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General Discussion > Translations: To Change or Not to Change?

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message 1: by Olga (new)

Olga Kuno | 5 comments Recently, I heard a very interesting lecture about challenges faced by translators of Jane’s Austen’s novels. One of those challenges had to do with cultural nuances that are not known to the modern reader, or at least to the modern non-English-speaking reader. The question was raised as to whether the translator should mediate between the author and the modern reader by making slight changes in the text.

Here is one example. By default, the title Miss Dashwood / Miss Bennett was used to address the eldest daughter. However, if she exited the room, exactly the same title could be used to address the next daughter in the family. Obviously, Jane Austen’s contemporaries were aware of that, but most readers from the modern non-English-speaking world are not. The lecturer suggested that in a translation, Miss + the proper name can be used instead.

Yet another example: in “Sense and Sensibility”, there is an episode in which the duel between Colonel Brandon and Willoughby is related to, but it is not mentioned explicitly. The word “duel” is never used, nor any of its synonyms. There is only the word “this”, which refers to the duel, but the reader must figure this out from the context. The suggestion was that the translation should include the word for “duel” in the corresponding language, as otherwise, readers will fail to understand the conversation. The truth is, I got very surprised: for me, it was so obvious that a duel is meant there! But maybe this is indeed a matter of the culture one comes from.

What is your opinion? Should translators make minor changes of this kind in order to help the reader? Or does this mean not being sufficiently faithful to the original?
Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen


message 2: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments Personally, I think it’s fine to make such minor changes in a translation. The audience for a translation is somewhat different from people who don’t have English as their first language who read the book in English despite the difficulty. It seems to me that the reader of a translation is looking to read the story, while the person who takes the extra trouble to read it in English is reading the text. The latter is more of a scholarly enterprise, the former more of a recreational one. Does that make sense?


message 3: by Olga (new)

Olga Kuno | 5 comments Abigail wrote: "Personally, I think it’s fine to make such minor changes in a translation. The audience for a translation is somewhat different from people who don’t have English as their first language who read t..."
Definitely! Actually, I think so, too, regarding the examples I mentioned. There are other case though where I am less sure. For instance, I am very much against the translation of names (has nothing to do with this specific lecture). Even when names are meaningful and "speaking".


message 4: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments Hmm, interesting! I hadn’t thought about translating names. Can see arguments on both sides.


message 5: by Hannah (new)

Hannah | 123 comments My issue with translation is not so much about literary value as cultural value. Much of what I've learned about other cultures and time periods is from reading books. If you change words and take out relevant situations or phrasing, you're altering the situation to more suit the culture of the language in which you're reading, rather than the culture in which the book was written.


message 6: by Mrs (new)

Mrs Benyishai | 254 comments I seem to agree with Hannah. I think explaining things with notes is a better way of clearing cultural differences.I am an English teacher & Jane Austen (purist)student but I have never realized until now that Cl Branden &Willouby had a duel( How did both come out alive doesn't one die? also weren't the duels part of the middle ages rather than 18-19 century's ?)


message 7: by Olga (new)

Olga Kuno | 5 comments Mrs wrote: "I seem to agree with Hannah. I think explaining things with notes is a better way of clearing cultural differences.I am an English teacher & Jane Austen (purist)student but I have never realized un..."
In fact, duels took place even at the beginning of the 20th century. And one doesn't have to die: if one of the participants gets injured and cannot keep fighting, the duel is over.

I, too, think that footnotes are important. They do enrich our knowledge about other times and cultures, especially if we are not too lazy to do a bit of extra work, like a simple Google search. But, as far as I understood from the lecture, it is believed that footnotes are not very good in that they distract the reader from the text.


message 8: by Olga (new)

Olga Kuno | 5 comments Abigail wrote: "Hmm, interesting! I hadn’t thought about translating names. Can see arguments on both sides."
I believe I saw this for the first time in a very good Russian translation of "The Lord of the Rings", and that's the only thing I disliked about the translation. For instance, the name Glorfindel was translated as Vseslavur (with 'slava' meaning 'glory' in Russian). As a writer, I feel that the sound is extremely important in the choice of names. And Vseslavur sounds very Slavic, nothing like an elf's name.


message 9: by Mrs (new)

Mrs Benyishai | 254 comments This is not really to the subject but who won the duel between Brandon & Willoughby ?


message 10: by Mrs (new)

Mrs Benyishai | 254 comments Another question where can I ask about the confusing matter of names I find in ALL the books ?(Sir walter callin HIS DAUGHTER Miss Elliot for example )


message 11: by Olga (new)

Olga Kuno | 5 comments Mrs wrote: "This is not really to the subject but who won the duel between Brandon & Willoughby ?"
Here is a link where, I think, it is discussed nicely. And it also contains the relevant passage. None of the two was wounded, as it turns out.
http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/prin...


message 12: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments In a duel, if a person who was challenged (in this case, Willoughby) knows he is in the wrong and has a shred of decency, when the signal is given to fire, he will delope (shoot up in the air or off to the side) instead of firing at his opponent.


message 13: by Stanley (new)

Stanley Hurd | 25 comments Abigail and friends,

I did a good deal of reading on this for Col Fitzwilliam, and the rules were eye-opening. Here is a link: http://www.geriwalton.com/index.php/2... that lists the Code Duello, as determined by the Irish Assizes of 1777. They make fascinating reading.

