July 28, 2010

Esther Dischereit translates

6 versions from Esther Dischereit in Berlin:

Wenn Tugend mir glänzend schön ist und keineswegs ein Mangel, dann ist es Euer Schwiegersohn des Haut statt dunkel mir eher leuchtend will erscheinen.

Wer Tugend schätzt und nicht als Schaden an der glänzend Schönheit sieht, dem wird der schwarze Schwiegersohn, der Eure, als Lichtgestalt gefallen.

Wenn Tugend einer glänzend Schönheit nicht entbehrt, dann geht es eher darum, wie sehr er Anstand hat, Eurer Tochter Mann, denn darum wie die Schwärze seiner Haut gebrannt.

Wenn es die Tugend ist, die zu dem Glanz der Schönheit zählt, nicht deren Mangel, dann ist es weniger die schwarze Haut des Schwiegersohns, um die es geht, als denn sein Anstand, der ihn hell erhebt.

Wenn es um Tugend geht und deren Glanz kein Mangel ist an Schönem, dann ist der schwarze Schwiegersohn, der Eure, so reich daran als wär er weiß geworden.

Es geht nicht darum, ob er schwarz ist, Euer Schwiegersohn, sondern ob Tugend ihm steht zu Gebote – sofern ich der Tugend Glanz nicht als ein Mangel an was Schönem seh – und so gesehen wird er mir hell und heller.

Wenn die Tugend nicht Mangel ist an Schönem, sondern deren Fülle, dann ist der Schwiegersohn, der Eure, eher nicht dunkel, sondern hell erstrahlend mehr und mehr.

July 11, 2010

Retranslating Shakespeare – two recent studies

Two very interesting studies online:

Nestori Siponkoski’s article, ‘145 Years of Finnish Shakespeare Retranslation: The Next Move‘, in MikaEL: Kääntämisen ja tulkkauksen tutkimuksen symposiumin verkkojulkaisu (Electronic proceedings of the KäTu symposium on translation and interpreting studies) 3 (2009). Siponkoski refers to the inadequacy of theorisation in previous work on retranslation and highlights the role of copy-editors.

Jan Willem Mathijssen’s PhD, Utrecht 2007, titled: The Breach and the Observance: Theatre retranslation as a strategy of artistic differentiation, with special reference to retranslations of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (1777-2001) (contents here) (pdf of the whole thesis here).

Mathijssen assumes that “retranslation is a means of artistic differentiation, originating in the target culture as a result of conflicts between the norms of different people” (p.17). He develops a four-dimensional scalar model of the strategies which translators adopt, and depicts it in graphics like this one (p.71):

Figure 6: Comparison between Burgersdijk’s and Ducis’s Hamlet
This is the first in a series of figures that indicate the differences between the norms of the Hamlet translations presented in the case studies. In each figure, the differences are mapped on the diagram presented in Figure 1 1. Burgersdijk’s translation and Ducis’s adaptation of Hamlet differ in two respects. They apply a different norm with regard to the attitude towards the original author (‘initial norm’) and with regard to the extent to which the original text is translated (‘matricial norm’): Burgersdijk is subservient to the original author and intends to translate the complete text (in understandable Dutch, hence the term ‘rationalisation’); Ducis wants to create a new text and adds his own material to the parts of the original that he uses. Note that Burgersdijk’s reaction is to the Ducis version of Hamlet, rather than to the achievements of either De Cambon-Van der Werken or Zubli as translators of the Ducis text. Note also that the term ‘retention’ for Ducis means a neoclassical setting different from Shakespeare’s Denmark, that is nevertheless not present-day Paris or Rotterdam. (
Mathijssen, 2007: 71)

July 3, 2010

Rewritings and genres / forms of publication

‘Rewriting’ is a very useful term – ‘translation’ and ‘adaptation’ are too specific, and ambiguous, and loaded. But I find I keep writing ‘translation’, then deleting and writing ‘rewriting’…

Then again, almost always we’re dealing with re-translations or re-adaptations, and the term re-rewriting seems a bit clumsy.

In Rescripting Shakespeare: The Text, the Director, and Modern Productions (CUP, 2002), Alan C. Dessen distinguishes between ‘rescripting‘ and ‘rewrighting‘ as strategies of directors (or dramaturgs) in preparing a script for production. Rescripting is about relatively modest streamlining, simpifying, clarifying, cutting (up to the level of scenes) in accordance with an interpretative idea. ‘Rewrighting’ is about wholesale changes to plays.

Dessen’s last chapter is on ‘The Editor as Rescripter’ – pointing out that decisions by editors about the text have often been based on assumptions about theatrical practice (in Shakespeare’s time and/or the editors’), just as directors’ decisions often are editorial, only they aren’t preserved in print.

Translators as rewriters normally must be rescripters and can be rewrighters too.

In my presentation at the Author-Translator Conference last week, I looked at three kinds of distinction in the choices made by rewriters (or translators/adaptors) for “fair” and “black“, in a sample of 54 different rewritings in French and German. I elaborated a little on: 1. the distinction between the two languages; 2. a distinction (which certainly needs refining) between ‘Author-translators’ and ‘other’ rewriters (also comparing the two languages again); 3. distinctions between historical periods (especially in the German rewritings).

