- An Interview with Helen Lane - Center for Translation Studies - The University of Texas at Dallas
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And bee it further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That all and every person and persons that shall as aforesaid take the said Oathes and make and subscribe the Declaration aforesaid shall not be lyable to any Paines Penalties or Forfeitures mentioned in an Act made in the five and thirtyeth yeare of the Raigne of the late Queene Elizabeth Intituled An Act to retaine the Queenes Majestyes Subjects in their due Obedience Nor in An Act made in the two and twentyeth yeare of the Raigne of the late King Charles the Second Intituled An Act to prevent and suppresse seditious Conventicles Nor shall any of the said persons be prosecuted in any Ecclesiasticall Court for or by reason of their Nonconforming to the Church of England.
Provided alwayes and bee it enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That if any Assembly of persons dissenting from the Church of England shall be had in any place for Religious Worship with the doores locked barred or bolted dureing any time of such Meeting together all and every person or persons that shall come to and be at such Meeting shall not receive any benefitt from this Law but be lyable to all the Paines and Penalties of all the aforesaid Laws recited in this Act for such their Meeting notwithstanding his takeing the Oaths and his makeing and subscribing the Declaration aforesaid Provided alwayes That nothing herein contained shall be construed to exempt any of the persons aforesaid from paying of Tythes or other Parochiall Duties or any other Duties to the Church or Minister nor from any Prosecution in any Ecclesiasticall Court or elsewhere for the same.
And bee it further enacted by the Authoritie aforesaid That if any Person dissenting from the Church of England as aforesaid shall hereafter be chosen or otherwise appointed to beare the Office of High Constable or Petty Constable Churchwarden Overseer of the Poore or any other Parochiall or Ward Office and such person shall scruple to take upon him any of the said Offices in reguard of the Oathes or any other Matter or Thing required by the Law to be taken or done in respect of such Office every such Person shall and may execute such Office or Employment by a sufficient Deputie by him to be provided that shall comply with the Laws on this behalfe Provided alwayes the said Deputy be allowed and approved by such person [and fn.
And bee it further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That noe person dissenting from the Church of England in Holy Orders or pretended Holy Orders or pretending to Holy Orders nor any Preacher or Teacher of any Congregation of dissenting Protestants that shall make and subscribe the Declaration aforesaid and take the said Oaths at the Generall or Quarter Sessions of the Peace to be held for the County Towne Parts or Division where such person lives which Court is hereby impowred to administer the same and shall alsoe declare his approbation of and subscribe the Articles of Religion mentioned in the Statute made in the thirteenth yeare of the Raigne of the late Queene Elizabeth Except the thirty fourth thirty fifth and thirty sixth and these words of the twentyeth Article [viz t fn.
And whereas some dissenting Protestants scruple the baptizeing of Infants Bee it enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That every person in pretended Holy Orders or pretending to Holy Orders or Preacher or Teacher that shall subscribe the aforesaid Articles of Religion Except before excepted and alsoe except part of the seven and twentyeth Article touching Infant Baptisme and shall take the said Oathes and make and subscribe the Declaration aforesaid in manner aforesaid every such person shall enjoy all the Privileges Benefitts and Advantages which any other dissenting Minister as aforesaid might have or enjoy by vertue of this Act.
And bee it further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That every Teacher or Preacher in Holy Orders or pretended Holy Orders that is a Minister Preacher or Teacher of a Congregation that shall take the Oathes herein required and make and subscribe the Declaration aforesaid And alsoe subscribe such of the aforesaid Articles of the Church of England as are required by this Act in manner aforesaid shall be thenceforth exempted from serveing upon any Jury or from being chosen or appointed to beare the Office of Churchwarden Overseer of the Poore or any other Parochiall or Ward Office or other Office in any Hundred of any Shire City Towne Parish Division or Wapentake.
