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English Translations of Shen Congwen’s Stories

A Narrative Perspective

Minhui Xu

This book investigates the English translations of Shen Congwen’s stories. Shen Congwen (1902–1988) is one of the most acclaimed writers in modern Chinese literature. His works have been translated into more than ten languages and his 44 stories count with 70 different English translations. Adopting a case study method within the framework of Descriptive Translation Studies, the author selects and compares the most translated stories, those with three or more translations, totalling fifteen translations from four stories. The analysis of the texts focuses on Shen’s narrative style – his narrative commentaries and his lyrical narrative mode – to see how his style was re-presented in translation. In addition, the translators’ overt narrative intrusions – their added notes – are also examined.
Further, on the basis of Bourdieu’s sociological concepts, especially habitus, this study makes an attempt to interpret the different strategies adopted by different translators, including scholar/non-scholar translators, L1/L2 translators, and translators of the 1930s and 40s and those of the 1980s onwards.


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Chapter Three. Narrative Commentaries 47


47 Chapter Three. Narrative Commentaries Having discussed the materials chosen and the methodology employed, we will start the actual text analysis part from this chapter. The first issue to be dealt with concerns narrative commentaries and their representations in translation. In a narrative discourse, a narrator is involved in more than just telling a story or recounting the events. When a narrator is “commenting in his or her own voice on the situations and events presented, their presentation, or its context” (Prince, 2003: 47), he or she is an intrusive narrator, who “explains the meaning or significance of a narrative element, makes value judgments, refers to worlds transcending the characters’ world, and/or comments on his or her own narration” (Prince, 2003: 14). The most obvious intrusion or intervention of a narrator (author)16 to convey his/her own opinions throughout a story is through narrative commentaries. These commentaries help provide background information, explain meanings or significance of actions or events, give evaluative comments, etc. Many scholars have contributed to the study of commentary as a narrative feature. One of the most detailed and influential analyses of commentaries is done by Wayne Booth in The Rhetoric of Fiction (1961/1983). Booth mentions that commentaries can be either implicit or explicit, and are employed to serve the following purposes: a) to provide the facts, “picture”, or summary for the reader; b) to work on the beliefs of the reader; c) to relate particulars to the established norms; d) to heighten the significance of events;...

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