Ibsen and Early Modernist Theatre, 1890-1900

By Kirsten Shepherd-Barr | Go to book overview

CHAPTER TWO
A Doll's House and La
Maison de Poupée: A Case
Study in Translation

With the different interpretations and reactions accorded A Doll's House in England and France in mind, it is useful to compare the first translations into each language, particularly in light of Ibsen's own artistic and cultural standpoint. In dealing with Ibsen's reception in these two countries, the issue of translation takes on great significance. Questions of semiotics arise as we juggle the many English and French versions of the 'text,' all exponentially removed from the original both in language and cultural context. Ibsen's comparatively swift acceptance in Germany could be attributed to the nearness of the language, the immediate availability and number of German translations, and Ibsen's own physical presence and active role in regulating the quality of the translations. The delay in even seeing his plays in translation, let alone on stage in England and France, sets these two countries apart and constitutes a special case. Certainly the linguistic barriers were greater, but perhaps the cultural remoteness contributed more than anything else to the delay. Depending on how one approaches the problem, translation and subsequent interpretation (both in individual readings but, more importantly because more publicly, through staging and acting) constitute either two vital links in bringing the remote Norwegian dramatist to the British and the French, or else two wedges serving only to distance him even more, interfering with his 'real' meaning.

In terms of Ibsen's introduction into England and France, the problem of translation is further compounded by the fact that not only are we dealing with differences between the Dano-Norwegian original (already a hybrid and transitional linguistic entity) and English or French, but also the great differences between English and French themselves. Obviously, each places different de-

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