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To try to write “holy day” or some other such literally-translated phrase is to import an æsthetic effect or potential thematic issue into the English where none exists in the Spanish. By purifying it, by intellectualizing and coloring it in such a personal way, he showed that the language. Clearly, Borges himself felt that he was doing something that he, at least, had not done before: he was purifying, streamlining his style, paring it down, trimming away the fat, bringing it out of an earlier complexity into a “plainer” mode.Of course, sometimes those buried or invisible metaphors of the language do need to be taken into account in a translation, one does need to analyze the constellations of metaphors and motifs that are at work in a text to see whether the have been (consciously or unconsciously) folded into the mix by the author, but as often as not, for most writers, they are simply part of the machinery that the language has crafted for expressing itself in. are expressed in words of great directness and restraint. (Not, he said, that it was “simple”, for there was nothing simple about it; it was just not as decorative and/or shocking and relentlessly “avant-garde”).
I was very glad to find, as I worked on Borges, that he would have approved of this approach.
Because while he is very accepting of every conceivable different style of and approach to translation, in the essay titled “Las Versiones Homéricas” he does offer one cardinal rule: translators should treat those things that are part of the esthetic surface of the text one way—creatively, and with faithfulness to the text’s peculiarities—and those things that belong to the fabric of the language another way—the way one would treat prepositions, for instance.
In book after book, article after article, anthology introduction after anthology introduction, Lawrence Venuti, for instance, talks about, and bemoans, the dominant Anglo-American translation ideology of what he calls “fluency,” which is a strategy that consists of reducing the hills and valleys and chasms and skyscrapers of the stylistic landscape of the original text into one broad pampas of target-language sameness.
In a word, simplification or flattening of the source-language style into “acceptability”, “readability” in the target language.
This information is shared with social media services, sponsorship, analytics and other third-party service providers. I was gratified, of course, to find that Borges and I shared this what to me seemed eminently common-sense view of translating: let the language be language, in a natural way, and let the writer’s style be the writer’s style. So that became one important rule for me: the prose of the translation was to be as “frugal”, as “direct”, as “restrained”, in Vargas Llosa’s words, or as tight, economical, and efficient, as I saw it, as Borges’s own prose was.When I began this project, the collected fictions of Borges, I had known Borges’s work in English, but I had never really read much of him in Spanish, even though I had translated several essays of his in the seventies. As in the Spanish, every word had to carry its own weight.All I feel comfortable with saying is that this approach works for me, and it has, I believe, worked for the particular writers I have translated.From the beginning of my work in translation, I have translated “stylish” writers, writers who have a recognizable voice: Reinaldo Arenas, who is baroque and verbally playful and multi-stylistic, and very musical and rhythmic; Fernando Arrabal, whose style in any given novel will be, if you’ll forgive the apparent redundancy, stylized to an extreme, artificial, uses mock-historical document style, academic lecture style, baroque prose-poetry style, anything but a “natural Spanish” style; and now Borges, who has been called perhaps the greatest Spanish stylist of the twentieth century.But while I, too, want my translations to read as though they really had perhaps been written in English, I know that English is a remarkably accommodating language, which has been home to an enormous variety of writers with an enormous variety of styles and approaches to writing.Often, writers don’t write “naturally”, don’t write “smoothly” or “readably”, and that is a conscious decision in virtually every case; therefore, in my view, I as a translator should respect that, and try to teach my readers to respect it, too.And his advice certainly kept me from writing “standard English”; I knew I had to respond to, and reenact, what he had done in the Spanish, which was not “standard”.When I was doing I felt that it was important to distinguish between the many styles Edgardo uses: one for the lectures and one for the historical documents and one for the broadsides and one for Bishop Larra and one for Alejandro Juliá Marín.” Borges notes that the holiness of the day comes from the language, not the poet. Another thing that struck me as I began to read in and around Borges was the way Borges himself talked about his style.It would be absurd in English to say anything but “the livelong day” or “all day long” — those are two of the standard idioms. Borges made a radical innovation in the stylistic tradition of Spanish. was potentially much richer and more flexible than tradition seemed to indicate . In virtually every one of the prefaces he wrote to his volumes of fictions, he disavows what he calls his earlier, baroque style in favor of a new “plain style”, a notion he borrowed from Kipling.