Further distinctions can be explored, e.g. between genres of rewritings, associated with publication formats and venues. Scholarly editions, student textbooks, bibliophile editions of poets’ works, and other genres of publication are destined for different segments of the reading market. Rewriters’ choices surely depend in part on their anticipated users. And what I’ve just said makes it sound as if readers are the main users. But many – not all – rewritings published in books were done with the stage in mind. And a good number of the German sources I’ve collected have never been published in book form, because they were commissioned by theatres and are ‘published’ by theatre publishers who operate outside the general book trade – they lease script performance rights to theatrical producers. Among the German Othello texts I’ve collected from theatre publishers are a few offprints from book-publications, as well as several typescripts (typewritten or word-processed scripts), hand-bound in paper or card, and a number of more recent born-digital files.

What I’m envisaging with this project is an overview of all sorts of rewritings of Othello – somehow also including those which omit the couplet in question, as increasingly many adaptations do – presented as a database which can be explored in different dimensions: through maps, timelines, tree diagrams showing genetic relations, and visualisations of patterns within diversely filtered subsets (by language, by genre, by period) .

My presentation used this table. It raises a lot of methodological questions, which I’ll return to…

'Fair' & 'black' in the Duke's couplet in 22 French and 32 German rewritings (back-translated)

July 2, 2010

Thinking about “… delighted beauty …”

This week, at the Author-Translator Conference here in Swansea, I announced the ‘Delighted Beauty Project’. I presented a paper on 32 German versions and 22 French versions (the French ones were gathered by Matthias Zach) of one (in)famous couplet from Shakespeare’s Othello – the parting words of the Duke of Venice in Act 1, scene 3:

If virtue no delighted beauty lack, / Your son-in-law is far more fair than black.” 

The simple idea behind the project is to collect as many versions as possible of these two lines, in all the world’s languages, from the past and from the present. I’m inviting participation from researchers and students, translators, and anyone else who is interested. More info at www.delightedbeauty.org

The collection, online, will be a window onto world-wide Shakespeare translation, through history and in the present; onto global histories of theatre, of editions, of reading, of philosophies of translation; and not least – of course – a window onto world-wide ideas, discourses, ideologies concerning ‘race’ difference, through history and in the present. 

The Delighted Beauty Project will in need funding to develop its potential. I’ve been talking with David Berry (here at Swansea University) about applying data mining and visualisation techniques to the material. I guess we might collect 1,000 versions of the lines – in many different scripts – dating from the 18th century to now. (It’ll be an open-ended collection: we’ll keep adding new versions as they are created / discovered by contributors.) Each version must have information attached: a reliable source reference, a back-translation into English, and preferably some commentary. Topics for commentary include the back-translation (which will often be controversial), the translator, the context the translator worked in, the reception history of the translation, and so on. Commentaries on commentaries too, of course …

We’ll develop techniques which can be applied in other projects – academic resource crowd-sourcing, interactive editing, graphic visualisation of literary intertexuality. A multilingual, transhistorical text corpus will probably have uses I’ve not even though of.

My paper at the Author-Translator Conference was called ‘Do Author-Translators Make Difference Differently Different?’ and in it I analysed the different ways the two lines have been translated, in French (x 22) and German (x 32), since the 1760s and right up to the present, focusing on the words ‘fair‘ and ‘black‘.

I’m a fan of Franco Moretti’s work such as Graphs, Maps, Trees: Abstract Models for a Literary History. Sampling (or ‘distant reading’), and systematic comparisons, can discover patterns, and therefore raise questions, which are inconceivable within conventional approaches to cultural work (productions, performances, texts, histories, contemporary culture). The work of sampling and comparing doesn’t preclude more … conventional approaches.

I’ll say more about my analysis in another posting. Just a taster for now … The couplet plays on multiple meanings. The Duke makes an anthropological or ethnographic distinction, but the first line of the couplet motivates more general meanings. For ‘fair‘, these can be grouped as ethical (‘good’, ‘auspicious’, etc. – as in ‘virtue‘), and optical (‘light-coloured’, ‘bright’ – as in ‘[de]light[ed]‘), and aesthetic (‘beautiful’ – as in ‘beauty‘). For ‘black‘, all the contrary meanings are motivated.

The lines evoke others in the play, referring to ‘virtue‘, and ‘delight‘, and of course colour; and to passages in The Merchant of Venice, Titus Andronicus, The Tempest, the Sonnets, and so on and on. Each translated version of the couplet really demands a full analysis of the whole play – as translated – and of each translator’s whole life and work – in his or her cultural historical context(s) – etc etc. But considered as samples, the versions of the couplet can tell us a lot (not least, which translations are probably going to be worth reading more closely).

In French and German, ‘schwarz’ and ‘noir’ are obvious choices for translating ‘black‘. But no one word can do all the work of the English word ‘fair‘. So translators have decisions, choices to make. My paper discussed the decisions in terms of three kinds of distinction: firstly between the two languages; secondly between translators in general and ‘author-translators’ (which I proposed to mean translators whose name carries cultural authority – basically a sociological definition, and debatable); and thirdly between historical periods. I’ll put my findings in brief (and some of my graphics, tables and slides) into another post. Enough already for now.