And whereas there are certaine other persons Dissenters from the Church of England who scruple the takeing of any Oath Bee it enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That every such person shall make and subscribe the aforesaid Declaration and alsoe this Declaration of Fidelity following viz. Declaration of Fidelity, and subscribing Profession of Christian Belief, exempted from Penalties of the aforesaid Statutes, and also from the Penalties of. Provided alwayes and bee it enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That in case any person shall refuse to take the said Oaths when tendred to them which every Justice of the Peace is hereby impowred to doe such person shall not be admitted to make and subscribe the two Declarations aforesaid though required thereunto either before any Justice of the Peace or at the Generall or Quarter Sessions before or after any Conviction of Popish Recusancy as aforesaid unlesse such person can within thirty one dayes after such tender of the Declarations to him produce two sufficient Protestant Witnesses to testifie upon Oath that they believe him to be a Protestant Dissenter or a Certificate under the Hands of foure Protestants who are conformable to the Church of England or have taken the Oaths and subscribed the Declaration abovementioned and shall alsoe produce a Certificate under the Hands and Seals of six or more sufficient Men of the Congregation to which he belongs owning him for one of them.
Provided alsoe and bee it enacted by the Authoritie aforesaid That untill such Certificate under the Hands of six of his Congregation as aforesaid be produced and two Protestant Witnesses come to attest his being a Protestant Dissenter or a Certificate under the Hands of foure Protestants as aforesaid be produced the Justice of the Peace shall and hereby is required to take a Recognizance with two Sureties in the penall Summe of fifty pounds [to be levyed of his Goods and Chattells Lands and Tenements to the use of the King and Queens Majestyes their Heires and Successors 1 ] for his produceing the same and if he cannot give such Security to committ him to prison there to remaine untill he has produced such Certificates or two Witnesses as aforesaid.
Provided alwayes and it is the true intent and meaning of this Act That all the Laws made and provided for the frequenting of Divine Service on the Lords Day commonly called Sunday shall be still in force and executed against all persons that offend against the said Laws except such persons come to some Congregation or Assembly of Religious Worship allowed or permitted by this Act.
Provided alwayes and bee it further enacted by the authoritie aforesaid That neither this Act nor any Clause Article or Thing herein contained shall extend or be construed to extend to give any ease benefitt or advantage to any Papist or Popish Recusant whatsoever or any person that shall deny in his Preaching or Writeing the Doctrine of the Blessed Trinity as it is declared in the aforesaid Articles of Religion.
This "solution" had obvious advantages. I realize that I live what for many is an "ideal country life" in one of the most beautiful, unspoiled, and historically rich regions in all of Europe. The disadvantages of this "solution" are perhaps less striking to my envious visitors from the States: because of rollercoasting exchange rates, the constant insecurity of never knowing exactly how much I will receive in francs for projects paid in dollars ; the roaring French inflation that has more than doubled my basic expenses in the seven years that I have been here, while my translation fees have risen in that time only some thirty percent, and the absolute necessity of eking out of a very small budget the expenses of a trip to new York at least once a year to turn up in person in the offices of New York editors to remind them that I still really and truly exist and reassure them that mail service to my corner of the world is probably at least as reliable as, say, deliveries within New York City these days.
The situation has changed very slowly, but it has changed for the better. Today thanks largely to my enhanced "market value" to publishers who advertise me as a prize-winner on the jacket of a book? Something of course terribly disproportionate there: a thousand words of Jean-Paul Sartre or Ernesto Sabato takes an exponentially greater amount of time, care, and above all the sort of knowledge that came much harder than my acquired-by-a-fluke technical expertise re suspension arms or sliding trunion gears. But such technical texts are needed by a company, whereas the need of a culture for a Sartre or Sabato text is far more subtle, complex, and problematical.
In a technologically-oriented culture, the literary translator badly misses the allies who have come forward to speak for the need of that culture for other skilled artists and interpreters: why this silence about us? End of parenthesis. As for rights , no one in publishing ever mentioned giving them to a translator twenty years ago, while today provisions for various subsidiary rights are an area that the translator can at least fight over.
Thus far they are granted to me automatically by only one house, Doubleday, thanks to the pioneering in-house campaign for same wages by Paris Editor Beverly Gordey on behalf of "senior" translators. Out of curiosity I have kept a work-log for a number of years now, precisely so that I may have a realistic idea of what my hourly rate of compensation has been on a given project.
This compares unfavorably with my hourly compensation for other sorts of work I do for publishers. Ditto for editing or rewriting other people's translations. What few people discussing the "economics" of translation appear to take into account is the myriad unpaid "extras. These two activities are of course a unique privilege and part of the excitement of a translator's life as an indispensable bridge between cultures, and to me indescribably rewarding.
