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Because every attempt distorts the original perfect translation is impossible. Is it the cask of the translator to make this impossibility seem to disappear, to produce a text that flows effortlessly in the new language, presenting no problems of understanding, or should the translator somehow find a way to bring the reader to share a sense of the foreignness of what he is reading, and hence this much of the reality of the unknown text, its language, and its world? Several of the authors in this volume raise this issue one way or another, especially Indira Karamcheci, who argues for the virtues of "opaque translation," a translation with "cognitive holes." And I myself have made a similar argument:

To translate at all requires that one learn the language of another, recognize the inadequacy of one's own language to that reality, yet make a text, nonetheless, in response to it. Should it accordingly be a constant and central aim of the translator to bring his own reader to a new consciousness of the limits of his language in relation to another? Not by changing English, say, into some foreign thing, but far more subtly, by reminding the reader that one is always at the edge of what can be done; that beyond it is something unknown and if only for that reason wonderful; that, like a grammar, a translation can be only a partial substitute for an education.


Reproduced with permissions. Copyright 1995 University of Pittsburgh Press