The double bind (Gregory Bateson, slightly expanded):

(1) Do X.
(2) Do not-X.
(3) Internalize the command to do both, and expect censure for failure.
(4) Repress all this, and despise anyone who reminds you of it.
(5) Idealize the command-giver.




Double Bind 3: Love vs. Money

(1) Translate for the love of it.

(a) Love language.

(b) Love your native language(s).

(c) Love foreign languages and cultures.

(d) Love the source text.

(e) Love the act of translation, the feel of linguistic and cultural transfer.

(f) Love the feeling of surrendering to the verbal guidance of the source author.

(g) Love the feeling of surpassing the brilliance of the source author.

(h) Choose texts that you love, in opposition to market demands; love them, and choose them, because of that opposition. Think of translation as fundamentally a labor of love.

(i) Always translate the very best — texts that you love the very most.

(j) Take pride in the fact that your translations earn you little or no money when published; that they are usually published only by small, struggling art houses or journals that pay with author's copies or offprints; and that, even when they are praised highly by a small coterie of friends, they are often rejected by editors at mainstream presses and journals.

(k) Self-publish your translations, in print or in html. Refuse to commercialize your publications. When companies offer to "sponsor" your homepage, earning you money for "hits" whenever someone reads your translations in return for advertisements on your pages, turn them down contemptuously. Don't even feel tempted to build credit card payment programs into your homepage.

(l) Don't publish your translations at all. Keep them in a desk drawer. Occasionally photocopy them for friends, or like-minded people you meet.

(m) Sense, but never quite articulate your sense, that your translations are "sacred," or perhaps just extremely valuable, and need to be protected from commercialization. Capitalism is a monster that devours its young. What you do is too precious to be devoured, and must be kept safe. Earning little or no money for what you do achieves this (Robinson 1996b: 199-200).

(n) Adopt maverick methods of translation (especially radical departures from the sense of, or radical adherence to the textures of, the original text), based only on your personal preferences, quirks, or visions of what a text must be. Make your translations as idiosyncratic as possible so as to display your difference from other translators and writers. Take pride in your methods, and in your stance and status as a maverick translator.

(o) Be an amateur, and take pride in your amateurism. Associate it with enthusiasm, love, and pleasure in the work.

(p) Be your own agency, in every sense of the word. Don't hire an agent to peddle your work to publishers. Don't do freelance work for translation agencies. Don't surrender your "agency," your control over your own work, to anyone.

(2) Translate for money.

(a) Consider translation a profession, yourself a professional. Consider it a business, and yourself a businessperson. Consider it a matter of professional expertise, and yourself an expert.

(b) Belong to a professional translator organization or union. Attend its conferences. Follow its guidelines on professional ethics and all other professional matters. Work with that organization to improve the status of the translation profession. Deduct your dues and the cost of the conference and other materials on your taxes.

(c) Resist doing work for less than your colleagues agree is a fair rate.

(d) Choose texts for which a market exists. Accept jobs that the market (in the form of agencies or direct clients) sends you.

(e) Translate for money (or some other medium of exchange, like books or plane tickets or a fancy meal). Think of translation as fundamentally a livelihood, a source of income.

(f) Gravitate toward the type of translation jobs that pay the best. Justify your specialization on financial grounds.

(g) Don't pretend to enjoy the texts you translate, or the work itself. You are a professional who is good at what s/he does, and gets paid for it, period.

(h) Not that you would mind getting paid more — the work is important and should be better remunerated — but it is enough so that you can feel pride in being a translator.

(i) Accommodate yourself willingly to the demands of the market. Whatever ethical principles, professional practices (deadlines, quality control, etc.), and pay scales the market mandates, conform to them.

(j) Assimilate your translation methods to market practices: flat sense-for-sense, painstakingly literal, summarizing, freely adaptative, etc., whatever the market demands.

(k) Justify passing a translation job on to a "friend" or "colleague" (actually in market terms a competitor) on the market grounds that s/he may do the same for you someday.

(l) Don't mind translating texts that turn your stomach because they are (i) poorly written, (ii) boring, repetitious, mechanical, repetitious, uninspired, tedious, and repetitious, (iii) written in support of positions or institutions that you find morally reprehensible. If the market sends them to you and pays you to translate them, that is what you will do — without public or private protest.

(m) As a freelancer, be directed by a translation agency. Let them interface with the client with you. Do not begrudge them the 45% cut they take out of the client's fee for project management. They keep you safe and warm. They do your business thinking for you. They tell you what is expected, then check your work to make sure you met expectations.

(n) If you own your own agency, let it be directed by the needs of clients. Complain about the clients' unreasonable time frames and badly written texts with freelancers: it helps them feel better about helping you meet clients' demands if they think you're on their side in all this. Complain about freelancers' careless errors and delays with other agency owners, and friends. Present a united and idealized front to the clients.

(o) If you work in-house, surrender your agency (in the philosophical sense) to your employer.

(3) Internalize the command to do both, and expect censure for failure.

