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Translated by Soren Gauger
Many scholars see it as problematic that the poetics of translation should exist as a distinct field in the humanities. Custom dictates that we speak more of translation theory, or of the duties of translation criticism, than of poetics.
Why is this? In our present-day understanding and sensibility poetics first responds to a general question – “How does the literary work exist?”
Zarys teorii literatury, Warsaw 1967, p. 6.
It is my belief that artistic translation is subject to its own laws in addition to the universal laws of literature, and thus it exists, to phrase it with caution, somewhat differently from native-language works, and consequently, the poetics of artistic translation has all due
raison d’être. I shall confine myself to the most basic arguments. The native literary work, written “directly” in the native language, is a one-time, or, in other words, a write-once statement. The essence of the single original work is its assumed uniqueness. Even if there are two versions of the same original piece by the same author (such as the two versions of Leo Tolstoy’s War and Peace), these are the exceptions that confirm the rule. In such cases, the scholar, publisher, and reader select one version which they acknowledge to be canonical. With translations, the reverse occurs. A translation of a foreign-language work is always one of many possible expressions. Multiplicity and repeatability are therefore essential attributes of translations. The same foreign-language work can serve as the basis for a whole series of translations in a given language. (For example, there are three Polish translations of The Lay of the Love and Death of Christoph Cornet Rilke, five Bulgarian translations of the Polish national epic Pan Tadeusz [Master Thaddeus], four Polish versions of Mayakovsky’s “Oblako v štanach” [A Cloud in Trousers] etc.).
Translation thus exists in a series of translations. A series is the basic form of existence for artistic translation. Such is the specificity of its ontology. Even if a foreign-language work has been translated into our tongue only once, we apprehend this translation as the beginning of a series of other translations that will or may be created in future. It is vital that both a partially realized and a potential series are open to further development. They are sequences which, for all practical purposes, are infinite; they are open sets. Thus, in an open-ended series, with its constant readiness to include new and competing solutions, every translation is, as it were, “open.” It opens up in two different directions: toward the foreign-language original, and toward the competing components of the series. This “openness” of the translation also poses a danger. The original can question both the meaning and the poetics of a given translation. The competing components of the series can also question it, or even eliminate it from circulation.
I believe this should suffice to close these opening remarks with the comment that examining an artistic translation requires special instruments, which should be the subject of interest of a separate discipline: the poetics of translation.The Poetics of Artistic Translation in Literary History
Even as it is taught in schools, the history of literature aknowledges the contribution of the art of translation to the development of national literature. Grade-school students find out, for instance, that
Raj duszny [Little Garden of the Soul] is a translation rendered by Biernat of Lublin. They encounter literary protagonists of past epochs, such as Till Eulenspiegel, Aesop, or Marcolf, who have appeared in our culture thanks to translators and through translations. They are aware of the direct or indirect links to foreign-language literary traditions found in Mikołaj Rej, Jan Kochanowski, and Łukasz Górnicki. Precisely — links that are direct or indirect. Even the simplest information in this field requires that we use elementary concepts from the poetics of translation. The concept of translation alone will not suffice. On the one hand, the degree of dependence of the translation on the original, and on the other hand, the kind of innovations introduced by the translator make the variants of the translated works differ. If we call Kochanowski’s Psałterz [Psalter] a “translation,” we call Górnicki’s Dworzanin Polski [Polish Courtier] a “new remake,” while Biernat of Lublin’s Żywot Ezopa Frygi [Life of Aesop of Phrygia] is a “versified remake,” etc. Nor can we deny that the more precise the set of concepts from the field of poetics the literary historian has at their disposal, the more clearly they can define the nature of a given work. The concepts of poetics are not there in order to satisfy someone’s disinterested proclivity for “pigeonholing.” The concepts of poetics of translation are there to give justice to both the original and the translation; they should describe the translator’s standpoint, and finally, evaluate the role that a given translation has played in the native literature.
