The Limits of Literary Translation: Expanding Frontiers in Iberian Languages

By Mott, Brian | Bulletin of Hispanic Studies, February 15, 2014 | Go to article overview

The Limits of Literary Translation: Expanding Frontiers in Iberian Languages


Mott, Brian, Bulletin of Hispanic Studies


JAVIER MUÑOZ-BASOLS, CATARINA FOUTO, LAURA SOLER GONZÁLEZ and TYLER FISHER (eds). The Limits of Literary Translation: Expanding Frontiers in Lberian Languages. Kassel: Edition Reichenberger. 2012. xv + 368 pp. ISBN 978-3-937734-97-2.

The present volume consists of seventeen contributions from translation specialists, divided evenly into four sections covering the translation of prose, poetry, drama and various recent interests, such as the treatment of humour and poetic song.

Part I (1-71) begins with an examination by Milton M. Azevedo of English and Portuguese translations of Pérez-Reverte's Alatriste stories, and underlines the difficulties posed by the early seventeenth-century setting as regards lexis, forms of address, off-colour language and orality. Then Branka Kalenic Ramsak recalls Cervantes' view (Don Quixote's view, according to Rutherford (87)) that translated text is like a Flemish tapestry viewed from the other side (27), and points to two misinterpretations in full Slovenian translations of Cervantes' masterpiece. Daniela Omlor skilfully analyses Javier Marias' notion of language as a treacherous mediator between the world of objects and the inner world of thoughts. Words possess a mysterious power and 'leave traces where events may not' (45). Sarah Roger explains Borges' contention that 'a translation can improve upon the original' (62). At the end of 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', Borges translates Thomas Browne's Urn Burial in Quevedian style, and saves Browne, Quevedo and himself from the oblivion and anonymity threatened by Tlön (= Nazism).

Part II (73-184) opens with a piece from John Rutherford on the difficulty of translating the medieval Galician Cantigas: the translator is above all a reader (75), but the Cantigas were sung and the music has not survived. Nevertheless, he totally rejects the idea that 'translation is impossible' (87) and cleverly illustrates ways of reproducing metre.

Pasuree Luesakul discusses the transposition into Thai, a syntactically rigid language lacking morphology, of some poems by Neruda and Finisterre by María Rosa Lojo, a novel which might have been dealt with separately elsewhere.

Ronald Puppo masterfully describes how appeal to other similar literary sources aided and enhanced his own translation of Jacint Verdaguer's Canigó ('evoking intertextual others' (111)), expressing his indebtedness to Beowulf and Longfellow for inspiration in transferring Verdaguer's poetic metre. Translation for him means blending foreign and familiar elements (119).

Cara Marías Martinez undertakes a painstaking, meticulous analysis of the varying faithfulness in Renaissance translations and imitations produced in Spain of Petrarch's sonnet 'S'Amor non è'. …

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