As I posted in early August, Eleanor Goodman reviewed The Reciprocal Translation Project (Roof Books), edited by James Sherry and Sun Dong, for LARB‘s China Channel. She called the book a “messy, fraught endeavor”:
There is no acknowledgement of the structure, form, tone, emotional texture, repetition, surprise, rhythm, rhyme, sound effect, level of diction, intent, etc., etc., of the original.
Well now James Sherry has replied, in the form of a letter to the editor of China Channel. “I agree with Goodman,” he writes, “that we should expand our description of the ‘bilingual specialists’ to include these translators’ other roles as mentioned above. In the second printing, we have amended that.” He concludes, though:
I do appreciate Goodman’s term “responses” to describe some of the poetic translations of the original poems, but her tendency to look at the translation process from a single perspective undermines her own well-framed statement “translation is a notoriously tricky business.” The Reciprocal Translation Project establishes a range of solutions, not all of which will be imitated, but will all be read as relevant to the process of communicating between languages and cultures. Clearly, the standard approach has not produced great understanding between our two cultures. Perhaps this discussion with all its outliers, queerness and experiments can promote a willingness to see poetry in global and environmental terms instead of only in terms of our prior understanding. Thanks, Eleanor, for inviting this discussion.
Click the image above for the letter in full.