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10. Becoming the author: the translator as actor. How to relive the cultural and existential experiences that have generated works of literature. The paradox "Pierre Menard, author of Don Quixote" and Borges's reflection on the theme


b) The masks of myths

A translator must devote ample space to reflecting on the difference between ancient and modern myths. We shall endeavour to provide a classification:

  1. The ancient myth is the physical representation of a symbol, a ‘scene’ of the unconscious; the modern myth carries out an opposite process.

  1. Ancient myths are ‘fixed’: they represent centres of truths around which the particular cultures of the city-states were established (in fact, for the most part they developed around the various sanctuaries); modern myths, on the other hand, are always ‘travel myths’.

  1. The ancient myth is ‘iconic’: the relationship between its protagonists is summarized in the space of those ancient bas-reliefs where the bodies form a single perspective; in the modern myth, the invention of perspective puts the main characters on the same level: those whose personality constitutes the weapon which they enter into the history of man.

According to Montaigne, "we are only the interpreters of interpretations". In Antigones, George Steiner outlines the evolution of a myth, from its ancient roots to the permutations of the modern myth, without losing sight of the development of the psychological panorama. Fundamental reading for a translator.