Anatomy of a Translation
When the inception of a new translation is announced, there is always a great deal of excitement among readers. There is a near universal human impulse to share something of interest or beauty with someone else. Viewing a particularly beautiful sunset, for example, one is often moved to invite a companion, or even a stranger, to share the experience. Because there is so much that is both interesting and beautiful in The URANTIA Book, translations hold a special appeal since they represent a sharing of the book not only with another person but with an entire segment of the world. Because of this keen interest in translations, we should like to describe for you the typical progression of the process, using the Russian translation as an example.
This project began in 1990 when a Russian living in Helsinki offered to translate the text into his native language. His proposal was discussed at some length by the Board. A translation of The URANTIA Book is a project of deceptively large proportions, and it is important to answer a number of questions before proceeding. Is the target language the native language of the prospective translator? Does he understand the concepts of the book? What is his experience at translating? What is his education? Is his command of English sufficient? What do we know of his motivation? Is he in good enough health to be likely to be able to finish such a long and rigorous project? Will he be a member of a translation team, and, if so, what do we know about the other members? Does he truly realize the magnitude and possible duration of the task? Does he have the discipline to work on such a lengthy and difficult project on his own?
When the answers to these and other questions appear to be satisfactory, efforts turn toward the development of agreements concerning production rate, means of overseeing the project, reporting methods, quality review, and contractual relationship. The latter will often need considerable attention, as contractual relationships with individuals living in other countries involve international law, therefore requiring highly specialized legal expertise from all countries involved. Carrying out the responsibilities of the Declaration of Trust mandates that such measures be taken in any rendering of the text into another language to insure that all care possible has been exercised in safeguarding the text.
If all of these hurdles are cleared, the task then becomes one of a team beginning a translation. In the case of the Russian translation, the team consists of a chief translator, a copy editor, and a final copy editor. All of these individuals are native Russians, two of whom have lived in Russia all their lives.
The chief translator (who now lives in Helsinki) is the soft-spoken and talented son of two educators, both university professors, who instilled in their son traditions of disciplined study and scholarship. His mother taught English at the university in Petrozovadsk, where his father was also on the faculty. His progress has been steady and his discipline exemplary.
The copy editor lives in Petrozovadsk, where he teaches English at the Teachers' College. This gentle and intelligent scholar shares in the intellectual heritage of the chief translator, since he is the chief translator's brother.
The final copy editor lives in Moscow. He is a physics professor, and one who has a true love of the Russian language, having recently published a book of poetry. This gentleman's training as a scientist adds greatly to the translation's accuracy of those many technical passages in the text, and his passion for the language will insure a translation which is the most pleasing to the native Russian. All the members of the team are close friends who share a deep commitment to produce a work that is as beautiful as it is accurate.
This team stays in close touch, e-mailing files back and forth, searching for improvements in accuracy, and refining and aesthetically polishing the completed translation (the first draft was completed in 1995). If a change is suggested by the final copy editor to "beautify" the text, it is returned to the other two members of the team to insure that such a change is not at the expense of accuracy of translation, which is of first priority. This shuttling of the text continues until all members are satisfied that the most accurate translation in the most elegant phrasing has been achieved.
While the Russian translation is being edited, refined, and polished, there are in progress other activities related to the project. For example, a preliminary on-site assessment of the system of book distribution in Russia was completed, and an individual has been identified in Moscow who has agreed to represent Foundation interests there. It is anticipated that distribution practices will have to be flexible in Russia, as the economy is in such rapid flux. The volatility of the Russian marketplace makes firm decisions impossible too far in advance. Because conditions of austerity are presently widespread in Russia, particular attention is being given to making available an affordable book. It is here that contributions could have a significant impact on making the book available to a large segment of the world's population --one which seems to be spiritually searching.
The present plan is to disseminate the book in Russia in accordance with the Foundation's philosophy of person-to-person sharing, widespread bookstore and library availability (as permitted by the system), and the fostering of study groups. Drafts of the translation are even now being made available to a study group now forming in Moscow, and the long road to publication is nearing an end. Because of the extraordinary dedication, devotion, and attention to detail which has been brought to bear on this work, it is expected that this will be one of the best "first translations" which has so far been produced. As ever, suggestions and resources are welcome. Just contact Foundation headquarters.
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