Rosanna Masiola

Il fascino nel tradurre

The tusks of the translator…in a china shop

Il Fascino nel tradurre (Charme/Charm in translating) explores the fatal attraction and fascination exerted upon translators by literary portraits of women. The seductive power of femininity and fashion is structured upon textual elusiveness, indeterminacy, vagueness, ambiguity, and ineffability. The descriptive and translational paradox (Kittay 1981) lies in the fact that if beauty is elusive and indeterminate, as epitomized by George Eliot in describing Gwendolen Harleth:  “Was she beautiful or not beautiful?”, the language of fashion framing feminine beauty also features a specialized lexicon defining textile, fabrics, style, production, origin, mode, etc. Markers of definite precision in the descriptive discourse of fashion lexicon thus interface with markers of vagueness and ambiguity in beauty, requesting the special touch of translators.

Translators in their quest for words and meanings may end in a china shop where the wrong sounds may flaw crystals and their power of reflection. The subtitle “the tusks of the translator in a china shop”, a pun on Walter Benjamin's Task of the Translator, (Die Aufgabe des Übersetzers, 1923) Aufgabe> task, works only for the British English near-homophones (/ta:sk / and  /tʌsk/).

Multi-task-(ing), however, is a more apt definition, as translating is challenged by ideological barriers, trans-cultural variation, lexico-semantic constraints, and multi-lingual lexicography.

The corpus is a selection of thematic units in comparative literature and diachronic translation analyzing visual and verbal descriptions, including film adaptations and intersemiotic translation.

It has been partly inspired by William Empson's Seven Types of Ambiguities, Philippe Hamon's semiology of description (Du Descriptif), and Umberto Eco' pages on fashion in translation (Experiences in Translation).

Indeterminacy, vagueness, indefiniteness are elements of fascino challenging translators in the representation of symbols of seduction.  Expliciting or anticipating information would inevitably flaw cohesion, emotional tension oscillating between effability’ versus ineffability in translation (Steven Katz) throughout the translational process. The rhetorical trope of  preterition as“impossible to describe”  acknowledged by authors consequently correlates to the silent and secret ‘impossible to translate’ of the translator’s dilemma. George Steiner acknowledged it to be an “An exact mystery”.


PublisherMorlacchi Libri, Perugia
Copyright: © Morlacchi editore 
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