From this we can see that the poetics of artistic translation sees its real applicability for literary history, a subject whose practical interests lie in the development of poetics of translation. At any rate, this is how it should be; unfortunately, more often than not this is not the case. The majority of works on literary history, especially textbooks, make only occasional reference to the poetics of translation, reluctantly, as it were, limiting themselves to the two above concepts: “translation” and “remake.” Or: “faithful” and “unfaithful” translation. Yet there is a vast range of intermediate variants between the “translation” and the “remake,” and a dozen ways to be “faithful” or “unfaithful” to the original. It is easy to confuse these variants, particularly in attributing the so-called “influences and dependencies,” which undoubtedly do exist in literatures of various languages. There is a constant exchange of artistic qualities. This is, however, an exchange in which the foreign-language text has several barriers to cross: natural languages, the literary traditions of the two different national cultures, and the rules of the art of translation that oblige in a given time. The diversity of the transformations that a work can undergo in the act of translation leads to more or less visible changes in its original meaning. Who and what can be the source of “influence” in such conditions? It can be the author of the original. Then the matter is simple. It can also primarily be the translator. This also simplifies things. We receive either a “faithful translation” or an “unfaithful remake.” Most often, however, the source of the “influence” is both the foreign-language writer and the native-speaking translator. Then everything becomes more complicated. Then we must summon the apparatus of poetics of translation in order to separate what has come from “abroad” into the native culture, and what has been produced “on site,” by the translator. In the translator’s workshop.“The Catcher in the Rye over a Precipice”
The thesis of Section One ought to be documented with a precise analysis of a series of translations of a single foreign-language work. Instead, we shall attempt the following maneuver — rather than a whole literary work, we shall take a part of it: its title. There are works in which the role of the title is hard to overestimate. It contains everything that is vital to the piece as a whole: the main theme, the poetic concept, the key to a stylistic code. Jerome Salinger’s
The Catcher in the Rye Tetradi perevodčika. Moscow 1966, pp. 12-15. The editors’ note: The list of English equivalents of respective titles was restored after Salinger’s bibliography by Donald M. Fiene, originally used by Rossels as the source for his Russian translations. See: D.M. Fiene, “J. D. Salinger: A Bibliography,” Wisconsin Studies in Contemporary Literature 4.1. (Winter), 1963, pp. 109-149. Having travelled in translation via English, Russian, and Polish, some of these versions may eventually differ from Balcerzan’s Polish approximations. . The word “catcher” is a baseball term. It is associated with “grabbing,” “catching,” indirectly also with “hunting.” The languages into which Salinger’s novel has been translated have no strict equivalent for the word “catcher.” Every translation solves this problem differently. Many translations attempt to hold onto the metaphorical value of the title and to remain within the field of meanings marked out by the title of the original. The Finnish and Serbian titles: The Hunter in the Rye ( Sieppari ruispellossa and
Lovaci u raži, respectively). The Czech translation: He Who Hunts in the Rye ( Kdo chytá v žitě ) . One of German versions: The Man in the Rye ( Der Mann im Roggen) . The Polish version: Wanderer in the Grain Field ( Buszujący w zbożu) . A Spanish translation: The Hidden Hunter ( El cazador oculto). All these suggestions eliminate the The Precipice in the Rye ( Kuristik rukkis) . A Russian translation: Over the Precipice in the Rye ( Nad propastju vo rži). The Korean translation: The Precipice ( Danae/ 단애). The Heart Catcher (the French translation, L'Attrape-cœurs) suggests a swashbuckling romance. The Young Holden (the Italian translation, Il giovane Holden) sounds like the first part of a family saga. Savior in Time of Need (the Swedish translation, Räddaren i nöden) makes us expect a thriller with a moral at the end. Lonely Journey (the Dutch version, Eenzame zwerftocht) puts us in mind of adventure and travel literature. Life of a Man Vita da uomo) could in fact correspond to any genre.
