“Translation is a bit like shoveling coal. You scoop it up and toss it into the furnace. Each lump is a word, and each shovelful is another sentence, and if your back is strong enough and you have the stamina to keep at it for eight or ten hours at a stretch, you can keep the fire hot.”
Paul Auster, The Book of Illusions, p. 60
“And here we would pardon the captain if he had not brought it to Spain and translated it into Castilian, for he took away a good deal of its original value, which is what all who attempt to translate books of poetry into another language will do as well: no matter the care they use and the skill they show, they will never achieve the quality the verses had in their first birth.”
Miguel de Cervantes, Don Quixote (tr. Edith Grossman)
"Thus in poetry it is the choice of expression that determines the content, whereas in prose it is the opposite; it is the world the author chooses, the events that happen in it, that dictate its rhythm, style, and even verbal choices.
Umberto Eco / Martin McLaughlin “How I Write”
“I had a thought — maybe Pasternak sounds better in translation — what is second rate is destroyed in the translation . . . earlier when I wrote and I had complex rhymes and rhythms — the translations did not work — they were bad — in translation the force of form is not necessary — lightness is — to carry the meaning — the content —“
Boris Pasternak, quoted by Andrey Voznesensky, translated by Antonina W. Bouis, p. 275, An Arrow in the Wall)
“Il est vrai encore que Yasmina Melaouah, Manuel Serrat Crespo, Évelyne Passet, et quelques autres chez mes amis traducteurs, doutent que “la fenêtre,” “a janela”, “das Fenster,” “the window” ou “la finestra” désignent exactement la même chose, puisque aucune n’ouvre sur les mêmes bruits ni se referme sur les mêmes musiques.”
Daniel Pennac, Le dictateur et le hamac
“One thing that moves a poet to to translate from other tongues, as I know from my own experience, is the urge to broaden his utterance through imposture, to say things he is not yet able to say in his own person. That sounds disgraceful, but it need not be. You can’t translate, after all, without having an affinity for the original. If you bring over the ghazals of Saadi into English, as one of my students is doing, then you have done three things: you have improved the English reader’s access to the genius of Persia, you have provided English poetry with some new Persian tricks, and you have rendered more articulate that part of you which resembles Saadi.”
Richard Wilbur, “Poetry’s Debt to Poetry”
"Mr [Arthur] Waley is unconquerable. I remember, for instance, the day when he was expected for the week-end at my brother Sacheverell’s house in the country, and my sister-in-law and I, finding in the library a small and ancient book in an unknown tongue, placed it beside Mr Waley’s bed in the hope that he would confess himself defeated. Next morning, Mr Waley looked a little pale; his manner was languid, but as he placed the book on the breakfast table he announced in a faint voice: ‘Turkish. 18th century.’ The pages were few; and after an interval of respect we enquired: ‘What is it about?’ Mr Waley, with sudden animation: ‘The Cat and the Bat. The Cat sat on the Mat. The Cat ate the Rat.’ ‘Oh, it is a child’s book.’ ‘One would imagine so. One would hope so!’ . . ."
Extracted from Some English Eccentrics, by Edith Sitwell
"Poetry, indeed, cannot be translated; and, therefore, it is the poets that preserve the languages; for we would not be at the trouble to learn a language if we could have all that is written in it just as well in a translation. But as the beauties of poetry cannot be preserved in any language except that in which it was originally written, we learn the language."
“If ‘versions’ . . . are trying to be poems in their own right; [with] their own pattern of error and lyric felicity”, a translation ‘tries to remain true to the original words and their relations . . . . It glosses the original, but does not try to replace it.”
Donald Paterson, Orpheus, cited by Robert Vilain in TLS 19 January 2007.
"Первое. Перевод стихов невозможен. Второе. Каждый раз это исключение."
Samuil Marshak, "Поезия перевода," 1962
“Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtain, that we may look into the most Holy place; that removeth the cover of the well, that we may come by the water.”
Miles Smith, author of preface to the KJV, cited p. 144, God’s Secretaries (Adam Nicolson)
"Thus in poetry it is the choice of expression that determines the content, whereas in prose it is the opposite; it is the world the author chooses, the events that happen in it, that dictate its rhythm, style, and even verbal choices."
Umberto Eco (tr. Martin McLaughlin “How I Write”)
"At the end of Horst Frenz's essay 'The Art of Translation,' standard reading when I was a comparative literature undergraduate at Indiana University, there is the wonderful exhoration from the correspondence of André Gide that 'every creative writer owes it to his country to translate at least one foreign work, to which his talent and his temperament are particularly suited, and thus to enrich his own literature.'"
Daniel Bourne, "Poets as Translators," The Artful Dodge