Translation and Mysticism
DOI link for Translation and Mysticism
Translation and Mysticism book
This chapter investigates the phenomenon of the mystical and its life in translation. If we define the mystical as that which cannot be expressed, then it ought to pose a problem for translators. Mystical writings flourish in translation, however. The chapter argues that a more fruitful way of proceeding is to see all translation in terms of indeterminacy, following Quine. The translator needs to look at how language is used by mystics, in line with the methods of Wittgenstein. A detailed example is given of how the mediaeval mystic Meister Eckhart can be read for translation. It is important not to assume that there is some sort of pure ungraspable essence to be translated behind the text, and to concentrate instead on words and their context. There are two case studies of mystical texts in translation: Anne Carson’s version of Marguerite Porete and Edwin Kelly’s renderings of Julian of Norwich. The chapter concludes that this investigation: illuminates the untranslatability debate; shows why mystical imagery is used by translation theorists; illuminates the equivalence debate; and draws attention to the difficulties posed by all translation. Other theorists discussed include Apter, Bellos and Cassin.