If a single title of a foreign-language work can refract into so many translation variants, appealing to such diverse fields of meaning and to so many conventions, it is easy to imagine to what transformations the semantic whole of the original might succumb in the act of translation. How many “influences and dependencies” confirmed by literary history need to be questioned, reinterpreted, and redescribed.Note Added in 1997
In the first version of this article I limited my description of the translation series to a single translation: the marvelously multiplied meanings of the title of Salinger’s famous novel. Today I see that this example might provide a somewhat distorted image of the series. This is because the title of a work (be it literature or film) tends to be changed by the translators more often and emphatically than other aspects of the work, and unceremoniously so. This is seen more sharply in the truly rueful history of film title translation than in literature. Ever since the interwar period, when, for example, the Soviet comedy
Vesëlye rebjata [Happy Guys] was shown to Polish audiences under the title Świat się śmieje [The World Is Laughing] – doubtless because of the idiomatic trap of the word rebjata – the carte blanche of translators for the silver screen has been exercised to terrifying effect. Small wonder then that, in Poland, one method of salvaging the original intention, in which the title often plays a major role, has been to entirely forgo the translation of film (and music) titles, or to publish original titles alongside their Polish translations.
The essence of a translation series is not the destruction of the meanings designed in the original, but the tension between what blasts out these meanings and what consolidates them.
To demonstrate this game, let us have a look at the (truly astonishing!) series of Polish translations of a certain very famous (and extremely succinct) text by William Shakespeare: “Why, let the stricken deer go weep...”.
The diversity of the fifteen Polish translations of the famous quatrain from
Hamlet simply staggers the reader. There is no agreement among translators as to the profiles or the “names” of the protagonists of the bloody forest incident. Whoever could it be? A fallow deer, a moose, a deer, a stag, a single protagonist or a collective one, a beast (an animal) with no particular characteristics – or an ill-defined mass, a wilderness? Of course, our translators are fairly unanimous in understanding what happened to this creature of many names. They say it has been wounded (hurt, struck, hit – these words are synonymous, though subtle differences emerge from the varied names. Most of the terms suggest an image of hunting, and thus man as the hunter, the culprit; but tthehere are also those that indicate another sort of aggressor: an animal can be wounded by another animal, one that is stronger and predatory).
But how does the bleeding primeval forest/woods/groves-dweller act in the translations? The material gives evidence to a distressingly tangled array of possibilities. “It fell breathless,” cries one. “It flees” (and thus lives), another claims. It does not yet suffer, but “goes to weep,” a third interjects reassuringly. And the rest, each in their own way, say it “weeps” “sobs,” “spills tears,” “goes mad,” “sways,” “cries with pain,” “chokes a roar...” Indeed, a reader could only take a doubtful approach to such a wealth of translations of a single work. What a chaotic mess! (As in Adam Mickiewicz’s romantic ballad “Powrót taty”
However, the moment we inquire into the overall meaning of this “Polish Shakespeare” we find that the entire series of translations retains practically the same meaning. The following construct of ideas repeats with stubborn consistency: 1. Someone suffers. 2. Someone is saved. 3. Someone’s suffering saves someone else. 4. That is how things go in this world.
All the translations capture the twofold construction: thesis and illustration. First the illustration, then the thesis. From the specific to the general. This is, perhaps, more peculiar than the discrepancy in the details. After all, fifteen translators over a space of 150 years (1840-1990) understood almost the same content in the Shakespearean quatrain! Subsequent epochs, generations, ideologies, and individuals humbly took the lesson of the brilliant playwright without attempting to insert their own truths or mottos. (Although the politically sensitive might see evidence of the epoch taking its effect in the 1953 translation, with the menacing words, “Someone sleeps, and to someone sleep has been forbidden” – highly reminiscent of the prison atmosphere of Stalinism).
