Reading Blog — “Post-Colonial Writing and Literary Translation” by Maria Tymoczko — M.Paczkowski (11.7)

She begins by saying that “analysis of literary texts emerging from peoples who have been colonized or oppressed invites metaphor: the criticism of such texts speaks, for example, of voices silenced, margin and centre, and epistolary exchange”. Metaphoric speech is cognitively pervasive. Translation may be used within such a metaphoric realm, but not what she will speak on. She says that “translation as a metaphor for post-colonial writing, for example, invokes the sort of activity associated with the etymological meaning of the word: translation as the activity of carrying across, for instance, the transportation and relocation of the bones and other remains of saints”. Post-colonial writing may be understood as a form of translation. However, she desires not to speak of translation as a form of transportation. Instead, desires to understand such as providing an analogue for post-colonial writing. Two types of intercultural writings are distinct but share enough commonalities for the exploration of both in tandem. She says that significant differences between literary translation and post-colonial literature are obvious. The primary difference is that post-colonial writers are not transposing text, while translators are, often transposing culture as the background to their work. Translators have limited domains, only a single text to transpose. “A literary translator is de facto concerned with differences not just in language but with the same range of cultural factors that a writer must address when writing to a receiving audience composed partially or primarily of people from a different culture”.

Significant differences deal with parameters of constraint. Translator is faced with a fixed text that maintains fixed cultural elements, presenting issues of faithfulness. This facing of literalism proves to be a major obstacle in writing for translation. In contrast, a post-colonial writer can choose the cultural elements attempted to be transposed. Linguistic features related to the source culture can be highlighted as defamiliarized elements in the text, or domesticated in some way, or circumvented altogether. Since translator’s begin with elements intended for an audience in the source culture, it is not uncommon that elements are difficult for the receiving audience in another culture. “A translated text more than an original piece of literature thus risks losing balance at critical moments, making the information load too great for comfortable assimilation by the receiving audience”. Writing converges on the shared limit defined by the cultural interface. With various elements such as footnotes and glossaries..etc, the translator can embed the translated text in a shell that explains necessary cultural and literary backgrounds for the receiving audience, functioning as a running commentary. These differences seem more significant prima facie than upon close consideration. The two types of textual production converge in many respects. It is clear that no text can ever be fully translated in all its aspects. Choices must be made by the translator. Some of the differences speak to incompatibilities. Thus, many of the differences are considered inescapable. Other differences have to do with information load. “A translator’s refractions of a source text have analogues in the choices of a minority-culture writer makes in representing the home culture, for no culture can be represented completely in any literary text, just as no source can be fully represented in a translation”. A minority-culture or post-colonial writer will have to pick aspects of the home culture to convey and to emphasize, but how does one choose which aspects and elements are of the most importance? Judgment is inescapable in the process. There can be no final interpretation, no last word. This process is thus exceedingly controversial. Most post-colonial writers choose to live abroad, writing about their culture of origin from the vantage point of another nation. She presents that translation is generally a less heated affair. Problems of translation can be known as marked features of post-colonial writing. Doesn’t believe that the use of rare or untranslatable words are defects of translated texts. The result is that translations often have different lexical texture from unmarked prose in the receptor culture, which are similarly found in the lexis of post-colonial texts. The metatext of an unfamiliar culture in a post-colonial text is a factor in the wide range of lexical items in some post-colonial text. Unfamiliar cultural information does not simply reside in lexical items, but is a more diffuse presence in a source text. Sometimes items such as myths require a more explicit explanation at some point in the text. “When a literary work is intended for an audience that shares the culture of the text, such customs and myths and information can and generally do remain implicit. Moving from a dominant-culture source text to a minority-culture audience often leaves dominant cultural materials implicit. A text in such way participates in cultural dominance by foregrounding. “Prevailing Western standards of literature exclude instructional or didactic literature; although such a posture is by no means universal in literature”. Demands of post-colonial writing are similar to that of translation. In post-colonial writing, there is an analogue in the prestige of the author. Each will struggle with the question of naturalizing material to the standards of the receiving audience. The discernment of such norms is essential in any analysis of a translation.

“Recent work on translation theory and practice indicates the importance of patronage as a determinant of translation practice, and this is another area that bears on post-colonial writing”. Patrons now take the form of publishing houses and presses. They determine the parameters of what is translated. Very much become an economy of translation in which markets choose what should be translated by what is published. Demands of patronage are intertwined with questions of audience. Issues of intended audience are often deceptive. In recent years, translation studies have turned a lot of concern towards issues of audience. Audience is vastly important in the production of literary texts. Writing strategies will differ considerably depending on the audience, and critics must be alert to such factors. In cases of post-colonial writing, a question of international audience becomes important. “It becomes increasingly hard to define national traditions of the modern novel”. Upon increasing patronage, greater demands of the author upon the reader are seemingly justified. Translation is frequently a source of formal experimentation in receptor cultures, as translators import or adapt the genres and formal strategies of the source text into the receptor system. Formal innovation is also another novel system within the literary domain. One of the most challenging features of writing about post-colonial and minority-culture literature is constructing a standard of judgment. Most literary phenomena are defined by more than their content. Criticism of post-colonial and minority culture literature will benefit from a clearer sense of the parameters, yet who decides such parameters and wouldn’t such be continuously in flux? 

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