it's a false translation

Post Reply
Textkit Neophyte
Posts: 16
Joined: Thu Aug 11, 2016 6:20 pm

it's a false translation

Post by idoneus1957 » Thu Jun 08, 2017 3:38 pm

As soon as I glanced at the first page of Fitzgerald's Aeneid in the bookstore, I was cured of any desire to buy it or read it. I thought "Why doesn't he write 'Arms and the man I sing'? That's what 'Arma virumque cano' means." I don't want a translation where the translator puts in what is not there. It's different if you are Chapman or Dryden or somebody, and are trying to make it rhyme.
Often, when I compare the original to the facing page in a Loeb book, I find that the translator has translated a plain, ordinary Greek word by a fancy English word. British translators in particular seem to be addicted to translating a concrete phrase by an abstract phrase.
Since fewer and fewer of us have read the original, some translators get away with murder because none of the reviewers know the original.
Similarly, I saw a translation of Anatole France's "Les dieux ont soif" which translated the title "The gods are athirst." Why? It just means "the gods are thirsty." "Avoir soif", to be thirsty (literally "to have thirst" just like in Spanish) is an everyday French expression.

User avatar
Textkit Enthusiast
Posts: 463
Joined: Fri Sep 19, 2014 12:28 am

Re: it's a false translation

Post by swtwentyman » Thu Jun 08, 2017 7:14 pm

The translation I had of "Les Dieux ont Soif" translated the title as "The Gods Will Have Blood". "The Gods Are Thirsty" in English is somewhat nonsensical if you're going for a thoroughly Englished translation and "The Gods Are Athirst" is probably the best of the three but on the other hand *is* overtly poetic, which may not jibe with a more literal translation. It all comes down to purpose and style, which is what you seem to be talking about. "Arms and the man I sing" is terrible English and no translation should open like that IMO. At least make it "of arms and the man I sing". Latin is not English, and a translation should be pleasing to English-speakers and idiomatic: a translation really is, or should be, good English literature.

Post Reply