Saturday, 29 March 2008
Friday, 21 March 2008
No Good Boyo took me for our first drive the other day.
He hit a drainpipe, scraped a wall, and drove into a ditch from which he extricated the car only by taking felt off a shed roof to provide traction. He then knocked over a fence post.
Fifteen minutes later, we emerged from our drive. I am not making this up.
The highlight of the rest of the afternoon was a u-turn ("I'm pretty sure this is illegal, you know!") in a narrow country lane, performed for reasons that still escape me.
Mentions are also due for the creative use of windscreen wipers to indicate a left turn and a long and agonised search for the back wiper on a saloon car that naturally does not have one.
The trip to Highgate Cemetery will have to wait.
Monday, 17 March 2008
No Good Boyo recently passed his driving test, and so I am reading legal biographies in preparation for his court appearance. The life and work of Sir Norman Birkett, the president of the Nuremberg War Crimes Tribunal, makes one look around Britain and ask “where have all the clever people gone?”
I was struck in particular by this passage from his diary of 29 July 1946, with reference to the Nuremberg court interpreters:
…translators are a race apart – touchy vain, unaccountable full of vagaries, puffed up with self-importance of the most explosive kind, inexpressibly egotistical, and, as a rule, violent opponents of soap and sunlight…
To this one might add “incompetent lechers, virtuosi of halitosis and inept propagandists of shopworn views”. The wretched hygiene, real and political, of the translator is a function of his irrelevance. Like religion, democracy and chocolate wrappers, he serves only to hinder progress towards one’s chosen goal.
As Adorno said:
Intentional language wants to mediate the absolute, and the absolute escapes language for every specific intention, leaves each one behind because each is limited. (1)
Translation merely magnifies the defect, as anyone who has attended an international conference for other than erotic diversion can attest.
I would propose a return to the pre-Romantic ideal of an educated person’s being master of the major cultural languages of his region. And here I stake no claims for my native Ukrainian – a language of use outside our fatherland only in conversing with minstrels and war criminals.
English, French and German would apply in our European case. One, for example, could speak in English while your interlocutor replied in French – each at his ease.
Those unable to learn these languages would hardly have opinions worth conveying to others, and the sums saved on the cabals of interpreters could be usefully spent on improving vocational education.
(1). Quasi una Fantasia, Essays on Modern Music (Translated by Rodney Livingstone), VERSO, London