Tim Parks is translating “a selection of entries from Giacomo Leopardi’s Zibaldone […] a book all Italians know from school and almost nobody has read in its entirety,” and he’s written a post about it at NYRBlog. He asks “do I write in modern prose, or in an early nineteenth-century pastiche?” (the former, of course) and “Do I tidy up the very personal and unedited aspect of the text, or do preserve those qualities, if I can?” The latter question leads to a very interesting discussion, with alternate possible translations of the same passage; he also has to deal with “the first unabridged and fully annotated English edition of the Zibaldone,” which “will not be published until July (by Farrar, Straus and Giroux in the United States) but I have a proof copy. Do I look at it? Before I start? Or only after I finish, to check that at least semantically we have understood the same thing?” Of course he looks at it, and “after reading a few paragraphs of the translation itself I’m reassured that my work will not merely be a duplication of theirs, because I hear the text quite differently”:
What I’d rather like to stress is my intense awareness, as I read their translation, of the uniqueness of each reading response, which is the inevitable result, I suppose, of the individual background we bring to a book, all the reading and writing and listening and talking we’ve done in the past, our particular interests, beliefs, obsessions. I hear Leopardi in an English that has a completely different tone and feel than the one my colleagues have used. I just hear a different man speaking to me—a different voice—though what I hear is no more valid than what they hear.
A good response, and the whole thing is worth your while.