Translating culture: problems, strategies and practical realities

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Translating culture: problems, strategies and practical realities

University of Zadar; [email protected]


Art and Subversion No. 1 - Year 3 12/2012 - LT.1 ISSN 1847-7755 1 Translating culture: problems, strategies and practical realities Ana Fernández Guerra 0. Introduction Literary texts display many linguistic peculiarities, as well as social and cultural aspects of our lives and, thus, we can assert that literary translation is one of the main ways of communication across cultures. Translating literary texts, however, is not an easy task, since it certainly poses many problems for the translator. One of the problems a translator can face arises from the fact that some words or phrases denoting objects, facts, phenomena, etc… are so deeply rooted in their source culture (SC) and so specific (and perhaps exclusive or unique) to the culture that produced them that they have no equivalent in the target culture (TC), be it because they are unknown, or because they are not yet codified in the target language (TL). When discussing the problems of correspondence in translation, “differences between cultures may cause more severe complications for the translator than do differences in language structure” (Nida 130). Moreover, several theorists, such as Santoyo, García Yebra and Yifeng, amongst others, support untranslatability when we face texts with terms which are so culture-bound and culture-specific as to defy translation (cf. Fernández Guerra, “The issue” 41). In all cases, when cultural differences exist between the two languages, it is extremely difficult to achieve a successful transfer, if not impossible (whatever the competence of the translator in the two languages involved). And even the slightest variation from the source language (SL) cultural term can be taken as an act of subversion against the culture it represents. Literary translation itself can even be regarded as an act of subversion, or a means of providing an alternative or sub- version of reality. As Levine affirms, “the literary translator can be considered a subversive scribe” Art and

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