Flávia Souto Maior*
No matter how much effort translators make, or how experienced they are, they'll never be able to produce a translation that is 100% equivalent to the original text. Something is always lost, and it's inevitable. However, how can we deal with it and yet deliver a faithful translation? What criteria can we apply to reach satisfactory results? Well, it depends.
The very idea of faithfulness in translation is a little flexible. In my work as a translator of literary prose, I'm constantly switching between different thinking processes and criteria in order to follow what I believe to be my main parameter: have a translated text be as close as possible to making readers of the translation get the same reading experience they otherwise would had they been reading the original. Truth is that faithfulness has little to do with literality.
You see, the fundamental intention isn't to just recreate the text, but to communicate a message. This message is developed by form and contents, language and culture. It's up to translators to evaluate and take a position at each segment of the work, deciding the aspects that deserve to be brought closer to or moved away farther from the original. We must be capable of judging when we must bring something closer to the form or content―when it's not possible to do both―, when to domesticate a cultural reference―by maybe explaining it or using an equivalent―, and when to leave the text connected closely to the original culture. And we must always keep in mind the type of narration, the author's style, the target audience, and the purpose of the publication.
After some time, this process becomes more intuitive; theory and practice blend well together in a process that is no longer fragmented to first understanding the text in the original language, then rationalizing it, to finally transform it in the target language. Everything is done simultaneously, not automatically, based on the mastery we must have of the structure used in both languages, be it written or verbal, as well as our knowledge on cultural aspects and other elements that make up a literary work.
In a nutshell, there is no secret formula. The solution for a translation issue used in a detective novel may not be the most adequate one for a young adult book. No matter how identical, in translation terms, the issues you encounter may be, each book is a book.
FLÁVIA SOUTO MAIOR is a translator that keeps one foot in journalism, and the other in the history of art. She loves languages and literature and started to translate when she was a journalism intern. After majoring in Journalism, she worked in the field for eight years, learning many things and meeting interesting people. At some point, she inadvertently realized that she was more interested in words than the news and decided to study Languages and Literature before leaving the newsroom. The next step was to give in to what she really liked, which was translating. Since 2007, words and languages have been her daily companion. She mainly translates literature, fiction and non-fiction, as well as news stories, and subtitles for TV and video. She is also one of the four columnists that update Ponte de Letras, a Brazilian blog about literature in translation.