The intellectual innovations, on the other hand, do command our attention. Here is one (most recent) departure from the norm sanctioned by tradition: fourteen translators found the opposition of the sacrifice and salvation in the world of living creatures, while only one (in the vein of Ecclesiastes) found it in the transformations of time (“For there is time of sleep and time to be vigilant”). But there truly are few differences in the overall understanding.
If this be the case, then why were so many translations produced? We have to return to the point of departure. To the details, be they visual, lexical, rhythmic, or in intonation. To asking which images most powerfully stir the reader’s imagination: the animal “dashing through the wood,” the doe that “flashes merrily through the forest,” or the herd that “runs off into the woods”? Which phrase rings more true and more clearly illuminates the poet’s theme: “This is the way of the world”? “For this is the meaning of existence”? “Thus, the world turns”?
Thus, we return to the mysteries of artistry. Every new artistic convention begs for a new translation.
And the great tournament continues – for 150 years and counting.Second Note Added in 1997
We find the least discrepancies within a series when it comes to translations of the Bible. Identical phrases are often repeated in consecutive translations; sometimes changes are required by the obscurity of the original. As a general rule, the differences in translations are limited to subtle variations of synonyms, word order, intonation, and rhythm.
There are two reasons for the differences in the Polish translations of the fifth verse of
Psalm 136. The first is the vagueness of the original Hebrew words (the collective lament of the Judean exiles says: “may my right hand forget”, for which attempts have been made to replace “may my right hand be forgotten,” or with more graphic images of corporal punishment: may it “die,” may it “wither”). The second cause is a question of eloquence, or pure aesthetics.
Here are a few versions in translation (there are more):
The more texts that accumulate in a series (biblical or otherwise!), the more we succumb to the (cynical?) illusion that the retranslation no longer requires contact with the original or even any knowledge of the original language (or languages). All that is required is a paraphrase, an intralinguistic translation: from Polish into Polish.The Poetics of Translation in the General Theory of the Art of Translation
The poetics of artistic translation is not merely part of a more general theory of the art of translation. This is because the general theory does not, at present, constitute a uniform whole. It crumbles into several viewpoints, it flows in several streams. It is more convenient to speak of various theoretical concepts of translation. Each of them creates a proposition of sorts for poetics, but none entirely identifies itself with poetics. We shall name three among the most active concepts: the anthropological, the linguistic, and the literary. Because some of the theses formulated in these disciplines intersect, particularly in terms of the conceptual apparatus of information theory, a “hodgepodge” of notions might easily arise; I would suggest making the basic division on the level of theoretical reflection. An anthropological approach to translation operates at the level of a “system of systems” of human culture. Anthropology is interested in all “languages” spoken by humans and thus in every act of the transfer of information. From an anthropological perspective, translation is primarily intersemiotic, i.e. it involves the transfer of a message between two sign systems, each of which exists differently and in a different substance. An example is the translation of an initiation rite into a myth.
Труды по знаковым системам, Tartu 1965.
The translation of a ceremonial into an act of linguistic communication (T. Tzivyan).
Les problemes theoretigues de la traduction, Paris 1963.
From a linguistic perspective, a text produced in a language can be divided into two planes: the plane of content and the plane of expression (or the “deep” structure and the “surface” structure). In other words: into the “content” and the “form.” Translation transforms the plane of expression while preserving the plane of content. According to linguists, describing the act of translation and programming it for a machine will be most effective when we can distinguish basic units of meaning on the plane of content. One of the latest projects to separate these units of meaning seeks to define the “content” of an expression through a description or a paraphrase. In communicating within a single natural language we translate the meanings of words and the significance of utterances – paraphrasing them, i.e. using “other words.” The same law governs interlingual communication. A foreign phrase that has no direct equivalent in our language is explained through paraphrase. The plane of expression changes. The plane of content remains unchanged.
