UPDATE: Translation as Commentary (France) (5/15/06; 10/13/06-10/14/06)

full name / name of organization: 
Yves Lefevre

The following update contains a clarification on one point in the third




Translation as Commentary
Going from translation as commentary to commenting on translation

It is widely recognized that translating a text implies more than just
reading and transferring the original text into another language. It
requires that the translation be conducted «from a certain point of
view», even though this point of view may not be fully conscious, so
that the result constitutes an unwitting commentary on the original
text. Not only is the translator unaware of the process involved, as he
is convinced that he is producing the best, if not the definitive,
translation of the text, but so also is the reader who turns to the
translated version because he is unable to understand the original text.
It is also recognized that new translations of the text will inevitably
appear sooner or later, with each new translation broadening the scope
of the initial version, revealing other facets of the text, delivering
its meaning, rhythm and concerns in a different way. As new translations
appear, the potential of the text is gradually made obvious,
articulating differences which, paradoxically, are only obvious to those
readers who are able to have access to the original text and do not need
a translation. It is precisely this aspect of unwitting commentary that
calls for exploration and acknowledgement so that the inexpert reader,
who cannot have access to the text in its original language, may become
aware of it.
Thus 'scholarly' translation is gradually enriched, developing its own
gloss and becoming a commentary on itself, making sure that every turn
of phrase, every divergence and every daring choice is explained. By
turning into a commentator on his/her own effort and uncertainties, the
translator, who addresses a reader supposedly lacking expertise,
paradoxically tends to mask the hidden commentary actualized through
his/her translation. These sometimes polemical attempts at justification
tend to present the translation as 'the final truth' of the text, even
though it is undoubtedly only a temporary version.
Therefore, it seems essential to explore and delineate the overlapping
conceptual fields of justification, explanation, gloss, comment and
commentary in order to bring to light the ways in which the commentary
'actualizes' the potential contained in the text itself, up to the point
where it departs from the text and becomes autonomous by acknowledging
its function. In the same way, the various translations and
re-translations can be considered as a system of texts which form an
'un-actualized' or 'un-actualizable' commentary. Taken as a whole they
make up an undefined text, which is not contained in either of them but
which is a kind of 'hypertext' that emerges as their common horizon.
Hidden commentary, explanatory commentary, critical commentary: it is a
whole range of different kinds of commentaries which the act of
translation calls forth. The contrastive study of original texts and
their translation(s) should bring these various forms of commentary to
light and show how they emerge and articulate their differences, how
they may shed light on, or mask, the text they are supposed to uncover,
explain and assess.

The colloquium will be held on 13 -14 October 2006 at the Institut du
Monde Anglophone

Proposals of circa 300 words in French or English, should be sent by 15
May 2006 at the very latest to:
Christine Raguet (c.raguet_at_univ-paris3.fr)
Maryvonne Boisseau (Maryvonne.Boisseau_at_univ-paris3.fr)
Institut du Monde Anglophone
Université Paris III - Sorbonne Nouvelle
5, rue de l'École de Médecine
75006 Paris

The papers will be published, after acceptance by the editorial board,
in Palimpsestes 20.

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Received on Tue Dec 13 2005 - 08:39:36 EST