When we are trying to decide whether the translation of a particular novel is good or bad, we shall usually find that there are quite a few equally valid points of view and powerful arguments on both sides. It should also be noted that in order to reach a decision it seems necessary to by-pass temporarily the views according to which languages are incompatible and translation is either impossible or illu- sory. Putting aside the views on linguistic relativity does not simplify matters, it just makes the decision possible. The temporary suspension of such views is, to some extent, justified by the practice of those people who correlate texts in differ- ent languages and look upon them as saying the same thing. They may be wrong and the supposedly identical texts can turn out to be different, but it must be ad- mitted that identity in cultural matters is always arbitrary. If people insist on trans- lating as they obviously do, there should be some criteria within the theoretical framework of translatability to judge the relative merits and failures of what they produce.
J. Hillis Miller, "Narrative and History" ELH 41 (1974) 455-473, and J. Hillis Miller, "Optic and Semiotic in Middlemarch" in Jerome H. Buckley (ed.), The Worlds of Victorian Fiction. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1975. 125-145, George Eliot, Middlemarch. Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1965, George Eliot, Middlemarch. Trans. Bartos Tibor. Budapest: Európa Könyvkiadó, 1976.
Miller "Optic…" 128.
Miller "Optic…" 128.
Miller "Optic…" 129.
"The part is 'really like' the whole, and an investigation of a sample will lead to valid conclusions about the whole." Miller "Optic…" 129.
"That the texture of Middlemarch society as a whole may be accurately represented in a metaphor of woven cloth is taken for granted throughout the novel." Miller "Optic…" 130.
"Each of those nodes in the social web which is a separate human being is endowed with a power to see the whole. This power is defined throughout the novel as essentially distorting." Miller "Optic…" 137.
"A pervasive figure for the human situation in Middlemarch is that of the seer who must try to identify clearly what is present before him. This metaphor contaminates the apparently clearcut objectivist implications of the metaphor of the flowing web." Miller "Optic…" 136.
Miller mentions ("Optic…" 125) Thackeray's Vanity Fair, Dickens' Bleak House, Little Dorrit, Our Mutual Friend, and Trollope's The Way We Live Now.