Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Your Thoughts On Translations?

In reading over Amazon's daily blog, Omnivoracious, I found an excerpt from a review of the new translation of The Canterbury Tales. This translation, by Burton Raffel, is supposed to be a great one, but this reviewer in The Los Angeles Times had an interesting comment:
  • Alexander Theroux on The Canterbury Tales, translated by Burton Raffel: "I commend Raffel for his ambition to get folks to read and understand this complex poem. But the problem is that, in so doing, while giving readers access to the mysteries, he ironically robs those mysteries of their beauty. The genius of this magnificent poem is precisely in its original words.... Translating Chaucer is hazardously compromising at best. Technical words become ordinary. Puns can lose their significance. Rhymes are lost. Colors fade. Substitution can seem like a violation.... Chaucer is the crown, the full flower, of English medieval verse. As Ezra Pound declared in 'ABC of Reading,' 'Anyone who is too lazy to master the comparatively small glossary necessary to understand Chaucer deserves to be shut out from the reading of good books forever.
So what do you think? Is the new translation as valid as the original? If you cannot take the time to read Chaucer in the original, should you be shut out of reading forever? If I cannot read Don Quixote in the original, am I losing the whole crux of the novel? After all, Cervantes was a master of the pun. What are your thoughts?

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