The Task of the Translator

Walter Benjamin

“For what does a literary work ‘say’? What does it communicate? It ‘tells’ very little to those who understand it. Its essential quality is not statement or the imparting of information. Yet any translation which intends to perform a transmitting function cannot transmit anything but information—hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of bad translations.”[1]

Stylistic Rendering

The comment left by AMB Reader, Rise, on the post New Directions quotes from Gregory Rabassa’s memoir that GS:V can only be rewritten in English, not translated; which is an interesting idea that sheds light on what precisely Professor Charles Perrone, of the University of Florida, means when he refers to his translation of a passage from GS:V as a “Stylistic Rendering,” an example of which he provides us in his essay “João Guimarães Rosa: An Endless Passage”:

“Lesser, don’t think that religion minishes. Think the contrary, sir.  Visibly, those other times, I’d picture– chalk that caroas flock the flowers.  Yep, my pasture’s good…Youth.  But youth is a task to deny later.  Also, if I’d been given to think so much so vague, I’d be losing the hand-of-a-man I had to heated handling, in the middle of everyone. But, now’days, I’ve reasoned, a chain-gang of thoughts, ain’t no reason to think lower of my competence with a firin’ iron. Le’ssee. Vamoose.  Bring ’em on let ’em come at me with their war, cold couriers, other laws, eyes to spare, I’ll still cast the lot and set this zone on fire, if so ow ouch!  It’s in the barrel of a gun: it’s in the rat-atat tatoo… And you bet all alone by myself I won’t be.”[1]


[1] Perrone, Charles, “João Guimarães Rosa: An Endless Passage.” Modern Latin American Fiction: A Survey. Ed. King, John.  London: Faber & Faber, 1987, 124.

“How is it you pronounce his name?”

Riobaldo asks, referring to a German Merchant who once traveled the backlands selling goods to farmers: “How is it you pronounce his name—Wusp? Wuspes—Wúpsis—Vupses?” The irony is that the same question would fifty-years later be asked of his own name: How do you say it?

Like this: