Translators don’t get nearly enough attention and/or love in our literary world, so I suggest you find and hug one today. If you can’t find one, hug me and I’ll pass it one when I see them. (Lie! I’m keeping all hugs!) Then send them to this article in the Guardian. Then over to Michael’s place, where he is always handing out the translator love (proper thing).
You’ll never know exactly what a translator has done. He reads with maniacal attention to nuance and cultural implication, conscious of all the books that stand behind this one; then he sets out to rewrite this impossibly complex thing in his own language, re-elaborating everything, changing everything in order that it remain the same, or as close as possible to his experience of the original. In every sentence the most loyal respect must combine with the most resourceful inventiveness. Imagine shifting the Tower of Pisa into downtown Manhattan and convincing everyone it’s in the right place; that’s the scale of the task. Writing my own novels has always required a huge effort of organisation and imagination; but, sentence by sentence, translation is intellectually more taxing. On the positive side, the hands-on experience of how another writer puts together his work is worth a year’s creative writing classes. It is a loss that few writers “stoop” to translation these days.