Review: Translation, History, & Culture

Translation, History, & Culture
Translation, History, & Culture by Susan Bassnett
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book comprises of a selection of 12 essays illustrating elements of translation studies. Each chapter usually covers an analysis of a detailed example and to what context this example illustrates an element of the emerging discipline that is Translation Studies. There is a global reach of contributors with perhaps an overemphatic balance of Eastern European academics. Some of the chapters are more appropriate for entry level students although I feel that some of the papers go into deep complicated ideas on translation that will require further examination. There is a broad range of topics. I found the chapters which focussed on the history of translation to be enlightening. The establishment of ideas within the discipline usually arise in a historical perspective. The introduction looks at the exciting example of 1001 Nights and the intricacies of transmitting an ancient oral tradition into foreign cultures. It is clear that translation is very much a cultural exercise that widens the view of the world and throughout this book the cultural implications of translations are assessed in detail. Translators have a deep responsibility to remain faithful to the author and source culture, yet to transmit in line with the target culture without subverting too much the original content or the culture into which the translation is entering. The final example in the book, of the difficulties and challenges Milan Kundera’s ‘The Joke’ presented, illustrates how difficult it is for a translator to fully grasp the source language culture and to not betray the original author’s intentions. There is more to translation than a simple metaphrasing, especially where deeply cultural challenging literary works are the subject. Paraphrasing in line with cultural values of both source and target culture is critical. This book introduces some very good examples of translation theory at action in the field. I am sure that I will refer back to it in my ongoing studies of Translation.

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