nhiệm vụ của người dịch

Bài gốc: Nhiệm vụ của người dịch 
Tác giả: Walter Benjamin
marcus dịch từ nguyên bản tiếng Đức Die Aufgabe des

 

 

Walter Benjamin, “The Task of the Translator”(introduction to a Baudelaire translation, 1923; this text translated by Harry Zohn,1968)[This, and the Chamberlain article I photocopied for you, are taken from theanthology, The Translation Studies Reader, ed. Lawrence Venuti (London: Routledge,2000).]

 

Chưa thấy ở đâu sự quan tâm đến người thưởng thức mang lại lợi ích cho sự cảm thụ một tác phẩm nghệ thuật hay một hình thức nghệ thuật cả. Không chỉ việc mỗi mối liên hệ với một công chúng nhất định hay người đại diện cho họ làm ta lạc lối, thậm chí khái niệm về một người thưởng thức „chuẩn“ trong mọi diễn giải lý thuyết nghệ thuật là một khái niệm dở, vì chúng chỉ đúng nếu có sự tồn tại và phẩm chất của con người mà thôi. Như vậy nghệ thuật tự nó cũng đòi hỏi phải có phẩm chất vật lý và tinh thần của con người, tuy nhiên không đòi hỏi sự chú ý của con người trong bất cứ tác phẩm nghệ thuật nào. Bởi chẳng bài thơ nào dành cho người đọc, chẳng bức họa nào dành cho người xem, chẳng bản giao hưởng nào dành cho người nghe cả.

Có phải một bản dịch là dành cho người đọc không hiểu bản gốc? Điều này có vẻ như đủ để lý giải sự khác biệt thứ bậc trong lĩnh vực nghệ thuật giữa bản gốc và bản dịch. Thêm vào đó dường như lý do có thể duy nhất là nhắc đi nhắc lại >cùng một điều<. Một bài thơ >nói< lên điều gì? Nó thông báo gì? Hầu như rất ít đối với người hiểu bài thơ. Điều căn bản của nó không phải là cái thông báo, thông điệp. Tuy vậy bản dịch của bài thơ đó dù muốn truyền tải, nhưng hầu như lại chẳng truyền tải được gì hơn là chính cái thông báo – điều chẳng mấy cốt lõi. Đó cũng là một đặc điểm nhận biết của những bản dịch tồi. Nhưng thứ nằm trong bài thơ ngoài cái thông báo kia – và ngay cả người dịch tồi cũng thú nhận rằng đó là điều cốt lõi – có phải thường được coi là điều không sờ mó được, bí hiểm, >tính thơ

Dịch thuật là một hình thức. Để nắm bắt được nó, ta cần tìm về bản gốc. Bởi trong bản gốc chứa đựng quy tắc của dịch thuật, đó là tính khả dịch của nó. Câu hỏi về tính khả dịch của một tác phẩm thường mang hai nghĩa. Câu hỏi đó có thể là: liệu rằng trong toàn bộ số người đọc nó có ai dịch nổi không? hay là, và thực ra là: liệu rằng bản gốc thể theo phẩm chất của nó có cho phép dịch không và theo đó – chiếu theo ý nghĩa của hình thức này – có đòi hỏi phải được dịch không? Thường thì trả lời câu hỏi thứ nhất chỉ khó thôi, còn câu thứ hai thì bắt buộc. Chỉ có kiểu suy nghĩ hời hợt, cố tình không chấp nhận ý nghĩa trọng yếu của câu thứ hai, mới coi cả hai câu hỏi có ý nghĩa ngang nhau. Cũng phải nói rằng ngược lại, một số khái niệm tương quan giữ được ý nghĩa tốt, thậm chí là tốt nhất, nếu sơ khởi chúng không bị gắn vào duy nhất với con người. Ví dụ như ta có thể nói về một cuộc đời hay một khoảnh khắc khó quên, ngay cả khi tất cả mọi người dường như đã quên chúng rồi. Nếu phẩm chất của chúng đòi hỏi không bị lãng quên, thì sự đòi hỏi đó chẳng có gì sai, mà chỉ là con người ta không tuân theo và đồng thời lái tới một lĩnh vực nó có thể được đáp ứng: Tưởng niệm Đức Chúa. Theo đó tính khả dịch của các hình thái ngôn từ cũng cần được suy xét, ngay cả khi chúng dường như không thể dịch nổi đối với con người. Và sự không thể dịch nổi này có vẻ chẳng đúng trong một khái niệm chặt chẽ về dịch thuật và ở một mức độ nào đó sao? – Trong trường hợp tách biệt này cần phải đặt câu hỏi, liệu rằng việc dịch một số hình thái ngôn từ nhất định có bắt buộc không. Bởi nguyên tắc là: Nếu dịch thuật là một hình thức, thì tính khả dịch đối với một số tác phẩm phải là cốt lõi.

