Turkish is an agglutinative language. That is to say, a word’s meaning can be elaborated on and added to by the attachment of suffixes. In fact, there is a single word in Turkish that can express the following English sentence: “You are not one of those who can be turned into a New Yorker.” Here it is: Nevyorklulustiramadiklarimizdansiniz.
— Sidney Wade, commenting on translations of Yahya Kemal Beyath’s “Gece” (Night)
It has been said that Russians believe everything can be translated into their language and nothing can be translated out of it; and wihle they cite Pasternak’s Shakespeare as a paragon of translation, his own poems are deemed untouchable.
— J. Kates, commenting on translations of Boris Pasternak’s Гамлет (Hamlet)
In the middle of comparing “the vocation for eternity” with “the vocation of eternity” and “the calling of the eternal” in translations of Sophia Mello Breyner Andresen’s “A pequena praça” (The Small/Little Square), Alexis Levitin writes:
Let me mention, parenthetically, that one of the greatest challenges for the translator lies in those pesky, elusive, mercurial little words that inhabit all idiomatic expressions and try to place us all in time and space. Prepositions are the tiny stumbling blocks that we translators, again and again, beat our shins against.
And then there’s new-to-me words from someone who wrote other words I have long loved . . .
I, who use just a small part
of the words in the dictionary.
I, who must solve riddles despite myself,
know that were God not full of mercy,
there would be mercy in the word
and not just in Him.
— Yehuda Amichai, “אל מלא רחמים” (God Full of Mercy), translated by Robert Alter
(I’ve linked Amichai’s name to a page with a recording of him reciting the poem in English and Hebrew. So far, I like his own rendition the best.)