In essence this boils down to the following: do we modernize the text, treating it as if were our contemporary, or do we bring out its archaic and “alien” or alternatively its eternal character if you are a believer? This is always a very tough decision. I myself inclined to the latter strategy while choosing an English style that I called measured modern English, certainly not colloquial and certainly not Victorian or archaic.
I am also interested in Khalidi’s notion of false authority. When does the literary translator exercise this? In his talk at the AUC, Humphrey Davies spoke of censoring one word of an author’s text—an insulting term—and regretting it. (The censored term was later reinstated.) Khalidi on the responsibility of the Qur’anic translator:
Of all sacred texts, the Qur’an is probably the most insistent in demanding rational reflection and in emphasizing human freedom to understand or misunderstand the signs of God. The responsibility of the translator is therefore a very heavy one: he or she must allow the text to speak for itself. For a translator, to offer any commentary or any gloss, is to exercise a false authority.