allow me to go on, I want to offer some of my very favorite thoughts about “equivalence” and “dynamism” in translation. Here are two quotations from scholar Lydia He Liu. She notes that for many in China the notion of translation is a kind of interlation, a sort of personal interaction between people and their languages, a sharing, a hosting and visiting, a hospitality, a learning from while offering to, a politeness and a sort of love that’s rare, ironically, when people get on their high horse and insist dogmatically on their own perspective to the exclusion of others. Here’re the quotes:

ne does not translate between equivalents; rather, one creates tropes of equivalence in the middle zone of translation between the host and guest languages. This middle zone of hypothetical equivalence, which is occupied by neologistic imagination, becomes the very ground for change.
–Lydia H. Liu, Tokens of Exchange, page 137

If it is true that the translator . . . in the host language always initiates the linguistic transaction by inviting, selecting, combining, and reinventing words and texts from the guest language and, moreover, if the needs of the translator and his/her audience together determine and negotiate the meaning (i.e., usefulness) of the text taken from the guest language, then the terms traditional theorists use to designate the languages involved in translation, such as “source” and “target/receptor,” are not only inappropriate but misleading.
–Lydia H. Liu, Translingual Practice, page 27

–Lydia H. Liu, Translingual Practice, page 27

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