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Preserving Polyphonies

Translating the Writings of Claude Sarraute

Series:

Claire Ellender

To date, translation theory offers no satisfactory response to the multidimensional challenge of rerendering postmodern texts. As the existence of linguistic and cultural plurality in these writings is now widely acknowledged, many theorists recognise the impossibility of achieving complete equivalence in translation. If the fragmented, decentred, postmodern source text (ST) is to be rerendered in the target language (TL), a process of ‘rewriting’ is deemed necessary. Nevertheless, such an approach, if taken too far, may not always be the most appropriate.
Focusing on the French journalist and novelist Claude Sarraute, whose postmodern writings offer a suitable body of texts for study, this book seeks to determine effective means by which the translator can first read and analyse postmodern STs and subsequently preserve their intricacies in the TL. To provide an original response to this challenge grounded in both theoretical and practical evidence, the author refers to the work of the Bakhtin Circle; concepts from literary theory, stylistics and translation theory; and translations of a body of texts as variegated in character as those of Sarraute. Using the approach which she recommends, the author then explains how she rerenders in English a collection of Sarraute’s polyphonic writings.

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CHAPTER 4 Polyphonies in Practice

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‘Theory’ should not be just some individual’s brain-child: it should arise from observing practice, analyzing practice, and drawing a few general conclusions to provide guidance. These conclusions should naturally be tested in practice. Leading to better guidance; better prescription based on better description. — Wagner, in Chesterman & Wagner 2002: 61 Yes, scholars do talk too much to each other rather than to a wider audi- ence. Yes, we should spend more time studying real translators in real action. […] A dialogue between scholars and professional translators can shed light on both sides. — Chesterman, in ibid.: 136 Chesterman and Wagner’s comments, like those of a number of their con- temporaries (Gentzler 2001; Hartley 2004; Munday 2001; Robinson 2012), are evidence of the increasing recognition that, rather than being separate and unrelated, translation theory and practice can in fact complement each other. As regards the rerendering of Sarraute’s polyphonic writings, it has been established that translation theory can both provide the translator with important insights into this task and supply him with certain useful 1 Can Theory Help Translators? A Dialogue Between the Ivory Tower and the Wordface (2002). Essentially a dialogue between its authors, Chesterman, a theoretical scholar, and Wagner, a professional translator, this work begins by expressing the clear divide which commonly exists between theory and practice (also Bassnett 2003: 18–19; Landers 2001: 49–50). As the dialogue progresses, the authors argue in favour of uniting translation theory and practice. 92 CHAPTER 4 instruments (Chapter 3). However, given the complementarity of...

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