APHASIA |The Psychology of Translation: The ‘Little Art’ and Memory
In the community of literary translators, it is by now a truism that translated texts are not supposed to be exact replicas of their originals; in fact, the very hierarchy between an ‘original’ text and its ‘translation’ is sought to be dissolved as the two are increasingly treated as independent literary texts, and are sought to be interpreted as such.
As a literary translator does the complex dance between maintaining the ‘flavour’ of the source text and the grammatical soundness of the target language while also producing a text that doesn’t sound too laboured over, questions of memory and language become intertwined. As readers too, it is difficult to separate one’s experience of reading Isabel Allende in English and in Spanish, for instance, because one’s experience of whichever version is read second would be forever coloured by one’s memory of the first. The two versions become not so much translations but palimpsests, as literature itself tends to be a scrubbed-out/written-over retelling of what has already come before. In the case of translations, these memories of the source text come to the surface and potentially interfere with the readings of the target text with greater ease because the translation is called so, making transferences and interferences easier to see and appreciate.
Translated texts, then, carry memories of the source texts, and despite a radical shift in the language in which the same story is told, translators attempt to make the essence survive. It is difficult to say whether memory transcends language or language transcends memory in such cases, but the endeavour of relating the inner workings of the human psyche remains a priority in both.