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A lot of the rest of the unpaid things are simply onerous. Seeing that a manuscript gets safely off to the publisher by registered mail or that previous books posted to me for my perusal get back to the sender properly. I try not to resent these tasks, but do dream of that future golden age when an established translator will be well enough rewarded financially to be able to afford at least part-time secretarial help.
I honestly don't see any way out of the economic straitjacket that translators accept being forced into, save to emulate two similar professions that were formerly undeservedly underpaid: nursing and librarianship. Translators must somehow be made to see the advantage of speaking with a collective professional voice. The crux lies in getting the bottom-line point across to publishers that good translations, properly compensated for, in the long run are just plain cheaper than those that have to be drastically re-edited or even redone altogether before they publishable.
And how badly we need a little help from our friends? As for these contract terms, my greatest resentment is seeing excerpts or chapters from translations I have done reprinted in periodicals without my receiving any compensation at all. The publisher, the periodical, and in many cases the author have reaped a bit more from an already-harvested field, while the translator is left out entirely when this winnowing time comes unless he has specifically fought for this hard-won right.
As for other drawbacks in standard contracts, there is the problem of "co-publications" of a translation in another English-speaking country, arranged after the translation contract is signed in many cases; here again the translator usually has no share in what is a new harvest for everyone else involved except him. As for subsidiary rights and the famous share-in-royalty provisions that a few well-known translators have painfully gained, more translators should fight for them on principle. I myself almost never translate the sort of commercial book that has a large sale or is even a candidate for paperback or book club reprint as a rule.
Hence, despite some twenty contracts where I've made it a point to insist on such royalties and rights, I have never yet earned a single penny from same.
An Interview with Helen Lane - Center for Translation Studies - The University of Texas at Dallas
I would thus far rather spend my time and energies militating for other contract provisions for myself and other translators: compensation for travel to consult with an author, or compensation for time spent in doing necessary research e. I have not only an "inclination" to write but an intimate need to do so, and almost as much of my time has been spent writing something a vast correspondence with authors, publishers, editors; intermittent literary criticism:the reader's reports I have talked at length about as it has been translating.
I confess, however, to a deep-seated, genuine fear of writing for publication, while I don't think I feel that terror at all about translating for publication. I wonder if a similar apprehension is not the hidden "reason" you mention for a good many translators turning to "rewriting" other people's work, rather than the more usual explanation that they simply lack enough talent to write themselves. Someone else's text is such an excellent "cover" for the timid translator to hide all his or her creativity behind.
In what? You pay a price, of course, for your safety, hiding there behind your author:you are just a name there at the top, not a recognized co-creator of the text the critic had before him. I find myself becoming more and more restive and dissatisfied with this very anonymity, to the point where I'd like to try my hand at writing about my work, perhaps in the form of a series of close analyses of specific translations of major works that I have done, cast in the framework of problems presented and solutions adopted.
In many cases my translations have involved close personal cooperation with the author, either in the form of work-sessions together or long correspondence, and I would also like to set down a few sketches tracing the "history" of how some of my translations came about, from beginning to end. The story of The Three Marias to begin with, involving two trips to Lisbon and sessions with three co-authors who at the time were not even speaking to each other. I'll add that I have no urge to write fiction.
The essay is my most natural medium, and at the moment the only "voice" I think I'd feel comfortable writing in is that of the translator and the critic. If ever I write in a more personal vein, it will surely be about some aspect of my life in France: I see, very dimly, the possibility of my writing about the utterly amazing, multileveled impact on my small Perigordian village of the establishment of one of the first Tibetan monasteries in the West--a veritable visitation from outer spiritual space, so to speak.
I once wrote somewhere that translators reviewing other translators' work was liable to be like violinists judging other violinists concerts: lavish pro forma bravos, followed by deadly criticism of that unfortunate open-strings passage heard in the first measures of the fourth movement. The equivalent I had in mind, I shall reveal, was a review of a formidably difficult co-translation I did of Breton's Manifestoes of Surrealism , judged worthy of a NBA nomination but found wanting in the critic's final analysis because of a mistranslated preposition on page As for my being "well-served" by critics, I find that in about ninety percent of cases, he or she feels the work has been done once one succinct adjective has been found to sum up the quality of my translation.
I guess the one I most treasure is "game. I could also mention a precious paragraph by V.
