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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 Five. Paratexts in Narration – Translators’ Notes 139


139 Chapter Five. Paratexts in Narration – Translators’ Notes To cope with translation problematics in a narrative work, translators’ overt intrusions, in addition to the original author’s intrusions, demand due attention. The present study finds that the translators have demonstrated two tendencies in their overt intrusions, which especially appear when they render specific culture-loaded or locality-related items: one is in-text explicitation, to explicate the original texts by inserting detailed explanations inside the texts; the other is out-text interpretation, to supply background information by adding footnotes or endnotes, which corresponds to what Appiah calls “thick-translation”, that is, “the ‘academic’ translation, translation that seeks with its annotations and its accompanying glosses to locate the text in a rich cultural and linguistic context” (Appiah, 1993: 817). As some of the explications, the inserted details, have been discussed together with other strategies in the previous sections, this section focuses on the “thick translations”, the added translators’ footnotes and endnotes. In the selected stories, the translators’ notes are mostly concerned with items full of cultural or historical meanings, special local particularities, or the local dialect, which relate to features in the ST. In order to explicitly clarify the meanings involved in these items, translators employ footnotes or endnotes. According to Genette, the functions of notes are to “serve as a supplement, sometimes a digression, very rarely a commentary” (Genette, 1997: 327). Within this present study, almost all the added notes serve as supplements. 140 5.1 A General Overview Within the scope of the fifteen translations of...

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