The point is that translation is more than a leap from dictionary to dictionary; it is a reimagining of the poem. As such, every reading of every poem, regardless of language, is an act of translation: translation into the reader’s intellectual and emotional life. As no individual reader remains the same, each reading becomes a different—not merely another—reading. The same poem cannot be read twice.
– Eliot Weinberger, from 19 Ways of Looking
at Wang Wei (Asphodel, 1987)
This little book, with commentary by Weingberger and Octavio Paz, focuses on various translations of one four-line poem by Wang Wei. But – this is not merely a book of translations or about the translating process. Its true force is about reading, about our approach to language. The different versions of the poem illustrate just how cluttered our reading lives are. We don’t read as much as we scan. And as for writing, most never move past the surface of what is there – waiting.
If you want to be a better writer – or reader, for that matter – spend time with this book.