Best Translation Quotes

Quoting Translation

Quoting Translation

One of the joys of translation and our discussions on translation and translation theory is that there are so many voices, so many opinions about our craft (art? science?). The art of translation is oft compared to a wide array of people, products and paraphernalia: translation has been likened to a (beautiful) woman, a mirror, a ghost to name but three. Below are fifteen of some of the most interesting quotations about translation. We have attempted to avoid the more memorable and famous quotations (although some are included here), and have tried to focus on selecting some which are a little less known. Consider which is closest to your idea and concept of translation and which is not. All fifteen are presented below for your enjoyment.

(1)
“Many critics, no defenders,
translators have but two regrets:
when we hit, no one remembers,
when we miss, no one forgets.”
(Anonymous)

(2)
“The word ‘translation’ comes, etymologically, from the Latin for ‘bearing across’. Having been borne across the world, we are translated men. It is normally supposed that something always gets lost in translation; I cling, obstinately to the notion that something can also be gained.”
(Salman Rushdie)

(3) 
“In antiquity , for instance, one of the dominant images of the translators was that of a builder: his (usually it was him, not her) task was to carefully demolish a building, a structure (the source text), carry the bricks somewhere else (into the target culture), and construct a new building – with the same bricks.”
(Andrew Chesterman)

(4) 
“Either the translator leaves the author in peace, as much as is possible, and moves the reader towards him: or he leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible, and moves the author towards him.”
(Friedrich Schleiermacher)

(5) 
“Translation is one of the few human activities in which the impossible occurs by principle.”
(Mariano Antolín Rato)

(6) 
“A translator, caught in the space between two tongues. Such people tend to come a little bit unglued from the task of trying to convey meaning from one code to the other. The transfer is never safe, the meaning changes in the channel — becomes tinted, adulterated, absurd, stronger.”
(Elena Mauli Shapiro)

(7) 
“Translation is the art of failure.”
(Umberto Eco)

(8) 
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
(Robert Frost)

(9) 
“All translation is a compromise–the effort to be literal and the effort to be idiomatic.”
(Teo Savory)

(10) 
“There is no such thing as translation.”
(J. May)

(11) 
“In translation language facility is not enough; blood and sweat are the secret.”
(Samuel Putnam)

(12) 
“Language is a skin: I rub my language against the other. It is as if I had words instead of fingers, or fingers at the tip of my words. My language trembles with desire.”
(Roland Barthes)

(13) 
“Translation is at best an echo.”
(George Borrow)

(14) 
“Western Europe owes its civilization to translators.”
(Kelly Louis)

(15) 
“Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.”
(Günter Grass)

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4 Responses to “Best Translation Quotes”

  1. shesmovedon Says:

    I’m pretty sure Jonathan Carroll compared it to sex and said something like “when it’s good, it’s really good; when it’s bad, you’re happy you’ve had any”

  2. Raf Uzar Says:

    Personally, I think No. 10 is spot on.
    “There is no such thing as translation.”
    (J. May)


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