Some of my favorite translation quotes...

“all translations are interpretations”
--Emily Wilson, first woman to translate the ‘Odyssey’ into English

Gubbio (Reardon)

 Winner of the Jade Fon Memorial Award, at the 46th CWA National Awards

Garda (Reardon)

Lycia (Reardon)

Maggiore (Reardon)

Ronda (Reardon)

Toscana (Reardon)


Se si escludono istanti prodigiosi e singoli che il destino ci può donare, l'amare il proprio lavoro (che purtroppo è privilegio di pochi) costituisce la migliore approssimazione alla felicità sulla terra. Ma questa è una verità che non molti conoscono.
--Primo Levi, La chiave a stella (Einaudi, 1978)
If we can except those isolated and miraculous moments fate can bestow on a man, loving your work (unfortunately, the privilege of a few) represents the best, most concrete approximation of happiness on earth. But this is a truth not many know."
-- Primo Levi, The Monkey's Wrench, William Weaver tr. (Penguin Classics Reprint Edition, 1995), p. 79.
“Leggere è una forma privilegiata di ascolto: leggendo un libro si ascolta l'autore ma anche se stessi, perché leggere è sempre interpretare.”
--Enzo Bianchi, @enzobianchi7

“I libri hanno due anime, quello di chi lo scrive e quella di chi lo legge.”
--Laura Sordo, @lausordo
"My interest in demystification also led me to literary translation, which has been described as the process of saying, ‘I have met a beautiful stranger whom I want to introduce to you’.”
--Dick Cluster
“Good translation is all about the right words, the right paradoxes inside the phrase… If you do everything right, it’s like replanting a flower.”
--Grigory Chkhartishvili, pen name Boris Akunin, quoted in Andrew Jack’s “Translators: Publishing’s unsung heroes at work”

“To have another language is to possess a second soul”
--Quote attributed to Charlemagne, King of the Franks, King of the Lombards, and the first Holy Roman Emperor

“ correspond with books / by rewriting them”
--from the poem “To converse with the greats” by Vera Pavlova, translated by Steven Seymour 
“Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtaine, that we may looke into the most Holy place; that remooveth the cover of the well, that wee may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which meanes the flockes of Laban were watered. Indeede without translation into the vulgar tongue, the unlearned are but like children at Jacobs well (which was deepe) without a bucket or some thing to draw with: or as that person mentioned by Esau, to whom when a sealed booke was delivered, with this motion, Reade this, I pray thee, hee was faine to make this answere, I cannot, for it is sealed.”
--from the preface of the King James Version of the Bible

“The difference between the right word and the almost right word is really a large matter — it's the difference between a lightning bug and the lightning”
--Mark Twain

`When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said, in rather a scornful tone, `it means just what I choose it to mean -- neither more nor less.' 
--from Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll, Chapter VI, Humpty Dumpty

“writers create national literatures with their language, but world literature is written by translators”
--remark by José Saramago, the Portuguese novelist and winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize for literature, during a speech to attendees of the Fourth Latin American Conference on Translation and Interpretation in Buenos Aires in May 2003

“both when one translates and when one is translated, there is a strong sense that the translator is truly a co-author, part accomplice, part rival, part lover… ” 
(“certamente, sia quando uno traduce sia quando viene tradotto, acquista forte il senso che il traduttore è veramente un coautore, un po’ complice, un po’ rivale, un po’ innamorato”)
--Claudio Magris, quoted in “Part Accomplice, Part Rival: the Translator is a True Co-Author: An interview with Claudio Magris”, Absinthe: New European Writing, Dwayne Hayes, ed., March 2007. (Translation of an interview by Ilide Carmignani that originally appeared in Comunicare.Letterature.Lingue, Il Mulino, Bologna, n. 6, 2006, pp. 221-226.)

“The paradox of … [a translator’s] work is that successful translators pass unnoticed. A good English translation will read as if the book were written in English in the first place. A translation that is clumsy or stilted will scream its presence.”
--from “Found in Translation”, The Times, January 11, 2010

“Il fatto è che il traduttore letterario lavora con una materia che per partito preso gli oppone resistenza.” 
--from Paolo Di Stefano, “Onore al traduttore (spesso ignoto)”, Corriere della Sera, 11 maggio 2010, p. 43.

“The art of translation offers a window into history and the human mind.”
--from “Found in Translation”,  The Times, January 11, 2010

“Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.” 
--Anthony Burgess, 1984:4

il testo da tradurre “È sempre un appello che chiede di essere ascoltato…” 
--Gianni Vattimo nella sua prefazione a Barbara Lanati, Pareti di cristallo, Besa 2007

“The translator has to do consciously what the author did instinctively. And yet it must seem instinctive.”
--Richard Pevear

“A curious feeling, a mixture of pleasure and concern. Analogous to how every good driver feels when he finds himself riding as a passenger in a car driven by someone else. He knows that the driver will get him to his destination, but he is on pins and needles because he sees him perform every maneuver at a different pace, a second before or after he would have done it, a little faster, a little slower.”
--Giulio Leoni on being translated, from interview in Absinthe: New European Writing, Spring 2008

“Je n'ai pas lu Homère en grec, ni Dostoïevski en russe. C'est le destin de la littérature. Même quand je lis un livre en anglais, je ne comprends pas tout. Ce n'est pas grave...”
--from an article by Robert Solé on the philosopher Khoury:,1-0@2-3260,36-954573@51-946814,0.html

“Grossman once said, ‘A translation is not made with tracing paper. It is an act of critical interpretation’.”
--cited by Cynthia L. Haven in a review of The Golden Age: Poems of the Spanish Renaissance, translated by Edith Grossman; the review appeared in the NYTBR, Sunday, September 3, 2006

“Translation is the circulatory system of the world´s literatures”
--Susan Sontag 

translation as playing someone else’s music:
“With keyboard music you have the feeling of reproducing what the composers were doing, and so you're in their minds to some degree. Not in the most mysterious part, where the music originates, but still, you're not merely passively absorbing an aesthetic experience. You are, in your own clumsy way, somehow producing it yourself.”
Philip Roth, The Dying Animal

but can you make pudding? 
“My old friend, Mrs. Carter, could make a pudding as well as translate Epictetus”. 

--John Boswell, Life of Johnson

hunting mice and words:
I and Pangur Bán, my cat 
'Tis a like task we are at; 
Hunting mice is his delight 
Hunting words I sit all night. […]
So in peace our tasks we ply, 
Pangur Bán, my cat, and I; 
In our arts we find our bliss, 
I have mine and he has his.

--from the Gaelic (Old Irish), Anonymous, early 9th century. Robin Flower, tr.

translation as a close reading:
“Traducir es la forma más profunda de leer”. 

--Gabriel García Márquez

“The translator is the only one who truly reads a text and reads it in its profundity, in all its layers, weighing and appraising every word and every image and perhaps even discovering its empty and false passages. When he is able to find or even invent the solution to a knot, he feels sicut deus [like god]... ”
--from Primo Levi’s essay “On translating and being translated”, Zaia Alexander, tr.

there is no definitive translation! only drafts, approximations, versions:
Borges left several essays on the act of translation that his translator Andrew Hurley found “extraordinarily liberating to the translator” since they make the point that every translation is a “version”, not the translation of whatever, but a translation, one of an infinite possible series

--from “A Note on the Translation” by Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions

translation as transformation: 
“Bottom thou art translated”

--Shakespeare, A Midsummer-Night’s Dream”, Act III, Sene 1

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