Producers or reproducers

I found myself again facing a blank page, trying to write something that may spark interest in my translator colleagues or even in any of those other bloggers or navigators, translators or not, which in turn, enjoy surfing other blogs. In my searching for inspiration, it´s me who becomes a cyber wanderer for some hours, until my steps slowly find the way to what I was looking for: a topic for my post which, apart from the interest that could arise to the rest of wanderers, it does interest me. It is a discussion that, despite it has been active for ages, it does continue inspiring all kind of opinions, and the topic is this: Do translators produce or reproduce?

I copy below the text that brought this controversial dilemma back to my mind. It is taken from a book on the teaching of literary translation but, in my opinion, it could be applied, to a greater or lesser extent, to any type of translation, because books are not the only thing being produced or reproduced:

 […] The main question that should be asked is whether the Literary Translation is an art or a science. Undoubtedly, it lies at the crossroads of both so I prefer going further and saying that it is a mixture of both. […]

It is an art as long as it is developed in that special moment, so often forgotten, but so characteristic of any art though: the artistry implying a specific skill, a technical knowledge […].

That said, well, the artist must have “something to say “, because, however virtuous he or she is, a form without content is not an art. Someone could respond to that saying that (literary) translators have nothing to say as the content they should pour into their language is already offered by the original language. Okay, but without inspiration, translating is very difficult. And whoever says “inspiration” says “the need to say”, “to produce”. But ¿do we produce? It would be fair to say that what we do is “re produce” and yet that little “re” in no way diminishes the creativity of our own activity. [ … ]

[Encuentros Complutenses en Torno a la Traducción, 24-29 de febrero de 1992. Editado por Margit Raders, Rafael Martín-Gaitero, Universidad Complutense de Madrid. Instituto Universitario de Lenguas Modernas y Traductores]

In particular, I agree with the statement “without inspiration, translating is very difficult”.  It is because of this belief that I dare to affirm that what has been said above is applicable to any type of translation. And this is not the only reason; my professional experience confirms so. Until now, I have never had the pleasure to translate a book, however, how many times I pleaded the Muses to appear and help me to find that term which I certainly know it exists but am unable to come upon! So, to me, working accompanied by inspiration is essential for translators, whether it is literature or not. And here it´s where I link to the question that titles my post: are translators producers o reproducers?

If I am assuming that translation is not possible without inspiration, though my theory is solely based on my objective experience and subjective opinion, I have to affirm that translators must have a bit of producers. However, and this is for sure where many people (to whom I encourage to enrich my opinion with theirs) will disagree with me, I consider myself more as a “reproducer”. And I am not opposing production to reproduction nor considering the latest as of an inferior category. No. I rather think that, having much in common, it is what differentiates these skills what make them special and independent.

Thus, there may be a great producer who will not be so good at reproducing and the same happens to reproducers. In my opinion, the main difference between a producer and a re-producer is the ability to abide by the rules. That is, while producers start from scratch and have no limits, reproducers start from a completed text which they must faithfully reproduce. They need to be so humble as to keep themselves at background, leaving aside their view for the author´s to prevail (I again remind the reader not to just think of literary translation). They must impose themselves the discipline dictated by the text they are translating. I think the main translator´s virtue (reproducer´s virtue) is precisely that, knowing how to put their creativity at another´s service. That´s why I consider that production and reproduction require different and specific skills and attitudes each, and that´s why I, as a translator, consider myself a reproducer, and very proud of it!