Whether you consider translation a relatively straightforward transfer from one language to another, a desirable means to put cultures in contact with each other, an impossible task that masochistic translators everywhere nevertheless persist in attempting, a necessary evil imposed by globalization, an imperialist tool or an instrument of peace, a duty, a dirty secret, a faulty means of communication, an art, an acquired skill, or a complex practice navigating the treacherous waters of all of the above, you may never have thought of it as impersonation. We invite all of you, therefore, no matter what kind of translation you do, study or merely wish to do, to reflect on the impersonating power of translation! The OED offers these simple definitions for “impersonation”: 1. The action of impersonating or fact of being impersonated; representation in personal or bodily form; personification; b. concr. An instance of this; a person or thing impersonating or representing a principle, idea, etc.; 2. The dramatic representation of a character. Since all of these point to the “personification” of an idea or a character, that is to the persons of the impersonator and partly of the impersonated, our theme will have to consider both the person of the translator as impersonator and the “thing” of translation as impersonation. In this framework translation also becomes performance and the translator a performer of the skills required and acquired for his or her practice. We know of pseudo-translations and of fictional translators, oftentimes brilliant literary impersonations, but what of the mostly invisible translator, in many walks of life, briefly impersonating authors in order to produce more or less evanescent impersonations of the source texts they have been trusted with? What can we learn from thinking about translation in these terms?
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