Problems of artistic translation

    Literary translation is a very special kind of translation activity. If the general theory of translation is almost fully developed today, then the questions and problems of literary translation remain open.

    The thing is that literary translation is practically not amenable to formalization and the result depends largely on the subjective perception of the translator.

    The translation of a work of art is so multifaceted that translators have long argued over the definition itself.

    In general, most translators consider T. Kazakova’s most accurate explanation:

    “Literary translation is a special type of intellectual activity, during which the translator establishes an informational correspondence between the language units of the source and translating languages, allowing to create a foreign language analogue of the original artistic text as a secondary sign system that meets the literary and communicative requirements and language habits of society in a certain stage. " [ Kazakova T.A. Literary translation ]

    Definition, of course, is not easy, so for people who are far from philology and translation theory, let us explain: literary translation should convey all the features of the text without losing emotional perception, and also take cultural differences into account.

    For example, we have a work in English, in which the main character finds a manuscript of the XIV century in Old English, excerpts from which are in the text. An important task of the translator will be to convey the meaning and style of the manuscript - perhaps through Old Church Slavonic writing or Russian before Peter's reform, with all the omegas and Izhits.

    Problems of artistic translation

    Theorists identify 4 main problems of the translation of an artistic text:

    1. Intractability of individual text tokens.
    2. Impact on the translation of the translator's personality.
    3. Unclear criteria for assessing the quality of translation of works of art.
    4. Full transfer of subject-logical content, stylistic and imaginative elements of the work, as well as mentality and national peculiarities of thinking.

    Let’s discuss with you all the main problems and possible solutions that are offered by well-known theorists and translation practices.

    Problem 1. Difficult to translate individual text tokens

    Lexical units in different languages ​​differ from each other. However, some units are not translated directly simply due to the lack of a direct analogue in the language. Therefore, the translator is required to find or in fact invent this analogue.

    The devil is in the details. Let's take a few simple examples.

    In Ukrainian, both hard cheese and curd are denoted by one word - “sire”. When translating from Ukrainian, the translator has a question: what exactly did the author mean by the word “sir” - “cheese” or “cottage cheese”?

    If there are minor elements that can indirectly clarify this - great.

    For example, in the text there is a phrase “Іvan taking shmatok sira” (“Ivan took a piece of cheese”). It is logical to assume that hard cheese is meant here, because it is difficult to take cottage cheese with a piece - it crumbles.

    And in the phrase “Ivan z'їv a spoon of sir” (“Ivan ate a spoon of cottage cheese”) it means curd, because hard cheese is not eaten with spoons.

    But there are cases when the context does not dispel ambiguity. And in this case, the decision remains for the translator.

    A separate category includes phrases and words that are not fundamentally translated or have a deeper meaning than a literal translation.

    For example, the Arabic phrase يقبرني (Ya'aburnee) literally translates as "You bury me." In direct translation, it sounds depressive, but its real value is much deeper. Usually it is pronounced to its beloved (or lover). The meaning of this phrase is that the person speaking it hopes that the interlocutor will outlive him in order not to experience the pain of life without the interlocutor himself. That is, it is easier for him to die himself than to see the death of a dear person.

    To translate it correctly from Arabic to Russian, will have to sweat. One phrase with the deepest meaning will turn into a whole sentence. And even in this case, it will be extremely difficult to convey the meaning.

    If there are difficult-to-translate or essentially untranslatable words and phrases in the text, the translator is responsible for the accuracy of the transmission of meaning and mood. And you have to literally get out. Sometimes it is successful, but, as practice shows, most often the complete and accurate transmission of open meaning and hidden subtext is simply unrealistic to achieve. Ce la vie, as they say.

    Problem 2. The influence of the translator’s personality on translation

    A very, very subjective moment, which does not always depend on the objectivity of perception. This is especially true for complex works with a lot of subtext and hidden thoughts.

    A translator is a man. And he may tritely not understand what the author meant, so when translating some of the meanings may be lost. And all readers, in turn, will no longer be able to find out what the author really wanted to say. Of course, if they do not read in the original language.

    In order to avoid such loss of meaning, translators conduct lengthy and multi-level pre-translation training.

    It includes a detailed analysis of the linguistic, cognitive and cultural aspects of the text. That is, the style, language, widely used words and phrases, literary methods of influencing the reader, used images and associations are analyzed in detail.

    On the basis of the information received, a certain “spherical model of the text in a vacuum” is created. The translator finds the main elements that form the impression of the artwork. And only then, when the basic components are clearly defined, the direct translation phase begins.

    Many translators also analyze the personality of the writer and his biography, as well as historical events that took place during or immediately before writing the work.

    Such a conceptual analysis allows us to formalize the translation process of fiction, which improves the quality of the translator’s work as a whole.

