a multilingual and transdisciplinary journal


#04 «Found in (Mis)Translation »

Dirk Weissmann

Yoko Tawada

Dirk Weissmann im Gespräch mit Yoko Tawada

Arianne Des Rochers

Robert Twiss

In Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability (Verso, 2013) and elsewhere, Emily Apter appeals to “mistranslation” as a basis for her concept of “untranslatability,” which she uses to critique the hegemony of English in the academic study of world literature, especially as it manifests itself in the forms of an excessive reliance on English translations and a facile assumption of transparency and equivalence between texts and their translations. In this article, we argue that the theoretical shortcomings with Apter’s concept of “untranslatability” render it ineffective as a tool for the critique and analysis of actual, translated texts. Taking the problems with Apter’s “untranslatability” as a point of departure, we argue that attention to the ways in which difference in translation (and mistranslation) creates meaning can help us better understand both translations and their source texts. In contradistinction to Apter’s invocation of inscrutability and untranslatability as a plea to respect the distinctiveness of texts, languages, and cultures, we defend the importance and productivity of the study of translated texts and translation practice as a means of better understanding this distinctiveness. In this view, looking at “mistranslations” reveals itself as a productive tool that can help us grasp the richness and complexity of languages, texts, and ideas.

Antonietta Sanna

«Humanum fuit errare» selon Saint Augustin (Sermones164,14). Si l’on applique au domaine de la traduction la devise augustinienne et que l’on prend le mot latin non pas dans l’acception d’« être en erreur», de «se tromper», mais plutôt dans le sens de «marcher à l’aventure», on peut considérer l’erreur comme une chance, un imprévu qui permet de contribuer par le biais de la traduction à la définition d’une esthétique de l’erreur. En acceptant l’erreur on libère l’œuvre traduite du mythe du perfectumet de la fidélité et on considère l’imperfectumcomme expression artistique assumant une densité sémantique. Nombreux sont les exemples en philosophie, en histoire de l’art, en littérature qui montrent que la perfection est toujours hors de la portée humaine et que seule l’imperfection surprend, suggère des directions imprévues, suscite la polysémie, appelle à la reprise, à la réinterprétation.

Jana-Katharina Mende

This article analyses mistranslations in the Parisian lectures of the Polish author Adam Mickiewicz at the Collège de France. The texts were published between 1841 and 1849 in different versions in French, Polish, and German. Initially, mistranslations are defined as deliberate decisions of the translators, after which their aesthetic, linguistic, and linguistic-political functions are discussed. The analysis shows that those mistranslations were deliberately used by the author and the translators to achieve linguistic-political and aesthetic effects that were not intended in the original. This explains the mistranslations in the text, which are not to be understood as translation mistakes.

Claire Placial

In the Vulgata, Jerome translated the first words of verse 1,5 of the Song of Salomon by nigra sum sed formosa (« I am black but beautiful »), while the Hebrew text could or should be translated by et formosa (« and beautiful ») ; this choice shows the importance of translation of even the apparently smallest words, since its impact on exegesis and iconography are huge. Recently, the development of feminist, black and queer exegesis has shed light on the necessity of questioning the Vulgata’s translation choice, that had been emulated in all languages in the Christian West.

Sara Landa

This article discusses the cooperation in translation between philologists and poets In a case study, three German versions of a poem by the Chinese Author Lu Xun were compared which were created out of a collaboration between the philologists Egbert Baqué and Michael Streffer together with the poets Sarah Kirsch, Jürgen Theobaldy and Gisela Kraft. Analyzing the different versions allows insights into the interplay between philology and poetry which brings forth a special potential for integrating foreign texts into new literary and cultural contexts despite or because of some instances of ‘mistranslation’. Moreover, it shows how inextricably translating and writing are intertwined.

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