Allan Bloom on Translating Plato.

After I wrote my paper on translating Medea last quarter, I am continuing with that theme in this terms’ Plato course.  We are reading Crito and Euthyphro.  I’m focusing on the Crito, but am also reading literature about other Plato translations.  I don’t agree with his method, but I do appreciate Republic translator Allan Bloom’s honesty.

This book is intended to be a literal translation.  […]  Such a translation is intended to be useful to the serious student, the one who wishes and is able to arrive at his own understanding of the work.  He must be emancipated from the tyranny of the translator, given the means of transcending the limitations of the translator’s interpretation, enabled to discover the subtitles of the elusive original.  The only way to provide the reader with this independence is by a slavish, even if sometimes cumbersome, literalness — insofar as possible always using the same English equivalent for the same Greek word. (xi)

Literal translation makes the Republic a difficult book to read; but it is in itself a difficult book, and our historical situation makes it doubly difficult for us.  This must not be hidden.  Plato intended his works essentially for the intelligent and industrious few, a natural aristocracy determined neither by birth nor wealth, and this translation attempts to do nothing which would contradict that intention. (xviii)

(Taken from the Preface to Allan Bloom, trans., The Republic of Plato, 1968.)

2 thoughts on “Allan Bloom on Translating Plato.

  1. Pingback: Translating Plato: what gets lost in translation? | Linguae Antiquitatum

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