more than a leap from dictionary to dictionary, translation is a spiritual exercise

from Eliot Weinberger and Octavio Paz, introduction to 19 Ways of Looking at Wang Wei: How a Chinese poem is translated Asphodel Press, 1987 (sadly out of print!)

      In its way a spiritual exercise, translation is dependent on the dissolution of the translator’s ego: an absolute humility toward the text. A bad translation is the insistent voice of the translator—that is, when one sees no poet and hears only the translator speaking.

      The point is that translation is more than a leap from dictionary to dictionary; it is a reimagining of the poem. As such, every reading of every poem, regardless of language, is an act of translation: translation into the reader’s intellectual and emotional life. As no individual reader remains the same, each reading becomes a different—not merely another—reading. The same poem cannot be read twice.

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