Has the Odyssey been mistranslated?

If you are into translation, you might find this video interview quite interesting…

Classicist Dr Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate The Odyssey into English – and she found that many men before her added sexist or misogynist terms that never existed in the original Greek.

Has The Odyssey been mistranslated?

“A translator always makes choices.”Classicist Dr Emily Wilson is the first woman to translate The Odyssey into English – and she found that many men before her added sexist or misogynist terms that never existed in the original Greek.

Posted by Channel 4 News on Sunday, May 13, 2018

2 thoughts on “Has the Odyssey been mistranslated?

  1. I’d be interested to know which other translations and translators she is referring to to see how time/social background/political/religious context/target language affect linguistic choices and translations. I also find the circular motion with regard to misogynistic terms interesting, cycling from non derogatory, statement of fact at the time the Odyssey was written, through misogynistic and back to non derogatory in her present day translation. What else might’ve been mistranslated in the past that is receiving attention now? Perhaps concepts of third/non-binary gender in other cultures?

    I also wonder how she tackled the problem of translating from a gendered language into a non gendered one, if she is paying particular attention to gender inequality. Although she’s talking about semantic issues in the video, I wouldn’t be surprised if there were also morphological/syntactic inequalities that she came across.

    This also made me think about ethics in translation. Should a modern translator who supports gender equality translate in such a way that their translation doesn’t contain grammatical gender inequality?

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  2. I completely agree with her in that the translator is constantly making choices, even in the subtlest of ways, semantically, grammatically, structurally… The translator has so much power and essentially writes their own text depending on how they have perceived it, and not necessarily how the writer themselves had intended it. When I’m writing a translation I find that they’re most effective when done in groups, not only through the mix of mother tongues/bilinguals etc., which helps to provide a much more specific understanding of certain words given the context, but even through the sharing a myriad of ideas that wouldn’t have been considered, had the text been tackled by only one member.

    I have no doubt that texts have been translated with misogynistic, xenophobic,and homophobic tones unintended by the original author. What’s really quite scary to think how the effects of these mistranslated texts can be are irreversible, especially concerning religious and judicial texts.

    I believe despite disagreeing with the grammatical gender inequality that lies in a text, one should always aim to translate the text as accurately to the original as possible regardless. These texts are valuable and I hope that in the future they will serve as historical evidence of how language has changed over time to be less gender-biased.

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