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by Mar 18, 2020

SL/TL Relationships in Literary Translation. What you need to pay attention to?

SL/TL Relationships in Literary Translation. What you need to pay attention to?

For years, I was holding any thoughts of becoming a Literary Translator at bay, mainly, because as a writer, I did not want to do anything else but write. But life has its own ways with us and every time I was fortunate enough to stumble across an amazing book, I was shown over and over again the sad side of the exquisite world of writing.

Most of the things you write half of the world will never have a chance to know just because it will never be translated.

But today, when I am seriously taking on the Literary Translation Mission, I more and more discover pitfalls that I think might be the reasons why Book Translation, even to the present day, stays a blurry spot in the world of Literature.

How can it be otherwise, you can say, considering how tricky the valuation of a final translation can be?! And this is just another reason to keep our never ending conversation about book translation to make this blurry spot a little bit more clear.

In my previous posts, I already touched on how important it is for a good Literary Translator to be at least one leg into writing. I also talked on how to choose a right Literary Translator for your book and how important it is to make sure that your Literary Translator is literary in love with your story.

Yet today, I want to move a little bit farther and talk about 4 most important things you need to pay attention to whether when working with a Literary Translator or when Translating (in case, you, my friend, is or going to be a Literary Translator).

But first, let’s answer the question: What is SL and TL in Translation?

SL (the source language) is the language being translated from and TL (the target language) is the language being translated to. Pretty simple, is not it?!

Now, 4 things to ensure healthy relationships between SL and TL.

1. Flow

One of the reasons as to why dry translation – the one used mainly in technical translations, won’t work in Literary Translation is because once there is a story, there is a unique flow to it. And once this unique flow is shaken by any form of ignorance, the story loses a great share of its charm which can be called a Literary crime.

I am serious.

Job of a Literary Translator is not just translating, but representing a story and its Author with dignity and truth to TL readers.

And if a Literary Translator fails to do that it can evoke very unpleasant consequences for both the Literary Translator and the Author.

2. Composition/Logic

Yes, Logic is not Universal. What is logical for one culture, can be absolute loss for another. And Literary Translation is exactly about differences, is not it?!

Logic is not a thing to neglect in Literary Translation if you don’t want to ridicule a story, an Author, or a Literary Translator as such.

Again, Literary Translation is not about blind translation of word after word. It is deeply intellectual work that requires a deep understanding of how this or that language works. So, in order, to save logic in translation it is extremely important to track properties and ‘weight’ of the written words in both SL and TL languages.

For example, in English, a sole verb can grasp on a whole action, whereas in Russian, verbs usually need a following assistance in order to save property of logic in a sentence.

So, yes, sometimes a Literary Translator has to add additional words in order to save logic for TL readers and it is not about breaking rules. Rather, it is about knowing them.

3. Emotional/Psychological effect

It is tricky to save emotional and psychological effect original text has on SL readers when translating. But it is what we, Translators, do.

This is why knowing cultural differences between two languages is so important. Again, and I probably will never get tired of repeating it, translation of words is not how Literary Translation works. There are too many facets to a written story, each of which must be acknowledged and saved when transporting it from one language to another.

If TL readers will experience different emotions while reading your translation, does not it mean that they are reading a different story?

4. Style

Every Literary Translator acquires his/her own style of translation and in no way does it diminish his/her professionalism. But this is exactly why I mentioned genre as one of the main criterion you need to consider when picking a right Literary Translator for your story. If your book is breathing slang or a walking hipster spirit, please, make sure that your potential translator for hiring has a firm grip on this type of style, because trust me, style is what makes your book yours, and you, for sure, don’t want to lose it.


That's all from me today. If you would like to get more information on Literary Translation and Translation in general, please, follow me on my social media or subscribe to my blog to not miss my posts on the subject in future.

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My appreciations to each and every of you.

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