Approximation, as a Condition of Engaging — Beyond Words: Translating the World

Beyond Words

Beyond Words:
Translating the World

EDITED BY Susan Ouriou
(The Banff Centre Press, 2010)


From the Publisher:

Beyond Words offers the eclectic musings of a group of translators from eight countries working in seven languages specializing in a variety of genres, translating both contemporary authors and the modern world’s great classics. Their ruminations on the world that lies ‘beyond words’ make for fascinating reading for lovers of literature near and far.”

Edited by Susan Ouriou, Beyond Words: Translating the World brings together essays from literary translators whose commonality derive primarily from their participation in a summer residency at the Banff International Literary Translation Centre in Alberta, Canada over a span of several years. Resisting strict organization into the book’s four sections, “Translating the World,” “Translating Poetry,” “The World of Translation,” and “Translating Prose,” the essays are as diverse as the authors. Such loose structure prevents the book from being easily used as a translating manual or a systematic text of historical and critical practice. That being said, Beyond Words is a set of working papers, in the best sense of those words. Contributors, unhampered by a rhetorical overlay, freely offer their personal quarrels and victories with the text and themselves, allowing readers to experience vicariously conference high points.

Beyond Words is a set of working papers, in the best sense of those words. Contributors, unhampered by a rhetorical overlay, freely offer their personal quarrels and victories with the text and themselves.

Contributors range from Juliana Borrero’s poetic witness of “what it means to translate from the body” (“On Translating Aureole or The Missing Chapter or What It Means to Translate from the Body,” p. 67) to Lazer Lederhender’s intricate analysis of how “we cannot ultimately outmanoeuvre the intrinsic operations of translation as a medium” (“Translating Fictions: The Messenger was a Medium,” p. 159) to Alexis Levitin’s personal account of how he stumbled on a career allowing such satisfaction: “when you are hunting with all your instincts for le mot juste at four in the morning, that is the greatest pleasure of all, for you do not exist” (“The Translator’s Life: From Chance to Transcendence,” p. 58) and beyond.

Of the twenty-one essays collected, seven are written in either French or Spanish, with original text facing an English translation, all furnished by Ouriou, anthology editor and former director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre. This arrangement provides a practical and enjoyable peek into some actual translation choices. By virtue of its design, the anthology is limited in terms of source language texts and even more so in target language texts, mainly the three languages used at the conference. A reader interested in African dialects or classical Greek texts will be disappointed, but sufficient forays into theoretical and practical issues of translation occur via the work of conference participants to satisfy.


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