I found the translators’ comments particularly interesting. Anything translators say tends to be ignored and partly for that reason they rarely comment at all on their work. The commentary provided here was illuminating and often challenging. It attested to an evident willingness to discuss the work, to defend it, in a spirited but generally un-defensive way. The need for and usefulness of a discussion forum, such as the one electronically organised by the British Centre for Literary Translation and the British Council, is evident. Literature teachers, literary journalists or critics, often seem unaware how complex literary translation is, especially when it comes to the translation of poetry, which is sometimes simply assumed to be impossible.
But of course nothing is impossible! Those who submitted work here showed that, however specifically language-bound a source text may be, attempt to match it with or in another language will often reveal what has perhaps been taken for granted or has not even been noticed in the source text. The commentaries eloquently attest to the potentially revelatory nature – not too strong a way of putting it – of translation, the process as well as the results.
Again, particularly encouraging for me was the openness of translators, their willingness to try out various approaches, ranging from the formally mimetic to free-verse representation of formal verse, from domestication to quite radical foreignization. In the latter connection, I cannot resist mentioning what for me was a delicious translation, Ben Robson’s version of ‘Wulf and Eadwacer’, from the Anglo-Saxon, as audacious, in its way, as for instance Ezra Pound’s celebrated rendering of ‘The Seafarer’. There was unanimity of opinion as to the excellence and professionalism of Sasha Dugdale’s translation of the leading contemporary Russian poet Elena Schvarts. The range of languages, too, at a time when the importance of foreign language teaching is so little appreciated – even if, surely, it was never so needed – was also impressive, including translations up from earlier forms of English itself, from Old Norse, Classical Greek and Latin, Romanian, Chinese, Russian, as well as the more familiar contemporary, Spanish, Italian, German and French.