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Translating Virginia Woolf

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Oriana Palusci

Translating Virginia Woolf is a collection of essays that discusses the theory and practice of translation from an interdisciplinary perspective, involving research areas such as literature, linguistics, sociolinguistics, cultural studies, and history. It is the outcome of a selection of papers given at the international conference by the same title, held at the University of Naples ‘L’Orientale’ in 2010.
Interweaving literary threads and target languages such as Arabic, Croatian, Danish, Dutch, German, Italian, Serbian, Spanish, and Swedish, this volume traces the history of the translation and reception of Woolf’s fiction and feminist pamphlets. It investigates the strategies of translation of several of her works in different countries and cultural contexts through the contrastive analysis of one or more editions of the same Woolfian text. The final result is a symphony of languages, spreading the notes of Virginia Woolf’s modernist and feminist discourse across Europe and beyond.

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Introduction: Virginia Woolf in Many Languages - ORIANA PALUSCI 7

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ORIANA PALUSCI Introduction: Virginia Woolf in Many Languages Tell me, is there a good translation? (Woolf, 1915) Virginia Woolf knew the impact and relevance of translation as a powerful tool bridging languages and cultures. As a writer of fiction and pamphlets, as a literary critic for the Times Literary Supplement and other scholarly journals, as an editor of the publishing house The Hogarth Press, founded together with her husband in 1917, she was well aware of how ‘the difference of language’ constituted a barrier, a steep wall a translator must be committed to surmount. Yet, as she ve- hemently stated in the essay “The Russian Point of View” (1925), in speaking of the translation of Russian authors into English, the act of translation was never merely a problem of equivalence: When you have changed every word in a sentence from Russian to English, have thereby altered the sense a little, the sound, weight, and accent of the words in relation to each other completely, nothing remains except a crude and coarsened version of the sense.1 Her attack on the inadequacy of translations was fierce: ‘a whole lit- erature stripped of its style’.2 According to Woolf, great Russian writ- ers were completely lost in (the English) translation, metaphorically losing their clothes, divested of ‘their manners, the idiosyncrasies of their characters’.3 Anyhow, Reinhold reminds us that ‘Woolf’s sharing the view of untranslatability of literary works, together with the im- 1 Virginia Woolf, “The Russian Point of View”, in The Common Reader, First...

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