ABSTRACT

Current standards of readability, “fluency” and “transparency” 1 require translators to muffle their voices and to avoid calling attention to their presence in the translated text. This is, however, precisely what happens in footnotes, “translator’s notes” or “prologues.” Whenever they add that kind of material, translators carve out a niche for themselves, create a separate space where they not only can but must speak up. To be sure, their voices can also be heard in private correspondence or in very public interviews, not to mention personal websites or blogs. While none of these “genres” are devoid of deceit—we had better stop believing in obtaining accurate information or candid confessions “straight from the source”—prefaces 2 come perhaps closest to being miniature masterpieces of pure rhetoric. Their main purpose is to provide writers with a stage to perform authorship or, if need be, to simulate it. Translators occasionally seize this opportunity, even if (and perhaps precisely because) they cannot claim intellectual ownership of the book’s content but feel they have to play second fiddle to the “first author,” 3 i.e., the writer of the original and, metonymically, the original writer. In the case of translations carried out by the latter (which will henceforth be referred to as “self-translations”), these boundaries become blurred as both voices— the writer’s and the translator’s—are attributed to the same physical person. Whether they therefore ought to be considered identical is another matter, whose complexity shall not detain me here for lack of space. 4