The Spanish daily, El País, has an occasional feature called La Cuarta Página (The Fourth Page) which has something of an intellectual bent. Luminaries of the Hispanic intelligentsia, such as Mario Vargas Llosa, the recent Nobel Prize for Literature, write opinion pieces on topics that may not, in fact, be particularly topical – just something they want to let off some cerebral steam about. Sometimes the articles are good, even if you agree with the writer or not.
Other times they´re crap.
The Fourth Page feature on Monday the 26th falls into this category. Entitled La tarea del traductor (The Translator´s Task) by Miguel Morey, a philosophy professor at the University of Barcelona, the piece is one of the best examples of the worst kind of intellectualism in Spain – verbal verbosity to no clear end, or as we at home call it, mental wanking.
What´s really fun about this atrocious piece is the fact that it openly embraces the superiority of the obscure, the impossible to grasp and the traditional over the knowable, to the point of putrefaction. It´s all about the power of Adam, Towers of Babel and the Old Testament. If this article were a cheese, it would be the Asturian Cabrales, so rotten it can practically sprint off to a bar on its own. Yuck.
Morey, having prattled on about writing and translation as the doomed attempt of man to rob the hidden, “divine language” from the Creator, he then attacks the use of what he calls automatic translators. Yet, this isn´t really where he´s going with this incoherent, snobbish and completely useless drivel. No, he´s got a culprit in mind for this fall from linguistic grace.
And who – or what is it? The usual.
Honestly, I was waiting for it (it´s not like I haven´t seen it before) and there it was, in the second last paragraph. A looooong paragraph, in which Morey states that the Curse of Babel is no longer made manifest through the creation of many, diverse languages but one, artificial, neo-language (useless for hiding the unsayable) like, for example, basic english. Yes, without capitals, such is the knowledge of English of this Ivory Tower intellectual.
Astoundingly, however, the climax of Morey´s intellectual onanism is the affirmation that British-American Scientific International Commercial English is trying to impose itself as the obligatory means of expression into which all knowledge is to be translated.
Apart from his primary-school level of reasoning and absence of proof, this is truly offensive.
And I ask myself:-
All what knowledge?
All Spanish knowledge?
All Spanish literary genius?
All Spanish scientific discovery?
Morey´s rambling and pointless “article”?
Er, I think that on a two way street, this guy´s driving in the wrong direction. Go into any Spanish bookshop and what do you find? 90% of the books on sale are translations INTO Spanish of work originally written in English. Open any book translated FROM English into Spanish. What do you find? Such tortured, culturally incorrect prose that you vow never to open another translation in your life.
In a country which has consigned science to the budgetary dustbin and which has broken up the Ministry of Culture and soft-shoed it under an adminstratively hopeless Ministry (or Mystery) of Education, Culture and SPORT carpet, who´s being basic?
When Spain excels at something other than music, gastronomy, tourism, sport, cheap clothes and shoes we´ll talk about Basic English. In the meantime, Mr. Morey, turn your attention to Basic Spanish, so well-represented by your short-sighted, airy fairy and erroneous “article”.
Don´t wait for it to be translated. As I said, it´s crap, and nobody would want to translate it into English – or any other language.
Because stuff from Spain that makes it into English has to be worth it.