The Tradition of German Translation
Xabier Mendiguren


One of the most important topics for discussion throughout the history of the theory of translation has been the faithfulness of the translator to the original work and the target language. It would indeed be difficult to find a tradition as long and rich as the German, which has debated this problem and which has searched resolutely for possible solutions. This article reviews this tradition and shows to what extent it developed an awareness of the tensions and realities created by the debate between ethnocentrism and exocentrism.

But in this article, the author uses the German tradition to analyze the present situation of translations in the Basque language. He starts by indicating how our tradition began in the XVI century with a literal rendering of the text and the source language, a tendency which would not be broken until the years before and after the Spanish Civil War. It was then that, as a reaction against the old exocentric models, encouragement would be given to translating according to the sense, succumbing on various occasions to the temptations of ethnocentrism. During recent years, on the other hand, a more balanced type of translation has been developed between these opposing ideas, but not without some difficulties, as present generations of Basque translators have been obliged to make that jump from the "tribe" to the "polis" a jump which other peoples made quite some time ago with regard to the adaptation of the translation and to the development of the Basque language itself, which is placed among highly-evolved languages. Within this process, there continues to be strain between tradition and modernity, between ethnocentrism and exocentrism, as happened previously with other languages. But, as the author points out, these strained relations are no more than growing pains and, although they might be a reason for preoccupation, they should never alarm us to the extent of creating the adequate mechanisms for maintaining the necessary equilibrium by means of criticism.