Logos Multilingual Portal


Literary languages between reason and sentiment


1. Time and space as force fields: literature as "the stage"


a) The stage of potentialities

In the various stages of this discourse on literary translation, we have endeavoured to show how no translation that is meaningful, in the aesthetic sense (and, therefore, ethical), can exclude the dramaturgy inherent in the source text. The subtle strategy with which the mind ‘translates’ an interior image into a verbal action, and this into a code given it a priori, in the historical and cultural sense, makes the ‘text’ the starting-point for the reader’s recognition, in the opposite sense, of how many imaginative potentialities are made idle by such a conversion. In short, there exists an entropy of communication not less devastating than that which, within an inevitable number of years, will make the world an icy mass. Thus every translation is firstly a reading of the primary image: the scene the writer imagined when constructing the text’s subtle expressive synergies. Once again, in order to define this phenomenon we resort to two non-literary subjects: music and acting.

In music, an ‘inner ear’ is defined as a musician’s ability to perceive sounds simply by reading the notes and without any external stimuli. Likewise, the translator must have an ‘inner eye’ enabling him to reconstruct in his mind, the primary image that gave rise to the construction of the text. The transition from image to text is an obsessive action: as Freud would say, it is a "compulsion to repeat" a primary scene whose implications create an aura of not immediately definable emotions.

Acting addresses us through the teachings of Stanislawski, according to whom every interpreter must search his own imagination to find feelings and archetypes within which to include the author’s interior world. Thus the author/actor relationship is mimetic and also, regarding rendering, mimic. A truly appropriate definition of translation. Everyone has seen certain paintings treated with 'grazing light’: a technique for revealing the sketches, unbroken lines and ‘points of view’ beneath the ’completed text’ of the painting, subsequently denied by the final composition. Likewise, a translator must know the creative process in fieri, step by step, with particular attention to the notes, sketches, changes and rejected versions, along whose path the text gradually takes shape. In this sense, the most fascinating aspect of literary translation is its possibility of entering the mind of a genius and, with systematic self-devotion, seeing the world through his eyes.

Such a discourse has a paradoxical appendix: our course is divulged thanks to the information technology revolution; nevertheless, the existence of writing programs no longer allows the survival of ‘median’ phases through which the literary text acquires its own form and consistency. In other words, it makes the variants, counter-texts and unresolved potentialities (the ‘grazing light’ view) of every text invisible. This circumstance is quite significant, and obliges tomorrow’s literary translator to construct an imaginary psychobiography of the author, if he wishes to enter an interior world, now less and less historicizable.