Pritchett on my rendering ofJuan Goytisolo's very Spanish rhetoric in English. But otherwise my scrapbook of critical comments on my work consists largely of a collection of the portmanteau adjectives I have mentioned. In reader's reports for publishing houses, yes: I have the space to develop in detail why I judge them good or bad. In published short reviews, no: unless I take great pains with the tiny space allotted me for specific evaluation of the translation in a review, not enough room to justify my remarks without my falling into the distribution of portmanteau adjectives of praise or blame.
There are so few forums , outside of specialized publications, where editors permit or encourage the reviewer to give equal time to author and translator. I'll make my answer brief since the question of "capturing" or not capturing a style really is a version of that knotty central question of fidelity I've gone into at length before.
As for my own practice, if the original has a powerful, or even recognizable , style, I make a concerted effort not to impose my own.
The super-difficult translation I have just finished of Ernest Sabato's classic Sobre Heroes Y Tumbas , for example:the Argentine angst that informs it is central to the very "message" of the book, and however tortured and overwrought it may sound in English, that is Sabato and I wouldn't presume to substitute a "calmer" style: the angst must be transmitted, raw and screaming, and Sabato spared stylistic thorazine treatment. In the case of texts that are so awkwardly written as to have no distinctly discernible "voice" essential to the import of the whole, I tend to rewrite to the point that a style that would be recognizable as mine , probably, is imposed.
This style of mine, I think, is often aimed at decompressing a text, untangling metaphors by laying out the strands, making implicit meanings more explicit, and I suspect that a knowing editor would recognize this as one of my hallmarks. Another reason for this is my feeling that two word Anglo-Saxon English verbs are usually more natural-sounding than one-word Latin derived ones, and probably this too is an immediately noticeable feature of my own style.
My "at-desk" practice is pretty much that of most professional literary translators I've talked with about work practices. I read everything I translate several times before ever putting a work on paper. My first draft stays very close to the original text and language, to the point where at this stage it is often very close to "translatese.
What changes I make as I type the final draft are usually minor improvements of a word, a rhythm, a phrase here and there, not fundamental recasting or rewriting. Tape recorders? Impossible for me to use at any stage, either in translating or in my own writing: I need the concrete written word before me, both the author's and my approximations. A tape recording gives me nothing to hammer away at till it gives out, among other things, the right sound to my inner ear.
How to hear--and how to render--the silence that is always at the heart of a major author if one is yakking into a tape recorder and then playing the yakkings back? Even typewriters get in the way between me and a text--but I've had to join the twentieth century and learn not to mind. Of course! In any craft, there are master-craftsmen; in any profession true professionals. For my teachers: how otherwise to repay the debt I own them? For fellow workers in the vineyard I cultivate: critics, editors, translators who will appreciate what blood, sweat and tears a particular paragraph has cost me and why I have had to let it cost me that much.
For friends, standing for all the readers with whom I want to share all the life locked in languages I know that are closed mysteries to them. For my authors, since they have trusted their lives in other languages to me. For myself, since to translate is to "carry across"--and what better way of helping in the dharma-task of bringing all sentient Being "to the other shore?
Entirely practical reasons, primarily. My life-partner's career as a free-lance transportation designer required so many moves that it was impossible for me to continue in university teaching, since such a career implies as a minimum a year's stay somewhere. Translation offered the precious possibility of moving almost anywhere any time: my dictionaries and my typewriter safely transported, I could be at work instantly anywhere in the world, and at the same time use just about everything that my academic education had prepared me for as a life-work.
Career also related to carrera, a race , and all too often I still must "race" to outstrip the old genus lupus at the door. Hence I'm forced more often than I like to accept unchallenging projects in order to self-subsidize the arduous ones that I know will bring in too little to meet even current living expenses. More and more, however, "I've been able to choose the texts I translate, and this has been the gradual result of my having acquired, through my work, a certain status, several prizes--a reputation.
Translation as a lifework answers many psychological needs for me.
Above all it permits me to make something, and I thus enjoy the great pleasure of craftsmanship. It is a way of making an honest living with fewer grave moral compromises, dilemmas, and dead ends than is the lot of most mortals in our system. It is a way of keeping my life as I live it and life as I reflect on it in harmony: communicating through language, that most human privilege, may just be a fundamental part of our assigned task in the evolutionary scheme. That's for starters and basics; I could extend the list indefinitely, in many directions.
