Tuesday, June 03, 2014


The Final Version of a Translation

Vernon Watkins, letter to the editor of the Times Literary Supplement (March 12, 1962), rpt. in his Selected Verse Translations. With an Essay on the Translation of Poetry (London: Enitharmon Press, 1977), p. 79 (discussing errors in his translation of Theodor Storm's Cats):
My mistakes are partly due to the fact that I never make the final version of a translation with the text in front of me; my object is to create an English equivalent which reads like an original poem. A translation can only be judged as a poem away from the original text, and I can never finish a translation while I am looking at the text. This is no excuse for inaccuracy, merely a statement of method. It is not enough to see what Storm wrote; one must also ask what he would have written in English.
Hat tip: Ian Jackson.

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