The Wild Outdoors

I’ve been away from the blog for the last week or so due to being on what amounts to summer vacation. I know as a secondary teacher I have most of the summer off, but this past week I set aside for a camping trip to Gros Morne National Park, quite possibly the most beautiful area in Newfoundland and Labrador. My wife and I usually go every couple of years, but have managed to go two years in a row now, making for plenty of camping fun. Of course, it wouldn’t be much of a trip without bringing the labs, who love the place almost as much as we do.

Since arriving back home I’ve managed to translate two Latin poems (at least in the literal sense; I still have to make them into poems for English). I’m getting a lot out of this exercise, realizing that some of the translations of Horace I have read previously are quite different than the original text. Some translators have taken incredible liberties with the work, perhaps to make it more appealing to their contemporaries. This is, of course, different than actually translating a work incorrectly, which I have discovered can be the case. There are difficult passages in Horace, complete with nuance and subtlety that requires time to work through and I’m finding that it’s beneficial to refer to other translations to see how mine differ.

This all reminds me of what a Latin professor said to me one day about how lax the world of translating has become: he referred to a, then recent, translation of Homer commissioned by a publishing house where the translator didn’t even know Homeric Greek. Instead of translating from the original text, the work would be done from other English translations. To me this seems like a completely pointless exercise. How much of the original intent will be lost, especially if the quality of the English translations being used have not been assessed? Wild insanity.

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