sexta-feira, 25 de junho de 2010

The second 'Second Sex'

Living authors can add to the problems or aid in solving them. Umberto Eco empowered translators of The Name of the Rose to adjust his text in each new language, permitting, for instance, the American edition to include less Latin, and the German edition more. Carlo Emilio Gadda, another magisterial, if reclusive, Italian novelist, instructed his English translator to drop off questions in his mailbox in the morning and pick up the answers by end of day. Czech novelist Milan Kundera sometimes called his American editor in the middle of the night to question the English rendition of a Czech or French word. The editor would generally tell Kundera that the author didn't know English very well, and go back to sleep.
When translators work on serious nonfiction, the threat of catastrophe takes different forms. With most works of scholarship or journalism, an author's conventional, nondistinctive style in one language becomes a conventional, nondistinctive style in another. At the same time, literal accuracy (for those who still believe in that allegedly quaint notion) assumes a fiercer importance. According to some biblical scholars, the entire Christian doctrine of the "virgin birth" arose from mistranslation of an ancient Hebrew word into Greek. What a difference a word can make.As translation contretemps go, the one surrounding French philosopher Simone de Beauvoir (1908-86) and her foundational work of modern feminism, Le Deuxième Sexe, first published in two volumes in French in 1949, remains one of the most tempestuous and fascinating.

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