Academic journal article Bilingual Review

About These Translations

Academic journal article Bilingual Review

About These Translations

Article excerpt

I began these translations two decades ago after a conversation with the great translator-poet Jack Hirschman. I had been reading ancient indigenous literature unavailable in English and thought it contained knowledge that could change the world if it could be brought to light. He encouraged me to try to change the world.

To do these translations, I collected all the available original texts and previous translations (mostly in Spanish), as well as various dictionaries and grammars of the original languages. I immersed myself in the languages one at a time--Nahuatl, Yucatec Maya, and Qechua--using previous translations as gateways into the original texts.

These translations are literary interpretations designed to communicate the original meanings and beauty, as opposed to being literal scholarly translations. My approach is to try to dig down to the original intent and meaning and bring those out in the translation. A too-literal approach winds up focusing on the trees and missing the forest.

I have followed the lead of previous translators in cutting up the lines and modifying the word division and punctuation in the original language to fit the particular translation. …

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