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Wednesday, December 17, 2003

In Maarten's Blog today (see link to right) he discussed the difficulty of translating Max Havelaar into English, or any other language, I assume. It got me thinking about the concept of translation. First off, I must confess to sharing the faute americaine of linguistic ineptitude (haha). I can read a few romance languages, order a beer in half a dozen, and flirt and negotiate a drug deal (..er, not any more, but I could!) in Spanish. Other than that, I'm limited to English.

There are strange advantages along with the obvious disadvantages to such a limitation. For example, I have heard it said that manyl of the greatest poets have been monolingual. Perhaps being tied to one idiom forces one to push at the boundaries of expression in new ways, taking hold of that area between the borders of coherent thought that one could otherwise bridge by jumping into a different language altogether..

En tout cas (haha again, I'll fire my whole arsenal here, if I'm not careful..) I'm sure no matter what our native tongue might be, each of us can think of works of literature that seem impossible to translate. Yet the fact remains that they are, and occasionally with glorious results. I believe this only occurs when the translator, in his own way, is as great an artist as the original writer - peculiarly gifted in the nuances of both tongues, yet self-effacing, willing to let the soul of the author pass through him to the reader. Much as a great conductor can bring a musical work from another place and time to life for a new generation of listeners..

So, want to know which Dutch works have been most translated? Go here..

Read about the problems of translating Alice in Wonderland into Dutch..

And, see several English translations of Dutch poems, alongside the originals..

Nice article on The History of Translation..

The story of The King James Version

Translating Laozi (..or Lao Tzu)

"The limits of my language mean the limits of my world."

Ludwig Wittgenstein

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