Translation – What It Was – What It Does

Kate Briggs
This Little Art
p. 323

[A]gain her translations were both well-received and commercially successful. Horton concedes that by our current standards, ‘the line between empathetic identification, idiosyncratic assimilation and problematic appropriation’ in her approach can seem ‘truly thin’. Yet, as Horton also shows, her practice of extensively excising and adding (in keeping with her own vision of the whole and her concern for her English-speaking readership) was common among her contemporaries. Which is precisely the point that Venuti makes in his letter to the TLS: standards for what makes a good translation, for what the work of translations involves, and for how the translator should think and feel are historically and culturally determined and — they change. In Thomas Mann in English, David Horton takes this seriously. With its detailed discussions of the specific context in which Lowe-Porter was translating, its effort to research and understand her particular approach to her work and the pressures that were put upon her, in its refusal to laugh a bit more at her position and the translations she spent over twenty years of her lifetime writing, considering them instead as carefully written whole but un-autonomous things, written herself but not altogether by herself (in solitude, perhaps, but never exactly alone). Horton’s book reads to me like an exercise in tact.

Horton = David Horton author of Thomas Mann in English
Lowe-Porter = Helen Tracy Lowe-Porter translator of Thomas Mann
Venuti = Lawrence Venuti respondent to Timothy Buck in the Times Literary Supplement
Kate Briggs = translator and assessor

And so for day 2472

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