Translation: “one of the weightiest and worthiest undertakings in the general concerns of the world” 8

A variety of well-known figures have weighed in on the art of translation. Borges said, “El original no es fiel a la traducción”  (“The original is unfaithful to the translation”). “Translation is the art of failure,” according to Umberto Eco.  Ursula K. Le Guin has said, “Translation is entirely mysterious. Increasingly I have felt that the art of writing is itself translating, or more like translating than it is like anything else. What is the other text, the original? I have no answer. I suppose it is the source, the deep sea where ideas swim, and one catches them in nets of words and swings them shining into the boat … where in this metaphor they die and get canned and eaten in sandwiches.”

Do any of these quotes represent what translation is to you? Do you have a favorite quote on translation that better sums up the profession?

There is a Wiki article which is a collection of memorable quotes on or related to translation. Check it out here.  Add to it if you can.

If you could sum up the art of translation, or the life of a translator, what original quote would you like to leave behind? Be creative!

Add your original quote here >>


  1. I have several quotations about translation on my profile:

    “Translating should be an enriching intellectual experience and you should end a job as a different person.” (Danilo Nogueira)

    “Translating is writing.” (Marguerite Yourcenar)

    “Translation may be impossible, but this does not make it the less necessary.”

    “If I am selling to you, I speak your language. If I am buying, dan mussen sie deutsch sprechen.”
    (Willy Brandt, former German Chancellor)

    “Woe to the makers of literal translations, who by rendering
    every word weaken the meaning! It is indeed by so doing
    that we can say the letter kills and the spirit gives life.”


  2. Translation is the world’s most international language, and therefore translators should be considered the best ambasadors of one’s own culture


  3. Translation is the art of trying to eliminate the curse imposed to men by God at the tower of Babel: That curse will turn against you


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