I've stumbled across an interview with Howard Goldblatt, a Chinese translator. I've read one of his translations, Bi Feiyu's The Moon Opera, which I thoroughly enjoyed. So, I thought I'd pick a few things from the interview.
On who he translates for:
I believe first of all that, like an editor, the translator's primary obligation is to the reader, not the writer. I realize that a lot of people don't agree, especially writers. I don't think that these things have to be mutually exclusive, but I do think that we need to produce something that can be readily accepted by an American readership. Ha Jin can get away with writing unidiomatic English and many people are charmed by it, but a translator's English is expected to be idiomatic and contemporary without being flashy.On problems translating Chinese to English:
...the thing that's really killing translation in our field is literalism. Too many translators are afraid of the text, especially when they're first starting out. And I understand that, because I was too. They're all afraid of the text. You need to overcome your fear of the text, put some distance between you and it. You have to because Chinese and English are so different.On the editing of books:
Editors are held in such low regard in China. They're no better than copy editors. And then there are the authors. One editor told me about the time a well-known writer brought in this great big brick of a novel. The writer handed it over and said just one thing: ?Don't change a word? (一个字不改). Maybe Joyce could have said that to his editor, but I couldn't help thinking, ?he's not that good.? On social relations in contemporary Chinese lit:
Historical fiction is what they like to do the most, and I think that they write least well when they're dealing with things like normal human interaction. Have you read Ian McEwan's Saturday? It's a good novel. You really understand how these people deal with each other. In Chinese writing I don't see much of that. I don't think that they get far enough below the surface. They don't get into psychological possibilities, why things happen. I think they want to narrate what happens. And most of the negative reviews I get?except for those about how the translator probably ruined it?say that there's just no sense of getting below the surface, of what makes these people tick. We see what they've done but we're not altogether sure why they do it because Chinese culture doesn't encourage people to express their feelings.There's plenty more in there, such as how he got started in the translation game, authors, editors, and rearranging texts.