Most of the trouble in this business stems from a failure to articulate the project and communicate that explicitly to the reader - or the reader's willful or inept misinterpretation of that project. If a translation is read as a version, or a version as a translation, the result is disappointment and confusion. Translations fail when they misrepresent the language of the original, or fail to honour the rules of natural syntax. Versions fail when they misrepresent the spirit of the original, or fail in any one of the thousand other ways bad poems fail. If, through naivety or over-ambition, both translation and version are attempted simultaneously, the result is foredoomed. Essentially, if we are not prepared to make a choice between honouring the word or the spirit, we are likely to come away with nothing. Or, perhaps, between method and goal: in translation, the integrity of the means justifies the end; in the version, the integrity of the end justifies the means.
- Don Paterson, on translation, in Note #10 of his "Appendix: Fourteen Notes on The Version" in Orpheus: A Version of Rilke (Faber and Faber, 2006).