16 October 2012 - What is literary translation?


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16 October 2012 - What is literary translation?

  1. 1. 88054: LiteraryLITERARY TRANSLATION?
  2. 2. Dr Sarah Maitlandwww.facebook.com/transcast
  3. 3. IN PRACTICE...
  4. 4. • ‘Accuracy’• ‘Flow’• The intuition of the translator• Being ‘led’ by the language and listening to its ‘ear’ (1994)
  5. 5. • Listening to the ‘voice’ of the ST• “...the way something is communicated: the way the tale is told; the way the poem is sung [...] [determining] all choices of cadence and tone and lexicon and syntax” (1987: 9)
  6. 6. • Translated Neruda’s poem about Machu Picchu - listened to Neruda to hear stresses and emphases (1980: 51)• “...the original must come through essentially, in language that itself rings true” (1980: 24)
  7. 7. • A “translator-collaborator” with the Cuban author Cabrera Infante (1991: xi)• A “subversive scribe”, “destroying” the form of the original but creating meaning in a new form (1991: 7)• At times creates a different passage in translation than in ST – surprising the reader• “A translation should be a critical act...creating doubt, posing questions to the reader, recontextualising the ideology of the text” (1991: 3)
  8. 8. • The creativity of translation – reading, cognitive processing, experiential reformulation (Loffredo and Perteghella 2006)• Translation is “an original subjective activity at the centre of a complex network of social and cultural practices” (Bush 1998: 127)• Why subjective? What practices?
  9. 9. • Literary translators often work from contract to contract for modest fees• Usually publishers initiate translations rather than translators• Publishers often reluctant to grant copyright or a share of royalties to translators (Venuti 1992, 1998)• The translator participates in a “power play” (Fawcett 1995: 189)
  10. 10. • Editors are not usually fluent in the foreign language and the main concern is that the translation should ‘read well’ (Munday 2008)• Stephen Mitchell’s new ‘version’ of the Mesopotamian epic Gilgamesh – omits repetitions as “some of the quirks of Akkadian style” (2005: 66)• Commissioners, agents, editors, translators, revisers, marketers...
  11. 11. IN THEORY...
  12. 12. • An “original, subjective activity at the centre of a complex network of social and cultural practices”• The literary translator “inhabits a landscape which is not mapped by conventional geographies” (2008: 127)
  13. 13. • Usually the originating author receives a royalty of 8%, leaving in principle 2% for the translator• Sometimes translators receive flat payment• Contracts often include language on “providing a language that is faithful to the original” (2008: 128)
  14. 14. • The task of the translator is to confront the author’s words, living or dead• “The literary translator creates a new pattern in a different language, based on personal readings, research and creativity. This new creation in turn becomes the basis for multiple readings and interpretations which will go beyond any intentions of either original author or translator” (2008: 129)
  15. 15. • “Whatever the strategy adopted by the translator, any translator is ultimately the product of multiple readings and drafts which precede and determine the shape of the final draft delivered to the publishers. Context is crucial” (2008: 129• Authors will use different images, symbols and rhythms over the course of a work (Levine, 1991)
  16. 16. • Literary translation (2011: 43) 1. The act of translating a literary text 2. The act of translating a text in a literary way 3. The result of 1 4. The result of 2
  17. 17. • “[T]ranslation that takes into account the literary nature of literary texts, and creates a literary text as target text, that is also documentary in its relationship with the source text. It will generally do justice in the following aspects of the text: – Stylistic features such as iconicity or metaphor – The fictional world created by the text – Opportunities for the reader’s engagement with the text – The cognitive state embodied in the text• The degree to which these points are taken into account is likely to determine the degree to which the resulting translation is regarded as successful” (2011: 46). Do you agree?
  18. 18. • “literary texts do not, or do not solely, represent the world. To some extent they can be said to represent different worlds, which may be merely fictional or even actually impossible, when measured against the world we know” (2011: 35)• The formal features of a text take part of their meaning from something in the real world
  19. 19. • Rather than ‘meaning’ or ‘truth’, we can concentrate on poetic effect• Processing different meanings makes the reader ‘work’ – to “mentally re-enact” what may have gone on in the original• What is the challenge of poetic effect?
  20. 20. • In literary texts, poetic effects can be complex, nuanced and cause us to stop and think, feel or remember• If the aim of literature is to cause the reader to feel something, then translation is not a matter of aiming for linguistic closeness, but closeness to the affective effect
  21. 21. • If the reader’s cognitive context is the most important element, we cannot ‘know’ what it is, but only make our best guess (Gutt 2000: 18)• The ‘unknown’ of translation is how the original reader ‘felt’ about the text, not what the text actually ‘means’
  22. 22. • “The pretence of translation” – that the translator knows the author’s intention and can convey it to new reader• “In having to have a sense of what meaning is conveyed by a literary text, translators are no different from any other readers of the source text: they create a meaning which, if they are experience literary readers, they will tend to see as open-ended” (Boase-Beier 2011:41)
  23. 23. • “The world created by literary texts is fictional, and in addition it may also be very different from the real world, containing elements not possible there” (2011: 45)• Literary texts are not realities – translation is not simply the rewriting of an a priori reality but making a reality of our own design
  24. 24. • Literature contains ‘gaps’ that need to be filled by readers. Translation must therefore be open to infinite responses to ‘weak’ implicature• “We therefore need to see the sort of equivalence that literary translation aims for not in the preservation of meaning and implicatures, [...] but in the preservation of open-endedness, the possibility of reader engagement and the recreating of the effects often triggered by formal elements of the text” (2011: 43)
  25. 25. • No text can ‘report’ what another says without some degree of interpretation bringing to bear the positionality of the interpreter along the way (Gutt 2000: 179-129)• We take a stand, we make decisions about how the ST is to be understood, and every translation bears the traces of implicit comment on how the original is interpreted• “Just as all translation, and especially literary translation, involves interpretation by the translator, so all translation, and especially literary translation, involves creativity on the part of the translator, because interpretation is itself a creative act” (Boase-Beier 2011: 53)
  26. 26. • What literary translation is NOT is an act of “nontranslational interlingual communication” resulting in an ‘equivalent’ (Gutt 2000: 61) because texts require engagement from their readers and translations must do the same. But the way they get there will be entirely different• Literary texts embody a state of mind (Boase-Beier 2011: 46)
  27. 27. Whose woods these are I think I know.His house is in the village though;He will not see me stopping hereTo watch his woods fill up with snow.My little horse must think it queerTo stop without a farmhouse nearBetween the woods and frozen lakeThe darkest evening of the year.He gives his harness bells a shakeTo ask if there is some mistake.The only other sounds the sweepOf easy wind and downy flake.
  28. 28. The woods are lovely, dark and deep. But I have promises to keep, And miles to go before I sleep, And miles to go before I sleep.• If the first line of the last stanza is the ST, what can we say about the task of its translation in the light of literary translation theory?
  29. 29. CHANGE
  30. 30. 88054: LiteraryLITERARY TRANSLATION?