Camus’s Translator on Translation

I have posted before on Dostoevsky’s translator, and I was pleased to read the “Translator’s Note” to Albert Camus’s The Stranger. Matthew Ward is the translator, and it seems to me that his comments weigh against “dynamic equivalence” in favor of a more literal rendering. Ward is actually critiquing the earlier more dynamic translation of Stuart Gilbert. Here’s what he says:

Camus acknowledged employing an “American method” in writing The Stranger . . . . There is some irony then in the fact that for forty years the only translation available to American audiences should be Stuart Gilbert’s “Brittanic” rendering. . . . As all translators do, Gilbert gave the novel a consistency and voice all his own. A certain paraphrastic earnestness might be a way of describing his effort to make the text intelligible, to help the English-speaking reader understand what Camus meant. In addition to giving the text a more “American” quality, I have also attempted to venture farther into the letter of Camus’s novel, to capture what he said and how he said it, not what he meant. In theory, the latter should take care of itself.

When Meursault meets old Salamano and his dog in the dark stairwell of their apartment house, Meursault observes, “Il etait avec son chien.” With the reflex of a well-bred Englishman, Gilbert restores the conventional relation between man and beast and gives additional adverbial information: “As usual, he had his dog with him.” But I have taken Meursault at his word: “He was with his dog.”–in the way one is with a spouse or a friend. A sentence as straightforward as this gives us the world through Meursault’s eyes. As he says toward the end of his story, as he sees things, Salamano’s dog was worth just as much as Salamano’s wife. Such peculiarities of perception, such psychological increments of character are Meursault. It is by pursuing what is unconventional in Camus’s writing that one approaches a degree of its still startling originality.

. . . .

. . . an impossible fidelity has been my purpose.

. . . time reveals all translation to be paraphrase.

Sentiments such as these are very close to my own reasons for thinking the Bible should be translated literally.


Dynamic Equivalence: The Method Is the Problem

What Makes a Translation Accurate?

“Son of Man” or “Human Beings” in the NIV 2011: What Difference Does It Make?

The Heresy of Explanation

Can Dostoevsky’s Translator Weigh in on Bible Translation?

Was Gender Usage in the English Language Shaped by the Old Testament in Hebrew?

The Word of God Is Living and Active (unless your translation philosophy emasculates it)