The Sound of Silence

How would one translate a pause, a space, an interruption or a hesitation? How does one translate something that is not there? How does the translator deal with something that is not only not there, but is evidently not there? Translation is difficult enough as it is, but when we add to this the idea of communicating to the target audience what is between the lines then matters take on a different new outlook. Translation, as we know, is an infinite search for the disappearing and ever-retreating sign. It is an infinite chain of signifiers and signified. Add to this fact the idea that we must also represent what is not explicit in the translation and try and hint at what is implicit, then we begin to get lost in a web of nuances, hints, shadows and echoes. But this is, in essence, the very core of translation. The original text is often a voluptuous, curvaceous seductive siren which after translation becomes an exquisite smooth marble sculpture. When we look at the sculpture up close we realise it lacks certain details, it is lifeless and cold to the touch. Furthermore, the sculptor has fashioned the body too symmetrically, the features are too perfect. What is lacking is that imperfection that we equate with humanity.

Translation needs those words that are unspoken, those intrigues that lie buried beneath its paragraphs, those ideas that remain lodged firmly in the authors’ mind but are there for all to interpret in a fashion beyond just words. What translators need to remember is that brevity and nuance are often tools as useful as wit and precision.

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7 Responses to “The Sound of Silence”

  1. Marta Jendrzejewska Says:

    I found the remark about transation silence really interesting. I have to admit that I have not thought about it before. It often happens that translators intervene, i.e. they omit some sounds of hestitation, pauses and stops in order to make the text sound more fluent. But the question is what is the reason for doing that? Do they people to think that the author of an utterance is a perfect speaker, or maybe they think about themselves. Maybe they are afraid that these pauses or stops would be treated as their own ones…? What follows, they would be considered poor speakers of the language….

  2. Marta Jendrzejewska Says:

    I found the remark about transation silence really interesting. I have to admit that I have not thought about it before. It often happens that translators intervene, i.e. they omit some sounds of hestitation, pauses and stops in order to make the text sound more fluent. But the question is what is the reason for doing that? Do they want people to think that the author of an utterance is a perfect speaker, or maybe they think about themselves. Maybe they are afraid that these pauses or stops would be treated as their own ones…? What follows, they would be considered poor speakers of the language….

  3. transubstantiation Says:

    Many authors are afraid of pauses and mental hesitations because they do not know #how# to fill them. Our natural reaction is to fill the hole, break the silence. Furthermore, many translators are at a loss to #read between the lines# because they simply lack the intelligence/know-how/nous/call it what you will to know what the author was actually thinking. However, we must also remember that it is impossible to mind-read, although, translators are often required to do this on a daily basis.

  4. freak_on_a_leash Says:

    This is a really interesting question, indeed. I agree with the author that we (as translators) have to do what a man cannot do and solve what is unsurmountable, namely know what the author meant. Thus, is translation impossible? Everyone should have their own answers..

    As far as pauses in interpreting are concerned, if I would be a receiver I would perceive the pauses as the translator’s hesitation or lack of competence. However, (as a translator) I am now aware of the fact that they may be just a contrary – a proof of a translator’s intelligence, wit and general competence.

    As far as reading between the lines is concerned, I feel that this is somewhat more significant that what is actually written. At last, everyone can understand the words. It is more challenging though to seek to comprehend the content that is beyond. And we are able to do that. We are capable of what the average human beings are not, because we are translators.

  5. transubstantiation Says:

    By “pauses” the discussion inadvertently turns to intonation, stress and the oral rendition of words but just as important are mental pauses and hesitations that are not necessarily realised on page (how could they be?) but are #between the lines#. Obviously, there is more to oral pauses and stress patterns, intonation and hesitation than we might be led to believe. However, a more interesting question is how the translator copes with what #is unsaid#. Poetry perhaps is an excellent realisation of this problem as the art of poetry is the purification of a particular message at the expense of language. The poet guides the reader through the poem by hand and points to what is there and what is not, however, the level of ambiguity (and art) is much higher than in prose. Odd. The more ambiguous the text, the more open to interpretation. Does this preclude art?

  6. Marta Podoba Says:

    I like this introduction best, because it reflects the same ideas concerning translation as my own.
    Translation is much more complex process than one used to think. It is not a simple act of replacement one foreign word by a native one, and a translator is not a cold machine executing their task automatically.
    In fact, a translator should be both a swearing criminal offending ones feelings, abolishing values, and oversensitive artist writing lovely sweet poems at the same time.Moreover,a good translator is like a God.They shape a cold dead sculpture of idea and then give it spirit…makes it live.
    Translation requires reading between the lines,looking for a hidden message,which sometimes may be more important than the visible one.A translator should find it and hide it again…in different circumstances.
    Finally,translations is not just words. It is a powerful ability that may have an enormous influence on others.It may give them love, wisdom, happiness, sadness or even cause suffering.

  7. transubstantiation Says:

    Exactly, translation does not only concern words and grammar. There is something deeper and darker to translation, something which is more difficult to grasp than mere grammar. The question is, however, #what# is it?


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