They hate translation, translation hates them

The things I miss not being a literary translator.

Apparently the Complete Review (which I’ve never heard of) published a review of a book about translation and some Rilke in Translation, where, among other things, the author writes “We at the complete review hate translation.” This provoked a bit of outrage here, here, and here. The original author responded to this criticism, saying

Translations may be well and good but they are not the originals. They are something different and what we’re interested in is the original. We want to read the author’s work, not the translator’s work. But being illiterate in languages X,Y, Z, etc. we are unable to read the originals and so have to rely on the translations — which in some ways resemble the originals but are still — arguably entirely and fundamentally — different. Reading a translation makes us feel we are blind and merely listening to someone describe the sights around us

This is silly. This is like blaming a banana for not being an orange. If the author doesn’t want to be reminded of his own shortcomings, he should do one of the following:

  • Learn the desired foreign language fluently
  • Abjure all contact with other languages, even through translation
  • Shut up