CTIS Seminar: Retranslating Zola in Stereo: Working with/against Vizetelly
|Dates:||14 February 2019|
|Times:||14:00 - 15:30|
|What is it:||Seminar|
|Organiser:||School of Arts, Languages and Cultures|
|Who is it for:||University staff, Adults, Alumni, Current University students, General public|
French ‘naturalist’ writer Émile Zola (1840-1902) published his novel La Joie de vivre, the 12th in the 20-volume cycle about the fictional Rougon-Macquart family during the Second Empire, in 1884. Unlike Zola’s better-known novels, La Joie de vivre has not been well served by translations into English. Apart from a 1955 version by Jean Stewart, long out of print, the only available translation was until recently the heavily bowdlerized one made in 1888 by Ernest Alfred Vizetelly, which has determined the novel’s largely unfavourable reception in the English-speaking world. At the time of his translation, Vizetelly’s father, the publisher and translator Henry Vizetelly (1820-1894), had been found guilty in London on charges of obscene libel for publishing a translation of Zola’s La Terre (1887). Vizetelly fils therefore adopted a policy of strict self-censorship in his own translations of Zola, in conformity with the conservative moral codes of British Victorian respectability. As a result, a novel with a powerful feminist agenda and which gives a large place to female agency and desire, is seriously distorted by his translation. Despite this, I will argue that the modern translator has much to gain from being constantly aware of the English-language ‘inscription’ (Venuti, 2017) of the novel produced by his predecessor a century and a quarter ago.
The paper discusses why, in preparing my own 2018 English-language version of La Joie de vivre for Oxford World’s Classics, I chose to make use of Computer-Assisted Translation (CAT) tools. Normally employed professionally to translate non-literary texts containing a significant amount of terminology and/or a degree of repetition, CAT tools are widely considered unsuitable for literary work, which typically uses a non-technical register and deliberately avoids repetition. Using the freeware tool LF Aligner, I aligned Zola’s original text at sentence level with Vizetelly’s English translation to create one translation memory per chapter. The alignments themselves give a fine-grained and quantifiable insight into the features of the original, from single words to whole pages, that Vizetelly felt obliged to omit or otherwise censor, making it easier to draw conclusions than would possible simply by reading the two texts side by side. Translation Memory allows a dual (or potentially, a multiple) reading of the source text through the prism of a prior translation, which can help focus and calibrate new solutions. It also gives a tangible clue to what Walter Benjamin meant, in his famous preface ‘The Task of the Translator’, about the after-life of the work, and translation as reconstructing the shattered vessel of Pure Language. My concluding contention is therefore that a CAT tool, through the stereophonic/-scopic reading of the source text that it makes possible, can enhance the creative process of understanding and retranslating a classic work of literature such as La Joie de vivre.
Organisation: Swansea University
Biography: Andrew Rothwell is Professor of French and Translation Studies at Swansea University. His main research interests are in contemporary French poetry and visual arts, literary translation, and computerised translation tools. In addition to The Bright Side of Life, he has translated into English works by a number of contemporary French poets, as well as Thérèse Raquin by Emile Zola (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998). He is a member of the Board of the European Master’s in Translation Network and co-chairs the EMT Working Group on Translation Tools and Technologies.
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