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From: Derek Bell <dbell@maths.tcd.ie>
Subject: Re: (whorl) Re: Digest whorl.v009.n005
Date: Wed, 04 Nov 1998 20:56:03 +0000

In message <199811011551.HAA06589@lists1.best.com>, Alex David Groce writes:
>	Hmmm...  But, unless we assume that the people of the future are ALSO
>speaking British slang that's no longer used in 1999, we have to assume that
>the whole thing is a translation, and that slang terms, puns, etc. are
>analagous to the original (although, of course, really non-existent because
>Wolfe wrote it in English, but means it to be a translation of a fictional
>book) ones.  This can be done, although it's very hard (see Douglas
>Hofstadter's Le Ton Beau de Marot for a beautiful book on translation issues,
>such as these, although I don't recall him really getting into the issue of
>translations of fictional books...)

	You've reminded me of a metaphor that Hofstadter used in one
of his books (I forget which). Translation can be thought of as like
crossing a river on stepping stones. Here's a diagram:
(This is using a non-proportional font)

                o  X                              s

                X o                             s

              X                               s
                X                               s
                 X  o                            s

	Imagine the "X"s as representing the spirit of a text to be
translated. The "o"s represent words that are close in sense, but
that have a different spirit. Meanwhile, there are stones further along the
river ("s"s) that have a closer spirit, but a spirit "parallel" to the

	I agree entirely with Alex that it's very hard to translate
text that relies a lot on puns, allusions and other wordplay: some
philosophers, such as Heidegger[1], Nietzsche & Derrida[2] have been
difficult to translate because of this.


[1]Hmmmm... the 3 philosophers I've chosen are all controversial.

[2]I know there's a huge controversy over whether Derrida's a
philosopher or merely a sophist with a big following, but his writings
do seem to rely on a lot of wordplay, which made, for example, _Glas_
difficult to translate because of French puns ("Hegel" & "eagle")
which don't translate well 

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