Showing posts with label Literary Translation. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Literary Translation. Show all posts

Notes on Literary Translation

1. The more serious the text, morally and aesthetically, the more accurately and economically it should be translated, reflecting the thought, style (idiolect rather than variety of language), emphasis (through functional sentence perspective), and as far as possible, particularly in poetry, the rhythm and sound of the original.

2. The more important the language of a text, which is on a scale from poetry (where every word and feature are important, but paradoxically, there are so many factors, that close translation is most difficult and denotatively least likely or possible) through the short story and the novel to tragedy, drama, comedy and farce, the last four being actively affected by their audiences, the more closely it should be translated.

3. A deviation from normal SL social usage, whether lexical, idiomatic, or grammatical, should usually be reflected in the translation.

4. A word, whether key-word or leit-motif repeated in the source language text, should be repeated, never replaced by a synonym, in the translation.

5. An original universal metaphor should be translated literally; an original cultural metaphor should retain as much of the original image as is possible consonant with the situational and linguistic context bringing and making the meaning clear to the second readership.

6. A standard metaphor should be translated by its standard equivalent or, failing that, comprehensibly adapted.

7. Humour and irony must be reflected in the translation, sometimes at the cost of literal or denotative meaning.

8. If the dramatist intends the audience to cry or to smile or to laugh at a certain place in a play, the translator must do likewise, sometimes, in the case of broad laughter, at the cost of a faithful linguistic translation.

9. Sound should be reflected in onomatopoeia and compensated in assonance, but may have to be sacrificed in alliteration.

10. Essentially, literature, belles-lettres, is about individuals and their actions, while non-literature, Sachbücher, is about objects and movements. The salient features of literary texts are the human qualities expressed in adjectives, adverbs and nouns of manner. These are the more sensitive components of language, readily changing in meaning in response to their situational and linguistic contexts: thus, 'cool' (branché, super) or 'streetwise' (dégourdi).

11. Sound, linguistic rhythm, speech-rhythms, colloquial language and linguistic innovations are fundamental factors in literary language from poetry through drama to fiction, and have to be recreated in the translation.

12. Literary language is basically the recording of spoken language, a dialogue between writer and reader ('Reader, I married him'), or between the first and the second person singular. Nonliterary language is basically third person singular, impersonal or passive.


Peter Newmark (1998) More Paragraphs On Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 201-202.

Literary Translation

An engrossing conference on literary translation, confronting authors with their translators (Claude Delarue and Vivienne Menkes; A. S. Byatt and Jean-Louis Chevalier) was held at the London French Institute in January. The following conclusions possibly emerged:
  1.  Ambiguities are more common in fiction than in other texts, since the language is connotative.
  2.  French is restricted to a smaller vocabulary and a stricter, narrower word-order and grammar than English.
  3.  French is more philosophical and metaphysical (i.e. more abstract and opaque) than English.
  4.  The gulf between written and spoken language is greater in French than in English. (It is partially bridged in English by phrasal verbs.)
  5.  The English translator tends to break up long French sentences (particularly relative clauses).
  6.  The more explicit the sentence, the fewer the options (possible variations) for the translator.
  7.  Incomplete sentences, being connotative, are the hardest to translate.
  8.  All language is provisional. When author meets translator, both parties change their minds, have second thoughts, are not sure or forget what they originally meant. But the word in print gives the translation a certain permanence. (Je crois à l'imprimé. J-L. Chevalier). In any event this apparent fluctuation, which appears to challenge the status of translation (Sarah Marsh), is greatly restricted in its scope, and should not go beyond the deficiencies of the source language text, the grammatical and lexical gaps of the target language, and the tastes of the translator.


Peter Newmark (1993) Paragraphs on Translation, Clevedon: Multilingual Matters, pp. 149-150.