Are we sure that "translating" means the same thing in all cultures? Certainly not. In fact, to represent this practice, each tradition has made and makes use of specific cultural paradigms, often very different from each other. If we Westerners, when we "translate", imagine ourselves "carrying a certain meaning beyond", in India people think instead of creating an "illusory appearance"; while in Nigeria it is rather a question of "breaking" the original and then "telling" it in the target language. Even the Greeks and Romans used very specific cultural paradigms - and very different from ours - to think about translation: in Rome those of «metamorphosis» (vertere) and commercial transaction (interpretari); in Greece those of the «rearticulation» (hermenéia) of the original, accomplished in the sign of Hermés; while Jews and Christians, grappling with the Greek translation of the Bible (the Septuagint), even represented this operation in the mythological terms of a "prophecy" inspired by God. Indeed, it was in the vortex of questions, answers and polemics around the version of the Scriptures that translation incorporated some categories which, to us modern Westerners, now seem inseparable from this practice: such as "fidelity" vs "freedom", "word for word" vs "at sense", and so on . All concerns that instead remained unknown to classical culture, as they still are to many other cultures of the world.

Maurizio Bettini
Year of Publication
Translated in:
Metzler (2023)
With the title:
Editori associati (tassonomia)