The Process of Literary Translation

2.1 Literary Translation

Translation process is an artistic communication between the author, the translator and the reader and the words used by the translator constitutes the major part in the process of communicating ideas or feelings of the author. “Literature is both the condition and the place of artistic communication between senders and addressees or the public” (Basnett,2002)

The translator is the first one who must comprehend, read and interpret the source text then to render it in a different medium.

Literary translation includes fiction,poetry, drama and the language arts must be taken into consideration by the translator.

The purposes of the translator are to transfer the information but also to create an equivalent form of art.

The beauty of the translators’ work is that they bring a great contribution to the creative process being recognized as part of the literary world.

The literary translator must therefore possess a great knowledge of both the TL culture and language and the SL culture being able to command tone, style to glean meaning for ambiguity and to identify with the author’s style and imagination.

Literary texts are characterized by rhetorical and aesthetic value. There is a strong connection between form and content within literary text while the non literary text the content is separated from the structure.

Translation problems and solutions

2.1.1 Basic concepts

          First of all it is clear that every book is different and it presents its own problems.For this reason the translator of literary fiction is the one who makes most of the critical decisions when it comes to produce the best translation.It is thought that sometimes it is more important to create a translation that can evoque the spirit and particular energy of the original rather than making a translation faithful to the original.

Usually this is the main concern of a translator because one may think that taking these liberties may be seen as unprofessional.The new work, the new translation is actually an interpretation of the original therefore it is not mandatory to preserve literal words and phrases in order to be faithfull to the ST.On contrary,, translators are encouraged to use their creative abilities to adapt the original text.

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Translators maust take risks when it comes to render a good translation in order for the readers to understand the writer ‘s message.This could not be achieved by following “word for word” translation because it would not stimulate the interest of the readership.

A literary translator must have the skills to transmit feelings, culture, nuances, humour and other elements of the masterpiece.

According to Sachin Ketkar in the field of Literary Translation, the “central problem is to find the TL equivalence for features of the original as style, genre, figurative language and historical stylistic dimensions, polyvalence, connotations as well as denotations,cultural items and culture specific concepts and values”

2.1.2 Titles

Title of a book, an article, or a newspaper is the element which captures the attention of the public.

The title is nowadays a commercial decision and sometimes a complete change is required in a translator’s activity in order to attract the world of consumers, readers. The decision of changing or adapting a title must be made tough based on the content of the specific text.

One of the cases where the title was kept in the translated text as original is the case of Sandra Smith-the one who translated the book “la suite Francaise”- who decided to keep the title in French despite the fact that she was skeptical about the acceptance of her translation in the American narket.However the book was a great success in UK AND 2007.

The Italian Levi Primo did not agree to change the title of his books. The title of one of his books “If this is a man” was an integral part of the book, but it was changed in the American edition into “Escape from Auschwitz” a title which he considered inappropriate and vulgar.

“La chiave a stella” another book of the Italian writer was published in US under a new title “The Monkey’s wrench” which was not suitable because the title refered to a certain shape and the apostrophe changed its sense.

Gill Paul in his book   states that relying on a literal translation for a title is a common mistake because the translator may select a misleading title which may affect the readers’ reaction.

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Literary translators should be creative when it comes to decide for the best title when translating a book.

2.1.3 Stylized language

Translating a text can be a real challenge when the specific text was written in a particular style a long time ago.Even contemporary writers may have a style which can pe problematic for a translator.The problem is if the translator decides to update the text in order to make it accessible, thereby may loose distinctive use of vocabulary and other characteristics of the original text.

“Nobody would expect to read Shakespeare in Modern English” because it would loose its beauty.

Gill Paul suggests some advice in order to render a proper translation.He states that if the author of a book is still alive, it would be wise to actually get in touch with the artist in order to obtain a better understanding of its masterpiece.Unfortunately this option is not always available, therefore translators must become in other words the artists who can recreate a new style but to have the same effect that can be percepted by the readership.

Translators must often become their own critics in order to obtain the correct mood, tone and style with the original.

Sometimes, certain feelings can influence the style of a text which it would be a negative part of a translator;s work.For this reason, translators should always keep an objective attitude towards their work, sometimes changing the direct speech into indirect speech or sometimes they can leave the passage out.

Something will have been lost but the important thing is that translation should not call attention to itself because it can ruin the readers experience of the book” (Gill Paul)

Strong language

I personally find  “bad language” very difficult to translate as literal translation.Translators tend to ignore the strong language because they are not comfortable with it.In some cultures, swearing is a more common activity than any other thing.In English-speaking countries, bad language is considered less acceptable. The  main problem is that sometimes there is no equivalent which can match the other culture, language to be translated.

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Robert Chandler had encountered bad language when translating the Russian text “The Railways”

“Curses and swearwords present a particular problem for translators…our lexicon of abusive language is oddly limited and the more flared curses still common in Russian tend to sound laughable if translated at all literally”

He suggests simplifying the words by having our own perception of the essence of the bad words in the other culture. Swear words function as vehicles of self expression. There are three ways to translate the strong language.

The most effective method which cannot always be used is to find the word’s equivalent in the TL, but swearwords are sometimes culturally derived and they have no perfect equivalence or perfect translation.

Another way to translate the bad language is to rephrase the term, which means avoiding the word in question, not always faithful to the original text. Translating “word by word” is another way to translate the bad language but it does not always match the meaning of the word itself.

Translators must deal with censorship and must choose between translating the text as it is worded or adjusting it to reflect the speech patterns of the TL.

Translators agree that is not professional to omit specific words based only on ethical or moral grounds.The text itself is not targeted towards them therefore they should not take it as offence and it is in their best interest to provide a faithful translation.


In this area the, the most important issue with slang is the selection of the appropriate terms.

G.Paull states that in this area “it can be a question of getting exactly the right translator for the job” .He also describes the profile of the suitable translator for colloquialism:

Translators with a good working knowledge of colloquialism, dialect and slang in the native country, who can get across the meaning and help to come up with equivalents that are appropriate, do not jar with the reader and most importantly, do not date.

Translators must be sensitive to the culture and colloquial differences of different countries.

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