“Everything we do is translation, and all translations are in a way creations.”
– Octavio Paz
Translation, in its traditional sense is an activity comprising the interpretation of the meaning of a text in one language — the source text — and the production of another, equivalent text in another language — the target text. The goal to establish a relationship of equivalence between the source and the target texts (that is to say, both texts communicate the same message), while taking into account the various constraints placed on the translator. (These constraints include context, the rules of grammar of the source language, its writing conventions, its idioms and the like.)
In contrast to the notion that the source text is always the primary text and the translation an inferior duplicate, Borges held the view that a translation can in fact improve an original, that contradictory renderings of the same work can be equally valid, and that an original can be seen as unfaithful to a translation.
What “On Translation” is however concerned with is neither the source-language/text nor the target-language/text, per se, but rather the meaning that is generated through translation – the friction between languages that generates a third text that is concerned with the function of language as a seemingly transparent generator of meaning.
Again and again we are faced with the fabric of language as a tactile translucent entity that persuades and contradicts. The texts that follow function by baring the process of language – its structure – and the meanings that arise through contrasting juxtapositions, “bad translations” and contextual shifts.