Umberto Eco on translation

Umberto Eco is best know as the writer of The Name of the Rose, but he also happens to be a respected semiotician and linguist and a prolific essayist. After writing about software translation dilemmas, I discovered Umberto Eco’s book on the translation process: Mouse or Rat? Translation as negotiation (in Italian: Dire quasi la stessa cosa: Esperienze di traduzione). This isn’t, in fact his first book on the subject. It’s the result of his experience as a translator, as a translated author, and as translation manager. He doesn’t try to write “a theory of translation”, but rather approaches a series of problems faced by translators. The book name comes from the concept that, in the translation process, one always looses something in exchange for something else. He says translation is about possible worlds. The translated work ought to produce the same effects (semantic, syntactic, stylistic, metrical, symbolic …) the original did, but to some extent all translations would be unfaithful to the original. Umberto Eco also discusses the intersemiotic translation, the adaptation of art works from a medium to another (paintings, movies, music etc.). That’s why, according to a review (in Portuguese), the book should interest not only writers, translators and researchers, but also anyone involved in theater, cinema, music etc. adaptation.

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