The Art of Literary Translation
Translation is an art, not a science. In particular, the translation of literary texts
is a complex task. It requires the translation of not only the literal meaning, but also the melody, tone, and rhythm. The Latino market is a substantial consumer of published materials including books, newspapers, magazines, journals, etc. Thus, text translations
must not only translate the ideas but also retain the natural flow of the source to maintain levels of readership. This task can turn out to be quite a challenge, and often a mediocre translation can distort the meaning and quality of the original text.
This is the case of critically-acclaimed author Isabel Allende’s recent work titled Ines of My Soul. On November 12, 2006, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution published a literary review of this text. One of the critics, Greg Johnson, tore the English translation
to shreds, criticizing its excessive use of clichés and incorrect use of the verb “to be.” These two elements diminished the work’s cohesion and readability. However, Johnson cited that these errors were likely due to inaccuracies in its translation from Spanish
. This is a key example of how a novel given raving reviews throughout Latin America was deemed of poor literary quality in English-speaking markets because of a poor translation.
Although a professional Spanish translation
will never exactly replicate the original work, it is possible to retain its essence and level of quality. For instance, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, acclaimed author of the epic One Hundred Years of Solitude, said its translation to English
actually improved on the original. To properly translate a literary work, it is crucial for the translator to have a vast knowledge of the source and target language as well as an understanding of the work’s context and purpose. Only by retaining the agreement, coherence, and cohesion of the original will a translated work have the same literary quality and acclaimed success.
By Karina Lairet