17 December 2015

Barry Jones on translators

As I said yesterday, I'm reading Barry Jones: A thinking reed and enjoying it. Reviews here and here.
I thought I would quote the occasions when Jones mentions translation and/or translators.

At first glance, this story appears to be rather critical of the Chinese translators involved. If we give them the benefit of the doubt, perhaps it just expresses the fact that they could not immediately take in what was to their mind radical input, even if it did come from the author himself. Perhaps professional translators might have responded faster and better compared to these academics who had taken on the task.
Sleepers Wake!, aka Sleepers Wake! Technology and the Future of Work: Wikipedia article, Review.

In Chengdu I met the Chinese translators of Sleepers Wake!, three academics from the University of Western China. ... The censors were troubled by what seemed to be a religious reference. This turned out to be a joke based on an ambiguity in the word 'work', set out at the start of Chapter 4:
Q. How many people work in the Vatican?
A. About half.
 I said, 'If the censors complain, just cut the material out'. My translators said, 'No. That would not be faithful to the intention of the author'. I said, 'But I am the author, and I say you can do it'. They did not see it my way.
The Executive Board (of UNESCO) had some distinguished members. I was closest to Talat Halman, formerly Turkey's Ambassador to the United Nations and Minister for Culture, rewarded with a British knighthood (GBE) for having translated Shakespeare's sonnets. I was told, not by Talat, that the Turkish versions were an improvement on the original.
Now that is saying something. First about Talât Sait Halman as a translator. Also a reminder that a translation can sometimes be "an improvement on the original", even when the original is itself considered to be a masterpiece.

[As A. J. Krailsheimer — aka AJK, a scholar at Christ Church, Oxford — Jones' preferred translator of Pascal's Pensées notes:] 'He is addressing a person well versed in the social graces, familiar with the world of the great and its pastimes ... informed about the discoveries of contemporary science, a critic of style and fashion, priding himself on being a hardheaded rationalist.' (Blaise Pascal, Pensées, pp xxii, x.)
Works and translations by A. J. Krailsheimer here.
Googled for A. J. Krailsheimer, but failed to find a biography or any biographical information.

Pensée No. 200 has long had a personal appeal to me: 'Man is but a reed, the feeblest in nature; but he is a thinking reed (un roseau pensant)'. I suspect that Pascal's 'thinking reed' is an adaptation of Bacon's 'I beseech your Lordships to be merciful to a broken reed'.

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