Karlos Zabala and Octavio Paz at the Euskadi Awards

2005 December 23
Karlos Zabala and Octavio Paz at the Euskadi Awards

Last 29 November the Euskadi Awards ceremony took place in the Basque capital, Vitoria-Gasteiz. The event was presided over by the Lehendakari (President) of the Basque Government, Juan Jose Ibarretxe, and the Minister for the Department of Arts and Culture, Miren Azkarate and was broadcast on the national Basque television service, Euskal Telebista, two hours later.

Karlos Zabala, a member of EIZIE (the Basque translators’ association), received the 2005 Euskadi Award for the Best Literary Translation, a fine work of translation into Basque of Emile Zola’s novel, Le ventre de Paris, which has provided Basque readers with yet another masterpiece of universal literature.

On receiving the Prize and, after thanking those present, Karlos Zabala read out two quotes by Octavio Paz regarding translation and which had been, in turn, translated into the Basque language by Karlos Zabala himself.

In the first of these, Paz compares translation with the efforts of a child to learn his or her mother tongue:

“Learning to speak is learning to translate”; when a child asks their mother the meaning of this or that word, what they are really asking is that she translate the unknown term into her language. This translation within, as it were, the same language is not fundamentally any different from translation between two languages and this infant experience is repeated throughout the history of all peoples: even the most isolated tribe, at some time or other, has to deal with the language of an outside people".

The second quote is to do with the work of a translator as a bridge between two languages:

"...on the one hand, translations suppress the differences between one tongue and another; on the other, these differences are made more noticeable. (...) At one end, the world is presented to us as a collection of heterogeneites; at the other, as a superpositioning of texts, each slightly different from the previous: made up of translations of translations of translations".

O. Paz wrote the above comments in his book, Traducción: literatura y literalidad.