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This report is taken from PN Review 174, Volume 33 Number 4, March - April 2007.

Translation and Cheese-making Daniel Weissbort

Quite a while ago, I read somewhere that Don Paterson, commenting on the notion of a Nobel Prize for translation, said: 'A Nobel prize for translation?! As well a Nobel Prize for cheese-making.' What, I ask myself, does he have against cheese-making?

But seriously, although seriousness unless seriously taken is often a tactical mistake, paranoid as ever, I took it rather personally at the time, since I had agitated, in Stockholm, precisely for a Nobel for translation and had published an article on the subject in the Guardian, in my capacity, if one can call it that, as a publicist for translation and on the assumption that the Swedish Academy must be aware that its selection of a literature laureate was made at least with the help of translation, probably into English, the world language. Perhaps, the assumption was that translation is a servile art, and that given source texts of a quality worthy of the international accolade, the translator has but to do his or her mechanical bit and hustle it into a language accessible, for instance, to the Swedish academicians.

But I do not wish to labour the point, since my colleagues in the 'translation world' frequently do so, even if for the most part inaudibly except to one another, although with sufficient expertise now no doubt to secure their debates, in theory, an international audience, via the internet. After all, any imaginable position must have its advocates addressing potentially ...

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