Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Is every book a translation?

Here's a link to an interesting piece by Michael Cunningham, author of The Hours. He talks about translation and literature in a way that I haven't encountered before - saying he considers the process of writing a book a translation from the vision in our minds, and then the process of reading as an additional translation into the reader's mind. Linguistically this makes a certain degree of sense. The other thing I thought was fun about this article was how he compares writing to making a cake. You don't go home and bake a cake and then eat it all yourself: cakes are for presenting to other people... and so are books.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the article.


  1. I hate to say, Cunningham's "translations" idea is merely the communication process rewritten. The first translation is called encoding the message, the the second translation is decoding the message. I've been teaching this process to my business students in various classes for years now.

  2. JDsg, certainly you have a point about the process of communication, but as I see it, translation and communication both are more complex processes than your graphic would suggest. A lot of subtleties are reduced in the more simple model.