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Found in translation. What (and why) we need to jeopardise a text

Mark Mellor (Cadenza Academic Translations, Exeter)

Found in translation. What (and why) we need to jeopardise a text

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An epistemological problem: the professional translator, arriving always late at the text, remote from the site of inspiration and often from the disciplinary matrix that nurtured it, must discover for herself the choices an author made. Such choices delineate the transformative structure of writing. The transformation a text enacts—Camus exhorting the reader to see Sisyphus as happy, the logico-pictorial order into which Wittgenstein resolves the tangled intercourse of language and world in the Tractatus—is a dépassement towards a new representation the translator must track and inscribe into her own work. I distinguish between inceptive choice and bound option. The former, an act of creative freedom in the sense of a freedom to rather than a freedom from, implies constraints: in choosing, the author forfeits all rival choices. Bound options are what, on a logico-semantic level, the translator is left with. Having discovered the author’s inceptive choices, she must decide on the bound options they mandate. But the author’s creative forfeiture remains as a troubling residuum, and inceptive choices perch on its crumbling rim. Her human sense of this jeopardy—native to all texts—is the criterion that allows a translator to establish a resonance between the specific fragilities of the source writing and her own.


Forum Exploration Lab 2