A Second Translation: Translating V.S. Naipaul into Italian

By Cavagnoli, Franca | Journal of Caribbean Literatures, Spring 2008 | Go to article overview

A Second Translation: Translating V.S. Naipaul into Italian


Cavagnoli, Franca, Journal of Caribbean Literatures


Translating the works of V.S. Naipaul poses a great challenge for the Italian translator on both a linguistic and a cultural level. The translator must deal with a multifaceted universe, which Naipaul's prose--with its terse detachment--renders even more nuanced.

Antoine Berman locates various "deforming tendencies" (208) whereby the translator is inclined to reduce the linguistic variety present in the source text and restrict the text's linguistic and cultural space. In his 1985 study, "Translation and the Trials of the Foreign," Berman analyzes twelve such tendencies. The translator who is unaware of these tendencies risks denaturing the source text. It is as if the translation, far from being the place that receives the foreign, becomes its negation, its "naturalization." To avoid this, Berman invites translators to reflect on what he calls "the properly ethical aim of the translating act: receiving the Foreign as Foreign" (277).

Of the twelve deforming tendencies identified by Berman, some prove to be particularly insidious for the translator of Naipaul. They are in particular, and in the following order:

* no. 4: ennoblement

* no. 12: effacement of superimposition of languages

* no. 10: destruction of vernacular networks or their exoticization

Naipaul's essayist writing style is characterized by its extraordinary limpidness. His writing is plane. Plane, not plain. Simple, not easy. When translating his works, one must be mindful not to strip it of its vitality. To keep from flattening his writing style, the translator must maintain a watchful eye on lexical choices and the syntactic structure of sentences and periods. Naipaul's attention to his writing is evident in many ways. His words are crafted with extreme care and are often chosen for their strong evocative and expressive power. A word is important not only in terms of its semantic substance, its ability to reveal multiple connotations, but also purely in terms of its graphic significance. It is from the delicate balance between lexical choices, mostly middle-register language interspersed with the occasional high-register word, and a scrupulous and linear syntactic structure rooted in the great journalistic tradition of eighteenth century England, that the style of Naipaul's travel books is born.

Eighteenth century English prose is distinguished by its transparency, in particular the transparency of its syntax, even when this is complex. The lexis is bare, used very sparingly. In Naipaul's travel books his prose is particularly terse. One naturally hears the lesson of the great English journalistic tradition, but above all, one hears the lesson of an American journalist turned great writer, Ernest Hemingway. A writer who strips away all excess, all trace of redundancy from his writing. A writer who relies on the unsaid to best express what is in fact said. In his novels, especially his first ones set in the Caribbean--Miguel Street, The Suffrage of Elvira, The Mystic Masseur, and A House for Mr. Biswas--Naipaul chooses to employ this same limpid prose also for his narrators and, in doing so, he creates a dramatic stylistic contrast with the language used by his characters. Indeed, in many of Naipaul's earlier novels, the narrator tells the story using standard literary English. His prose is measured, plane, and sounds much like the style Naipaul reserves for his travel books.

To avoid flattening Naipaul's writing style the translator might be tempted to flex his or her muscles and considerably elevate the register of language in an attempt to make it sound literary. In other words, the translator's modest, opaque prose, that in all likelihood characterizes the first draft, becomes an elegant, rewritten version of the translated text. This is one of the worst wrongs you can do to the author. Of the deforming tendencies identified by Berman, the fourth, ennoblement, poses a constant threat during the translation process. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Second Translation: Translating V.S. Naipaul into Italian
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.