Thursday, 29 May 2008

To Foreignise or Not to Foreignise

Cathy the Commentator pointed out an article to me on the really rather good blog Paper Republic, written by "translators of Chinese literature, living in China". The translator Bruce Humes takes a look at the mainland Chinese translation of Hosseini's The Kite Runner, and notes both censorship in play and a large-scale "domestication" of the Arabic and Afghan elements of the text.

What I particularly like about the piece is that Humes doesn't rail at the translator for taking his chosen strategy - he points out that it's common practice in China, but also explains why he thinks it's wrong. In other words, he treats his fellow translator as an equal.

The article also features a Q&A section with the translator, Mr. Li Ji-Hong. This is actually quite revealing, as he claims it took him "10+ days" to complete his translation.

I'm astounded by this. I can't help wondering how it can be possible to translate a novel in 10+ days. I was reminded of the "Korean Marshmallow Scandal", in which a famous TV personality credited with a translation of a bestselling book blew her cover by claiming to have translated 100 pages a night. But perhaps translating into Chinese is a very fast business. Humes doesn't comment on it, merely describing the translator as "efficient". I'll say.

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