Call us on 020 3286 4122

Beautiful Translation

Beautiful translation, the phrase seems like an oxymoron at first glance, but only a bilingual person will be able to describe the feeling of reading a seemingly impossible to convey notion or idea, translated through the language barrier, flawlessly.

They say beauty lies within, and the deeper you delve into the complexity of a translation the more skill and art there is in its creation.

I would like to take the literary works of Eduardo Galeno from Uruguay, an author renowned for his vivid imagery and subtle metaphors to show how the translator Mark Fried translates beautifully. Here he describes the city of Granada:

Dale limosna, mujer,
que no hay en la vida nada
como la pena de ser
ciego en Granada.

Please give the man a penny,
Lady, you must be kind,
His sorrow is worse than any,
To be in Granada and be blind

Any automatic translation, with its logic, its rules and its rigidity would take this delicate poem and drain the life from it. It’s the equivalent of giving the Mona Lisa to me to paint; I would take her soft smile and accidentally make her snarl. Here not only has the meaning been translated perfectly, but it has been artistically morphed to fit English structure, rhyme and culture.

Now let’s have a look at where translators can loose words without loosing meaning:

Esta humanidad de ahora, esta civilización del sálvese quien pueda y cada cual a lo suyo, ¿habría durado algo más que un ratito en el mundo?

Would today’s me-first, do-your-own-thing civilization have lasted more than a moment?

Translation follows strict rules, after that it is subjective and relies on the translator’s knowledge of the target country’s culture and idioms. Here the translator has taken the sentence, smashed it to pieces, thrown out half of it out, and put them back together but in English. The result is an unquestionably English phrase.

At times, despite the widest of vocabulary, one word will do:

Si eres capaz, finge incapacidad.
Si eres fuerte, exhibe debilidad.
Cuando estés cerca, simula que estás lejos.

If you are able, appear unable
If you are strong, appear weak
When you are near, appear distant

‘Pretend’, ‘exhibit’, ‘simulate’ three verbs but here ‘appear’ covers them all and within its repetition gives the text power. Wherein Spanish you might elaborate, in English you may need to consolidate; cultural, technical and linguistic forces are all at play in every translation and only when all three are perfectly balanced can we see truly beautiful translations.

Eduardo – Latin Link