Contemporary Theories on Translation: Octavio Paz

Octavio Paz asserts that language is, above all, translation (translation and literature are synonyms). Translation is always a literary operation, since it is an artistic or scientific work as it includes a “transformation” of the original that is literary in the sense that it uses literary resources (in essence, metonymy and metaphor). Translations are a literary act that we use all of our literary knowledge in.

He rejects the idea that poetry, which he considers as universal, is untranslatable (everything can be translated, even poetry). “The connotative meanings can be preserved if the poet/translator can reproduce the position of the words, poetic context, where they fit” (the translator can use all of his or her knowledge in a poem).

The translator’s activity (reading, critiquing, revising) is comparable to the reader’s (exegetic, up to the last detail) and the critic’s (both the original and the translation are critiqued), with the exceptions that the reader translates the language itself and the critic creates an open version, a transposition. In any case, there is not a science of translation, though the discipline can be studied scientifically. Citing Valéry, he asserts that translation of poetry consists in producing with different means according to analogous effects.

According to Paz, translation and creation are win operations. As a result, it is impossible to separate them in the history of culture. Literature cannot be segregated by country and, if all styles have been translinguistic (equal styles in all languages), translation is found in the heart of all cultural development (it shows how essential translation is in every culture).