Earlier this year I finished reading “The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha” which is not the world’s first novel, “The Tale of Genji” is.
It is though one of the most translated works in history and that makes the following quote from it all the more meta. Do YOU feel underappreciated as a translator? Don Quixotes is likewise outraged at this injustice!
“Body o’ me,” exclaimed Don Quixote, “what a proficient you are in the Italian language! I would lay a good wager that where they say in Italian piace you say in Spanish place, and where they say piu you say mas, and you translate sù by arriba and giù by abajo.”
“I translate them so of course,” said the author, “for those are their proper equivalents.”
“I would venture to swear,” said Don Quixote, “that your worship is not known in the world, which always begrudges their reward to rare wits and praiseworthy labours. What talents lie wasted there! What genius thrust away into corners! What worth left neglected! Still it seems to me that translation from one language into another, if it be not from the queens of languages, the Greek and the Latin, is like looking at Flemish tapestries on the wrong side; for though the figures are visible, they are full of threads that make them indistinct, and they do not show with the smoothness and brightness of the right side; and translation from easy languages argues neither ingenuity nor command of words, any more than transcribing or copying out one document from another. But I do not mean by this to draw the inference that no credit is to be allowed for the work of translating, for a man may employ himself in ways worse and less profitable to himself.”
copyright © Chris Poole Translation