International Translation Day 2022 is celebrated on Friday 30th September. Last year we wrote an article marking International Translations Day 2021. This year we thought it would be interesting to celebrate some of the most famous translators of history, to understand what they have brought to the discipline.
So, keep reading to learn more about some fascinating translators from years gone by.
St. Jerome, Christian scholar
St. Jerome, born 347 AD is best known for translating the majority of the Bible from Greek and Hebrew into Latin. He briefly lived as a hermit before joining the church to become a priest. He later served as secretary to Pope Damasus I, before going on to establish a monastery in Bethlehem in 389 AD.
His translations were known as the Vulgate and became the official Catholic translation of the Bible. His work was the only translation of the Bible used for 1,000 years.
Interestingly, St. Jerome made a notable mistake when translating the Bible, he translated the Hebrew “keren” as “grew horn”, rather than “radiated light”. For a long time, this led to Moses being depicted with horns, rather than radiating light as is seen in modern imagery.
Jorge Luis Borges, writer and translator
Argentinian author and translator, Jorge Luis Borges got an early start as a translator, translating The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde from English to Spanish when he was just nine years of age!
Borges continued to publish works of translation throughout his life. His career as a translator included texts from English, French, Old English and even Old Norse into Spanish, including the works of notable authors such as William Faulkner, Herman Hesse, Franz Kafka, Virginia Woolf and Edgar Allen Poe.
His approach to translation was to transform and adapt a text from one language and culture to another. His argument was that an attempted literal translation always creates different meanings and associations due to the translator looking at a text through the lens of another culture.
Borges, as we can see, thought deeply about translation. He advised translators to avoid feeling confined, and not to stick too closely to a source text, but to reflect its context as faithfully as possible. This is a maxim we take forward into our work every day at Bubbles as we “carry over” the meaning of the words on the page or screen which is the true meaning and etymology of the word translation.
Sir Richard Burton, explorer/renaissance man
As well as being a famed explorer, Sir Richard Burton was a geographer, translator, fencer, soldier, cartographer, spy and diplomat. Many people consider him the “Most Interesting Man in World” in the 19th Century.
He was the first person to translate both the Karma Sutra and an uncensored version of The Book of the Thousand Nights and One Night into English.
Constance Garnett, translator of Russian literature
Constance Garnett, being famously prolific, translated as many as 71 volumes of Russian literature into English. Her work included translations of Tolstoy, Dostoyevsky and Chekhov.
Surprisingly, she has a reputation for creating mediocre works at times. When she didn’t understand a word or phrase, she occasionally resorted to just leaving them out entirely. During her lifetime, her translations were far from universally praised. Joseph Conrad and Leo Tolstoy were fans; however, Nabokov wasn’t a fan of her Gogol interpretations. In mitigation, many English readers have referred to Nabokov’s translation of Eugene Onegin as inaccessible.
Although criticised as a translator, and only learning Russian at the age of 29, Constance Garnett maintains a reputation for introducing many of the great Russian authors of the 18th and 19th centuries to the English-speaking world.
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At Bubbles, we’re proud to further the rich history of translation. As a discipline, translation wouldn’t be at the point it is without the work of those we’ve explored today, alongside countless others.
To benefit from the language skills of our translation experts, contact us today and our project managers will be in touch asap to get to the bottom of your requirements. To learn more about how we work, check out our translation services and discover how we can help grow your business internationally.