October 07, 2010

Raise a Glass to Jerome


Raise a Glass to Jerome

This week I came across two excellent articles on the Art of Translation, one in the NY Times, the other in the National Post.

The NY Times article, written by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours, raises some fascinating ideas about how writing itself is an act of translation, from the writer's ideas and perception of what his perfect work might be, and what actually ends up on the page. Linguistic translation from the author's language into that of the reader of another language, is but another link in the chain between author and an ever wider population of readers.

The Canadian National Post piece, meanwhile, points out that September 30 is International Translation Day. Who knew? What is more, apparently translators have their own patron saint (well, actually shared with librarians and encyclopedists): Saint Jerome, who translated the Bible into Latin and was the "second most voluminous writer in ancient Latin Christianity." 

Jerome, aka St. Jerome of Stridonium, aka Blessed Jerome, was born Sophronius Eusebius Hieronymus at Stridon around 347. He died September 30, 420 (thus the reason for the day being celebrated as ITD) and was originally buried at Bethlehem, but some of his remains are said to have been later transferred to the basilica of Santa Maria Maggiore in Rome, which gives every literary translator justification for making a pilgrimage to Rome and writing it off as a business expense. The nice, rather lengthy Wikipedia entry on Jerome does not give any indication about what sorts of saintly or miraculous works he performed that led to his induction into sainthood. But then any good translation is a miraculous act of artistic creation, so I guess he's covered.

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