(còn tiếp)

**************

In the appreciation of a work of art or an art form, consideration of the receiver never  proves fruitful. Not only is any reference to a certain public or its representatives misleading, but even the concept of an “ideal” receiver is detrimental in the theoretical consideration of art, since all it posits is the existence and nature of man as such. Art,in the same way, posits man’s physical and spiritual existence, but in none of its worksis it concerned with his response. No poem is intended for the reader, no picture for the beholder, no symphony for the listener.

Is a translation meant for readers who do not understand the original? This wouldseem to explain adequately the divergence of their standing in the realm of art.Moreover, it seems to be the only conceivable reason for saying “the same thing”repeatedly. For what does a literary work “say”? What does it communicate? It “tellsvery little to those who understand it. Its essential quality is not statement or theimparting of information — hence, something inessential. This is the hallmark of badtranslations. But do we not generally regard as the essential substance of a literarywork what it contains in addition to information — as even a poor translator will admit– the unfathomable, the mysterious, the “poetic,” something that a translator canreproduce only if he is also a poet? This, actually, is the cause of another characteristicof inferior translation, which consequently we may define as the inaccuratetransmission of an inessential content. This will be true whenever a translationundertakes to serve the reader. However, if it were intended for the reader, the samewould have to apply to the original. If the original does not exist for the reader’s sake,how could the translation be understood on the basis of this premise?Translation is a mode. To comprehend it as mode one must go back to the original, for that contains the law governing the translation: its translatability. The question of whether a work is translatable has a dual meaning. Either: Will an adequate translator ever be found among the totality of its readers? Or, more pertinently: Does its naturelend itself to translation and, therefore, in view of the significance of the mode, callfor it? [. . .]Translatability is an essential quality of certain works, which is not to say that it isessential that they be translated; it means rather that a specific significance inherent inthe original manifest itself in its translatability. It is plausible that no translation,however good it may be, can have any significance as regards the original. Yet, byvirtue of its translatability the original is closely connected with the translation; infact, this connection is all the closer since it is no longer of importance to the original.We may call this connected a natural one, or, more specifically, a vital connection.Just as he manifestations of life are intimately connected with the phenomenon of lifewithout being of importance to it, a translation issues from the original — not so muchfor its life as from its afterlife. For a translation comes later than the original, andsince the important works of world literature never find their chosen translators at thetime of their origin, their translation marks their stag of continues life. The idea of lifeand afterlife in works of art should be regarded with an entirely unmetaphoricalobjectivity. [. . .] The concept of life is given its due only if everything that has a

history of its own, and is not merely the setting for history, is credited with life. In thefinal analysis, the range of life must be determined by history rather than by nature,least of all by such tenuous factors as sensation and soul. The philosopher’s task consists in comprehending all of natural life through the more encompassing life of history. And indeed, is not the continued life of works of art far easier to recognizethan the continual life of animal species? The history of the great works of art tells usabout their antecedents, their realization in the age of the artist, their potentiallyeternal afterlife in succeeding generations. Where this last manifests itself, it is calledfame. Translations that are more than transmissions of subject matter come into beingwhen in the course of its survival a work has reached the age of its fame. Contrary,therefore, to the claims of bad translators, such translations do not so much serve thework as owe their existence to it. [. . .]With this attempt at an explication [that languages “are not strangers to one another, but are, a priori and apart from all historical relationships, interrelated in what theywant to express”] our study appears to rejoin, after futile detours, the traditionaltheory of translation. If the kinship of languages is to be demonstrated by translations,how else can this be done but by conveying the form and meaning of the original asaccurately as possible? To be sue, that theory would be hard put to define the nature of this accuracy and therefore could shed no light on what is important in a translation.Actually, however, the kinship of languages is brought out by a translation far more profoundly and clearly than in the superficial and indefinable similarity of two worksof literature. To grasp the genuine relationship between an original and a translationrequires an investigation analogous to the argumentation by which a critique of cognition would have to prove the impossibility of an image theory. There it is amatter of showing that in cognition there could be no objectivity, not even a claim toit, if it dealt with images of reality; here it can be demonstrated that no translationwould be possible if in its ultimate essence it strove for likeness to the original. For inits afterlife — which could not be called that if it were not a transformation and arenewal of something living — the original undergoes a change. Even words withfixed meaning can undergo a maturing process. The obvious tendency of a writer’sliterary style may in time wither away, only to give rise to immanent tendencies in theliterary creation. What sounded fresh once may sound hackneyed later; what was oncecurrent may someday sound quaint. To seek the essence of such changes, as well as heequally constant changes in meaning, in the subjectivity of posterity rather than in thevery life of language and its works, would mean — even allowing for the crudest psychologism — to confuse the root cause of a thing with its essence. More pertinently, it would mean denying, by an importance of thought, one of the most powerful and fruitful historical processes. And eve3n if one tried to turn an author’slast stroke of the pen into the coup de grâce of is work, this still would not save thatdead theory of translation. For just as the tenor and the significance of the great worksof literature undergo a complete transformation over the centuries, the mother tongueof the translator is transformed as well. While a poet’s words endure in his ownlanguage, even the greatest translation is destined to become part of the growth of itsown language and eventually to be absorbed by its renewal. Translation is so far removed from being the sterile equation of two dead languages that of all literaryforms it is the one charged with the special mission of watching over the maturing process of the original language and the birth pangs of its own.[Benjamin talks about language ‘kinship,’ which to him is not a matter of likeness or identities of origin but in “intentionality.” Nonetheless, words from two differentlanguages are not ‘interchangeable.’] this, to be sure, is to admit that all translation is

