Thoughts of a translator, by Joan Tate:
“But what do you do?” he asked. I propped the book I was translating on to the plate-holder and rattled off a paragraph in English, demonstrating the magical removal of my endless misprints. There was a silence. The Manager pointed at the book and said: “That’s Swedish, is it?” “Yes,” I said. “Someone else has written it. I put it into English. Then it is published in this country or America. I get paid to do that.” Another silence. Then he pointed at the screen. “That’s English. I can see that.” There was another long pause, while the other two in my tiny room apparently held their breath. Then the Manager said: “But how does it work?”
You tell me. I don’t know either…
When you read a book, a whole mass of words, ideas, action, characters, turns of events, descriptions, dialogue, narrative, etc passes into your mind. You don’t think. You absorb it. When translating, all you have in front of you is the book. Something inside the mind transcribes it into the language that is sitting in the very marrow of your bones. I could no more translate into Swedish than fly.
Via wood s lot.