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This interview is taken from PN Review 204, Volume 38 Number 4, March - April 2012.

In Conversation with Yves Bonnefoy Chris Miller

CHRIS MILLER: What kind of relationship have you had with your translators?

YVES BONNEFOY: Chris, if there is one thing that I regret, it is my inability to form closer relationships with those who do me the honour of translating me into their own languages. Very few readers are in such close contact with a work as the translator, who has to track its every word and thought, and could therefore become an interlocutor as helpful as the most discerning critic – but almost by definition lives half a world away. And it is not easy for an author to further this relationship when he doesn’t know the language into which he is being ushered. To that extent, I am bound to distinguish between my translators into English and Italian – and even Spanish and Catalan, languages that I can if not read at least make something of – and the others.

And the relationships in these two cases are obviously very different. I have to say that I have somewhat contradictory thoughts about translation and the effect of these contradictions varies with my knowledge of the language. On the one hand, I firmly believe that the translator must assert her freedom and can only authentically encounter a work by bringing it into the world of her own reflexive relationship. This is bound to produce extremely bold and entirely legitimate displacements of the signifiers of the original. For example, the translator must trust to ...


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