only a somewhat provisional way of coming to terms with the foreignness of languages. An instant and final rather than a temporary and provisional solution of this foreignness remains out of the reach of mankind; at any rate, it eludes any directattempt. Indirectly, however, the growth of religions ripens the hidden seed into ahigher development of language. Although translation, unlike art, cannot claim permanence for its products, its goal is undeniably a final, conclusive, decisive stageof all linguistic creation. In translation the original rises into a higher and purer linguistic air, as it were. In cannot live there permanently, to be sure. [. . .] Thetransfer can never be total, but what reaches this region is that element in a translationwhich goes beyond transmittal of subject matter. This nucleus is best deigned as theelement that does not lend itself to translation. Even when all the surface content has been extracted and transmitted, the primary concern of the genuine translator remainselusive. Unlike the words of the original, it is not translatable, because the relationship between content and language is quite different in the original and the translation.While content and language form a certain unity in the original, like a fruit and itsskin, the language of the translation envelops its content like a royal robe with amplefolds. For it signifies a more exalted language than its own and thus remains unsuitedto its content, overpowering and alien. This disjunction prevents translation and at thesame time makes it superfluous. For any translation of a work originating in a specificstage of linguistic history represents, in regard to a specific aspect of its content,translation into all other languages. Thus translation, ironically, transplants theoriginal into a more definitive linguistic realm since it can no longer be displaced by asecondary rendering. The original can only be raised there anew and at other points of time. [. . .]The task of the translator consists in finding that intended effect upon the languageinto which he is translating which produces in it the echo of the original. This is afeature of translation which basically differentiates it from the poet’s work, becausethe effort of the latter is never directed at the language as such, at its totality, butsolely and immediately at specific linguistic contextual aspects. [. . .] The traditionalconcepts in any discussion of translations are fidelity and license — the freedom of faithful reproduction and, in its service, fidelity to the word. These ideas seem to beno longer serviceable to a theory that looks for other things in a translation thanreproduction of a meaning. [Benjamin discusses the ‘untranslatability’ of connotation,etc.] Finally, it is self-evident how greatly fidelity in reproducing the form impedesthe rendering of the sense. Thus no case for literalness can be based on a desire toretain the meaning. Meaning is served far better — and literature and language far worse — by the unrestrained license of bad translators. Of necessity, therefore, thedemand for literalness, whose justification is obvious, whose legitimate ground isquite obscure, must be understood in a more meaningful context. Fragments of avessel which are to be glued together must match one another in the smallest details,although they need not be like one another. In the same way a translation, instead of resembling the meaning of the original, must lovingly and in detail incorporate theoriginal’s mode of signification, thus making both the original and the translationrecognizable as fragments of a greater language, just as fragments are part of a vessel[Benjamin here invokes the Kabbalistic doctrine of tsim-tsum, the breaking of thevessels and the gathering up of the ‘sparks of light,’ which will usher in Messianictime, one of Benjamin’s life-long concerns]. In the realm of translation, too, the words’in the beginning was the word’ [Benjamin writes the Greek here] apply. On the other hand, as regards the meaning, the language of a translation can — in fact, must — letitself go, so that it gives voice to the intentio of the original not as reproduction but as

