Monday, November 28, 2005

Irony: Found in Translation

It is often remarked that the translation of a book from one language to another can never capture the author's genius. Something is always lost in translation.

While reading Richard Polt's translation of Nietzsche's Twilight of the Idols; or, How to Philosophize with a Hammer, I came across an irony that seems to have been added by the translation. In "What I Owe to the Ancients," Nietzsche says that "One will recognize in me, even in my Zarathustra, a very earnest ambition for the Roman style . . . .

In trying to emphasize the word "Roman," the translator has removed it from the roman style (of the typeface) and set it in italics. If I may equivocate on "Roman" and "style," the translator has frustrated Nietzsche's preference for the Roman style by removing his word from the roman style. I find this ironical; I'll forgive you if you don't.

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