1. Exquisite Tweets from @EmilyRCWilson

    PreoccupationsCollected by Preoccupations

    A question that is always present, for any translator: What is stylistic "equivalence"? Is "equivalence" even the right term? Translation Studies over the past few decades has taught us a lot about how complex that question always is.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Homer includes words from many eras and many dialects. It's regular metrical dactylic hexameter, not prose, and it comes from a time when prose didn't yet exist. Many formulaic elements. Many polysyllabic words. But syntactically v. easy, quick, fun and absorbing to read.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    What is "equivalent", in a contemporary Anglophone context, to how all of this sounded in the Greek-speaking world of, say, the 6th century BCE? There's in fact no equivalent. We just don't have a text or a tradition that occupies the same cultural / literary/ poetic space.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    I knew that I, like all translators, would not be able to create a Homer that would feel to English readers/ listeners exactly the same as Homer felt to ancient audiences -- not least because the ancients had been listening to Homer since they were toddlers. So it's impossible.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    I used a regular meter, iambic pentameter, because it's the normal meter for narrative & dramatic verse in English; dactylic hexameter is normal for archaic Greece. Does that count as "equivalent"? Sort of. There's only ever going to be a range of different "sort ofs".

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    I used fewer dialect, weird and mixed-temporal words than the original, bc those risked costing the clarity that's also there in the original. I couldn't do both, writing Eng. now, tho' the original can. I couldn't invent for English a literary tradition that doesn't exist.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    I used fewer polysyllabic words than the original. I felt that the polysyllables of Homer have a beautiful resonance, but modern English verse with many polysyllabic words risks sounding awkwardly sub-Miltonic, which isn't what Homer sounds like. What's "equivalent"? Idk.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    For instance: line 2 of book 1: the original says O. destroyed the ptoliethron of Troy. It's a 4 syllable word. I make it a 1-syllable word: "town". Should the translator match the syllable count of the original? I didn't. One could.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    Homeric Greek didn't ever sound like normal speech. How weird shd the translation sound? I used regular meter, which is already a marked, maybe retro choice; most contemporary poets don't. How many extra markers of Poetic can my text afford, to reach equivalent level? Idk.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    I can imagine doing it entirely differently, e.g. using a wildly varied range of different English dialect words from many different eras, Chaucerian plus Cockney etc., & many long fancy words like incarnadine. It will be super fun & read by nobody. I'll do it when I'm 97.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    People in modern Anglophone culture, inc. classicists, tend to be not very aware of the challenges of translation, eg issues with equivalence. So I think it's worth talking about, to try to make translation in general more visible.

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson

    If this is interesting to you: please read more translators, more translated lit., and translation theory, as well as more GR classics. For contemporary translated literature, I've found many great reading suggestions from the site Words without Borders, wordswithoutborders.org/dispatches/art…

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    EmilyRCWilson

    Emily Wilson