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Now Blogging Afresh at Ad Orientem 西儒 - The Western Confucian

Wednesday, November 12, 2003

Traductor, Traidor: Two Spanish Mystics, Two Translations

I recently finished reading St. John of the Cross (San Juan de la Cruz): Alchemist of the Soul: His Life, His Poetry (Bilingual), His Prose edited and translated by Antonio T. de Nicolas and began The Way of Perfection by Saint Teresa of Avila, translated by E. Allsion Peers.

The latter is by far the better translation, which is evident from its reassuring nihil obstat and imprimatur. The Way of Perfection offers particular difficulties for the translator in that it is really two texts: The Escorial version that was written for the Saint's sisters and the Valladolid version written for a wider audience. Its translator attempted "to do a little more for the reader who combined intelligence with devoutness that had been done already (23)" and continuously asked, "Would St. Teresa have included or omitted this id she had been making a fresh version for a world-wide public over a period of centuries? (24)"

The above canot be said of the former, whose title and lack of em>nihil obstat orimprimatur both serve as warnings. Its translator goes as far as "leave aside those portions of theology he was writing just to please the wishes of the inquisitors (6)." He never mentions who these "inquisitors" are or how he, the translator, knew which portions were written for them. The reader can only conclude that it is the translator himself who is acting as inquisitor. The translator criticizes those "who fail to see that it is San Juan de La Cruz who admits that if the Church willed it differently, he would express himself differently (6)." It is the translator who fails to see that this should be the opinion of any faithful Catholic writer submtting himself to the Church's authority.