Though the literary concept of translation borrows heavily from linguistic experience, it cannot accept its model of utterance, as it strives to resolve the translator’s difficulties less on the textual level than on the level of the work, which consists of more “planes.” Linguistic components of the plane of expression can constitute the main content of an epic poem or novel. The linguistic “deep structure” often reveals itself to be the “surface” of a drama or poem. In other words, in the literary work the signifier turns into the signified, and the signified becomes the signifier; “One serves as a backdrop for the other” (Yuri Lotman). Of course, paraphrase cannot be taken for a universal principle of translation. That would take us to absurd conclusions, wherein, instead of finding equivalents for the rhymes of
Pan Tadeusz, the translator would describe various “units of meaning” created by various rhymes “in his own words.”
Many differing definitions of literary translation orbit the notion of translation as structural reconstruction, rendered not only in a language foreign to the original, but also in the signs of a foreign literary tradition (poetics, style, genre etc.). Poetics clarifies individual aspects of literary translation theory. It is not, as I have said, a part of literary theory, because, on the one hand, it maintains contact with concepts of anthropology or linguistics; on the other, it has its separate tasks, which cannot be reduced to the tasks of any of the other disciplines described here.The Poetics of the Translation Process
A fundamental category of poetics is the speaking subject. As I have already mentioned, the translated work most often “splits into two”: one part “comes” directly, as it were, from the author of the original, and the other part comes from the translator. The poetics of artistic translation must therefore be interested in the translator’s “behavior” toward the author; the point, obviously, is not in exploring what the person translating might have thought, but in determining how their decisions were captured in the text. The need to describe evident decisions of the translator has been long felt by translation theory; the traditional “moralistic” or “ceremonial” examinations of “fidelity” or “betrayal” belong to this problem area, as do issues of “compromise” and “struggle” (K. Chukovsky).
Искусство перевода, Leningrad 1930, pp. 13-24.
Translation proper involves a search for semantic and emotional equivalents of the original signs — among the signs of the language of the translation. The translator aims to replace the words of the original with heteronyms, e.g. “лошадь” — “horse,” “drei” — “three” (Roman Jakobson).
Podstawy języka, Wrocław 1964, p. 119.
What can be done when it is not possible to establish systemic coreference on the plane of language? At this point, one goes beyond both language and literature. One draws directly from reality. It is precisely the search for solutions in our knowledge of reality that is an interpretation of the original.
Основы общего и машинного перевода , Moscow 1964.
One example: “When Neruda writes: ‘muzo butterfly’ we have to add ‘blue muzo butterfly,’ when he writes ‘marvelous jacaranda tree’ we have to add: ‘violet jacaranda tree;’ for the poet who on a daily basis sees the blue butterfly and the jacaranda tree covered in violet blossoms, the colors are contained in the name, while we have to explain them to our readers.”
Pieśń powszechna, Warsaw 1954, p. 7.
Neither translation proper nor interpretation ever appear in their “pure” form. (Apart from a translating machine, which is unable to resort to looking at reality.) The two types of translation activities generally intersect. Nonetheless, in certain historical translation poetics we can easily perceive a focus on one or the other way of translating. Certain schools are dominated by the cult of translation proper (Valery Briusov, Lubimov’s school). In others, interpretation is programmatically applied (Enlightenment practices, Artur Sandauer). Translation proper attempts to do justice to the author of the original, to speak in his voice. The translator here contents himself with the role of an intelligent transmitter. Interpretation, in turn, makes the translator the main speaking subject. The translator retells in their own fashion the story of the world referred to in the original and existing beyond the text, or, as Ivan Kashkin phrased it, “in the beyond-text.”Types of Translation Transformations
In the translation process the original undergoes various transformations, motivated in various ways. We might speak of four fundamentally different types of transformations (familiar to Ancient rhetoric), which apply both to a text (or more precisely: to sections of texts) and to the entire work (the structural constructs of a work). These are:
The issue of transformative changes appears most clearly in the versification part of the translation poetics, in researching “equilinearity” (the correspondence between the translation and the original in terms of length and numbers of lines or stanzas) and “equirhythmicity” (the correspondence between the translation and the original in terms of rhythmic structure).Ways of Translating
More detailed taxonomies of translation are, by necessity, assembled into various configurations, as they are taken from various (sometimes contradictory) theories of translation. An interesting attempt to formalize a description of the translation process is found in the above-mentioned book by Ryevzin and Rozentzveig. The authors discriminate between a few types of translation which are fundamentally different in terms of the level of difficulty: literal, simplifying, precise, adequate, and free.
