24 July 09 | Chad W. Post

Over at the Tin House blog (which is relatively new and very solid), South African author Michiel Heyns has an interesting essay about creativity and translation:

I have just sent off the first draft of a translation of a 130,000-word novel, Etienne van Heerden’s 30 Nagte in Amsterdam (30 Nights in Amsterdam). By chance, on the same day, I receive a Call for Papers from the University of Swansea in the UK for a conference on “The Author-Translator in the European Literary Tradition.” The call for papers kicks off with the following paragraph:

The recent ‘creative turn’ in translation studies has challenged notions of translation as a derivative and uncreative activity which is inferior to ‘original’ writing. Commentators have drawn attention to the creative processes involved in the translation of texts, and suggested a rethinking of translation as a form of creative writing. Hence there is growing critical and theoretical interest in translations undertaken by literary authors.

The topic interests me, because I have published four novels and three literary translations (not counting this latest, as yet unpublished one), and I have from time to time asked myself, in an informal sort of way, about “the creative processes involved in the translation of texts”: is it in fact “a form of creative writing”? And if so, how does it differ from the more traditional kind?

Writing this, it occurs to me that the word “recreate” encapsulates the problem: for if it means simply rendering the work in another language, then it’s more a question of transliteration or transposition than creation; but if it means “re-create” as in creating anew, then one is stressing the creative contribution of the translator: the translation, then, carries the stamp of the translator as unmistakably as the original carries the stamp of the author.

But of course translation is also, inescapably, a second-order activity, derived very directly from the creation of the author. If the translation is a creative act, it is yet unlike the writing of a novel in that it does not require that most difficult of creative feats, which is to create from nothing. A novelist creates and peoples a world; a translator reports back on that world to people who wouldn’t otherwise have access to that world.

I like his take on this (although the bit about author’s craving a “faithful rendering” when their books are translated feels a bit reductive), and his novel, The Children’s Day looks really interesting as well.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

A Simple Story: The Last Malambo
A Simple Story: The Last Malambo by Leila Guerriero
Reviewed by Emilee Brecht

Leila Guerriero’s A Simple Story: The Last Malambo chronicles the unique ferocity of a national dance competition in Argentina. The dance, called the malambo, pushes the physical and mental limits of male competitors striving to become champions of not only. . .

Read More >

The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof
The Little Buddhist Monk & The Proof by Cesar Aira
Reviewed by Will Eells

Aira continues to surprise and delight in his latest release from New Directions, which collects two novellas: the first, The Little Buddhist Monk, a fairly recent work from 2005, and The Proof, an earlier work from 1989. There are a. . .

Read More >

Agnes
Agnes by Peter Stamm
Reviewed by Dorian Stuber

The narrator of Peter Stamm’s first novel, Agnes, originally published in 1998 and now available in the U.S. in an able translation by Michael Hofmann, is a young Swiss writer who has come to Chicago to research a book on. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >