Problemas y técnicas en la traducción e interpretación

Literatura inglesa. Traducciones de obras. Comparativa de textos

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  • Idioma: inglés
  • País: España España
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1.- Comente brevemente los primeros escritos ingleses. Señale las obras más importantes.

As an introduction, let begin with the fact that the Roman presence did not give an elaborated literature to the Islands, but Latin was the written language of inhabitants of the Islands because of the powerful influence of Christian monks.

After the withdrawal of the Roman legions, in the fifth century, the German peoples who had lived in the North Sea coast would begin to take up the Island.

Those German peoples: Anglos, Jutes and Saxons, brought a primitive oral culture from which a primitive written literature in Anglo-Saxon language was born. The primitive English texts appeared mainly written in four Anglo-Saxon dialects: Northumbrian, Mercian, Kentish and West Saxon

The first religious poet would be Caedmon, VII century, who was the author of a short poem that was mentioned by Bede in his Ecclesiastical History.

The most important literary works are the following ones:

The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, which was written in King Alfred of Wessex days, is a highly appreciated literary work because it describes in detail the events that had taken place until that time.

In Latin, I must mention the famous manuscript Lindisfarne Gospels. It was written, in 700, in Latin and with the graph known as half-uncial: Latin with certain Irish influence.

In Anglo-Saxon, Beowulf, The Fight at Finns Borough, The Fight at Bruna Borough and The Fight of Maldon and Waldere are considered the primitive cycle of the English heroic poetry.

Beowulf is thought to have been written in either in the seventh or eighth century. The oldest text of Beowulf we have was written in the dialect known as West Saxon in the year 1000, though most of investigators do not consider it to be the primitive one.

The Fight at Finns Borough is considered to be a priceless literary work of primitive English epic poetry from which only a 46 lines long fragment remains. The topic that this poem deals with is also mentioned in Beowulf, so it is thought that this poem was written by the same person who wrote Beowulf and that he belonged to the Northumbrian School.

The Fight at Bruna Borough shows us the fight of the Anglo-Saxon King Athelstan against the army of the Gaelic Scottish and Scandinavian

The Fight of Maldon deals with the battle of the Anglo-Saxon noble Byrthnoth and a Viking expedition. Byrthnoth shows us the scribe as a Christian knight, which indicates that it was elaborated after Beowulf had been. In contrast to the battle of Brunanburg, in The Fight of Maldon the Anglo-Saxon armies would be defeated due to the bad strategy of their leader.

Finally, Waldere deals with the fight of the hero Waldere against a Burgundy warrior party led by his King Guthere. Possibly inspired in the X century, it was written in Waltharius Latin, in which only one warrior faced thirteen enemies.

2.- Comente los principales problemas en la traducción de la Literatura Inglesa Medieval.

In my opinion, the main problems we have to face when translating a medieval English text into any modern language rest, among others, on two points:

  • Sources, original argument and interpretation.

  • The vocabulary and expressions which were used in the original texts.

First of all, the sources sometimes remain in the dark and they are very difficult to be identified. For example, although it is thought that the poem “Sir Gawain and the Green Knight” is made up of a number of traditional elements: the Beheading Game, the Temptation, the Exchange of Winnings which can be traced back over several centuries, these elements are not found linked together in any possible source of the poem.

Also, as these texts were put in written form by Christian monks who took them from the oral transmitted legends. They probably put a good deal of Christian morality in their works. As a result of that, the original argument and subsequently the true meaning might have been changed. This may make a correct interpretation more difficult.

Secondly, and perhaps the most important point, much of the vocabulary and expressions which were used in the original texts have changed; even they might not exist nowadays, so we do not really know what their original meaning was. It is often found several different translations of the same text.

Finally, we sometimes find a translation so free that in occasions its original meaning is absolutely changed.

3.- Discuta los ideales de justicia y venganza en las obras de Shakespeare.

In general, Shakespeare depicts a portrait of the society in which he lives.

In a dramatically changing England he pours a strong moral message in the background of his tragedies. We can see in them some common features: the deep feeling of loneliness and the death of the hero at the end of the play.

The characters are human beings who either become symbols of moral values or show the weakness and terrible mistakes the man makes which lead him to a terrible end.

In his tragedies, Shakespeare makes the hero face an inner fight, a terrible decision making. That is what Hamlet wonders in his soliloquy:

“To be or not to be that is the question.

Whether ´tis nobler in the mind to suffer

The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,

Or to take arms against a sea of troubles.”

Finally, he chooses the revenge but some innocent characters, i.e. Ophelia, would die as well.

The Shakespeare's idea of justice does not mean that everyone takes what he deserves in return of his bad or good actions, but he shows us how a mistake of the hero brings unhappiness not only to him but to innocent people, who can not be blamed about anything.

In conclusion, there are neither a happy end nor full justice in Shakespeare's tragedies but a portrait of the true nature of the man. However, there is always punishment for bad acts, though the good actions sometimes are not fairly awarded.

4.- Lea una obra de Shakespeare. Ofrezca su interpretación y los problemas de traducción de la obra.

HAMLET

INTERPRETATION.

All the elements of the revenge tragedy are in place: Hamlet has an obligation to avenge the murder, the usurpation, and the adultery. This he does by killing Claudius at the end of the play.

However, the theme of vengeance might be a vehicle used by Shakespeare in order to articulate a whole series of themes central to humanity:

  • relationship between father and son, mother and son, and Hamlet and his friends

  • love relationships

  • power wielding

  • madness, feigned madness, dissembling

  • youth and age

  • action and inaction

  • corrupt power and power corrupting

  • the most significant existential questions; the existence of god; “to be or not to be”; “if it be now…”

But, Hamlet himself is at the centre of everything, and it is on him that all the great themes are focused.

Of all possible interpretations one clearly outweighs the others: Dilemma and Indecision. Hamlet is confronted by choices. He is obliged to resolve them in one manner or another.

For Hamlet nothing is simple, everything raises questions. This dilemma is not about what decisions he should take but rather whether he will be able to make any decisions at all.

He astonishes us with soliloquies of unequalled beauty, his emotions are of stunning force, but he does not evolve beyond them; in other words, much emotion and little action. What is more, the impulse for his actions is imposed on him by other characters or by events. Indeed, Hamlet does kill the king, but he does so because the latter has just inadvertently killed Gertrude, and it is particularly striking that at this moment Hamlet utters no world concerning the assassination of his father.

On the other hand, he seems to be the unfortunate hero, the hero-victim for whom life holds nothing but frustration and disillusionment. The murder of his father and the revelation that his own brother was his assassin (who then throws himself on the widow, Hamlet's mother), the betrayals by Gertrude, Ophelia, Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, even Laertes: it is not only the state of Denmark which is rotten but the entire world.

TRANSLATION

When translating Hamlet one has to face some problems. Not only the absence of auxiliary verbs that accompany the main ones in negative, interrogative clauses or inversions, but some expressions whose original meaning remains uncertain.

Besides, there are innumerable words especially difficult; for instance, hebenon, in purport, and many more.

But, to redress the balance there are some expressions that we can find in everyday English:

  • There's something rotten in the state of Denmark

  • Not a mouse stirring

  • Frailty, thy name is woman

  • More matter, with less art

  • Hold the mirror up to nature

5.- Comente los problemas y técnicas en la traducción de textos del Renacimiento a la Época Victoriana.

To begin with, the English of the Renaissance is continuously changing and borrowing words from other languages such as French and Latin.

We find in the English literature of the Renaissance some literary works which are often written in verse or in a poetic prose very similar to verse, being those in verse the most difficult to translate.

One of the most important problem we have to face when translating a poem is the number of words there are in each verse.

A verse in couplets can be translated into Spanish also in couplets without losing very much if it is compared with the original one; an English sonnet also can translated in an acceptable way. But obtaining the appropriated rhyme of the poem while keeping the same number of syllables of each verse is thought to be almost impossible because usually Spanish words have got more syllables than English ones.

But, there is an important consideration we should always take into account: the hidden background the writer offers us which has to be known to understand a literary work and its meaning. We have to know what the author wishes to express by mean of words sometimes obscured and lacking any sense for the reader.

In Orwell's words, a poem is not only a pattern of words on paper but it has sound, musical qualities and emotional content. In other words, there must be an interpretation before translating any poem.

On the other hand, translating poems in “Blank Verse” can be a possibility when we consider the number of syllables and their stress. The Blank Verse has no final rhyme but it counts the number of syllables in each verse according to iambic pentameter model. That is five feet in each verse. Any one consists of a short syllable followed by a long one or an unstressed syllable followed by an stressed one.

This kind of translation can be possible, but with some modifications; for example, increasing the number of stressed and unstressed syllables in the translation into Spanish up to the double because Spanish language usually uses words with a larger number of syllables. This kind of translation is extremely difficult.

We can also translate a text without counting the long and short syllables but a certain number of them. The result will be probably a translation into Spanish closer to the original text, but it will no longer be “Blank Verse”.

The translation of an iambic pentameter with final rhyme, as a Shakespeare's sonnet, seems to be practically impossible, albeit in theory it might be thought to be feasible.

Perhaps, we can obtain the best translation if we take into account only the final rhyme of the two quatrains and triplets of the sonnet, without considering neither the stressed nor unstressed syllables as well as how many of them there are.

Also, we can translate a poem in accordance with iambic pentameter model without considering the final rhyme in the verses, but the sonnet now translated into Spanish will not exist any longer.

6.- Comente las similitudes y diferencias que aparecen en las obras de Walter Scott y Alfred Tenyson

Walter Scott, a Scottish nationalist writer, is thought to be the precursor of English Romanticism.

The main sources for his novels and poems were history and myths of Medieval world. Personally, as well as in his literary works, Walter Scott stands for the Scottish cause against English culture that, in his opinion, looks down Scottish culture and customs.

He deals with Celtic theme in most of his poems: “The Lady of the Lake”, “The Bridal of Triermain”, “Glenfilas”, “The Bard's Incantation”, among others, where he describes the Celtic customs, habits and culture and points out the fight between two different cultures: the Celtic against The Anglo-Saxon.

Some of his poems and novels are:

  • “The Bard's Incantation”: It deals with the glorious past. The poem shows a magic world in which trees and water of lakes and rivers are adored.

  • “The Dying Bard”: It follows the line of “The Bard's Incantation”. It shows, in a clear way, the fight between two different cultures, Celtic and Anglo-Saxon.

  • “Mac Gregors Gathering”: It is a song to the independence of a people who loves its lakes, mountains and villages. The fight and the hero, MacGregor, will never die. Probably, there is not any other poem of Scott in which it is more clearly shown his passionate Scottish nationalism.

Finally, he gathers stories directly from the memory of people he knows. His greatest creations belong to regions he knew and loved. Walter Scott was the author of vigorous verse narratives which reflects a romantic interest in the past and as the founder of the historical novel.

Alfred Tennyson, author of “Idylls of the King” and “Morte d´Arthur”, among others, was an English writer attracted by mystery and supernatural, which he reflected in his poems.

Above all, he is considered a Victorian poet who is deeply concerned with responsibility, morality, established social order and family.

Tennyson lives in the days of Industrial and Scientific Revolution and he opposes materialism with morality and religion as the only resources that can fulfil the life of the man.

Although his literary works are fulfilled with romanticism, he stands for a world of law and order according to the Victorian thought.

In “The Coming of Arthur” and “Guinevre”, Alfred Tennyson points out two basic pillars of the England in which he lived: the importance of a social order and the ideal of the family. A fair power brings peace and prosperity to the country. Excalibur symbolised the justice.

The ideal of family can be seen in “Guinevre”. Her adultery would be cause for which the country became chaotic.

In conclusion, we can find some common traits in both authors´ literary works. But, there are also some differences between them.

About the points in common, the main sources for their novels and poems were history and myths of Medieval world. Also, they seemed to be attracted by mystery and supernatural. Besides, their literary works are fulfilled with romanticism.

On the other hand, there are some very important differences between them, which clearly outweigh the common points.

Walter Scott is a Scottish nationalist who deals with the glorious past and stands for the Scottish cause against English culture. Also, he points out the fight between Celtic and Anglo-Saxon cultures.

On the contrary, Alfred Tennyson is a Victorian writer who deals with morality, responsibility, established social order and family in his literary works. Besides, he clearly stands for a world of law and order in accordance with the Victorian thought.

Finally, the English language is more difficult in Scott's literary works as he uses old Scottish words which are not very common: “Claymore”, “Beltane-tree” or “Strathspey” of “Glenfilas” poem can be examples to prove that.

7.- Lea una obra de W.B. Yeats o T.S. Eliot. Indique las dificultades más importantes que ha encontrado en la traducción de la obra.

THE WASTE LAND. By T.S. Eliot.

Written after the I World War, by mean of this poem, Eliot offers us a view of a devastated world in which the civilization has been un successful. Thousands of years of human perfectionism and culture had followed a wrong path and as a result of that the terrible holocaust that killed millions of people would take place.

Some of the most conspicuous characters of history like Cleopatra, Tristan and Isolde or Saint Augustine are in the poem.

It is thought to be the first symbol-poem of our days.

It is the vocabulary, which is filled with symbols, that poses by far the main stumbling block. A huge amount of words with symbolical meaning are spread everywhere in the poem.

It is worth mentioning, as example, words like “dead” which expresses the state of the world, or “water”, that means life. “Broken” appears very frequently in the poem; many things are broken in “The Waste Land”. Perhaps, it is a record of psychological turmoil, political decline and cultural decay.

Also, “dry” means lack of real life, a dreadful state. “Red” suggests violence and destructive emotion.

Besides, Eliot writes some fragments of the poem in different languages, like French or German. Even classical languages are used in the epigraph.

Other problem, though it is not so important as the ones previously mentioned, is the innumerable quotations which are found in the poem.

The common reader might not need to pre read Dante, Baudelaire or even have a strong knowledge of Greek myths, but that might very useful in order to interpret the poem correctly so that to obtain a good translation, as it could be a priceless help to identify the symbolical meaning of clauses and fragments of the poem.

As example, I can mention some of them, among others:

  • I will show you fear in a hand of dust

  • Come in under the shadow of this red rock

  • You gave me hyacinths first a year ago

  • You who were with me in the ships at Mylae

  • Unreal city

8.- Lea una obra de Gerorge Orwell, D.H. Lawrence o Aldous Huxley. Discuta la interpretación de la sociedad que nos ofrece el autor.

BRAVE NEW WORLD. By Aldous Huxley

First published in 1932, it is a fiction scientist novel in which the combination of science and hedonism does not lead to the dreamed solution. In this brilliant fantasy, Huxley shows the future state, ruled by science, which has discovered how to obtain human life in a laboratory and to make exactly the five social classes that are needed to articulate a perfect society.

Pain, dirtiness, disease, poverty and struggle remain out of this scientific paradise, and all physical desire can be satisfied in it without any romanticism, compromise nor obstacle. The negative consequences of human concupiscence has been swept off by science.

Youth, beauty and vitality last for ever, and death comes quietly and miraculously when people are still at the top of vital activity.

But, the price that has to be paid is extremely high: suppression of emotion, art and culture, religion, love, ideals, loyalty, property and personality.

The stability of this way of living is strongly defended; an strict censorship is enforced, above all on philosophical and scientific investigation.

After setting up this utopia, Huxley puts John the Savage in it. The Savage is a survivor of the previous cultural and religious world who intends to change people of this scientific period; but no one understands him and he finally would commit suicide.

In conclusion, in Brave New World, Aldous Huxley depicts a society that lives in harmony under a total control.

Control of reproduction, genetic engineering, conditioning and a perfect pleasure drug called “Soma” are the cornerstones of this society.

The stable world of a government controlled society appears to be a Utopia, where everyone is happy and lives in harmony, but the price paid is comparable to the superficial happiness that the citizens receive.

The price for Utopia, in a word, is freedom.

9.- Comente las similitudes y contrastes que aparecen en las obras de J.M. Synge y Sean O´Cassey.

John Millington Synge is said to be one of the fairest and most impartial Irish writer. He was advised to write about Irish peasant by Yeats in Paris. Then he rejected the Protestant creed in which he had been brought up and committed for the least favoured social class: the poor Catholic Irish people who kept their traditions alive.

The argument of his literary works came from stories heard in several parts of the Island; they are reality and fantasy at the same time.

His works were known throughout the world. Probably, this is the best thing Synge did do for Ireland and the revolutionary cause.

In a divided society as Ireland was the easiest way for Synge would have been to remain in the Protestant and dominant society to which he belonged due to his birth. Instead, he would become a nationalist.

This ideological separation from his family and friends led him to a loneliness from which his literary personality would arise. He would associate Protestantism with intolerance, selfishness and cruelty with those who are weaker; those who had been owners of the Island, were servants of Protestant settlers sent by the English Government.

His great sensitiveness led him to portrait the reality of life in Ireland. He did not use the Celtic myths as a pillar for his literary works except in “Durdre”. Instead, he looked for the reality in the most hidden places of the Island and over this reality compounded his drama.

Sean O´Cassey was an enthusiastic supporter of both the Irish cause and the claims of workers against the dominant Capitalism. The calamities he had to suffer would make him leave the practice of Religion.

It would be in his forties when his works were known on the stages. His life in Dubliner slums allowed him to create his characters, that openly face up to the power of the Catholic Church as well as the rest of Irish Churches; he accused them of dominating people extremely..

As an Irish patriot, he is by the side of the revolutionaries who wish an independent Ireland.

His literary works related to Ireland could be divided into three groups: revolution for the independence of Ireland, workers´ movement against the Capitalist social class and anticlericalism.

In comparison with the literary works of Synge, they are not very similar, though there are some common points.

Both authors show a view of the poorest Irish world. Synge describes in a harsh and real way the life of the countryman. On the contrary, O´Cassey puts on the stage the poorest man of the city. They both write about the least favoured social classes of Ireland, at the beginning of the 20th century

With regard to the arguments, their works are absolutely different.

On one hand, Synge does not criticise the power of Churchmen in his drama. Neither, he does not reveal his political belief nor a conflict between social classes. His works are mainly comedies which, based on the crude reality of Irish people, are shown as a pastime, being, at the same time, deeply heart touching.

On the other hand, O´Cassey is clearly and passionately committed to the Irish cause and it leads him to become a member of the “Irish Republican Brotherhood”, and the “Irish Citizen Army”.

He reveals himself as an antichurch man, a communist and being in favour of individuals freedom as well as the freedom of women.

10.- Lea una obra de James Joyce o Samuel Beckett. Comente la interpretación de la civilización que aparece en la obra y los problemas encontrados en la traducción.

DUBLINERS. By James Joyce.

Dubliners is both one and many texts, fifteen stories at the same time. The stories are interwoven.

It is about Dublin, a real place of both historical and cultural significance. Also, it deals with the people of Dublin as they were at the end of the nineteenth century.

The book reveals the ordinary drama of everyday experience; almost nobody really notices the pain of others. It is said to be one of the first modern texts that really examined this subject.

To the author, Dublin was trapped by its place in history. He felt especially that it suffered from a kind of paralysis; the worst feature of modern life. Dublin, the capital of Ireland, was paralysed by England. The Dubliners themselves were paralysed by this semi-alien culture, but also by their generally unquestioning acceptance of Roman Catholicism. Other forms of paralysis examined in the stories include the oppressions of the family, the demands of work and the difficulty of communicating our true feelings to others.

In “Dubliners”, Joyce represents the range of humanity and its mortality. These stories move from a childhood perspective to the adults' awareness of the dead. Beginning with a child's view of death in “The Sisters”, they conclude with an adult's sense of tragic loss and also human mortality in “The Dead”.

Also, throughout Dubliners, the author examines a whole range of relationships, from the most sordid, “Two Gallants”, to the most passionate, “The Dead”.

In “Eveline”, he describes how a young woman is offered by men both the risk and excitement of escape at the same time as the comfort but entombment of home; the dilemma paralyses her will.

Finally, and about the problems that might be found when translating the stories, it is worth mentioning the fact that “Dubliners” is presented complete and uninterrupted. Moreover, both a good historical interpretation and a knowledge of Irish society are needed to understand the argument.

Also, there are some words in the text which may be unfamiliar because they have a particular cultural or linguistic significance. Expressions like “Derevaun Seraun”, “deoc an dorvic” or “Eire Abu”, from the Gaelic could be an example.

Besides, words like simony or simoniac, among others, are given meanings that differ from those found in a dictionary.

11.- Comente las distintas posibilidades de traducción de una obra literaria escrita en inglés moderno.

First of all, we should consider the context to understand the message of the author and we should have a good knowledge of English and the changes it continuously suffers.

Generally speaking, we may consider two different choices when we are translating a text: literal translation and the so-called free translation, taking into account that there are no fixed rules and any translator may use a more or less personalized technique depending on his or her political ideology, religion, etc,. The former is deemed to be better as it tries to be closer to the original one.

On the other hand, we may also consider how differ translating a text in prose from that in verse.

In general, the text in prose will always be easier to translate even though the text poses a difficult interpretation as Medieval English text might pose.

Apart from these problems, a text in verse has got some special difficulties which lay in the field of poetry.

The easiest way of translating a poem is to translate it into a prose text. There is another possibility which consists of writing the English poem in prose, in English, and later translate it into Spanish, also in prose.

The latter affects adversely the literary work though this might be the best way of interpreting the content of the original text. But, with this translation we shall have destroyed the primitive literary work; so, the poem will no longer exist.

The translation of a poem must reflex as nearly as possible the primitive text, otherwise it would not be a true translation.

Another important factor is the structure of the poem. We must keep it in any final translation. Due to this focus we can consider several levels within a poem and the relationship between the structure of the text.

For example, we can see these different levels and relationship in the following verse written by W. B. Yeats in “The man and the Echo”, which we have to consider when we are translating it.

I lie awake night after night

and never get the answer right

Here, the word night can be related to several levels of literary aesthetic expression. In a pure phonetic level night rhymes with right.

On the other hand, night expresses the central idea of the sonnet, that is related to the loneliness of the poet, who only can hear the echo of his voice.

Finally, an author shows us a product of his or her personal creation. The translator does not create, but during the process of translating he should consider the structure of the poem: connexions, order, linguistic context, etc,.

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