When someone hears the word, translate, various ideas pop into their head as to what that kind of word means. For some, translation is a literal term that means to convert something in one language into an exact copy of the meaning in another language. For others translation is a simpler term that can allow somewhat more creative freedom to translators. Instead of being an exact copy of the meaning, words can be played with and loosely used to make a similar, but all around understanding meaning in another language. Just as long as an audience from one country translated to another can understand it, figuring out the complications between the two shouldn’t be a challenge.
In this debate on what translation should mean in the modern world today, about any literary mind will have their opinion and pick a side on the matter. However, in the case of the piece, Ninteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, the entire book can be a message to writers that translation is an art unique to everyone. While some who comment the changes of Wang Wei’s poem through translations, such as Eliot Weinberger on page 13 when noticing the “Dull, but fairly direct…” changes made through translation, the careful wording and craftsmanship is not something to be lost due to lack of copying word for word.
Each entry is a completely unique sense of how a single poem can be translated and given it’s own meaning and understanding. The walls that surround the original piece by Wang Wei are broken by these translations, giving them life and chances to be discussed rather than be confined in the cages of the original work. Whether someone’s opinion is to stick to strictly word by word translation or adaptability with the use other words that are similar, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei tells readers and potential translators that it’s okay to try something else. Nineteen Ways is just ninteen lessons of trying something differently.