A Culture of Translation — Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky

“To say of translation—as is so often said—that ‘the original meaning is always lost’ is to deny the history of literature and the ability of any text to be enriched by the new meanings that are engendered as it enters new contexts—that is, as it remains alive and is read anew.”—Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky

In their introduction to In Translation: Translators on Their Work and What It Means, Esther Allen and Susan Bernofsky explore the importance and complexities of translation in a world where English is becoming increasingly dominant. Below in an excerpt from their introduction, “A Culture of Translation”:

Today, the English-language translator occupies a particularly com­plex ethical position. To translate is to negotiate a fraught matrix of in­teractions. As a writer of the language of global power, the translator into English must remain ever aware of the power differential that tends to subsume cultural difference and subordinate it to a globally uniform, market-oriented monoculture. Weltliteratur is no longer (and may never have been) politically, culturally, or ethically neutral. At the same time, the failure to translate into English, the absence of translation, is clearly the most effective way of all to consolidate the global monoculture and exclude those who write and read in other languages from the far-reach­ing global conversation for which English is increasingly the vehicle. 

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