Friday, July 24, 2009

Author-translator collaboration

Some consider Milan Kundera or Isaac Bashevis Singer as self-translators because they were actively involved in the translation process done by professional translators. The case of Milan Kundera is of particular interest because he revised every single translation of his work before it was published and "added a note to all revised French translations granting the 'same level of authority as the original'." (Vanderschelden 1998:25)
In her article "Authority in literary translation. Collaborating with the author" Vanderschelden discusses different forms of collaborations - they mainly differ in the form of intensity, the degree of influence of the author on the translated text: "The notion of 'authority' conveys the power and legitimacy of the author in relation with the text. In this context, translation collaboration can sometimes shift the decision process from translator to author". (Vanderschelden 1998:26) Despite the proclaimed "death of the author" by Roland Barthes, the translation practice shows that the author is still seen as the ultimative decision instance regarding the meaning of the original. This leads to "an element of subordination on the part of the translator" (Vanderschelden 1998:25).
Other collaborations she discusses include:
- Umberto Eco with William Weaver
- Jorge Luis Borges with Norman Thomas di Giovanni
- Cortázar with Laure Bataillon
- Cabrera Infante with Suzanne Jill Levine

For further reading:
Vanderschelden, Isabelle (1998): Authority in literary translation. Collaborating with the author. In: Translation Review 56, pp. 22-31.

Woods, Michelle (2006): Translating Milan Kundera. Topics in Translation: 30.

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