JIN Di and the “artistic integrity” approach to translation-4

Continuing my selection of quotable quotes from Di Jin’s book on Literary Translation, I come to his interesting comparison of the translator’s art to that of a “tightrope dancer“:

“The ease and freedom of tightrope dancers comes from long an persistent practice in maintaining an unwavering grasp of the centre of gravity through all their seemingly unrestrained movements. The creative translator enjoys a similar ease and freedom when he or she manages to maintain the delicate balance over the artistic integrity of the original work. . . . What exactly are the weights on the translator’s balancing rod? On one end is the message of the source text, including its spirit, its substance and its flavor, as perceived by the source-language reader. And on the other end it is the message or the pre-visualized message of the end text being conceived as it will be perceived by the prospective target-language reader. It involves subtle manoeuvering to negotiate the delicate balance because both the factual information and the flavor may have to be adjusted through linguistic and cultural transition, but the balance can be negotiated if the translator always keeps the message, not just the words, at the centre of his or her view.” (pp.116-117)

Thus, form and content, flavor and force, beauty and accuracy–all these considerations (and more!) must be negotiated and kept both in mind and in balance as one renders the source text into another language and cultural setting. Furthermore, not only readers must be mentally referenced during this process, but it is probably more important for listeners to be envisaged, especially in the case of a Bible translation: How was the original Hebrew or Greek text presumably “heard”–and how correspondently will the translation “sound” to an audience today? Of course, a certain amount of educated guesswork is needed in the case of the ST coupled with a considerable amount of testing with regard to the translation. Moreover, where the Scriptures are concerned, the semantic content of the text must take priority; but it may be surprising to those who make the analytical effort to discover how the essential meaning of the original was “clothed” in certain obvious as well as subtle artistic and rhetorical forms so as to enhance the biblical text by making it more memorable and memorizable.

The following is the remainder of the Lord’s Prayer (Mt.6:11-16) in a semi-poetic style of Chewa discourse that is intended to match the impact and appeal of the biblical text (see the preceding post; note that the so-called “Doxology” was included in the translation due to popular demand!):

Τὸν ἄρτον ἡμῶν τὸν ἐπιούσιον
δὸς ἡμῖν σήμερον·
καὶ ἄφες ἡμῖν τὰ ὀφειλήματα ἡμῶν,
ὡς καὶ ἡμεῖς ἀφήκαμεν τοῖς ὀφειλέταις ἡμῶν·
καὶ μὴ εἰσενέγκῃς ἡμᾶς εἰς πειρασμόν,
ἀλλὰ ῥῦσαι ἡμᾶς ἀπὸ τοῦ πονηροῦ.

Choonde, ’Tate, tigawireni lero, (Please, Dad, apportion us today,)
chakudya chokwanira moyo uno. (food sufficient for this life.)
Machimo onse mutikhululukire, (All our sins would you forgive us,)
nafe tichitedi chimodzimodzinso. (and we, let us surely do also the same.)
Mu zotiyesayesa ife tisamiremo. (Into the things that test us, let us not get mired.)
Kwa Woipa uja, M’dani wathu, (From that Evil One, our Enemy,)
mutipulumutse nthawi zonse’tu. (may you deliver us indeed at all times.)
——————————————————————————-
Ndithudi, ufumu ndi mphamvu, (In truth, kingship and great power,)
ulemunso n’zanu kwamuyayaya! (honor too remain yours forever and ever!)

I trust that Chewa readers and hearers will agree that the translation tightrope has been traversed without falling–and without a great deal of awkward movements on the line! (For a more detailed analysis of this biblical text and the process of translating it, see my article “Poeticizing the Lord’s Prayer for Pronunciatio: An Exercise in Oral-Oriented Bible Translation” in the journal Neotestamentica 46/2, 395-416, 2012.)

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About ewendland

I am currently an instructor at the Lutheran Seminary, Lusaka, ZAMBIA (since 1968). My academic training has been in biblical studies (BA, Northwestern College; MST, Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary), Bible translation (several SIL courses), linguistics (MA, University of Wisconsin, Madison), and African languages (PhD, UWM). I am a “retired” translation consultant for the United Bible Societies (having worked with projects in Malawi, Zambia, and Zimbabwe). I currently still serve as an external examiner in Zambian languages (University of Zambia) and as visiting professor in OT, NT, and Ancient Studies at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, with an affiliation to the Centre for Bible Interpretation and Translation in Africa (http://sun.academia.edu/EWENDLAND). My research and writing interests focus on the literary (structural, poetic, rhetorical) analysis of biblical texts and their oratorical translation, especially in southeastern Bantu languages (http://www.amazon.com/Ernst-R.-Wendland/e/B001HPLMX6).
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