17 Pages

The translator as writer


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An article where Susan Bassnett defends the translator's activity as creative and necessary. Un articolo in cui Susan Bassnett difende l'attività del traduttore come creativa e necessaria.



Published by
Published 05 July 2011
Reads 217
Language English


Despite the growing global interest in translation today, literary criticism still
distinguishes pejoratively between writing and translating. Translation is often seen as
inferior to ‘creative’ or ‘original’ writing, with the translator somehow down-graded into
a second-class citizen with a lesser talent. Often, in reviews, the name of the translator is
never mentioned and critics write on blithely as though they had actually read the work in
its original form without having had to resort to the aid of a translation. This second-class
status is enshrined in the economics of book production also, where writers are often paid
far more than translators. Yet without translators countless literary works would be
inaccessible to generations of readers around the world; we may claim to have read great
works from Ancient Greece, Renaissance Europe, nineteenth century Russia or twentieth
century Latin America, but we have all had to resort at some point to translations. The
millions of non-English-speaking readers who bought the seventh Harry Potter book in
July 2007 had no qualms about purchasing the book in translation, and indeed its global
success is due in great measure to the skill of its translators. When the Turkish writer
Orham Pamuk was awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 2006, his international
success was due in no small measure to the skill of his many translators
There is therefore a curiously schizophrenic position between the desire to read works
translated from languages that we cannot access and the down-grading of translation into
a second-class literary activity. Furthermore, what adds to the incongruity of this position
is the fact that so many great writers have also produced translations, though it is
significant that often their translations have received less attention than their other