Corps de l’article
Creative Constraints: Translation and Authorship, edited by Rita Wilson and Leah Gerber is structured in three parts: Transcreation and Self-translation, Creative Practice, and Translations. The first part is in turn divided into five theoretical chapters, while the second offers three practical ones, and finally the third comprises three translations. As the editors write in the introduction, “this collection of essays aims to illustrate the parallel and overlapping discourses within the cognate areas of literary studies, creative writing and translation studies.” They also state that some of the contributions in this volume were written by participants of Translated!, the inaugural Literary Translation Summer School, run by Monash University in collaboration with the British Centre for Literary Translation in February 2011.
The first chapter notes that refraction is a useful concept in examining how texts can veer off in different directions from the original, how they adapt to new forms and meanings, and how English speakers can read something different from the novelistic canon in the West. The explanations are generally quite intuitive and reasonable, especially in the section Optical Illusions, devoted to translation as refraction of literary works. Valerie Henitiuk uses the metaphor of the telescope to explain how translation allows us to observe a brighter and clearer image of the literary work by means of refraction.
In chapter two we read that the Spanish poet Leopoldo Panero defines the notion of “per-version” as the literary re-creation and proliferation, at least equal in quality to the “original” creation. Ramón López Castellanos’s chapter offers a wise and well-documented view of Spanish poète maudit Panero’s vision of translation as a possible but perverted activity where translation aims to leave only the original sense intact so as to produce a similar aesthetic effect.
On the other hand, Rita Wilson explores the process of self-translation in four contemporary Italophone women writers. She argues that an examination of the self-translating process can help in understanding cultural differences and demonstrates the potential opening up of new sources of literary creativity by renewing literary language and traditions. Wilson’s insightful notion of multilingual creation as a means to “enter, know and become the Other,” helps us considerably to define how our experiences can be translated into knowledge for other culturally different people.
Finally, poet and literary translator Ouyang Yu feels that self-translation has not received adequate attention from publishing companies and scholars, and that fiction and poetry translated from Chinese into English is vital to the survival of the writer-translation, while Lia Hills contends that the very process of self-translation by an author writing amounts to a translation of the “self.”
The second section, Creative Practice, affords us the most original and real accounts of the practice of translation. In her article about her own translation into Italian of Alice Pung’s Unpolished Gem, Adele D’Arcangelo begins by offering Boase-Beier and Holman’s (1999: 6) quote summarizing the intertextual and extratextual constraints to which all creative authors, including translators, are bound. Perhaps the best contribution of D’Arcangelo is the demonstration in her own work of the Bassnett and Bush’s (2006: 8) notion that translators inhabit an “in-betweenness,” an undefinable “space of hybridity” between the source language (SL) and the target language (TL), the paradigm of the process that produces intercultural clashes and contaminations, which helps re-establish cross-linguistic perspectives while also offering multicultural encounters for potential target readers.
On the other hand, Jean Anderson’s comments on her translation of Moetai Brotherson’s Le Roi absent, are especially sharp and inspiring. Different aspects of (post)colonial humour are elucidated – word play, interlingual humour, humour and the erotic, and the use of juxtaposition – and solutions to the untranslatability of humour, i.e., various ways to offer a proper translation of it, frequently as an imbalance between textual features and original context in a sort of conflict of power relations, as Tymoczko and Gentzler (2000) maintain.
In chapter eight, award-winning literary translator Peter Bush makes a carefully interesting comparison of the different edited translations into English of Juan Goytisolo’s Juan sin tierra (1975), including Helen Lane’s translation and his own two versions, stressing the intertextual constraints around the various processes of these translations. The translator emphasizes the necessary collaboration between editor and translator in translating for publication and the potential benefits from this interaction, especially in training literary translators. Bush concludes with the idea that translation relies on many different aspects and constraints beyond the mere linguistic and intellectual, such as nationality, socio-cultural situation, geographical area, and temporal period. He also questions some generally accepted notions such as that translation leaves no room for either improvization or variation of the author’s intention, and whether we can ever really be sure of the author’s intention, reminding us of the constant presence of the subjective element in a creative translation process. Unfortunately, we cannot always observe such inspiration and self-confident appreciation when we are teaching, but such is the nature of translation, at least until translation becomes a science.
Finally, in Translation, the last section of this volume, former directors of the BCLT Peter Bush, Jean Anderson, and Heike Brandt offer their respective translations of Spanish Jorge Carrión’s Los muertos (“The Dead”), Tahitian Moetai Brotherson’s Le Roi absent (“The Missing King”), and German Heike Brandt’s Wie ein Vogel in Käfig (“Like a Bird in a Cage”).
Summing up, in this volume of essays Wilson and Gerber skillfully prove their initial statement that in translation a process of “intertextual grafting” occurs, so that the work of the translator not only responds to, but also complements that of the creative writer. Hence, the different notions of “refraction,” “transcreation” and “per-version” designate different means through which translations mirror “original” texts and act as “(re)creations” and transformations of the self.
We could say that “transcreation” refers to the process of creation across languages and cultures when translating a literary work, whereas “refraction” has to do with the diverging process produced while translating from one culture to another; i.e., the resultant gains and losses to the original work during the translating process (see Llácer 2004). “Writer-translation” is the process by which a literary author translates his/her own work into another language. Finally “multilingual creation” occurs when a bilingual author produces a version of a work which mixes at least two points of view in a bicultural product of translation.
This collective work is clearly valuable for its wisdom and insight into the exercise of translation, aptly combining a theoretical support with practical exercises on the evaluation of literary translations which should greatly assist translation lecturers and teachers. Also very important is that all contributors acknowledge the true value of translation to the literary creative process. The only objection to this kind of work is that obviously because of the nature of translation, analyses cannot always be strictly scientific since translation is not an exact science. But for the rest, I enjoyed reading this work overall and heartily recommend it to translators, researchers and scholars interested in literary translation.
- Bassnett, Susan and Bush, Peter (2006): The Translator as Writer. London/New York: Continuum.
- Llácer Llorca, Eusebio Vicente (2004): Sobre la traducción: ideas tradicionales y teorías contemporáneas. Valencia: Universitat de València.
- Tymoczko, Maria and Gentzler Edwin, eds. (2002): Translation and Power. Amherst: University of Massachusetts Press.