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Reviewed by:
  • Translating Apollinaire by Clive Scott
  • Katherine Shingler
Translating Apollinaire. By Clive Scott. Exeter: University of Exeter Press, 2014. xix + 284 pp., ill.

Part manifesto, part practical demonstration, this book presents a radical reconceptualization of literary translation. As such, it is a continuation of Clive Scott’s previous work [End Page 429] on translation, in which he has argued both for the literariness of translation itself (as opposed to its source texts), and for the view that the translator should write his/her readerly experience of the source text into the translation (see, especially, his Translating the Perception of Text: Literary Translation and Phenomenology (Oxford: Legenda, 2012)). This is not literary translation submitted to the functional task of making meaning apparent to the monoglot reader; rather, this is a form of literary translation that appeals to the polyglot reader able to work across two or more languages, and that presents itself as both a critical and creative endeavour. It envisions the source text not as a sealed, selfcontained repository of meaning but as an open-ended vehicle for readerly — and translational — sense-making. Translators may use all means at their disposal to render on the page their experience: words are often liberated from conventional syntax and from linear order in favour of a ‘tabular’ arrangement that gives rise to a sense of simultaneity and of proliferating sense; typography is used to suggest performative gestures and attitudes; photographic fragments are used as marginal glosses or supplements to the written text, their presence encouraging a mobile, distracted perceptual approach that again encourages a resistance to linear order. There is some tension around the extent to which Scott’s approach is particular to Apollinaire’s poetry — and, more generally, the extent to which the translator’s approach adapts itself to each source text, or alternatively precedes it. Scott convinces us that Apollinaire’s poetry, with its clear orientation towards linguistic innovation, visual experimentation, and simultaneity, lends itself well to his radically expanded approach to translation, and yet his ‘case for the tabular’, presented as Appendix II, implies that this is a more general method, potentially applicable to different authors, genres, and periods. Moreover, while Scott often roots his translations in a careful and sensitive reading of each source text, a particular translational technique will sometimes be carried over from one poem to another: this is the case when Scott takes the acoustic exploration of Apollinaire’s ‘La Victoire’ as a point of departure and implicit justification for the development of a new ‘translationese’ (p. 195), only to apply this to the translation of ‘Le Voyageur’ — a very different poem. Some readers might also object that Scott’s approach is one that constantly requires the translator to show his/her working, and to expose the reader not only to the translation as finished object (if there can ever be one) but to the thought processes behind that object. This is nevertheless a lively, rich, and thought-provoking study, expanding any reader’s experience of Apollinaire’s poetry and providing an illuminating discussion of issues in and around literary translation.

Katherine Shingler
University of Nottingham


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pp. 429-430
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