harmony, as a supplement to the language in which it expresses itself, as its own kindof intentio. Therefore it is not the highest praise of a translation, particularly in the ageof its origin, to say that it reads as if it had originally been written in that language.Rather, the significance of fidelity as ensured by literalness is that the work reflectsthe great longing for linguistic complementation. A real translation is transparent; itdoes not cover the original, doe snot black its light, but allows the pure language, asthough reinforced by its own medium to shine upon the original all the more fully.This may be achieved, above all, by a literal rendering of the syntax which proveswords rather than sentences to be the primary element of the translator. For if thesentence is the wall before the language of the original, literalness is the arcade.Fidelity and freedom in translation have traditionally been regarded as conflictingtendencies. This deeper interpretation of the one apparently does not serve toreconcile the two; in fact, it seems to deny the other all justification. For what ismeant by freedom but that the rendering of the sense is no longer to be regarded asall-important? Only if the sense of a linguistic creation may be equated with theinformation it conveys does some ultimate, decisive element remain beyond allcommunication — quite close and yet infinitely remote, concealed or distinguishable,fragmented or powerful. In all language and linguistic creations there remains inaddition to what can be conveyed something that cannot be communicated,;depending on the context in which it appears, it is something that symbolizes or something symbolized. It is the former only in the finite products of language, thelatter in the evolving of the languages themselves. And that which seeks to represent,to produce itself in the evolving of languages, is hat very nucleus of pure language.Though concealed and fragmentary, it is an active force in life as the symbolized thingitself, whereas it inhabits linguistic creations only in symbolized form. While thatultimate essence, pure language, in the various tongues is tied only to linguisticelements and their changes, in linguistic creations it is weighted with a heavy, alienmeaning. To relieve it of this, to turn the symbolizing into the symbolized, to regain pure language fully formed in the linguistic flux, is the tremendous and only capacityof translation. In this pure language — which no longer means or expresses anything but is, as expressionless and creative Word, that which is meant in all languages — allinformation, all sense, and all intention finally encounter a stratum in which they aredestined to be extinguished. This very stratum furnishes a new and higher justificationfor free translation; this justification does not derive from the sense of what is to beconveyed, for the emancipation from this sense is the task of fidelity. Rather, for thesake of pure language, a free translation bases the test on its own language.. It is thetask of the translator to release in his own language that pure language which is under the spell of another, to liberate the language imprisoned in a work in his re-creation of that work. For the sake of pure language he breaks through decayed barriers of hisown language. [Here Benjamin talks about various German translators.]the extent to which a translation manages to be in keeping with the nature of thismode is determined objectively by the translatability of the original. The lower thequality and distinction of its language, the larger the extent to which is information,the less fertile a field is it for translation, until the utter preponderance of content, far from being the lever for a translation of distinctive mode, renders it impossible. Thehigher the level of a work, the more does it remain translatable even if its meaning istouched upon only fleetingly. This, of course, applies to originals only. Translations,on the other hand, prove to be untranslatable not because of any inherent difficulty, but because of the looseness with which meaning attaches to them. Confirmation of this as well as of every other important aspect is supplied by Hölderlin’s translations,

particularly those of the two tragedies by Sophocles. In them the harmony of thelanguages is so profound that sense is touched by language only the way an aeolianharp is touch by the wind. Hölderlin’s translations are prototypes of their kind; theyare to even the most perfect renderings of their texts as a prototype is to a model. Thiscan be demonstrated by comparing Hölderlin’s and Rudolf Borchardt’s translations of Pindar’s Third Pythian Ode. For this very reason Hölderlin’s translations in particular are subject to the enormous danger inherent in all translations: the gates of a languagethus expanded and modified may slam shut and enclose the translator with silence.Hölderlin’s translations from Sophocles were his last work; in them meaning plungesfrom abyss to abyss until it threatens to become lost in the bottomless depths of language. There is, however, a stop. It is vouchsafed to Holy Write alone, in whichmeaning has ceased to be the watershed for the flow of language and the flow of revelation. Where a text is identical with truth or dogma, where it is supposed to be”the true language” in all its literalness and without the mediation of meaning, thistext is unconditionally translatable. In such case translations are called for only because of the plurality of languages. Just as, in the original, language and revelationare one without any tension, so the translation must be one with the original in theform of the interlinear version, in which literalness and freedom are united. For tosome degree all great texts contain their potential translation between the lines; this istrue to the highest degree of sacred writings. The interlinear version of the Scripturesis the prototype or ideal of all translation.

Khi đánh giá một tác phẩm nghệ thuật hay một loại hình  nghệ thuật, người ta thường thiếu quan tâm một cách đúng đắn đến người thưởng thức . Không những việc nhắc đến một công chúng hay đại biểu của loại công chúng nhất định dễ làm cho ta lầm lạc, mà chính quan niệm về một người thưởng thức hay cảm thụ “lý tưởng” là rất có hại trong mọi sự đánh giá lý thuyết về nghệ thuật, vì tất cả cái mà nó giả thiết là bản chất và sự tồn tại của một người thưởng thức ly tưởng như vậy.

(c) marcus dịch từ nguyên bản tiếng Đức Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers. Bản dịch này tặng cho Cao Việt Dũng, Nguyễn Thái Linh và những người làm công tác dịch thuật khác

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