Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Representation of Social Actors in Chinua Achebe's Novel "Things Fall Apart" and Its Two Persian Translations

Academic journal article Translation & Interpreting

Representation of Social Actors in Chinua Achebe's Novel "Things Fall Apart" and Its Two Persian Translations

Article excerpt

Abstract: This paper discusses the feasibility of employing a discourse-based approach in examining the (un)successful portrayal of a given socio-cultural context through translation. In so doing, instances of two Persian translations of Chinua Achebe's post-colonial novel "Things Fall Apart" were selected to illustrate the congruence as well as incongruence of translations with their source text. Van Leeuwen's (1996, 2008) model of representation of social actors was used as the analytical framework and proved to work well for the aims of the study. The implications of using a discourse-based approach, along with possible future directions, are discussed.

Keywords: discourse analysis, critical discourse analysis, social actors, translation studies, post-colonialism, self- and other-representation

1. Introduction

Until recently, translation was primarily regarded as a mimicry act of replacing the author's words and linguistic codes with words and linguistic codes in another language, but thanks to recent developments in translation studies and under the influence of other disciplines, the myth has been challenged, and translation is now considered a communicative event. In fact, this shift of emphasis from formalist examination of translation to recognition of its embedded, context-dependent nature has been labeled the 'cultural turn' in translation studies (Bassnett & Lefevere, 1990). Lefevere & Bassnett (1998, p. 3) elaborate on this notion as follows:

... we are no longer 'stuck to the word', or even the text, because we
have realized the importance of context in matters of translation. One
context is, of course, that of history. The other context is that of
culture. The questions that now dominate the field are able to dominate
it because research has taken a 'cultural turn', because people in the
field began to realize, some time ago, that translations are never
produced in a vacuum, and that they are also never received in a vacuum.

This development that started in the mid-1980s, according to Snell-Hornby (2006), and was given the official name of 'cultural turn' in the 1990s by Bassnett & Lefevere (1990), has continued to influence the field by highlighting the role of cultural embeddedness of the act of translation. Toury (1995), for instance, views translations "as facts of a target culture". He contends that "translations have been regarded as facts of the culture which hosts them, with the concomitant assumption that whatever their function and identity, these are constituted within that same culture and reflect its own constellation" (p.24).

Along the same line, Neubert & Shreve (1992) advise translators to recognize and account for 'situationality' which they define as "the location of a text in a discrete socio-cultural context, in a real time and place" (p.8). They further elaborate on the difficult task of the translator to re-produce the text while preserving its local meanings:

A source text is embedded in a complex linguistic, textual, and
cultural context. Its meaning, communicative intent, and interpretive
effect draw upon its natural relationships in that environment. It is a
daunting task to pull a text from its natural surroundings and recreate
it in an alien linguistic and cultural setting. The text belongs to a
dynamic cultural and linguistic ecology. The translator uproots it in a
valiant attempt to transplant its fragile meaning. (Neubert & Shreve,
1992, p. 1, emphasis added).

The importance of socio-cultural context has also been reiterated in the words of other scholars of the field. Bassnett (1980/1991), for instance, reminds that a translator who renders and transposes a source text into a target text belonging to a different culture "needs to consider seriously the ideological implication of that transposition" (cited in Hatim & Munday, 2004, p. 313). Similarly, House (2006) conceptualizes translation as "a process of recontextualization, because in translating, stretches of language are not only given a new shape in a new language, but are also taken out of their earlier, original context and placed in a new context, with different values assigned to communicative conventions, genres, readers' expectation norms, etc. …

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