Dear Mr. Vallicella,
My name is Cyril Šebo, I am an English teacher in Slovakia and also a blogger on our national Slovak blogspot
Today is The International Day of Translators and in my blog I dared to use one of your thougts from your blog, to show how difficult it can get to translate some thoughful ideas into another language.
Your statement I have borrowed was, "Silence is a grating clangor to the unwhole man."
I also suggested a translation and encouraged the readers to provide their critical analysis and possible (better) translation variants.
The blog post has received a very good following so far, people especially speculated about the poetic figure of "grating clangor" and the philosophical aspect of the "unwhole man."
Somebody also suggested a reversed translation of one of the Slovak versions into English: "Silence is a scratch and clangor in the ear of a man lacking inner integrity."
If your time allows, can you please let us know, whether this is close to your original idea, or is it absolutely ridiculous?
Thank you very much,
Dear Mr. Šebo,
I am glad you enjoyed my aphorism and found it stimulating. I wrote it on 3 January 1972 while a young man living in a garret in Salzburg, Austria. When I opened the skylight in the bathroom I got a view of the Salzburg Festung, 'fastness' being a nice old poetic English word for Festung.
As for your reverse translation, I would say that it conveys the idea that I was trying to express, but does so in a way that violates one of the rules for a good aphorism. The good aphorist aims at economy of expression. A good aphorism is terse. "Scratch and" is superfluous, as is "to the ear." Clangor is a loud ringing sound; sounds are perceived through the ears; so there is no need to add "to the ear." 'Clangor' has the added virtue of sounding like what it means. The 'resonance' of the word is diminished by the addition of "scratch and." "Unwhole man" is a more poetic and economical way of saying "man lacking inner integrity." But that is what I meant.
At the time I wrote the aphorism I may have been reading Max Picard who wrote a book entitled The World of Silence. Here is something about Picard.