Wang, H. Y. (2006): On the Criticism of Literary Translation (in Chinese), Shanghai, Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 236 p.
Tianjin University of Technology, Tianjin, China
China has a long history in exploring translation criticism, but there are few contributions that deal with the theme systematically. On the Criticism of Literary Translation is one of the rare books to tackle the criticism of literary translation. It is an excellent contribution to Translation Studies in China as well as worldwide.
Wang’s book is composed of nine chapters. The book begins with the “Introduction: Establishing the Conditions and Tentative Idea of the Criticism of Literary Translation,” which emphases the following points: the translated book(s), the fostering of critics, the study of the translated, publishing of the review, disputes between different schools, law-probing, and the establishment of the discipline. “Theoretical Preparation: From Literary Criticism to the Criticism of Literary Translation” discusses 1) the survey of the concept in Western literary criticism in preparation for the introduction of the concept, 2) examining the problems and train of thought of literary criticism by following the main issues and different schools in preparation for experience and reference, and 3) discussing the cultural origins and major traditions, as well as the merits and demerits in theory and practice of different schools, in order to lay a theoretical basis for establishing the new discipline. Chapter Three explores its nature, type and function. Wang feels that translation criticism (belonging to Translation Studies) is an aesthetic cognitive activity with empirical comprehension, which is cross-disciplinary. There are three types of criticism: for theorization, for creation and for translation. Moreover, translation criticism has the functions of reading guidance, quality evaluation and ideological guidance. The subjectivity, approaches and operational procedure of translation criticism are tackled in the following chapter. It argues that a critic should possess the following qualifications: knows both languages and cultures, possesses translation skills and appreciation, with literary taste, familiar with the original and translated texts, empathy and understanding, philosophical-minded, and polite. Wang maintains that criticism should be done through integrated approaches such as the blending of different aesthetic judgments and social values. Ten specific approaches are listed: close reading, sampling, comparative method, logic approach, quantitative method, interpretation, intertextuality, historical study, modeling, and evaluation. Wang’s operational procedure is then presented: reading of the original, reading of the translation, comparative study, effect evaluation, value judgment, and angle of commentary. Chapter Five deals with the principle, the criterion and grading system of translation criticism. The general principles are objectivity, wholeness, accuracy, economy, and consistency. Based on traditional Chinese criteria such as “faithfulness, expressiveness and elegance,” “alike in both spirit and form” and “sublimation,” Wang proposes that the working criterion should consider the following: language, inclination, tension, gender, style and taste. Wang, just as he sets three grades for creation criterion and effect evaluation: excellent, good and awkward, also sets three grades for translation criterion and effect evaluation: excellent, good and awkward. He also sets three supplementary criteria for the grades of translation: whether the translated version is innovative and creative in method; whether it merges and blazes new idea in language use; and whether it stimulates theoretical enlightenment in translation.
“Text, Style and Intertextuality of Translation Criticism” constitutes the central part of literary translation criticism. Wang divides the style into primary type (such as novel, prose, poetry, and drama), secondary type (such as epic, biography prose poem, words of song, and poetic drama), and meta-language: literature theory in translation. The intertextuality means that it is because of the translation issue of intertextuality that the translated product, when entering the literary history of the target language, brings the shadow of the original all along. And the target – reader’s reading process shows a gloomy figure – the translator, the cultural disseminator with dual identities. Chapter Seven centers on the criticism of literary translation and cultural intervention. First it discusses the referential elements of criticism of literary translation: translation directions (translations into or from the native language, cooperation of source and target translators, and back translation), and the approaches to translation (relay translation, retranslation done by the same translator or other translator(s), and restoration of the ancient edition). Then comes its background variable, which should take into consideration encountering, interactions, and intervention. Lastly it explores the reader’s response to it. Usually the reader can be divided into the masses, intellectuals, translation circle, and criticizer, with several others as supplement such as SL text reader and TL text reader, monolingual reader and bilingual reader, target reader and effect reader, and ideal reader and statistical reader. For operational purposes the reader’s response could be tackled from the translator’s standpoint, various reading styles, and comprehensive study and evaluation. Chapter Eight concerns writing styles, and contains book reviews, letter, essay, thesis (research paper and dissertation), monograph, and critical biography. The last chapter describes its academic position and future outlook. Translation criticism is the bridge between translation theory and practice, and it comprises three basic levels: practical, critical and theoretical levels. Criticism of literary translation should entail: 1) examining the merits and demerits of the criticism of traditional Chinese translation, 2) striving for its development in the scope of the world’s literature and cultures, and 3) working to build a translation discipline.
