Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Rejected! Utterly untranslatable

Via Justine Larbalestier we have this New York Times article by David Oshinsky on rejection letters from Alfred A. Kopf Inc. to famous and great writers; a collection to stir hope in the heart of any aspiring writer. The whole article is delightful reading, but the part that caught my translatorish attention was Knopf's rejection of Jorge Luis Borges's work as "utterly untranslatable."

Segue into essay on the untranslatability of literature vs. the opposite school, yada, yada, many times written, many times read. For now, I will just take the time to mention that Borges's first and principal translator was Norman Thomas di Giovanni, and others who translated his work included Anthony Bonner, Willis Barnstone and Andrew Hurley. Borges himself was also a translator; and a not-translator too, for a fiction of certain of his original works was that they were translations from (actually non-existent) works in other languages. Translation comes into his work in other ways, too.

In general, one book that truly is utterly untranslatable, for reasons which the author himself discusses within the work itself: Le Ton beau de Marot: In Praise of the Music of Language by Douglas Hofstadter. Moreover this book also contains some interesting observations about untranslatability and about Borges.

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