a quote on translation

so here’s that passage about translation from the forgetmenot apartment.

the protagonist is a bookish girl. and she’s very into jules verne. at some point while she was still a kid, she discovers that jules verne actually wrote in a different language from her own that she normally would not be able to understand, and that a third person, a conduit, had translated everything into a language she could understand, especially when she finds out this is actually a profession, she thinks this might be something she’d like to do for other people when she grows up. first in turkish and then i’ll attempt to translate it :D

Nermin Yıldırım. 2011. Unutma Beni Apartmanı. Doğan Yay. syf. 85

Verne’in çocukluğumun gizli dünyasını aslında bambaşka bir dilde, benim anlamadığım bir dilde yazdığını, aramıza giren üçüncü kişinin ise her şey anlayabileceğim bir dile çevirdiğini öğrendiğimde, daha doğrusu bunun başlı başına bir meslek olduğunu anladığımda ileride bu işi başkaları için yapabileceğimi düşünmüştüm. Büyüdüğümde ben de güzel kitapları çocukların anlayabileceği dillere çevirecektim. Bir kitap yazmayı değil, yazılmış bir kitabı yepyeni bir dille yeniden diriltmeyi istemiştim nedense. Tanrı değil, mesih olmayı uygun görmüştüm kendime. Aracı… Küçük bir çocuk doktor, avukat ya da öğretmen olmak isteyebilir. Pilot veyahut astronot da. Hatta belki de yazar… Ama çevremde benden başka çevirmen olmak isteyen çocuk yoktu. Bu hayalimi kısa sürede ben de unuttum zaten. Buna rağmen yıllar sonra hukuktan mezun olduğumda mesleğim avukatlık değil, çevirmenlik olmuştu.

When I found out that Verne had actually penned that hidden world of my childhood in a whole other language, in a language that I would not understand, that a third person, coming between us, had translated everything into a language I could understand, in other words, when I realized that this was an occupation in and of itself, I thought I could do this work for others too. When I grew up, I too were to translate good books into languages that children could understand. For some reason, rather than writing a book, I wanted, instead, to resurrect one already written with a brand new language. I saw it fit for myself to become not God, but messiah. The conduit… A little child might want to become a doctor, a lawyer or a teacher. A pilot or an astronaut too. Or even maybe a writer… But there was no other child around me who wanted to become a translator. I soon forgot about this dream of mine. Nonetheless, years later when I graduated from law school, I became a translator, not a lawyer.

What I really like about this is that the work of the translator is magical. the translator is a midwife, a witch. she comes in between two languages, two realms and makes possible your passage from one to the other, just like the midwife makes your journey possible from the world of dreams/water into this world of pain and air. i like that expression “a third person, coming in between us.” in coming in between two entities –in this particular passage it sounds like coming inbetween two lovers– the intention of the translator is not clear at first. maybe she comes in between to separate the lovers, her intentions can only be evaluated in retrospect. the moment of translation is a liminal moment, everything is held in suspense while the “third person”/the conduit does her enchanted work.

i also like that she says verne wrote in a language she “could not understand” / i think this is different that a language one can’t speak or doesn’t know any/  and the translator translated it “into a language [she] could understand.” later she says she wants to translate good books into “languages that children can understand.” it sounds like she is not necessarily talking about translating from french language to turkish language per se, but rather, perhaps, translating into a language that only children speak, like “childish”(?!).  at any rate the passage seems to suggest that translation is not just about translating the words in one language into another, there is more to it. there is something magical that escapes language in the act of translation.