Another aspect of the whole thing was how inaccurate the pistols were, which is how Brandon could have missed Willoughby at least twice, as the affair warranted two, if not three rounds, unless one or both are sufficiently wounded as to be unable to continue (as laid out in the Code). Dueling pistols were not allowed to be rifled, so the bullets were about as accurate as a thrown rock; easy to miss each other, even at ten paces.

By the way, I understood that deloping was frowned upon, a frank apology being preferable. To delope was to admit the affair was not worthy of a duel, and should not have been undertaken. No doubt, however, this was a matter of fashion, and the fashion changed from time to time.

Finally, according to my references, the last place to outlaw dueling as a form of civil redress was Hungary - in 1953!!


message 14: by Abigail (new)

Abigail Bok (regency_reader) | 498 comments Very interesting, Stanley, thanks! Although—can you really imagine Willoughby making a frank apology? Even when he Tells All to Eleanor, he’s full of self-justification.


message 15: by Stanley (new)

Stanley Hurd | 25 comments No, you're right; he'd be offering excuses right and left, but his ego would never admit to being so far in the wrong as to apologize to a man he thought so ill of. He would find some way to vindicate himself, and feel ill-used when no one else believed the proffered vindication.

But the question I would like to ask is: did Brandon just miss, or did he delope? It had to be pistols, not swords, because no one returns from a sword duel without marking his opponent or having been marked, and both men were unharmed at the end.


message 16: by QNPoohBear (new)

QNPoohBear | 672 comments I'm in favor of notes instead of changing or adding the words.

I thought Willoughby and Brandon met with swords, given the time period the novel was originally written in. At least that's the interpretation in the Andrew Davies screenplay.


I admit I didn't pick up on the duel until I saw the adaptation on TV. All the articles are pointing towards pistols though.

(I've also heard Georgette Heyer may have invented the word "delope" or found it in an obscure source).

Nice article on dueling from the Jane Austen Centre
https://www.janeausten.co.uk/to-punis...

Another article specifically on the Willoughby/Brandon meeting
http://www.jasna.org/persuasions/on-l...


message 17: by Brit (new)

Brit Now I need to re-read S&S as I did not pick up on the duel at all. :)


message 18: by Stanley (new)

Stanley Hurd | 25 comments Lest I abandon the original topic entirely following Brandon and the duel, I would say that some change in inevitable in translating a work, and the degree of change ought to be governed by the scope and intent of the translator (let’s assume that technical ability is no obstacle). In a work of fiction, where the original intent of the work was to illuminate and entertain the reader, it is my opinion that that intent should also govern the translator. It may well be that in pursuing that end, preserving meaning is more important than preserving form. And in technical translation, the jargon of the target language must be used, or the meaning could be very well lost; this absolutely requires change from the original.

But if a “pure” translation is the goal, it seems to me that that would require finding the cultural and linguistic equivalents of things like “Miss Bennet”. And, given how hard such things are for modern English-speaking readers (I know they have given me trouble), how could a translator be expected first to appreciate them in Austen, then to identify analogous terms or usages from their own history, and still maintain a rigid, word-for-word translation? I’m sorry if seem to be pushing the argument too far into the abstract, but it just doesn't seem feasible to me.

Now, as for déloping, a quick run through etymology dictionaries in English and French came up with very little, although Wikipedia claims it is French. In any event, “dumb firing”, as it is termed in the Code Duello, is expressly forbidden, although it appears to have been done in many famous duels (or were they just covering the fact that they were rotten shots?). So, do we think Brandon let Willoughby off on purpose, or just had an off morning?


message 19: by Stanley (new)

Stanley Hurd | 25 comments Sorry, one more thing: the actual depiction of the the duel poses the very problem Olga is grappling with. The original says "... we met by appointment, he to defend, I to punish his conduct. We returned unwounded, and the meeting, therefore, never got abroad."

At that time, to speak of a meeting between two men for a conspicuously undisclosed purpose, was readily understood to be a duel. So how does the translator deal with such nuance? And do they need to? Most modern readers in English don't take that meaning away from "met" and "meeting"; they understand the action through "defend", "punish", and "unwounded". If anything, by changing things a bit, the translator may have an opportunity to bring additional clarity to obscure passages, whose meaning to modern readers has drifted over two hundred years.


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