>Secret Metaphors: The Importance of Accurate Translations

>Last night the Orthodox Christian Translation Society had it’s launch event, “Sweet Treats for Many Tongues,” at St. John Orthodox Church in Memphis. (I had a great time as a volunteer, hostessing the Mexican hot chocolate table.) The non-profit organization has been in the making for a number of years, and is the brain-child of four young women who serve as its board of directors: Erin Mashburn Moulton, Sally Elliott Boyle, Jodi Elliott and Amy Clithero Gill. Erin, Sally and Jodi are former members of St. John, now living in other states, and Amy currently lives in Memphis, and is a member at St. John. We are so blessed to be involved as a parish in helping launch this new ministry.

I say “ministry” because people everywhere are desperate for accurate translations. As Erin pointed out in her talk at St. John last night, one of many examples is the rampant alcoholism in Russia, which could possibly be served by the translation of Father Meletios Webber’s book, Steps of Transformation which melds Orthodox spirituality with the traditional 12 Steps of the Fellowship of Alcoholics Anonymous. (Webber is an Orthodox priest with a doctorate in counseling.)

As I perused the book tables at the event last night—showcasing numerous books just waiting for translation into English and other languages—I noticed a book by one of my favorite authors, Olivier Clément, a French theologian and convert to Orthodoxy. I love his book, Roots of Christian Mysticism, and can see tremendous value in having his works translated and made available to people all over the world.

On the same table was a book by Russian theologian, Vladimir Lossky, whose book, The Meaning of Icons, has also been a great blessing to me.

I could go on and on. As a convert to the Orthodox Christian faith in the 1980s, I’ve been fortunate to be exposed to more translated works on the early Christian faith than I’ve had time to read in my lifetime, but I’ve only been Orthodox for just over twenty years. The next generation has caught up with and surpassed me and is hungry for more, as are people all over the world. Kudos to Erin, Sally, Jodi and Amy for initiating this important work. Please keep them in your prayers, and if you are so inclined, sign up for their newsletter (on their web site) and make a donation.

It was interesting to wake up this morning and read “Duet For Two Pens,” Richard Howard’s book review of Edith Grossman’s new book, Why Translation Matters, in the New York Times Sunday Magazine. Howard’s closing paragraph says it well:

“In the end, Grossman warmly (after all) and gratefully rehearses the twofold answer to the question of her title: translation matters because it is an expression and an extension of our humanity, the secret metaphor of all literary communication; and because the creation of any literary translation is (or at least must be) an original writing, not a pathetic shadow or tracing of the inaccessible “original” but the creation, indeed, of a second — and as we have seen, a third and a ninth — but always a new work, in another language.”

I’m guilty of ignorance, laziness, and snobbery where language is concerned—I only speak (and read) English. And I’ve traveled to many countries where I’m sure I’ve come across as another entitled American, insisting that my hosts speak my language. My world would be pretty small without the dedicated work of quality translators, in both secular literature and spiritual writings. At 59 it’s unlikely that I’m going to learn another language. So you can bet I’ll be supporting the Orthodox Christian Translation Society’s important work. Won’t you join me?

How Can You Help? CLICK HERE for more information about how you can become a donor, sponsor a translation project, volunteer your time, or purchase a book. Or simply mail your tax-deductible check to:

Orthodox Christian Translation Society
1663 Tutwiler Ave.
Memphis TN 38107

Please share!