Translation Duel: Spanish

A Translation Duel – now what exactly is that? The title was enough to send me along to the Book Festival to find out what on earth was going on, and the answer is – a very different and informative hour that opened my eyes to the art of the translator, and the subtleties and nuances required in a good translation. We were all given a piece written in Spanish by the Basque writer Bernardo Atxaga, along with two translations of this piece, one by translator Frank Wynne, and one by Rosalind Harvey. These three were joined on stage by host Daniel Hahn, who led a very interesting and thought provoking discussion as to the merits of different ways of expressing the same sentence. There was no right or wrong with this duel, simply the interest of seeing how a different way of translating can subtly alter the mood.
Compare for example:
“The man noticed the dog prowling around on the edge of the farm when it was still summer.” (Rosalind Harvey)
And
“The man first saw the dog prowling around the farmhouse while it was summer still.” (Frank Wynne)
It is not too difficult to tell from the final inversion that Wynne is Irish.
A good translation can make a book. The many different translations of “Don Quixote” were referred to, from the ponderous and cumbersome to the light, playful and delightfully modern. As an insight into the thoughtful use of language, this event was a joy. There is another “”Translation Duel: French “ on Aug 21st at 18.45.

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