I have been skimming descriptions and reviews of the book Why Translation Matters, by literary translator Edith Grossman. I hope I can read Grossman’s book someday, because many of the things she advocates about translation ring true for me as a Bible translator.
The first reviewer on the Amazon.com webpage for this book excerpts these lines from Grossman’s book:
[T]he most fundamental description of what translators do is that we write–or perhaps rewrite–in language B a work of literature originally composed in language A, hoping that readers of the [translation] will perceive the text, emotionally and artistically, in a manner that parallels and corresponds to the esthetic experience of its first readers.
“To my mind, a translator’s fidelity is not to lexical pairings but to context–the implications and echoes of the first author’s tone, intention, and level of discourse. Good translations are good because they are faithful to this contextual significance. They are not necessarily faithful to words or syntax, * * * because words do not `mean’ in isolation. Words `mean’ as indispensable parts of a contextual whole that includes the emotional tone and impact, the literary antecedents, the connotative nimbus as well as the denotations of each statement.
Anyone concerned about full-throated accuracy in Bible translation, including accuracy at literary levels, must take seriously the principles of translation that Grossman promotes and practices.