13 October 2008

A process of discovery

I was delighted to read this interview with literary translator Charlotte Mandell--not only because she outs herself as a translator who does not read the entire text before beginning the work (I love her explanation), but because she reminds me of all of the reasons I ventured into this field in the first place:
You’ve also mentioned having "no need to write"—would you think that your loyalty to translation may hinder your own will to write, if you would also contemplate writing, starting from a blank page, without an original text or language as a cross-reference or interpretation? Creation versus re-creation, would you also like to write?

But my point is that translation is also a form of creation. It’s not just recreating what’s already been written—it’s creating the text anew, in my language. That’s why I don’t feel the need to write my own work; I feel fulfilled writing in many different voices, the voices of the authors I translate. It's interesting that classical musicians aren't usually asked if they also compose, but they're a lot like translators, in that they play many different styles of music, and the interpretations can vary hugely from one performer to the next.

I think all writing starts from a blank page, originals and translations alike. For me, all writing is creative. A poet writing about the sunset and the trees is translating his/her thoughts and impressions into words. All writing is translation, in a way.
When I was in fourth grade, I started copying out a Nancy Drew novel by hand on lined binder paper. I knew it didn't make any logical sense to do this, but for some reason it felt immensely satisfying to see those words in my own carefully penciled printing. I stopped after two chapters (having made the mistake of confessing this to my teacher), but a few years after that, I began filling journal after journal with passages, lines, and verses from other things I read. It's really only since I've intentionally set out to explore translation (and complete my own) that I've been able to fully understand the why of these formative habits. As a dear friend pointed out to me recently, I'm more a scribe than a scholar. There was something that was deeply satisfying about copying out the beloved words of others...and now I'm doing it again, but in a whole new creative context.

(via The Literary Saloon)


Jana Swartwood said...

Wow. That is very cool.

amcorrea said...

Yes! Thanks, Jana. It's been quite a journey.