Ricercatore universitario a t.
Presidente Commissione TFA AA46 (cinese)
Membro Commissione Erasmus DSAAM
Università Ca' Foscari, Venezia
Dipartimento di Studi sull'Asia e sull'Africa Mediterranea
Palazzo Vendramin dei Carmini
30123 Venezia - Italia
Dr. Marcia Pinheiro
Lecturer at IICSE University
Member: PROz, RGMIA, Ancient Philosophy
PhD in Philosophy and Mathematics
Master in Philosophy
Certified TESOL/TEFL professional
Licentiate in Mathematics
PO Box 12396 A’Beckett St
Melbourne, VIC, AU, 8006
as you have seen in Poetry and Translation, or as
you will be seeing, I have started to worry about having the readers of the
target language experiencing the same sensations that the readers from the
origin language experience when reading an artistic piece.
I think I am sure that is translating poems with
I wonder if you agree with my view.
although I am chiefly a translator of fiction, not of poetry, I have
always kept in mind the problem of the equivalent effect from a variety of
perspectives. For instance, I have laid special attention on the rendition of
rhythmic features in my translation practice of Chinese contemporary fiction,
but also in my research on Chinese political discourse, and advertising. In
fact, rhythm, and other para-rhythmic are a constitutive feature of the Chinese
language: For example, it is extremely common to observe forms of rhythmic
balance in series of juxtaposed clauses made up of the same number of
syllables, but also rhetorical features based partly on rhythm, such as
parallelism, opposition etc. Such features contribute - possibly to an even
larger extent than is the case in other languages - not only to make a
particular sentence or passage more harmonious, balanced, or pleasant to the
ear, but also to make the message more authoritative, and convincing. Whenever
I translate, I always try to read the sentence aloud, and to recreate a
rhythmic pattern that is fluent when the original is harmonious, or a bumpy, unpleasant one
when the author's intent is to create a disturbing effect on the
reader. Talking about the latter form of musicality, I have another
experience while translating the collection Dead Water (Sishui)
by Chinese poet Wen Yiduo (1899-1946), known for his modernist feeling, and for
his penchant for unusual phrasing, difficult rhythm patterns,
and images that are far from idyllic. Such features echo, at the phonic, and
stylistic level, the crudeness of his themes: national disgrace, death, war,
debasement of the intellectual, etc. While translating his poems into Italian I
constantly put a lot of effort in recreating a similar disturbing effect, e.g.
by resorting to unusual, harsh-sounding or anachronistic words instead of more
standard lexical items (always keeping in mind Venuti’s reflections on
the remainder playing havoc within the target language),
or choosing words containing repetitions of consonant clusters, assonance, etc.
- the harder to read fluently the better!
What you say about the Chinese poem
sounds fantastic enough: That is exactly what I am talking about. When you talk
about national disgrace, I feel that there could be a point for debate there:
Should we look for an equivalent national situation in the target language if
we are translating a poem? If we intend to provoke the same feelings in the
target audience, it sounds plausible to wish for doing that, is it not? I have
started to write about the topic in Translation Techniques. I called this
technique Artistic Translation.
The technique used to translate
lyrics would also be Artistic Translation.
The following extract came from
If we had Et si tu n’existais pas in French, for
instance, a piece of the song Et situ n’existais pas (Lyrics,
2013), and we were willing to translate this sentence in an artistic way into
English from Australia, we would go through the following steps:
the mood of the person saying this. Feel their voice in the ear, heart,
concentrate on the message. What is being communicated to the other?
3)What sort of feeling the other would
see appearing in their heart, and soul as they listen to that?
the sentence literally.
refine to find the same impact in the other language, and culture.
when you do, otherwise loop on step five, and close the loop here, at this step.
attention to the lyrics, and song at the same time. We must try to copy
the metrics, rhymes, and all else involved to best that we can
when coding things in the target language.
I would like to learn your opinion
about this extract.
I could not agree more with the points
you made in your article. This is exactly the flow chart I
follow closely when translating poetry or even fiction.
