Tuesday, December 18, 2007
According to Umberto
(...) it seems to me that the idea of translation as a process of negotiation (between author and text, between author and readers, as well as between the structure of two languages and the encylopaedias of two cultures) is the only one that matches our experience.If the book were a translation, that word negotiation would strike me as one that hadn't been translated very well. According to me, a different word is needed there, something like trade-off.
Consider this googled example, also produced by a non-native, saying much the same thing in a more specific context:
What requirements should a translation of a Apache documentation meet, if there were a trade-off between fluent readability and exact words translation?To replace trade-off with negotiation in that sentence would render it opaque and portentous. Which is just what you expect from an "intellectual" like Eco, some might say. But that wouldn't be fair. His regular column in the news weekly L'Espresso is highly readable and he doesn't normally tend to obscure his ideas in verbiage.
I suspect it might be just his Italian leaking into his English. The Italian cognates of negotiation have a much more concrete sense of trade and exchange than the English word as normally understood. Negozio, for example, is the word for a shop.
In any case, I can't help feeling that if English were his first language he'd have chosen some other word.
Then again, maybe I just don't get it. What can possibly be meant, for example, by a negotiation - or even a trade-off - between author and reader? Don't they both want exactly the same thing?
2. A process or course of treaty with another (or others) to obtain or bring about some result, esp. in affairs of state
3. The action or business of negotiating or making terms with others
and for 'negotiate'
1. intr. a. To hold communication or conference (with another) for the purpose of arranging some matter by mutual agreement; to discuss a matter with a view to some settlement or compromise.
In every case with another or others. You can't negotiate alone but you certainly translate alone.
There is one final definition for 'negotiation', however, which arguably does apply to translation:
4. The action of getting over or round some obstacle by skilful manœuvring
I know the crux of this post was the irony of Eco writing about translation and somehow mistranslating in the process, and not finding the mot juste for his book title but, it inspired some thinking. Nice post.