The Invisible, Accountable, Translator

Published 12th July 2011
post thumbnail

The Invisible, Accountable, Translator

The invisibility of the translator is an oft-discussed topic in this industry. It is something we try to combat with our ‘Translator of the Week’ blogs. Sadly, translation is one of the few professions where the actual professionals, who train for years to become qualified, remain completely unacknowledged by most. However, this is not always the case with literary translation. Many have heard of the odd translation which has been deemed better than the original. Or which has won an award, and in these cases the translator will get some well-deserved credit.

Translator’s lack of invisibility

One case in which the opposite – the translator’s lack of invisibility – can be a problem arose recently in Turkey. According to Turkey’s publishing laws, a translator can be considered as accountable as an author for the content they translate. Suha Sertabiboğlu, the translator of William S. Burroughs’ The Soft Machine and its Turkish publisher are currently on trial for writing and publishing pornography. They face a prison sentence of up to three years.

Those familiar with Burroughs’ work will know that it is heavily focused on drug addiction. It is not something which is suitable to be read by children. Some would consider his work obscene, but whether that makes it pornographic is another question entirely. I think it is fairly safe to say that most people would now class Burroughs’ work as ‘literature’. Although it was a different matter when first written, and that is what the ongoing trial is currently trying to establish.

Fear of prosecution

I’m not going to get into the wider freedom of speech implications here. I’m just interested in what this means for translators. Personally, I think the fact that proceedings has even been started is quite a frightening prospect for many linguists. Does this mean that translators would now have to turn down work on texts which are even slightly provocative, through fear of prosecution?

Though I doubt many countries would follow suit. This is something that could make a lot of translators question which jobs they accept. Some would already refuse an assignment which conflicted with their personal ethics. What if a text they would otherwise accept is offensive to certain groups? Should they refuse it in case they are held accountable for causing offence?

I think this is a worrying precedent, and I really do hope for a favourable outcome for the translator and publisher involved. What are your opinions on this?

disney-institute-lingua-translations 178 × 75
amazon-lingua-translations 120 × 28
procter-gamble - Lingua Translations 114 × 92
london-partners-lingua-translations 154 × 101
Swansea City | Lingua Translations 154 x 146
Man City | Lingua Translations 154 × 154
FC_Barcelona_(crest) 154 × 156
Star_Wars_Logo.svg_-1 1280 × 773
FiFA | lingua Translations 154 × 86
The-Score 232x120
M & S 271 × 186
Walmart-Lingua Translations 232 × 65
Welsh Government & Lingua Translations 400 × 400
Costco & Lingua Translations 232 × 155


TUI-Group Testimonial 205 × 46 EN

Ian Chapman – Director of Holiday Experience –

“Lingua Translations provides instant multi-lingual options for TUI’s 24/7 Holidayline, so 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year TUI’s customers are connected to an interpreter instantaneously. This service is designed to help holidaymakers who find themselves in difficulty and require non-English language assistance.

The service offered by Lingua Translations provides us with instant translation for every destination we travel to, and has proved invaluable.”

Do you know how many different languages Ed Sheeran has sung in?

It’s no secret that Ed Sheeran wrote his latest album while traveling the world and soaking up different cultures and styles of music. But he went further than that. He also isn’t afraid to delve into the world of languages either. What’s most impressive is his commitment to getting the foreign lyrics and their pronunciation …

Read More

International French Fries Day

Today is one of the best day of the year: the international French Fries Day. But let’s find out something about most people’s favourite guilty pleasure. Apparently, French fries are not French at all. Their origin can be tracked back to Belgium, where potatoes were allegedly being fried in the late-1600s. The legend says that …

Read More
Get a quote today