Saheli*: Musings and Observations
Friday, March 26, 2004
 
Found in Translation

I came across the following links recently, and I wanted to talk about them because translation and translators are near and dear to my heart. Well, one translator in particular, but I'd be happy to make friends with more.

Words Without Borders: MARCH 2004 is an online magazine that "undertakes to promote international communication through translation of the world's best writing--selected and translated by a distinguished group of writers, translators, and publishing professionals--and publishing and promoting these works (or excerpts) on the web. [They] also serve as an advocacy organization for literature in translation, producing events that feature the work of foreign writers and connecting these writers to universities and to print and broadcast media."

Juan Cole, a professor at the University of Michigan and blogger about events in the Middle East, has recently started a projected called The Global Americana Institute, the main goal of which will be to translate the classics of American literature into Arabic. This reminded me of Salon article that came out last year, more of an essay, really about how books inspire violence. It tangentially mentioned the apparently unsubstantiated theory that OBL was inspired by Asimov's Foundation series, since Al Qaeda means The Foundation in Arabic. While that seems highly unlikely, it is interesting to speculate what a cross pollination of literature might mean to bastions of the two languages.

Blogalization is an index of blogs which are in more than one language--the idea being that the blogger finds information in one language and posts it in another. At the Gawker talk SPJ had earlier this year, Jeff Jarvis of Conde Nast told me that after English, the biggest blogging language is Persian. The opening session of the Chinese parliament apparently prompted the government to shut down Blogbus.com and its 15,000 blogs, the biggest provider in the People's Republic. Multilingual blogging is a big deal.

With no linguistic training or real sense of evidence, I have to say I believe in an extremely weak form of the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis--i.e., that it is definitely easier to think certain thoughts in some languages than in others. I do not, however, think that translation is impossible--only that it is difficult. All the more reason to support it and celebrate it. As humans, of course, we are divided into many groups. The pain and suffering caused by our divisions is readily apparent. The solution is not to retreat into our different groups, nor is it to attempt to homogenize them into a bland sort of unity. Translators and translations, and learning different languages, allow us to jump borders and dip into many pools, to crosslink our groups in a net of understanding and connection that can, potentially, defy sectarianism without sacrificing pluralism or flavor. Cross pollination is a grand thing--to cite a quote a friend sent me a couple days ago:

"Many ideas grow better when transplanted into another mind than in the one where they sprang up."

- Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., US Supreme Court Justice (1841-1935)

 


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Saheli Datta started this when she was a journalism student at Columbia in New York. Now she lives in the Bay Area. *Old people call me R. New people, call me Saheli. Thanks! My homepage. Specifically, my links. Email me: Saheli [AT] Gmail [dot] Com

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Blogs I Read (Or Try To)
113th Street
american footprints(Nadezhda & Praktike)
ANNA's Diary
Apartment Therapy
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Dave Barry
The Bellman
Mine's On The 45 (Brimful)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
ChennaiCentral
ClimateBoy
Combing the Sphere
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Daily Dose of Imagery
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Dark Days Ahead
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Brad DeLong
Atanu Dey on India's Development (Deeshaa)
Daniel Drezner
Ennis
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Finding My Voice
Forsv
Neil Gaiman
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Geomblog
Green Ink!
Heliolith
Alexandra Huddleston
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Indeterminacy
India Uncut
InSpiteOfEverything
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter et al
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Jesus Politics
John and Belle Have a Blog
Mark A. R. Kleiman
KnowProse (Taran Rampersad)
1Locana
Maenad (Nori Heikkinen)
Scott McCloud
Mind Without Borders
Electrolite: Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden
Corey Pein
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Kevin G. Powell
QuakeHelp (South Asian Quake)
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
Reneebop
Rhinocrisy
Scott Rosenberg(Salon.com)
Rox Populi
Felix(&Rhian)Salmon
samVaad
Nick Schager
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Sepia Mutiny
Amardeep Singh
Snarkmarket (Robin Sloan & Matt Thompson)
South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog
SreeTips: New To Sree
Steprous (Bear)
Robert Stribley
Subjunctive.net:klog
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
Tech Policy
TiffinBox
A Tiny Revolution
To The Teeth
TreeHugger
Unfogged
VatulBlog
Venk@
Manish Vij
Vinod's Blog
War and Piece
Nollind Whachell
Wonkette
WorldChanging
Matthew Yglesias:Old
Yglesias:Tpmcafe
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham
Ethan Zuckerman
Zwichenzug



Some Categories

Blogs focusing on policy, politics, and national security:
Armchair Generalist
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
The Decembrist
Brad DeLong
Daniel Drezner
Eschaton(Atrios)
Green Ink!
Iddybud (Jude Nagurney Camwell)
Idea Spout: Daniel Sanchez
Informed Comment: Juan Cole
Intel Dump: Phillip Carter
The Intersection (Chris Mooney)
Irregular Analyses
Jesus Politics
Mark A. R. Kleiman
Liberals Against Terrorism(Nadezhda & Praktike)
Political Animal(Kevin Drum, formerly Calpundit)
Talking Points Memo: Joshua Micah Marshall
War and Piece
Wonkette
Yglesias:Tpmcafe

Photo Blogs
Daily Dose of Imagery
Ephemera
Alexandra Huddleston
Radiation Persuasion (Nick)
TiffinBox

Columbia Journalism Folks
Apartment Therapy
Back To Iraq 3.0 (Chris Albritton)
Campaign Desk (CJR)
Ranajit Dam
Cyrus Farivar
Alexandra Huddleston
InSpiteOfEverything
Corey Pein
Nick Schager
Zoo Station:Reuben Abraham

Literature, Fiction and Entertainment
Dave Barry
Neil Gaiman
Electrolite: Patrick Nielsen Hayden
Scott McCloud


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