Saturday, September 10, 2005

Translation the focus of "Continental Shift," an article by Murray Bail in today's Guardian. In it Bail says "the distinctive voice is at the heart of all worthwhile art; to iron out the stray bumps, awkwardnesses, idiosyncrasies is to reduce the greatest writers to the ordinary, everyday. And for what? Here the impulse may have something to do with the sensible, ordered lives of the translators."

On the fine art of generalising Bail says a fair bit, including this: "The bold assertion coming in at an unexpected angle: it forces the reader to sit up, and either agree or not. It can be as jolting as a slap across the face." Balzac, Stendhal, Nietzsche and Pascal are some of the great generalisers he names. Here's a bit more Bail: "Actually the most glaring examples of "generalisation" are the deep structures of myth, archetypes and certain areas of psychoanalysis. And these planks in our civilisation, not easily dismissed, were realised and tested first in foreign languages, reaching us mostly in translation." Planks. I like that.

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