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Preserving Polyphonies

Translating the Writings of Claude Sarraute


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 5 Rerendering Claude Sarraute


Thus far, the foundations have been laid for reading and analysing texts of a polyphonic nature and for rerendering such works in the TL. At each stage, the writings of Claude Sarraute have been considered and the ways in which these can be read, analysed, and subsequently rerendered have been examined. Building on this work, the present chapter focuses yet more closely on a collection of extracts from Sarraute’s writings, which it reads, analyses, and reproduces in English (for full set of ST-TT pairs, see Ellender 2006a). Ten extracts were selected in order to of fer a comprehensive cov- erage of Sarraute’s work and to reinforce that, irrespective of the genre to which they belong, the time at which they were written, and the subjects which they discuss, her texts are indisputably polyphonic. Accordingly, the present chapter groups my ten chosen extracts, of approximately four hundred to one thousand words each, according to their genre: article for Le Monde (Extracts 1 to 3), novel (Extracts 4 to 7), social critique (Extract 8), column for Psychologies (Extracts 9 and 10). It approaches these chrono- logically, from the 1980s to the twenty-first century, and seeks to encom- pass a broad range of the subject matter which Sarraute typically covers in her works, from education and politics, through male-female and family relationships, to multiculturalism. Most significantly, this chapter of fers a thorough illustration of the particular qualities of Sarraute’s writings occurring within the four major defining categories which have served as the leitmotif...

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