This paper demonstrates how Voltaire brings his philosophy to bear on translation beyond dilettantism and establishes benchmarks and descriptors to underscore good, mediocre, and bad translations.
This paper demonstrates how Voltaire brings his philosophy to bear on translation beyond dilettantism and establishes benchmarks and descriptors to underscore good, mediocre, and bad translations. As we examine some of his own translations, we explore some Masters students’ translations at the University of Ghana to explain and deepen the philosopher’s rather obscure statement on translation.
We find that Voltaire places the quality of translation at three levels and demonstrates that bad translation kills or annihilates the meaning of a word, sentence or text; mediocre translation attenuates it; good translation energizes and invigorates it by capturing the underlying spirit of the discourse through the most appropriate contextualized diction and register.
This paper repositions translation at a time when philosophical thinking abolished barriers among disciplines. It enables us today to think about where to position the quality of our target text and how it would turn out to be destructive of the meaning of the source text or become a pale reflection of it when it fails to preserve its spirit and energy.
Thus, translators have the burden of responsibility to put as much meaning and life into the target text as there is in the source text.