Stylistic Analysis a Canary for One

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from “Why Translation Matters” Why translation matters: the subject is so huge, so complex, and so dear to my heart that I have decided to begin my approach to it by answering the implicit question with another question, using the technique of query-as-response—a traditional, perhaps time-honored method of indicating the almost impenetrable difficulty of a subject, and certainly, as every pedagogue knows, a good way to delay and even confound the questioner until you can think of an acceptable answer that has at least a glimmer of coherence. My variation on that traditional ploy consists of breaking the question into still smaller components in order to refocus the inquiry and ask not only why translation matters, but also whether it matters at all, and if in fact it does have importance, who exactly cares about it. The answers that emerge may really depend on how the questions are formulated: Why, for example, does translation matter to translators, authors, and readers? Why does it not matter to most publishers and book reviewers? What is its relevance to the literary tradition in any number of languages? What is its contribution to the civilized life of the world? My attempt to devise a response to these various elements constitutes a kind of preliminary appraisal of some of the thorny, ongoing, apparently never-to-be-resolved problems that surround the question of literary translation, beginning with the old chestnut of whether it is possible at all, and moving on to what it actually does, and what its proper place in the universe of literature should be. I believe that serious professional translators, often in private, think of themselves—forgive me, I mean ourselves—as writers, no matter what else may cross our minds when we ponder the work we do, and I also believe we are correct to do so. Is this sheer presumption, a heady kind of immodesty on our

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