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Post Graduate Diploma in Translation Studies
UNIT 422-14: TRANSLATION OF POETRY: PROBLEMS AND POSSIBILITIES
422.14.1: INTRODUCTION
422.14.1.1: POETIC TRANSLATION
You already know that translation is nothing but transportation of ideas, thoughts and facts of one language into other. You are also aware that depending upon the nature of texts to be rendered, there are different types of translations. Literary translation, for instance, will fundamentally differ from Scientific-Technical translation. Scientific-Technical translation, which, besides being employed for science-based texts, is also used for administration, business, and other such purposes, must give one and only one meaning. In comparison, in a literary work, there is a possibility to have different levels and many meanings. Therefore, while good translation itself is a different task to accomplish, translating poetry is doubly difficult.
Literary translation demands not only the transportation of ideas, but also retention of the same literary form, with its texture.
422.14.1.2: SEMANTIC SATURATION
"A poetic text", as Terry Eagleton (1983:101) says in his 'Literary Theory: An Introduction', "is semantically saturated, condensed with more information than any other discourse". Therefore, to make a translated poetic piece semantically equally saturated and condensed, the translator cannot but work hard. Interestingly, here the translator is similarly placed, as the original poet, since the former, like the latter, has to preserve the soul of the text, with all its sound, rhythm, and structure. For that the translator's search for the appropriate word equivalents, and his efforts to retain the poetical syntax of the original in as much as possible will have to continue, without losing sight of different levels at which the poem works.
Burton Raffel says, "No two languages having same syntacting structures, it is impossible to recreate the syntax of a word in one language in another language". This, however, would not be fully applicable for translation of poetry between two Indian languages. This is because Indian languages have similar (if not identical in many constructions) syntactic structures. Thus, they seen to pose lesser amount of difficulties in translating from one to the other. Nevertheless, howsoever close they may be genealogically or structurally, it is still a fact that no two languages organize themselves in the same way - a fact that must be borne by all translators, before making any adventures with the syntax of languages concerned. At the level of words, however, the search for equivalence will appear to be equally problematic even between a pair of Indian languages.
422.14.2: THEORY OF UNTRANSLATABILITY
Before making further moves in poetry translation, it will be appropriate to focus on the views of some literary theorists on untranslatability. Recall that you have already been told about the opinion of Roman Jakobson who argues that all poetic texts are technically untranslatable, because complete equivalence (in the sense of synonym or sameness) cannot take place. Recall that he adds, "only creative transpositions - from one poetic shape to another, or interlingual transpositions - from one language to another, or finally intersemiotic transpositions, from one system of signs into another, e.g. from verbal art into music, dance, cinema or painting, is possible." It is evident that, here in this unit we are to discuss only interlingual transposition, form one language to the other.
What Jakobson had said, was taken up once again by Werner Winter (1971), who asserted that, translation cannot be an exact replica of the original, and he tries to bolster by this interesting examples. He says "it seems to me that we may compare the work of translator with that of an artist who is asked to create an exact replica of a marble structure, but who cannot secure any marble. He may find some other stone or some wood or he may have to model in clay or work in bronze, or he may have to use a brush or pencil and sheet of paper. Whatever his material, if he is a good craftsman, his work may be good for even great, it may indeed surpass the original, but it will never be what he set out to produce, an exact replica of original."
This gives a clear hint that, two different languages are two different entities which may have similarities, but they cannot certainly be identical. But the translator of the world, will never get discouraged by the theories. Even if it is not possible to render anything written in one language into another tongue fully, it is certainly possible to translate satisfactorily. In other words, pleasurable and effective approximation can always be accomplished.
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