November 8th, 2010 / 2:09 am
Craft Notes

English to English Translation

Slate has this sick new tool called Plain English which NPR used to translate the Fed’s legalesed-up statement (re: their $600B inflation experiment) into something those of us without a law degree can wrap our heads around.

Are you the author? Julie asked.

Oh no, said Peter. I am the translator.

From what language was it translated?

It was translated from English, he said, into English.

You must have studied English.

Yes I did study English.

Is it long? Thomas asked, looking at the thin book.

It is not long, Peter said, and at the same time, too long.

— Donald Barthelme, The Dead Father

Writing is translation. Translation is mistranslation. Missed connections are writing is translation.

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  2. deadgod

      “[M]issed” and made “connections” both, eh?

      I think it’s too simple to say ‘translation is mistranslation’ – as though, concretely, a translation were wrong generally and in every detail.

      Translation – for example: you, reading this sentence – fails only to the extent that it can succeed (otherwise, ‘failure’ wouldn’t mean anything except sentimentally).

      Take, for another example, the fact of translations of the same original being compared to and rated against each other: if one can reasonably say ‘better’ and ‘worse’ of two translations, then they’re not equally mistranslations – one is more of a made translation than the other.

      Right now, this Schnitt of time, I’m being both understood and misunderstood, simultaneously – I think: co-generatively.

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