Sam Taylor (translator of Laurent Binet’s HHhH) has a piece in the Financial Times that has some interesting if not terribly original things to say about translation; I want to reproduce one paragraph that I find odd:
Although translators often say they enjoy the interaction with authors – as I enjoyed my email exchanges with Laurent Binet – I am ambivalent about the idea of authors being involved in the translation process. Perhaps this is because I have been on the other side of the equation. When I told my French editor I would like to read the translation of my second novel, The Amnesiac, at an early stage, she told me I ought simply to trust in her and the translator’s judgement. I think she was right. No matter how good their understanding of the target language, the author is generally too subjective – too focused on the idea of seeing their exact phrases reproduced in another language – to be able to judge the effect of the translation.
I’m sorry, but I can’t help but think a translator who doesn’t want to deal with the author is motivated more by fear of reproach than high-minded scruples.
Taylor goes on to say “There is also something else slightly troubling about the relationship between authors and translators. It can, I suppose, be reduced almost to a hierarchical relationship: the author is primary, the translator secondary.” Well, yeah. Why is that troubling? If you want to be primary, write a book.