Quotes & Pimps

Those of you who visit this website regularly (welcome, welcome!) may have noticed that the banner text at the top occasionally changes. There is usually an English quotation about language or translation, followed by its Dutch translation. I select these quotations, and I wish I could say that I have a vast stock of literary texts firmly stored in my head. But no. I simply select them from the Oxford Dictionary of Literary Quotations, having looked up ‘translation’ in the index. But the gems I find there!
This one, from the preface to the venerable English bible translation known as the ‘King James version’: “Translation it is that openeth the window, to let in the light; that breaketh the shell, that we may eat the kernel; that putteth aside the curtaine, that we may looke into the most Holy place; that remooveth the cover of the well, that wee may come by the water, even as Jacob rolled away the stone from the mouth of the well, by which meanes the flockes of Laban were watered.” [thanks to www.kjvbibles.com/kjpreface.htm for the original 1611 version]. One possible translation of this in Dutch would be: “Een vertaling opent het venster en laat het licht binnen; breekt de noot open en laat ons de kern eten; schuift het gordijn opzij en toont ons het Heiligste; haalt het putdeksel weg en laat ons bij het water komen, zoals Jacob de steen van de putrand rolde en zo de kudden van Laban liet drinken.” However, my feeble attempt does not come close to the original in glorious rhythm and sound.
There is a nice quotation by Goethe in the same Dictionary: “Translators are like busy pimps extolling the surpassing charms of some half-veiled beauty. They excite an irresistible desire for the original.” That original would be in German, and this is my translation of the above translation: “Vertalers zijn als nijvere pooiers die de charmes van een of andere half-gesluierde schone aanprijzen: ze wekken een onweerstaanbaar verlangen naar het origineel.” Does that make me a pimp twice over? Here is the original, by way of atonement: “Übersetzer sind als geschäftige Kuppler anzusehen, die uns eine halbverschleierte Schöne als höchst liebenswürdig anpreisen: sie erregen eine unwiderstehliche Neigung nach dem Original.”
All translators should frame that and hang it on their walls.