However, what you suggest about evoking a similar
national situation in the target language/culture - or, more generally,
resorting to socio-political references that are specific to the metaculture -
seems a bit too extreme to me - or at least, it feels so in the framework of a
generally foreignizing translation strategy, like the one I usually adopt in my
This said, an experiment like the one you
evoked could definitely bring about astounding results if carried out
systematically, and with the right degree of awareness. This reminds me of what
my fellow sinologist Anna Di Toro did in her translation of a novel from
Taiwan, Meigui Meigui Wo Ai Ni (literally Rose, Rose, I Love You, translated as Rosa Rosa Amore Mio in
Italian) by Wang Zhenhe (1940-1990).
The original novel is set in 1960s
Taiwan, a few years after the end of the civil war that led the Communist Party
of China to rise to power in Mainland China, forcing the nationalists to flee
to Taiwan in 1949, and establish a new government. The novel is imbued with
references to the socio-political climate of the time: the influence of the US,
marked by the heavy presence of American troops on the island; the rise of a
strong nationalism, and anti-communism; the threat of an attack by the Chinese
government; the tensions between the Taiwanese native population, and the
newcomers from the mainland, reflected in the tension between the standard
language - Mandarin Chinese - and the local language taiyu, etc.
Therefore, a satisfactory knowledge of such a situation is crucial for a full
understanding of the events that are recounted, but filling the translation
with footnotes, and annotations would have definitely killed the
pleasure of reading. What Di Toro did, then, was to erase all explicit
references to the Taiwanese context (names of places, and characters, etc.),
and transpose everything to 1960s Sicily, although the name of the island is
never mentioned. Many factors were actually shared between the two realities,
thus reducing the cognitive gap to a minimum: the post-war climate, the
improving economic conditions, the apparent coexistence of standard language,
and local dialect(s), even the presence of US troops from the local military
bases. The operation was striking especially at the linguistic level: For
instance, the passages in taiyu of the original were
rewritten in the dialect of Catania, a town in Eastern Sicily, and juxtaposed
to the ones in standard Italian. The result is a totally new novel, embedded in
an apparently entirely different context, which nonetheless preserves the major
traits of the original at the level of feeling, and impact on
the readership. This includes the pleasure of reading, thanks to the
transposition into a familiar framework, and to the recreation of the
ubiquitous humour that characterizes Wang Zhenhe’s writing. I think this is an
excellent example of what you suggested. However, I am convinced this can be
applied only to specific texts, and only when the target language/culture
offers the right linguistic, cultural, etc. framework, as is the case in the
translation project I have described.
Dr. Magagnin, I believe you are saying
that your agency usually employs foreignization when translating, and I was
referring to domesticating instead when I spoke about adapting contexts to
create the same impact in the target language.
Another extract of the text I
previously mentioned here is
...domesticating translation is
characterized by the dominance
of linguistic, ethnic, and ideological
features of the target culture, as
well as by the fluency of the text –
naturalness of syntax, unambiguity, modernity of the presentation, and
linguistic consistency. A typical feature of a domesticating translation is
transparency – a tendency to avoid non-idiomatic expressions, archaisms,
jargon and repetition. In other words, the translator
imitates text features of the target culture.
Foreignization refers to an opposite strategy of translation. Venuti
(1992:11) defines this concept as a translation practice where
elements foreign to the target culture are given a special stress. A
foreignising translation is dominated by linguistic, ethnic and ideological
features from the source culture, resistance to the norms of fluency and by the
unmaskedness of the translator.
I think I like the fact that you know
of at least one great experience in terms of domestication, which is the work
you have mentioned, apparently a great piece, the piece belonging to Anna Di
What I have recently done is
translating sabiấ (thrush) into robin because of
superficial research: It seemed to me that the cultural value of the sabiấ in
the origin-language context was found only in the robin here,
in Australia. As another point, I have just noticed that if I had used thrush
in this piece, which was originally a very famous poem, people could actually
have remembered the disease instead of the bird, what would probably destroy
any chance that they would experience good things whilst reading it. I wonder
if you feel in the same way I do in what regards this sigmatoid.
