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Exercises

1 Study the following passage from Andre Lefevere, Translation, Rewriting,

and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992: 44—5):

Since Aristophanic comedy is rather radical in attacking certain

ideologies and defending others, most of the translators whose

"Lysistratas" have been published over the past century and a half

have felt the need to state their own ideology. Most of the the

translators whose work was published during the first half of that

century and a half would agree with A. S. Way's statement: "the

indecency of Attic comedy, which is all-pervading, which crops up

in every play, and in the most unexpected places, is a sad stumblingblock

to the reader, and a grievous embarrassment to the translator"

(xix). While most of these translators fervently disagreed with

an ideology that condoned this indecency, few went as far as the

first translator of Aristophanes during the past century and a half,

C. A. Wheelwright, who stated in his introduction that "The Lysistrata

bears so evil a character that we must make but fugitive mention of

it, like persons passing over hot embers" (62). In his translation he

simply omits the very crux of the play: the oath the women take at

the formal start of their sex strike. Furthermore, he simply ends

his translation at line 827 of the original, refusing to translate lines

828 to 1215, one quarter of the play, not because he had suddenly

forgotten all his Greek, but because his ideology was incompatible

with the one expressed in Greek by Aristophanes.

Most other translators have tried to make Lysistrata fit their

ideology by using all kinds of manipulative techniques. All of

their strategies have been adequately described by Jack Lindsay in

the introduction to his translation. Their "effort," he points out,

"is always to show that the parts considered offensive are not the

actual expression of the poet, that they are dictated externally" (15).

Thus J. P. Maine states in his 1909 introduction that "Athens was

now under an oligarchy, and no references to politics was [sic]

possible, so Aristophanes tries to make up indecency [sic]" (1: x—xi).

In his introduction written in 1820 and reprinted in 1909, in the

second volume edited by Maine, John Hookham Frere states that

"Aristophanes, it must be recollected, was often under the necessity

of addressing himself exclusively to the lower class" (2: xxvi). Both

Maine and Hookham Frere blame patronage for Aristophanes' woes,

but each blames a completely different type of patronage. Two years

later Benjamin Bickley Rogers writes that "in truth this very coarseness,

so repulsive to ourselves, so amusing to an Athenian audience,

was introduced, it is impossible to doubt, for the express purpose

of counterbalancing the extreme gravity and earnestness of the play"

(x). In this case Aristophanes is portrayed not as the sovereign

author, but as the conscientious craftsman who has no other choice than to bow to the demands of his craft, and nothing will prevent

(some) readers from wanting to feel that Aristophanes the man

would not have done what Aristophanes the craftsman had to do.

It was left to A. S. Way, twenty-three years later, to express the

translator's dilemma in the most delicately wordy manner:

The traduttore, then, who would not willingly be a traditore, may

not exscind or alter, but he may well so translate, where

possible, that, while the (incorruptible) scholar has the stern

satisfaction of finding that nothing has been shirked, the reader

who does not know the Greek may pass unsuspectingly over not

a few unsavoury spots — not that his utmost endeavours can

make his author suitable for reading (aloud) in a ladies' school.

(XX)

The translator is caught between his adherence to an ideology that

is not that of Aristophanes, indeed views sexual matters in a quite

different manner, and his status as a professional who most be able

to convince other professionals that he is worthy of that title, while

at the same time not producing a text that runs counter to his

ideology.

(a) Discuss the ideology prevailing in your culture with regard to overt

references to sexual acts in literature and especially on stage, and

consider how that might affect Aristophanes translations into your

target language.

(b) Go to the library and find as many Aristophanes translations into

that target language as you can, and compare them both with each

other and with your own assumptions about the ideology controlling

them, as formulated in (a). How do the actual translations confirm

or complicate your expectations?

(c) Do variations on the translations you found. Pick a scene describing

overt sexuality and experiment with different versions: do one

that uses the most vulgar terms you know; another that uses more

clinical, scientific terms; a more euphemistic one; a moralizing one

that shows open disapproval of the acts being described. As you do

each variation, pay special attention to how you feel about each:

where your own ideological resistances are, to vulgarity, to clinical

distance, to euphemism, to moralism, or to several or all of them

in different ways. Discuss these ideological resistances with others

in the class; alone or in groups, write brief descriptions of them.

