Wednesday, May 14, 2014


A Primary Responsibility of a Translator

Peter A. Boodberg (1903-1972), Cedules from a Berkeley Workshop in Asiatic Philology, 013: On Fishing Snow:
In this cedule I wish to confess to twenty years of academic treason: two decades of grudging admiration for the clumsy and sometimes pathetic, but always honest and sincere attempts of the late Florence Ayscough to metaphrase Chinese poetry verbatim. Her grasp of Chinese grammar may have been infirm and her enthusiasm for the graphic analysis of characters as unbridled as Ezra Pound's. Yet her scripts show recognition of a primary responsibility of a translator, the search for diction in some degree commensurate with that of the original; perhaps also a deeper respect for great poetry than is evident in the product of so many of us, staid academicians, who dismiss her efforts with an indulgent smile. Her work often betrays her innocent fallibility; ours, as often, unfaithfulness to our knowledge.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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