What insight do famous people provide about translations?

Those who work with words for their living, must know best what to say about the translation work. Therefore, let us get started with some quotes by well-known people.

The English writer Anthony Burgess (1917 – 1993) who is best known for his dystopian satire A Clockwork Orange once remarked that “Translation is not a matter of words only: it is a matter of making intelligible a whole culture.”

John Millington Synge (1871 – 1909), an Irish writer, well-known for his play The Playboy of the Western World, once mentioned that “A translation is no translation […] unless it will give you the music of a poem along with the words of it.”

Another good example comes from the American novelist Paul Goodman (1911 – 1972) who wrote several books, including Growing Up Absurd: Problems of Youth in the Organized System. He once said that “To translate, one must have a style of his own, for the translation will have no rhythm or nuance, which come from the process of artistically thinking through and molding the sentences; they cannot be reconstituted by piecemeal imitation. The problem of translation is to retreat to a simpler tenor of one’s own style and creatively adjust this to one’s author.”

Moreover, the German literary critic Walter Benjamin (1892 – 1940), who also worked as a translator, once stated that “It is the task of the translator to release in his own language that pure language that is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work.”

All in all, the above mentioned famous writers, poets, playwrights, literary critics clearly stated that translations are hard work, need a lot of time, effort and knowledge, and require translators who love to work with languages so that the translations are unique and appealing in their target languages, so that nobody will notice that they in fact are dealing with a translation.

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