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Perhaps out of the timidity about doing writing of their own that I have said I find so noticeable in myself? Perhaps because women's survival mechanisms for so long had to include a sensitivity to the hidden nuances of meaning and feeling of the men who were the intermediaries interposing themselves between them and the world, a sensitivity that carried over when it wasa text in the past usually a man's before them whose hidden intentions required deciphering?
Perhaps because translation in the days before it became a profession was one of the "genteel," ladylike arts in which a woman could modestly display her interpretive talents, as at the clavichord or harp? In the twentieth century, perhaps because poorly-paid occupations were until very recently precisely those relatively few to which women had easy entry? I don't think I have ever been seriously handicapped in my career by being a woman. Luckily, sisters before me waged and won battles for me: the scholarships, grants, and prizes I have won over the years, for instance, have long been more or less free of a really severe bias against women applicants or nominees.
I suspect that early on in New York I was offered and accepted lower fees and salaries because the male executives for whom I worked presumed that since I was a woman I would not fight tooth and nail for better terms. Among women editors this sort of diffidence was so widespread in the fifties and sixties as to constitute a professional syndrome, glaringly reflected in the demonstrably lower salaries and lesser status that were the lot of women throughout publishing. I have know far fewer women translators personally, so don't really know how widespread this syndrome is or was among them.
What I do know is that I feel very much more comfortable in the publishing world now that there are so many more women editors in senior positions: I find "feminist bias" quite noticeable in publishing these days, and consider it one of the definite "ladders," as you put it, in my career at the moment. In America, most often a polite and perfunctory expression of interest, the next question being a slightly more interested inquiry as to what languages I speak and how I learned them, whereupon the talk generally slides into wishful discussion of how my conversational interlocutor would so much like to have mastered other languages, but alas, even after three five, seven, whatever years of studying a language at school In France, the almost universal reaction is one that to me is most curious: "Ah, you translate from English into French, that is?
Because translation seems to so many people in this country where so few speak a second language such a mysterious and difficult thing that naturally I wouldn't be occupied in doing something so transparently easy as translating into my own language? All Octavio Paz's books, because he transmits on a wavelength that for some reason I feel tuned to automatically. Always the quite eerie feeling that I am his "medium," not so much translating as relaying crucially important messages, effortlessly.
Juan Goytisolo's autobiographical fictions, narrated by a voice that calls itself "Juan Goytisolo. Juan, moreover, always an enthusiastic co-plotter in this endeavor: we set the traps and arm the bombs of the English text together, word by word and line by line. Claude Simon's Triptych and Conducting Bodies , from an earlier period in my career. French "new novels" that called for a very different skill: an absolute fidelity to the smallest detail in the original text. Exercises, thus, in the most rigorous, mathematical precision of execution--a translator's equivalent of playing, say, a Bach partita faultlessly.
One of the few authors I have translated where it would be possible to speak, I think, of solutions that are quite clearly either right or wrong. The challenge to make every one of them so right that the translation would have one of the qualities of the original: elegance , as one speaks of an elegant equation in mathematics. They vary a great deal from language to language.
To construct some very rough metaphors as short-cut illustrations: French is a harpsichord-language, and one must often be very careful not to overload a translation from it with all the rich organ diapason of English. Spanish especially Latin-American Spanish frequently has an unpruned quality, all looping vines and lush foliage, and the trick is to conserve this organic, vegetative feeling and yet not overpower the American reader with the feeling that he is in a stifling, hopelessly dense jungle of language.
Italian is so Latinate a language, especially in vocabulary and in sentence periodicity, that the unwary translator ends up producing a lifeless neo-classic facade that hides what was really going on in the text; this has happened, for instance, with Moravia's essays time and again.
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And novels badly translated from Italian tend to make all the characters, whatever their background, sound much too educated and self-dramatic: the "Looking in the mirror, I was desolated to realize how hirsute I was" sort of rendering usually turns out to mean something so straightforward as "Before I shaved, I looked really hung-over.
Very hard for me to answer, since not being based in New York, I have a much better idea of what pioneering work PEN has done in the past for translators than I do of what currently needs most to be done. Same with NEH, whose translation grants I didn't even know about until very recently. Current performance may be higher or lower than that quoted.
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