Umberto too smells a rat…What I want to emphasise is that many concepts circulating in translation studies (such as adequacy, equivalence, faithfulness) can also be considered from the point of view of negotiation. Negotiation is a process by virtue of which, in order to get something, each party renounces something else, and at the end everybody feels satisfied since one cannot have everything.– From Eco’s forthcoming book Mouse or rat: translation as negotiation
(Un-cheesy thanks to David Frazer for pointing the way.)
And, here, a selection of great reviews of Penguin’s new collective translation of Proust’s epic work.
Graham Robb:The real problem, one suspects, was a widespread failure to get beyond the first section, in which the narrator remembers waiting for maman’s goodnight kiss. Even now, many middle-distance Proustophiles are astonished to learn that the tea-sipping mummy’s boy who narrates the novel is cautioned in a later volume by the head of the Paris Sûreté for fondling little girls, and still more astonished to learn that Proust himself financed his own male brothel and reached orgasm by watching pins being pushed into live rats.The first English translator of Proust did nothing to rescue him from his reputation, though, in one respect, he was qualified to do so. …
Paul Davis:If, in order to get them read, to secure their absorption by the minds of foreign readers, translators have to inflict a measure of structural damage on those books, there are reasons to suppose that Proust would have considered this a necessary evil. One comes near the beginning of Le Temps retrouvé: Marcel and M de Charlus are discussing the destruction of France’s great cathedrals in the German bombing raids, a matter of special pertinence to Proust’s novel since he had once planned to name each of the volumes after a feature of cathedral architecture.When M de Charlus observes that if the “uplifted arm of St Firmin” on the cathedral of Amiens has been destroyed, “the highest affirmation of faith and energy has vanished from this world”, Marcel responds: “The symbol of it, Monsieur… I adore certain symbols as much as you do. But it would be absurd to sacrifice to the symbol the reality which it symbolises. Cathedrals should be adored until such time as their preservation becomes dependent on our denying the truths that they teach.”
Alain de Botton:The most celebrated and ingenious contrivance occurs when Françoise blunders in on the narrator and Albertine and confusedly starts asking about the lights, ‘Faut-il que j’eteinde?’ to which Albertine replies, ‘Teigne?’ The point is that Albertine is not just correcting Françoise’s subjunctive but calling her an old shrew. Mark Treherne’s version manages to be both pathetically unambitious and a diabolical liberty:‘Am I to snuff it “orf” then, sir?’
‘ “Orf”? “Off”, surely? She’s the one who’s “off” if you ask me.’My solution would go something like:‘I shan’t tell if you want the light on or off.’
Much as I like Mr. de Botton, I’m certain we can do better than that.