Translating Neruda: Politics, Ideology & Poetics (Penny Johnson, Newcastle)
The overall aim of my research is to test the hypothesis (Lefevere 1992,
Lane-Mecier1997) that literary translators manipulate representations of
source texts and writers according to their own ideological stance as
well as external socio-political factors. My assumption is that poetry,
far from being 'untranslatable', lends itself very well to political
adaptations, versions and variations, and that this is especially
salient with source texts which purposefully carry a "political"
message. I will use as a case study the translations into English by
North American and British translators of Pablo Neruda's (1904 -1973)
Canto general (1950). I aim to investigate whether and, if so, how
translators may manipulate the source text either to go against the
dominant ideology and/or poetics of the time or to comply with them.
Moreover, this need not be an either/or choice, for translation and
compliance may interact in various ways. For example, sometimes the
translators may comply with the dominant poetics so that the ideological
message reaches the target culture audience or vice-versa.
In the substantial body of criticism on Neruda, little has been written
in English about his work in translation. What there is, is usually
without a translation theory dimension.
The theoretical framework that will be used is based on a combination of
polysystems theory (Even-Zohar 1979, 1990, Toury 1995), which considers
a culture to be a system of interrelated systems always in a state of
flux, the concept of translation norms (Toury 1995, Hermans 1996, Nord
1991, Chesterman 1993), and the idea that any act of textual
manipulation is constrained or motivated by poetological and ideological
factors (Lefevere). I will identify the differences between the target
texts firstly by focusing, at the macro-level, on the sections from
Canto General that were selected for translation and then on textual
manipulation (the deviations from a 'literal' rendering of the source
text derived from a close comparison of several target texts at the
micro-level). I will also contextualise the source and target texts
sociologically and historically.
Since this is an interdisciplinary study, it should make contributions
to several fields such as Translation Studies with regard to poetry
translation from the point of view of 'politics' and 'ideology';
Cultural (or Intercultural) Studies regarding, for example, asymmetrical
relationships between cultures and the image of the 'Other'; and Latin
American Studies, particularly regarding the criticism of Neruda in
translation from a firm theoretical base.