    Problem 3. Unclear criteria for assessing the quality of translation of works of art.

    This is a matter of perception of translation. Indeed, despite the huge number of scientific articles that reveal the problems of literary translation, no one knows how the perception of translation is shaped by readers.

    How does the reader come to the conclusion that the translation is good if he almost always did not read the original? The question remains open.

    In essence, the reader perceives the literary translation of the book as the book itself. Many simply do not think that they are reading the work with the help of an intermediary, which is the translator.

    If the book did not please the reader, then it is unclear what exactly does not like - the original idea and performance of the author, or specifically the translation.

    Statistically correct selection of translation quality is almost impossible to compile. After all, the number of readers who read both the original and the translation of the work is extremely small - no more than 1%. And this is the case of cult books. This, for example, such bestsellers as "The Green Mile" by Stephen King or "Harry Potter" by JK Rowling.

    The selection of medium-famed books (for example, “The Magus” by John Fowles) cannot be done at all due to lack of data.

    Interestingly, public perception of translation often does not depend on the translator at all.

    Take, for example, the rest of the day by the British writer Katszuo Ishiguro. He received the Booker Prize and Anthony Hopkins and Emma Thompson played in his film adaptation. A good indicator of success, right? But the Russian translation of the book from Vladimir Skorodenko was accepted by the society rather coldly. Moreover, the translation itself was at a height both technically and artistically. But the “true British” style of narration seemed boring to many, which is why the book did not receive much popularity in Russia.

    Therefore, even a really good translation can be considered a mediocre book. And the problem will not be in translation, not in the original text, but in the banal difference in the reader's perception.

    Problem 4. Complete transfer of subject-logical content, stylistic and figurative elements of the work

    Rather, it is not even a problem, but a challenge. It can be completely solved by the professionalism of the translator and an extraordinary amount of ingenuity.

    A very interesting example of translational ingenuity is the translation of Hagrid's remarks from the Harry Potter book series by JK Rowling.

    In the original work, the half-great speaks of a bizarre mixture of Scottish and Irish dialects.

    «A wizard, o 'course,» said Hagrid, sitting back down on the sofa, which
    groaned and sank even lower, «an' a thumpin 'good'un, I'd say, once
    yeh've been trained up a bit . With what you
    want , what would yeh be? An 'I reckon it's abou' time yeh read yer letter. "

    In the Russian translation of Igor Oransky from the publishing house ROSMEN, Hagrid began to speak quite colloquially, often using village expressions, but without an obvious accent. This is quite a decent way to show the character of the character due to difficulties in using the original lexemes.

    - Well, of course you are a magician. - Hagrid sat back on the sofa, which groaned lingeringly and slipped even lower. - And what! And you will be even better ... when a little ... uh ... learn a little, yes. Who else could you be with such and such parents? In general, it's time for you to read your letter.

    And, for example, when translating into Ukrainian, the translator Viktor Morozov decided to convey Hagrid's true dialect (which in Ukrainian became GeUrіdom).

    In the original, Hagrid's dialect of artificially created Rowling is not said so either in Scotland or in Ireland, but similarities are traced.

    According to Victor Morozov himself: “I didn’t want Hagrid to speak in ordinary and normal literary language. I thought for a long time how to solve this problem. And as a result, the idea to give Hagrid a mix of Western Ukrainian dialects: Hutsul, Lemkovsky, Boykovsky and Pokut. There was a plan to create a nonexistent mixture of languages, as it was done in the original. ”

    The result was rather peculiar, but was accepted by the public simply enchanting. Here, for example, the same excerpt from the book, but in Ukrainian.

    - Charіvnik, that's fine, - having said Geirid, I’m once again on a canap, the yak zaskripila ry
    bent over lower, - and then the charger is duy fayn, tobi only marriage trohi osvity. W
    such mamoyu i remnants, yak at you hіba mozhna Buti kimos іnshim? Before speech, I’m wondering if
    it’s time to read your sheet.

    Many translators believe that transferring the style and images of a work of art is only a matter of translator's professionalism. Another issue is that each book requires an individual selection of stylistic tools of the translator, which do not always correspond to those used by the author in the original.


    As a conclusion, let us say: when the translation is bad, the translator is abused, and when the translation is good, the author is praised.

    And most often, the names of the unfortunate translators are heard by readers, but the names of real professionals often remain only on the title pages of books and are known only in narrow circles.

    Therefore, from the whole team of the EnglishDom online school, we want to thank the translators of artistic works. - online English learning platform

    → Crank in English on online courses from
    By reference - 2 months premium subscription for all courses as a gift.

    → For live communication - choose individual training via Skype with a teacher.
    The first trial lesson is free, register here . The promo code goodhabr2 - 2 lessons as a gift when buying from 10 lessons. The bonus is valid until 05/31/19.

    Also popular now: