Carrying Over

So many birds have passed through this city this late summer, birds I can hear early in the morning but that I never chance to see. As I finally grow, I regret that I cannot have conversations as an adult with those paragons of humanity who served as my models when I was small; I would ask one of them about his passion for ornithology, which he practiced at the nearby WWF-protected marshes: how is it that one spots the bird? Surely there is a technique.
Technique has at its root my favourite Greek stem, for the-then worldview it brings with it, the craftsmanship of being in the world (I reach that meaning via Gadamer and Hadot). Both authors, in their understanding of the world, return to ancient texts in the original: Gadamer shows in many of his works how some more modern Western philosophers got things wrong.
I have looked into the pool of translators that surround me. So many of them remind me of my early years in journalism, many thrive on the flow of hackwork. And some of them vociferously criticize the way that translation is taught at university. University does not teach hackwork, if it did, it would be trade school, as I wrote before, under the level of proficiency. Proficiency takes more time and is not needed for work that may lack a main point (for proficiency looks to identify the point of writing). It may seem that this observation has nothing to do with the paragraph above, but I think it does in the sense that it would be awfully convenient if people were clear on the difference between inspired and accurate translations.
Burroughs with his writing of 'cut-ups' I think showed that writing can be produced through ravaging context that, true to its haphazard fashion, will strike lucky sometimes. This I understand from this review is part of the principle of a book of translations called Multiples. There is a very large audience for non-faithful translation which I find fascinating and also shocking, because inspired translation is hardly translation.
After all, if translation is to carry over, as, say, a little trade boat would carry over embroidered gowns from one side of a river to another, people would be upset if some of the gowns got lost in the water. If one is the author of a work to whom this happens, the only case I can imagine he or she would not be upset by this loss is if they had not fully invested themselves in their creation to begin with.




It is a problem of meaning. Most people agree - like that lovely bit at the end of Strunk and White - that trendy, or popular, writing is not necessarily good. The difference between hack writing and that which is more complex is that the latter is an attempt at meaning: life is complex.
Hence the ancient philosophical mottoes of the respective schools that attempted to boil the complex down into units that could be easily remembered. Like the lovely phrase featured on the Strand Books tumblr from Epictetus' Enchiridion, we are all to be Socrates. Hadot shows how even in the ancient world, the ideas of rival philosophical schools were appropriated into each other's contexts to show, through concession, the primacy of their own schools.
Learning at university level is meant to help a person become aware of paradoxical contexts, and to preserve meaning. But it seems that it is not trendy today to use that rhetorical technique of ethos where it borrows from the authority of one's predecessors.
How sad that some would burn down the university because it does not tend to the current needs of the market. They would turn it into a factory of hackwork - which is ultimately a war that has to do with time. To write or to translate anything of meaning takes time.
Given that this approach is not necessarily in line with one's livelihood, I would not care to preach it, but for this same reason, I expect others not to deny the possibility of my approach. Some of us wish to preserve - and as an almost ironical illustration of the space for this meaning, might we think of the return of the popularity of canning? (Humourously illustrated on that show a few years back, Portlandia.)
Maybe, though, carrying over is indeed something that happens in the minority, as in carrying over in maths sums: that which remains. Very little. Or a lot, if we are talking about the place in the heart, like when I think of my ornithologist friend. "One does not ask if it is worth it," Calvino writes via, "it is a dialogue ... with authors from the past, with authors we love."




No comments:

Post a Comment

Creative Commons License