Innovationen und Reproduktionen in Kulturen und Gesellschaften (IRICS) Wien, 9. bis 11. Dezember 2005

<< Translation and Ideology

Belle du Seigneur , translation/interpretation

Jack I. Abecassis (Pomona College, California)



The purpose of this paper is to investigate issues raised by the English translation of Albert Cohen's chef d'oeuvre Belle du Seigneur (1968) (translated by David Coward, Penguin Modern Classics, 1998). In two distinct, but interrelated ways, the translator has obfuscated some of the most important clues as to the meaning of the novel. First, the translator alters emphasis and therefore meaning by slight semantic shifts. Thus, Cohen's sentence "Je veux aimer tout de mon peuple" is translated as, "I will treasure my people and everything about my people." In addition, the translator chooses to "domesticate" the streams of consciousness, a key feature of Cohen's narrative. This specific discussion raises significant ethical and aesthetic questions concerning the act of translating literary texts. First, to what extent can translations be seen as resistance to meaning, or, alternatively as a de facto interpretation of the text? Second, should a translation conform to the cultural aesthetics of its target audience or should it attempt to keep intact, to the extent possible, the strangeness of the original, to the detriment of elegance and fluidity? The case study of the English translation of Belle du Seigneur offers a very fertile ground for raising yet again these seminal questions that have interested theoretical discussions of translation since antiquity.

Innovations and Reproductions in Cultures and Societies
(IRICS) Vienna, 9 - 11 december 2005

WEBDESIGN: Peter R. Horn 2005-08-28