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Reviews181 Rethinking Translation:Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology, edited by Lawrence Venuti; xi & 235 pp. New York: Routledge , 1992, $49.95 cloth, $16.95 paper. "Poststructuralist translation theory," Lawrence Venuti writes, "lays the groundwork for an incisive method of reading translations. A translation emerges as an active reconstitution of the foreign text mediated by the irreducible linguistic, discursive, and ideological differences of the target-language culture" (p. 10). The essays composing this stimulating volume approach the theory and practice of translation from several angles. Andrew Benjamin offers a rather murky Lacanian meditation on the original/translation binary, in relation to Freud's conceptoíNachträglichkeit;JohnJohnston reads Walter Benjamin's "The Task of the Translator" with Deleuze's concept of the simulacrum (in Plato, a "bad image" containing "a disparity or difference," p. 48), and Lori Chamberlin shows how metaphors used to describe translation code it as feminine. These mainly theoretically-oriented essays are followed by two case studies of translation practice: Suzanne Jill Levine on her "(sub)versive" feminist translation of Cabrera Infante and Jeffrey Mehlman on James Merrill's poem "Lost in Translation" as an (auto)erotic "translation" of Valéry's "Palmes." Merrill's poem is about translation, a possibility further explored in Sharon Willis's discussion of Hélène Cixous's Vivre l'orange, a text already polylingual. In a similar vein, Samia Mehrez examines the strategies of North African writers trying to formulate their cultural experience in a French shadowed by Arabic and Islam. Her essay finds an interesting complement in RichardJacquemond's solid, finegrained essay on French-Arabic translation (focusing on Egypt). Sherry Simon discusses early English translations of French-Canadian literature and more recent works that represent Canadian urban, working-class speech, which makes frequent use ofgallicized English. Tom Conley's provocative essay on the "translation " of colors in Baudelaire's and Rimbaud's poetry is, as usual, sui generis. Finally, the editor's study of I. U. Tarchetti's "plagiarism" of a story by Mary Shelley stresses the way in which Tarchetti's "abusive" translation simultaneously betrays the English writer's feminist project and reveals its limits: "its failure to recognize the gender hierarchy in marriage, and its complicity in working-class oppression and European racism" (pp. 224-25). In accord with their emphasis on the political and ideological implications of translation, cultural difference is one of the more obvious focal points of these essays. The thoroughly contemporary stress on the importance of preserving rather than reducing cultural difference (at least where "postcolonial" texts are concerned) runs counter to more traditional views of translation. For the most part, the contributors to this volume oppose the kind ofappropriation and naturalization that makes the translator's work invisible, and gives readers 182Philosophy and Literature the impression of reading a text written in their own language. Like Vladimir Nabokov (though for different reasons), they are critical of"smooth," "readable" translations that erase the alterity of the translated text. Yet, as RichardJacquemond notes, when translations lack these qualities, they are often read only by specialists and literati. Some of the contributors to this volume seem to me to oversimplify the task of the translator, who has always to strike some balance between conveying the "strangeness" of the text and making it accessible to readers. By rendering the translator's work more visible, these essays seek not only to draw attention to the alterity of the foreign text and to the processes of cultural assimilation involved in reducing that alterity, but also to win for translators the recognition they deserve. This is surely a laudable goal. But one result is that throughout the volume, a plaintive voice is repeatedly heard wailing: "I get no respect!" Many of these essays are redolent of a certain ressentiment; even ifone accepts their argument that the priority ofthe "original" is a mystification of individualist ideology, their envy of "authors" remains all too manifest. As a translator, I know the feeling well, but it still makes me uncomfortable. I confess I'd be satisfied just to be better paid. University of OregonSteven Rendall After Eden, The Secularization of American Space in the Fiction of WiUa Cather and Theodore Dreiser, by Conrad Eugene Ostwalt,Jr...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 181-182
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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