Translation’s standing as literature is low. Even among the educated—who are not, today, the same as the cultivated and have limited acquaintance with other languages —it is thought of as a mechanical activity: the translator finds the word or phrase in his language that corresponds with the one in the foreign language and sets it down. Astonishment is the common reaction of such people when confronted with the wide disparities among translations of the same work. Astonishment is followed by some irritation and impatience; one is not getting what one bargained for: the original as it is in its own language but transferred to, duplicated in, one’s own. Maybe what’s needed is a super-computer. In its most prosaic function of passing along facts and information of every kind from one language to another, translation is indeed mechanical; in such translation, literalness and fidelity, here better called accuracy, go pretty much hand...


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