Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

The Translator's Preface as a Paratextual Device in Malay-English Literary Translations

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

The Translator's Preface as a Paratextual Device in Malay-English Literary Translations

Article excerpt

Abstract: In the context of Malaysia, research in the field of Translation Studies has traditionally focused on the analysis of texts, which often involves a comparison between source texts and their translations. Very little attention is given to the area of the analysis of paratexts, which is not surprising considering that paratexts exist only on the periphery of the text and are therefore thought to be less important. Given the paucity of research in this area, this preliminary study focuses on one type of paratext, which is the translator's preface. More specifically, the aim of this study is to examine the form and content of these introductory notes in translations published in Malaysia and to discuss the functions served by the contents of these notes. For this purpose, translators' prefaces from translations published in Malaysia were collected and examined. The discussion in this paper focuses on the content and functions of the prefaces. It is argued that the translator's preface plays an important role not only in facilitating the reception of the translated text by providing vital information to the readers, but also in making the translator visible and his/her voice heard.

Keywords: paratext, translated text, translator's preface, translator's note, visibility

1. Introduction

Research in the field of Translation Studies in Malaysia generally has tended to focus on analysis of both source texts and their translations, focusing, for example, on the translator's approach and strategies in translating. This is understandable considering that such an analysis can provide useful insights into the choices made by the translator in the process of presenting the text to a new readership. Such textual analysis, in turn, can help translation trainees learn about the challenges and difficulties in translating. The analysis of paratexts, however, has received relatively less attention. This is not entirely surprising, considering that paratexts exist only on the periphery of the translated text and are therefore thought to be of little or no importance compared to the text. Given the paucity of research in this area, this paper focuses on an analysis of paratexts, more specifically translator's prefaces in literary translations in the context of Malaysia.

Paratexts is defined by Genette as "those liminal devices and conventions, both within the book (peritext) and outside it (epitext), that mediate the book to the reader: titles, and subtitles, pseudonyms, forewords, dedications, prefaces, intertitles, epilogues and afterwords" (Genette, 1997, p. xviii). They are thus texts which accompany the main texts. Based on Genette's definition, paratexts can be divided into two: peritexts and epitexts. Peritexts are those elements such as the title and the preface which are located in the text, while epitexts are those elements such as interviews and reviews which are located outside the text (Genette, 1997, p. 5). This article focuses on one type of peritext, which is the translator's preface, also sometimes referred to as the translator's note. It is here that the translator normally provides certain information regarding the source text and discusses certain issues regarding the translation.

Translators' prefaces are quite rare today. Translators, however, have long engaged in the practice of discussing their source texts and their translation choices. Munday explains that "one of the characteristics of the study of translation is that, certainly initially, it was based on the practice of translating; much early writing was by individual translators and directed at explaining, justifying or discussing their choice of a particular translation strategy" (2009, p. 1). Munday acknowledges the value of studying these prefaces and asserts that "translation prefaces are a source of extensive information on the translation methods" (2016, p. 52). A compilation of these early prefaces can be seen, for example, in the publications by Steiner (1975) and Robinson (2002). …

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