 (d) Now study the Lefevere passage for the author's resistances to what

he is describing. He is working hard to appear neutral and nonjudgmental;

does he succeed? Does he favor some of the translators

(say, Jack Lindsay) over others? Does he disapprove of the radically

altered translations of Aristophanes: Wheelwright "simply omits

the very crux of the play," other translators have used "all kinds of

manipulative techniques," etc.?

(e) Reread the last paragraph, about translators being caught between

their own ideology and that of the author, while being judged by

readers on how well they extricate themselves from that trap. Is that

a fair assessment of the translator's dilemma? Does it seem to apply

to your professional situation, or the situation into which you imagine

yourself entering in a very short time? Is it true of all translated

texts, or only some? If the latter, which texts? Are there ways out

of or around the problem?

2 Study the following passage from Lori Chamberlain, "Gender and the

Metaphorics of Translation" (1988: 455-6):

The sexualization of translation appears perhaps most familiarly in

the tag les belles infideles — like women, the adage goes, translations

should be either beautiful or faithful. The tag is made possible both

by the rhyme in French and by the fact that the word traduction is a

feminine one, thus making les beaux infideles impossible. This tag owes

its longevity — it was coined in the seventeenth century — to more

than phonetic similarity: what gives it the appearance of truth is that

it has captured a cultural complicity between the issues of fidelity

in translation and in marriage. For les belles infideles, fidelity is defined

by an implicit contract between translation (as woman) and original

(as husband, father, or author). However, the infamous "double

standard" operates here as it might have in traditional marriages: the

"unfaithful" wife/translation is publicly tried for crimes the husband/

original is by law incapable of committing. This contract, in short,

makes it impossible for the original to be guilty of infidelity. Such

an attitude betrays real anxiety about the problem of paternity and

translation; it mimics the patrilineal kinship system where paternity

— not maternity — legitimizes an offspring.

Another way of expanding the famous Gilles Menage adage about les belles

infideles is not that translations should be either beautiful or faithful but rather that the more beautiful they are, the less likely they are to be faithful,

and the more faithful they are, the less likely they are to be beautiful.

(a) How true do you believe this is about women? Are beautiful women

really more likely to cheat on their partners than less beautiful ones?

Whether you say yes or no, does your experience bear your opinion

out, or is mainly something you agree with because people generally

believe it? What other stereotypes do you (or your culture) have

about beautiful women? Are they respected, scorned, worshipped,

loved, feared, hated? What other qualities in a woman will contribute

to her being either faithful or unfaithful?

(b) Does the adage work the same way when applied to men? Are goodlooking

men more or less likely to be faithful to their partners than

less-good-looking men? Or do looks have nothing to do with it?

What other stereotypes do you (or your culture) have about handsome

men? Are they ambitious, narcissistic, superficial, controlling,

passive, gay, successful, rich? What other qualities in a man will

contribute to his being either faithful or unfaithful?

(c) Put yourself in the position of someone who is worried about his or

her partner (husband or wife or lover) being unfaithful. How do you

react? Are you jealous? What emotions fuel your jealousy? Are you

possessive? Do you want to control the other person? Do you try to

be openminded and tolerant? How does that feel?

(d) Now shift all this to translation. Does it make sense to think of

translation along similar lines? Which parts of the emotional reactions

to (in)fidelity in relationships work when applied to translation,

which don't? How do cultural stereotypes of women fit "fidelity"

theories of translation? What happens if you think of a translation as

a faithful or unfaithful man, or as a handsome or ugly man? What

roles do emotions like jealousy and possessiveness or openminded

tolerance play in cultural thinking about translation?

(e) Chamberlain's reading of the gender metaphorics of translation is

based on the notion that the translation theorist comparing a

translation to a woman — beautiful and unfaithful or faithful and ugly

sides with the source author or "father/husband." This would be

an "external" perspective on translation (see Chapter 1). How would

an "internal" or translator-oriented perspective see these gender

metaphorics? Does the translator have to identify with the translation?

If so, does a female translator have to accept the negative

image of women and translation implied by the adage? Does a male translator have to submerge his patriarchal desire to control in order

to identify with a woman, become a woman, accept subordination

and disapproval? Is the only alternative to this the scenario

Chamberlain traces, in which the translator identifies with the father/

husband /original and so becomes a prescriptive theorist? Are these

gender metaphors purely harmful for translators, or is it possible to

transform the gender politics in ways that create new possibilities

for translators' practical work and professional self-image (open

marriage? bisexuality?)?