Animated short film inspired by Kobo Abe's novel.
I have always been of the persuasion that languages, like men, are born equal. They just grow up differently, in different households, so to speak, in different economies and cultures. Like people and countries, they grow up and grow rich, they fall into poverty, they engage in commerce (they import and export), they dominate others, they stagnate or thrive. I insist that they are never inferior, they are only sometimes afflicted with an inferiority complex in regarding themselves against others. The only way to guard against such feeling is to use any language constantly, in every manner, in all human activity—commerce, industry, science, art, love, understanding others. It is only in exercise (by being spoken and written) that language can stay alive, assert itself and become capable and robust. Otherwise, language withers and dies. Or becomes a ritual remnant like Latin (though ritual as a literary property of language is another story).
It is from this standpoint of equality (without trying to resolve the issues) that I translate. Thus, as in sport, languages can play in the arena of translation. But it is a sport wherefrom only language itself comes out the winner.
How does one read, enjoy translation? Perhaps as one would a wrestling match. It is a game of strength that requires style, a game of roughness that demands finesse. For the premise is that both languages are equal in strength, style, and refinement. It is only by these measures that they can meaningfully engage. And it is only through these that the reader becomes not a mere spectator but more or less a pleased participant in the game.
– Marne Kilates, translator's introduction to Dust Devils:
A Bilingual Selection of Poems on Youth by Rio Alma,
edited and translated by Marne Kilates
Admittedly, he did not say too much. He was not always listening, often dozing during the papers and discussions that were so revealing to a greenhorn like me. Sebald’s appreciation of literary translation was, it has to be said, rather grudging. The highest praise I heard all weekend from Sebald was in a discussion of – what else? – the challenge of translating long German sentences into English. Sebald was adamant that these long sentences can be translated. What really annoyed him was when the beginnings of clauses used ‘that’ rather than ‘which’ as a conjunction, a failing he found in the new collected translations of Borges. Yet as proof that translators can find the right mechanisms to delay the end of the sentence’s flow he cited the translations of Heinrich von Kleist into English, saying they were “sehr ordentlich” (“as they should be”).