See the original extract, and its
translated version (Gonçalves Dias, Canção do Exίlio, as seen in Poetry and Translation):
As aves, que aqui
Não gorjeiam como lá
My land has palms,
and that is the robin’s singing’s where;
The birds who here warble,
do not warble as in there.
I did my best, and you can also read
this from Poetry and Translation, to copy rhymes, geometric distribution, and
things like that. Can you see it?
I was a bit unhappy with the result
in terms of the first two lines, and you can probably see why, but I reckon we
must try: Some elements are essential, such as evident rhymes, and it is
possible that we don’t succeed with secondary elements, such as geometric
distribution, like you see that I succeed in terms of the last two lines, but I
have an inversion plus horrible increase in terms of the first two.
In compensation, the rhythmic pairs
were kept in what is evident. I wonder if you agree.
Dr. Pinheiro, I think the
operation you carried out in Canção do Exίlio is perfectly
justified both at the lexical level (e.g. translating sabiá by robin),
and on the plane of rhythm, rhyme, and geometric distribution. As a matter of
fact, although I have always been a strong supporter of Venuti’s foreignizing
views in my translation practice, I am convinced that poetic translation must
necessarily follow a different path. The dominant - to use
Jakobson’s term - of poetry emerges not so much in terms of content as of
general feeling, rhythm, and sound. Therefore, in order to achieve a satisfying
result, poetry cannot be approached philologically, but can - and even must, I
dare say - undergo a certain degree of rewriting. In my view, it is a process
of abstraction from the language, and formal features of the original that
leads the translator to recreate, to the best of their possibilities, the
phonic structure, and echoic features of the poem. It is just like crafting a
cage for a bird that provides it the best possible environment for life -
although a captive one, but one could say that a certain degree of captivity is
intrinsic to all translation! The next step would be to insert linguistic
elements that fit the new structure, elements that may very well be far removed
from the letter of the original - a new breed of bird, to
continue using the same metaphor - but convey the spirit, and overall
atmosphere of the original, or the impact it has on the source readership.
Dr. Magagnin, I feel that our
experiences, and opinions do match in some basic points: translating a poem,
and even the lyrics of a song, is something very different from translating a
technical text or even a piece of news; in literary work, it is not only
acceptable that we domesticate, but sometimes it is essential; we need to
recreate impact on our perceptive systems when translating an artistic piece,
so when performing artistic translation; footnotes are usually essential, even
in the translation of literary work; we can adapt things to the extent of
changing the breed of the bird because the source language bird is a common
bird in the place where the piece was written, but, in the target language
location, we have another breed that replaces that one in terms of cultural
value (more common); rhythm, sound, and oppositions even in terms of mental
images should be something we try to get to in the target language when
performing even literary translation; and we need to divide Translation into
subdomains, such as artistic, technical, and literary to be able to talk about
important matters in a proper manner, and to be able to judge the complexity of
the work involved.
One important thing
that you mention is that we try to recreate those effects to the best of our
capabilities, which is what I say as well: We must attempt to do that. It is
obviously very hard, like when I was trying to match the geometry of the
extract I have here mentioned with my target language extract, I noticed that I
couldn’t do that in a way to preserve more important features, such as evident
rhymes. I then opted for having that difference, on the top lines. We must now worry about the importance of the items in poetry then. I think I am
actually very ready to build work in this arena: We must try to create a
list of elements that we find in Poetry, and impose an order of importance to
those, since otherwise we cannot have a method to offer our students. You will
see that I have started something to that side: Book on T&I
It is through
conversations like ours that we can get to really important theory, theory that
can be applied in the classroom, and can therefore serve to set standards. We
must remember that those standards are what will, ultimately, enable us to
propose better prices, and conditions for work in our trades.
Wang, Z. (2014). Rosa Rosa Amore Mio. Libreria
Editrice Orientalia. Wang Book
Jacobson, R. (1981). Selected Writings: Poetry of
Grammar, Grammar of Poetry. V. 3. Jacobson Book