Saturday, April 24, 2010

What is translation?

Another marvelous thought from Edith Grossman:
the translator who struggles to re-create a writer’s words in the words of a foreign language in fact continues the original struggle of the writer to transpose nonverbal realities into language.
and why would one not want to translate the Bible? I have had difficulty communicating my experience of God to others. I know it was mediated to me, whether in knowledge or ignorance, by others of my time, but through faith I knew a different thing than they seemed to say. I knew a new thing that also was old. Of course, eventually, as it began to sink in, I knew also that I must translate at least for myself, to be in touch with the primal witness of the Anointing that I knew. That primal witness is not the New Testament but the Hebrew Scriptures, so I chose Hebrew. Probably I must also do Greek, but I do not know 'the number of my days' and a new language is a commitment I can't add to myself at this time.

Now - how do I know those writers were writing from some related or at least cognate experience? I don't - it seems to me that some do and some I wonder about. David and the other psalmists are clearer to me than Qoheleth at the moment. Job was opaque before I translated it for myself. Now I know that my reading of it has changed the way others read it. And it has certainly changed the way that I read it. And I do not believe for a moment some of the scholars' readings. They are helpful, but they are like Qoheleth - perhaps too rich for their own good.

This is what I mean by a personal translation.

Note - I love also the New Testament and they were writing of the Anointing and of one particularly to whom the Spirit was given without measure. But the NT is a special case all of its own. When I read it - and I do every week and it is in my head, I am always now reminding those I read with, whether young or old, that this is not 'the answer' but a deeper reflection and revelation of the same question that is in all ages. Each of us is born into that question without choice - then we are mysteriously given choice. In due time, we gravitate to where we must chose and be chosen. In the meanwhile we are a superposition of old and new.