Good Translation for Plato's Republic?

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Re: Good Translation for Plato's Republic?

Post by Melchior » Thu Jul 13, 2017 3:20 am

maïnaymeistúlong wrote:
Wed Jul 12, 2017 3:17 am
Melchior wrote:
Tue Apr 21, 2015 2:12 am

Consider this passage in Nietzsche's Gay Science:

Das aber können wir nicht:—so wollen wir denn thun, was wir einzig können: der Erde Licht bringen, "das Licht der Erde" sein! Und dazu haben wir unsere Flügel und unsere Schnelligkeit und Strenge, um dessenthalben sind wir männlich und selbst schrecklich, gleich dem Feuer. Mögen Die uns fürchten, welche sich nicht an uns zu wärmen und zu erhellen verstehen!

and my translation:

That, however, we cannot do, so we shall do only what we can do, which is to bring light to the world, to be ‘the light of the world’! And that is why we have our wings and our swiftness and our severity, which makes us manly, and even terrifying, like fire. Let those fear us who do not know how to warm themselves, and light their way, by our flame!

The word 'flame' is an addition justified by the context. Is that 'inaccurate'? Of course not! It 'fuses' the concepts 'fire' and 'light' and synthesizes the word 'flame' which is fire that gives light.

Here is a recent translation of the same passage:

That, however, we cannot do. So let us do all we can do: bring light to the earth; be 'the light of the earth' !And for that, we have our wings and our speed and our severity; for that, we are masculine and even terrifying, like fire. May those be terrified of us who do not know how to gain warmth and light from us!

and another:

That, however, we cannot do. Let us therefore do what alone we can do: bring light to the earth. be "the light of the earth"!
And to that end we have our wings and our speed and severity; for this are we virile and even terrible like fire. Let those be terrified by us who do not know how to gain warmth and light from us!
The third translation is the closest to the original and the most accurate. Also, your translation is wrong. "thun, was wir einzig können" means "do what we can only do" (i.e. "do the only thing we are capable of") not "do only what we can do" (i.e "do no more than what we are capable of") as you put it. (The first translation after your own is also wrong in that instance.)

Further, your addition of the word "flame" is not the only addition to the content of the passage you make. There is also no mention of a "way" to be lit in the original. Both additions are unnecessary. They are not only a creative interpretation, but actually a development of the ideas of Nietzsche, and that, precisely, is what a translation should avoid. As much as readers may be aware that (as you accurately point out) they are reading you, not the original, what they want to achieve through their reading (for the overwhelming majority of readers) is not to learn about your idiosyncratic interpretation of the work (for which they're better off reading a commentary, rather than a translation), but to get as close as possible to what the original words mean(t). This is all the more difficult as the original is old, of course, since the meaning of words constantly changes. But limiting yourself as far as possible to the original content comes closest to fulfilling this. Adding words and concepts that are not present in the original, as far as this can be avoided (and in the example you give it could be), is doing a bad job as a translator, and may only be justified by the hubris of thinking that one's own additional 'information' better conveys the meaning than the original (i.e. believing that you better understand what the author wanted to say than the author her/himself).

You don't know what you are talking about.

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