Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Swell Venuti

An article from Temple University talks about Lawrence Venuti's translation from Catalan of Ernest Farrés’s Edward Hopper , a work that has won Venuti the second annual Robert Fagles Translation Prize, sponsored by the National Poetry Series.

A leading theorist in his field, Venuti is at the forefront of what might be called a translation renaissance. Once invisible in their behind-the-scenes roles, translators are increasingly recognized in academic and publishing arenas for their contributions to the literary process.

The most prevalent translation strategy has been to adhere to the current standard dialect of the translating language, which is the most familiar and least noticeable to the reader. This kind of translation, according to Venuti, effaces the translator’s presence and erases cultural distinctions.

“Translation rewrites a foreign text in terms that are intelligible and interesting to readers in the receiving culture. Doing so is akin to committing an act of ethnocentric violence by uprooting the text from the language and culture that gave it life. Translating into current, standard English at once conceals that violence and homogenizes foreign cultures,” he said.

Ah! The white man's guilt complex...

Today, Venuti’s impressive collection of translations includes everything from Gothic tales to scandalous contemporary best-sellers. The stylistic innovations he undertakes in his translations are called “elegant” and “brilliant” by reviewers.

I assume his reviewers are bilingual translators.. Otherwise, they would have no clue what they are talking about anyway..

“When I devise a translation project, my aim is to write a translation that will make a linguistic and cultural difference in English,” he said.

You can't. You would have to destroy English as a language of power first. English sucks in differences, linguistic and cultural, like a sponge, making them its own without necessary having to acknowledge the debt.

The best part is the explanation of "swell" used by Venuti in this translated poem:

Face stern, hair
more or less blonde, eyes
with an inward-looking glint,
skin in the pink, wearing
a stare-till-you’re-bored attitude
in a black dress that hugged her breasts
and a pair of long legs, in good working order,
she looked real swell, sure enough,
and “independent,” as the saying goes.

The explanation of this AMAZING term states that..

Venuti’s translations purposely use non-standard English colloquialisms, slang and dialect, requiring the reader to read the translation as a translation. In the above poem, swell—not Standard English, not even contemporary slang—was commonly spoken by American painter Edward Hopper, so Venuti selected it when bringing this poem, which describes Hopper’s 1938 painting, from Catalan into English.

DUH? I am only half a century old, and "swell" was used this way in my teenage years, and is still used by some of my friends today.. Maybe the person who wrote the review should mingle a little with different classes of people in different places before she writes such stuff?

1 comment:

Linguanerd said...

I am not the only malcontent.. - just read the comments :-D