(a) Understand without being told that what is at stake here is not just your professional integrity as a translator, but your worth as a human being. If you can successfully translate for both love and money, be both a fully autonomous individual and another anonymous market statistic, you will be not only a good translator, but a good person.

(b) Know, but pretend not to know, and if possible conceal even from yourself, that you can't do both, and thus will never be either a good translator or a good person.

(c) Expect your failures to awaken anxieties, and thus also to provoke resentment and criticism: people will think that you're a dilettante, an amateur ("s/he's no translator at all, s/he's just playing at being a translator, s/he has a day job") if you obey 1 and that you're a drone, a hack, a drudge ("s/he's just a translator") if you obey 2.

(d) Be afraid of both enjoying your work too much and not enjoying it enough.

(e) If you enjoy it too much, feel that you're thinking only of yourself, pleasing only yourself, and that means (know this, even if no one ever quite comes right out and says it) that you can't meet your client's or the original author's needs.

(f) If you don't enjoy it enough, feel that you're burning out on the drudgery and probably not giving the work the attention it deserves. Never know quite where to draw the line.

(g) Be afraid of caring too much and too little about the money.

(h) If you care too much about the money, feel that you're thinking only of yourself, pleasing only yourself (being greedy), and that means that you aren't taking the text seriously as a text, as an attempt to communicate — in this case, through you, across linguistic and cultural boundaries — with readers or listeners.

(i) If you don't care enough about the money, feel that you're not a serious professional and are probably undercutting more dedicated colleagues who are working hard not only to meet clients' needs but to raise the status of the profession as a whole.

(j) When a job is difficult to love, take increased pleasure in the money. Feel a little guilty about your inability to love the job as much as you ought. Vow to love the next one more.

(k) When you translate at reduced rates, for family or friends or a good cause, try to take increased pleasure in the text, or the job, or your own generosity. Worry about working for so little: are you making it just a bit harder for other translators to charge going rates? Are you hurting yourself financially?

(l) Internalize the negative conception these conflicting commands mandate not only of you but of your profession. Translators are simultaneously too wrapped up in themselves and too robotized by their submission to market forces.

(m) Fight the negative conception of translation that the impossibility of obeying both 1 and 2 mandates by working harder, and calling on other translators to work harder as well, to obey both 1 and 2. If only translators would translate more for love and more for money, people would respect you and your profession more. Let this transform 1-2-3 into a vicious circle from which there is no escape.

(4) Repress all this, and despise anyone who reminds you of it..

(a) To the extent that you become aware of your self-centered failure to think sufficiently of others by worrying too much about your own pleasure or earnings, feel guilty about it, but repress your guilt. There isn't anything you can do about it anyway.

(b) Convince yourself that there is really no conflict between translating for love and translating for money, or between your own needs and the market's, and anyone who says there is must be blowing smoke. Shake your head in disgust, or contempt, or easy amusement at such people, who must live mighty boring lives to be wasting so much time inventing such preposterous "problems" where there are none.

(c) Never let yourself consider the possibility that you hate both the work and the money. If you did, you might grow disaffected with translating and long to do something else with your life. That would be awkward.

(d) Never let yourself consider the possibility that loving the work keeps you trapped in an underpaid profession, or that the money keeps you working with texts you despise.

(e) Never let yourself consider the possibility that your attempts to work for both love and money keep you from reflecting critically on the ethical principles governing your work — where those principles came from historically, how they are channeled politically, and how well or poorly they fit with other ethical principles that you hold dear.

(5) Idealize the command-giver.

(a) Believe that there is no command-giver; there is simply a factual state of affairs. Don't even deny the existence of a command-giver; just never let the possibility arise. If it is difficult and yet important to translate at once for the market and for yourself, for money and for pleasure, that is not because you have been commanded (or trained, or programmed) to do both, and to conceive your life and work as requiring both. That's just the way things are — not what someone told you they are, but the facts.

(b) To the extent that you think of the command-giver as the source author, idealize your submission to his/her command as love. Do not reflect on the hierarchical differences between you and the thing or person or voice you love: the fact (or controlled normative assumption) that the author is high and you are low. Do not reflect on analogues with this situation in other love relationships. Don't make the connection between your submission to the source author in love and the traditional woman's submission to her husband or other male lover; if you do, fleetingly, think of the two as not really analogous, as significantly different; and if you do equate them, avoid thinking of either as patriarchal or dysfunctional, and of yourself as codependent or an enabler.

(c) To the extent that you think of the command-giver as the target culture, idealize your submission to its command as professionalism. Do not perceive the instrumentalization that that professionalism entails as dehumanizing. A job has to be done, and you are part of the chain of professionals that gets it done.

(d) To the extent that you want to thematize the command-giver as an uneasy blend of love and money, do not make the connection with prostitution, the oldest profession, where money is paid for loveless acts of "love." You are not a whore, so be careful not to consider, or to deny, that you might be.

Other double binds:

Love vs. money

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