The basis for this classification involves the concept of the supercategory. Two units of translation — the smallest signifying and informative segments of the text — belong to the same supercategory if the first unit comes from the original language and the second one from the language of the translation, and if one can establish one-to-one relationships between them (e.g. “Wandzeitung" and “wall newspaper”). If it is not possible to establish a one-to-one relationship between translation units, then they belong to different supercategories, e.g. “bistro” and “diner.” Within two given natural languages, L
1 and L 2, there is generally a certain group of units that belong to different supercategories.
Interlinear translation occurs in the sphere of units belonging to the same supercategory. This is the simplest situation, involving a simple recoding of the message. More complicated situations arise from a lack of one-to-one semantic relationships between the units of these languages.
Literal translation behaves as though it were possible to establish a one-to-one relationship between the units of the two languages. In terms of content, the text created through literal translation belongs to L
2, while on the plane of expression it belongs to L 1 (the language of the original). The authors are not interested in mistakes and oddities that result from literal translation, but rather in the very mechanism of mistakes, as a way of analyzing certain aspects of the act of linguistic communication.
Simplifying translation involves replacing a given element of L
1 with another element that has a one-to-one equivalent in the language of the translation. First an intralingual translation is performed, and only then an interlingual one, most often for the translation of syntactic constructions.
Precise translation is a further extension of a simplifying translation: the translator performs an intralingual translation in the original language and then an interlingual translation, but he does not stop with the resulting expression and seeks in the language of the translation a one-to-one equivalent of that expression, such that might capture the meaning, and at the same time maintain the stylistic value of the original. If this operation is fully successful, if the stylistic value of the original and the section of the translation remain the same, and attaining this identical value does not infringe upon combination rules in the system L
2, and does not contradict the context, then we have an adequate translation.
Finally, we have free translation, in which the rules of one-to-one relationships between elements are not taken into account.
Other scholars, such as Vinay and Darbelnet, suggest that we speak instead of variants of fragments of a translated work, in which transformative changes are of a local nature. It would seem that Vinay’s and Darbelnet’s chart could also be a basis for classifying entire translations. All the more so in that the categories they propose work with regard to strategies of translating single words, sentences, and phraseological units.
Staff i Kochanowski. Próba za stosowania teorii informacji w badaniach nad przekładem,
These are, firstly: borrowings, or repetitions of a word or sentence from the original, such as
bi stro . Secondly: calques, or the mechanical replication of foreign language units , often in defiance of the norms of the target language, e.g. “He is a very sympathetic person.” Thirdly: the literal translation, also known as the philological, or heteronomous translation. Fourthly: transposition. In Jerzy Ziomek’s phrasing: “Transposition is what authors call a method of translation that involves replacing one expression, phrase, or term with another of related meaning .” Fifthly: modulation. “Modulation is a change that involves respecting the structures of the language into which one is translating — ‘modulation’ is applied when a literal translation would be possible and even grammatically correct , but it would not render the spirit of the language ” (Jerzy Ziomek). Sixthly: equivalence, which mainly concerns the text on a stylistic level . In this case, a shift in the meaning of the words is justified by a similarity of stylistic function . For example: Bruno Jasieński’s kula śnieżna, ulę gałka (snow ball, wild pear) from his poem “Słowo o Jakubie Szeli” [A Word on Jakub Szela] was translated by D. Samoylov by the “equivalent” of “apple of snow .” Seventh: adaptation. Here we have a case in which the names of things or situations have no corresponding term in the target language .
