Conceptual Translations?

I came across this post about, whether a conceptual translation of e.g. the book “Sports” is thinkable. The post is in Danish, so for those of you, who don’t understand Danish, I’ll sum up the main points.

Kan man forestille sig en konceptuel oversættelse?

Mr. Vinum asks, what do you do, when the central of what is to be translated, isn’t printed in writing, but instead is the context that surrounds it? You can find this problems in the literature branch: conceptual literature, which pertains to articles or books, where the author gives his opinion/expertise/theories/ideas on, what is good or bad.

Vinum here refers to the american author Kenneth Goldsmith, who is known for his many books that all have in common that they are transcribed radio transmissions or copied text. Vinum especially thinks of the book “Sports” from 2006, which is one of the three books in Goldsmith’s radio trilogy. The other two being “The Weather” and “Traffic”.

Sports is a radio transmission of an entire baseball match between New York Yankees and Boston Red Sox. Sports is according to Vinum a captivating novel about baseball, american sport culture and its commercialization – in addition to the constant interrupting commercials, you also find a special american way of advertising, as the commentators merge the sponsors into their speech  All of which would be transferable in an ordinary translation.

But what isn’t transferable is the direct transcription of the immediate radio language to the books written permanent language, which inevitably is one of the books main points. The problem lies in, that the translator takes the text and removes it from its original context and hence dissolves the concept.

Vinum suggest that instead of translating the text, then the concept is to be translated, namely to maintain the point of the book. In my opinion, then it could be argued, whether the book was translated or not, or if the translator instead becomes an author, writing a whole new book copying Goldsmith’s style. As the translator would be taking a German, Danish or French (depending on language) sport event, transcribing the radio transmission and creating a book following Goldsmith’s style.

If the concept was to be translated to Danish, then Baseball would have to be replaced by football, as Baseball is more or less non existing  in Denmark (it might be played by some, but not a sport that unites as many as football does). This will cause an even larger step away from the original book – if it was to be translated conceptual!

Vinum has a good point though, a word, sentence or meaning translation isn’t always the sufficient to transfer the concept, which makes translating an interesting topic, which can always be debated.



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