The conspicuous translator
Michael Farrell, Mortara, Italy
Is it ever our moral duty to stick out like a sore thumb?
Virtually all professional translators are told at some point in their career that they should strive to be invisible in order to produce faithful renditions, and some theorists even go as far as considering translator’s notes to be a sign of defeat. However, the speaker believes that there are some circumstances when the best way to remain invisible in the eyes of the reader is actually to go beyond a simple note and ask the author straight out to consider rewriting the original to fit the translation.
To illustrate this, the presenter reports a recent experience where he spotted one factual mistake and one highly improbable account in a book he was translating, and explains the research he did to circumstantiate his discoveries. Faced with the dilemma of simply writing translator’s notes, which could have caused his author embarrassment, or pretending that he had not noticed, which seemed unethical, he decided on a third course of action and got into contact with the author through his client.
However, perhaps the most interesting part of the experience in the speaker’s opinion was the initial reaction of some of his colleagues, who were plainly horrified by the fact that the speaker had – in their view – overstepped normal professional limits, although they all eventually agreed they might have done the same thing.
Besides taking questions at the end of the presentation, the speaker would also like to hold a short brainstorming session to see if it is possible to compile a list of circumstances in which asking the author to change the original is justified, when translator’s notes are perfectly sufficient, and if there might be alternative avenues.
Michael Farrell is primarily a freelance translator and transcreator. Over the years, he has acquired experience in the cultural tourism field and in transcreating advertising copy and press releases, chiefly for the promotion of technology products. Being a keen amateur cook, he also translates texts on Italian cuisine.
Besides this, he is an untenured lecturer in computer tools for translation at the International University of Languages and Media (IULM), Milan, Italy, the developer of the terminology search tool IntelliWebSearch, a qualified member of the Italian Association of Translators and Interpreters (AITI), and member of the Mediterranean Editors and Translators association.