Here the translator can use either the original name (which takes us back to “borrowing”) or find an equivalent (Jerzy Ziomek). As we can see, the first six variants are linked to translation proper, while the seventh, adaptation, is a special case of translation interpretation.
I said at the beginning of this section that fragmentary solutions can dominate the whole of the translated work. In such a case, we would call the whole translation a “modulation” or an “adaptation,” mindful of the quantitative, and especially the qualitative dominance of this or that translatorial strategy. Naturally, a borrowing or a calque has the least chance of being dominant. At first glance, a borrowing should not count at all here. A work where borrowing dominates would be a simple transcription of the original, not a translation. Nonetheless, there does exist a certain peculiar sort of “non-rational” poetry that suggests that the translator use borrowing as one of the important solutions. Poems of Velimir Khlebnikov, Aleksey Kruchonykh, Bozhidar, Olga Rozanova, Alargov (the pseudonym of Roman Jakobson) and other Futurists are composed of words that are entirely new to the original language, “invented" by the poet. Here we can seek equivalents more suggestive to the recipient’s “ear,” though many words can simply be left intact. In Khlebnikov’s poem based on the onomatopoeia of a storm:
There is, of course, the option of polonizing (or anglicizing) the sound clusters (“Ho-ha, Ha-ho,” for example, in place of “Goga, gago”), yet borrowing seems a crucial element in identifying the translation with the original. As such, it is the organizing principle for the whole of the translation.
The calque plays an important role in the structure of the whole translation with equal rarity. Most often it is a negative feature, creating linguistic monsters; it is a sign of the thoughtlessness of the translator; such cases are of no interest here. It seems that style might provide a chance for the calque. The emulating of foreign stylistic models, allegedly inconsistent with the spirit of native literature, can be a revolutionary act. It can be the “discovery of a style” (Efim Etkind).
Поэзия и перевод,
We obtain another configuration of variants when we inquire into the real sender of the translation. Here, above all, the variant known as the authorial translation stands out, in which there is only one “sender”: the author of the original has translated the work into a foreign language by themselves. We would be mistaken to suppose that the authorial translation is always closest to the original. This is not always the case. The authorial translation can just as often be a revision, as evidenced by the Russian authorial translation of Bruno Jasieński’s
Palę Paryż [I Burn Paris] (of 1934). Jasieński-the-translator changed the system of the literary tradition of his own original. He shifted Palę Paryż from a Futurist code to a Socialist Realist code. The transformative changes, i.e. reduction, inversion, substitution, and amplification — involved the novel’s plot, the construction of characters, and the idea of the whole work.
The role of the sender also defines the variants of polemical translations, i.e. translations made to question the value of the original. Mayakovsky’s poems translated by Julian Przyboś are polemical. The Polish poet had not reconciled himself to the Expressionist flourishes of the Russian’s poetics, the pathos-filled “gigantophone” of his style, and his translations put these attributes excessively on display. Hyperbolizing traits of one’s opponent is, as we know, an effective polemical strategy.
Another variant of the translatorial polemics is the translation which I suggest we call “covert.” The text of such covert translation has, at first glance, only one sender. The name of the foreign-language original’s author has been omitted. This does not mean, however, that we are dealing with ordinary plagiarism. The covert translation is not plagiarism in that it reconstructs only fragments of a foreign-language work in a native language, generally giving them new functions and a new significance. It is not plagiarism also because it presupposes that its ties with a particular foreign-language work will be recognized. Readers must identify the encryption. Only in this manner can they decipher its polemical motivation. Bruno Jasieński’s “Pieśń o głodzie” [Song of Hunger] is a covert translation of Mayakovsky’s “Cloud in Trousers.”
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