Comptes rendus de lecture

Malingret, Laurence. Stratégies de traduction: les Lettres hispaniques en langue française. Arras Cedex, Artois Presses Université, 2002, 264p.[Record]

  • Rosalind Gill

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  • Rosalind Gill
    York University

This volume presents the author’s research on translations of Hispanic literature into French. Working firmly within the paradigm of Descriptive Translation Studies, Laurence Malingret seeks to reveal the processes of selection, interpretation and rewriting in a corpus of French translations of Hispanic literature for a period of 30 years (1950-1980) — all titles in the corpus are conveniently appendixed at the end of the book. The translations under review are drawn from French, Canadian, Belgian and Swiss bibliographies, though, not surprisingly, but significantly, most of the corpus is made up of French publications. The period chosen for analysis is particularly rich in that it represents a time of clear evolution in the practice and circumstances of translation of Hispanic literature into French. The principles of descriptive methodology on which the book’s empirical analysis sits are well laid out: translation involves relations of discourse and power between two literary systems; these relations are inevitably hierarchical; norms of the target culture tend to dominate translation strategies; description of translation methodologies is inevitably empirical in that it must account for specific translations by translator/authors in specific target and source socio-economic contexts. Research results are supported by exhaustive theoretical justification. Indeed, the first 40 pages of the volume (Chapters 1 and 2) present an articulate overview of the history and evolution of the principles of DTS analysis, touching on notions of re-writing, fidelity, equivalence, norms, the poetics of translation and the subjectivity of the translator. The remaining chapters of the book are devoted to complete and detailed empirical evidence. Historically, Hispanic literature was deeply influenced by French literature, thus making relations between the two literary systems fertile ground for study. Chapters 3 and 4 of the book address the evolution of socio-economic circumstances under which Hispanic literature was translated into French in the 30 year period under review. The author raises practical issues, who publishes, who translates, who is translated, the decentralization of publishing houses handling Hispanic literature in France (the creation for example of the Actes du Sud in Arles) and the slow market growth from a trickle of translations of Peninsular classics such as Don Quixote to the eventual explosion and opening up (in the 60s) to publications of pan-Hispanic works in translation. Chapter 4 demonstrates how the evolution of norms and conventions in translation of titles reveals a definite change in attitude to reception in the French literary system. For example, avoidance of stereotypes and inclusion of Spanish words in titles (unthinkable some years ago) would indicate a certain opening up to “foreigness” and willingness on the part of publishers to risk letting the reader know that the book is in fact a translation. Though the information presented in this part of the book is well-documented and mostly interesting, one is left with a desire for deeper analysis of the (hierarchical) relations between Hispanic and French cultures and of how French perceptions of Hispanic culture, the specific nature of this interculture, effected selection and publication of translations. Were works close to French literary sensibility chosen for translation? How did perceptions of art, class and refinement in the two cultures effect selection of books for translation? What historically were French criteria for the “littérature de prestige” that was deemed worthy of translation? The discussion does make some reference to political movements and their influence on literary systems — the growth of interest in Latin American ideologies from the 60s onward, or the pivotal role of the Catalan Seix Baral house in publishing minority points of view. Nonetheless, a more ample discussion of how ideological, class and colonial attitudes influence the circumstances of …