The ideas in this book are unique and fascinating. Wang, while perceiving the basic theory and philosophical basis and further seeking to define the discipline, advances a concept of literary translation criticism that combines appreciation and research, and initially establishes its unique theoretical frame by skillfully applying the multi-disciplinary scope and comprehensively examining the current typical phenomena of literary translation. On the other hand, Wang, from the initial enlightenment obtained from the translation of ancient and contemporary poetry, offers an operational process of translation criticism, grading system and writing paradigm by taking both theoretical construction and academic criticism, combining the theories of traditional Chinese literature and the mode of literary criticism, and incorporating the rational elements from the achievements of contemporary literary theories and Translation Studies in the West.
Wang’s book contains many appendices, one or two per chapter. The appendices cover the following topics: basic setups of literary criticism, ten difficulties in appreciating poetry (such as plain sense, sensuous apprehension, visual image, mnemonic irrelevance, stock response, sentimentality, inhibition, doctrinal adherence, technical presupposition, and critical preconception), ten criticisms of the traditional Bible (such as editing criticism, form criticism, literary criticism, literal interpretation, textual criticism, allegorical interpretation, typological interpretation, rationalist interpretation, analogical interpretation, and demythologization), common types of translation criticism, ten taboos for critics of literary translation (to be unselfish, not self-centered, not self-important, not self-abased, not self-resigned, not sarcastic, not fence-sitting, not mysterious, not snobbish and not one-sided), eight literary styles, sampling grading appraisal of English-Chinese and English-Chinese translations, referential criteria for evaluating poetry translation (literary format, poetic taste, language expression, cultural consideration, ideological inclination, and style typology), ten taboos for the approaches to literary translation (shifting, makeup, stereotype, stagnation, skillfulness, overloaded, cloudy, unreasonable, misalliance, and tasteless), the working organism of ideology, misleading of feminist literature and its translation criticism (such as neglecting its existence, male writers/translators describing women’s words, much heavier emphasis on translating men’s works, male translators translating women’s works, ignoring the response of women readers, treating feminism unfairly). Ten keywords concerning criticism of literary translation (such as, negative and dull, common sense ending, excessive value judgment, multiple dimensions, culture as the last resort, essentially subjective, readers’ response and responsibility, lost generation and generalization, rationality or reality, and style as a style), ten categories about theories of translation Buddhist sutra, key points on translation criticism of Hongloumeng, or The Dream of Red Mansion, a classical Chinese novel. The appendices not only make the writing style of the book quite different from others, the content more substantial, interesting, but also make the book more Chinese and more readable.
Translation criticism is relatively backward in China. There is a great need for translation critics, who are vastly under-represented compared to the great many persons engaged in theoretical research, personnel fostering and translation practice. In China, the translation critic is seen as someone who is unable to do translation. Likewise, the reviewer is seen as someone who cannot do research work. Hence, translation critics and book reviewers are looked down upon. This is deleterious to Translation Studies because translation criticism is a major part of it. It is high time to reverse the trend. Wang’s monograph is one effective step towards this goal.
Wang is well-qualified to have written this book given his background as M.A. both in psychology and literature, as a Chinese calligrapher, a lover of traditional Chinese nature paintings of mountains, water, as a writer, poet, translation practitioner, college teacher of English-Chinese and Chinese-English translation, the head of a Translation Studies center, and his familiarity with the nature of translation.
In sum, the book under review is excellent although it only discusses one aspect of literary translation and ignores the other, variable translation such as edited translation, selective translation, partial translation, and simplified translation. It is a very good initiative and an important contribution to Translation Studies.
|Auteur :||Jianzhong Xu|
|Ouvrage recensé :||Wang, H. Y. (2006): On the Criticism of Literary Translation (in Chinese), Shanghai, Shanghai Foreign Language Education Press, 236 p.|
|Revue :||Meta : journal des traducteurs / Meta: Translators' Journal, Volume 53, numéro 4, décembre 2008, p. 933-935|
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