One may find that the difficulty of a translation is strangely proportionate to the interest that one takes in it. To translate something simple, a text that comes over easily, smoothly, without any nicks or dents, is to participate in mechanical labor, like entering numbers into a many-celled table. A difficult text on the the other hand, one that’s full of knots, seduces the translator who is perverse enough not only to be willing to carry out the job, but who feels artistically and even ethically compelled to do so.
One poet & translator who knows how to enjoy this ‘perverse pleasure’ is Pierre Joris, who in a recent post on his Nomadics blog, answers the question, “Why do you translate?”
“Because it pleases me.
Because it beats watching television, except when the Mets are on, but they play so lousily much of the time that I avert my eyes & continue to translate looking up only to check the score.
Because, to be frank, I want to know what the poets in Ghana are up to.
Because I am foolish enough to believe the 16th C philosopher & poet Giordano Bruno who said that all science has its origin in translation, and was burned at the stake for that and a few other peccadilloes in 1600 on the Campo Fioro in Rome. Bruno is of course the patron saint of translators.
Because by accident of birth I was blessed or damned with a batch of different languages and a perverse pleasure of pitting them and their different musics against each other.
Because I can.
Because I love doing it.
Because I have to because if I and everybody else don’t translate the world will be a way shittier place than it already is…”