- "El mar" i "L'elefant" de Mercè Rodoreda, una proposta de traducció a l'italià by Laura Mongiardo
In his oft-quoted essay "How to Read a Translation," Lawrence Venuti strongly encourages readers of translated texts to pay particular attention to their introductions, in which the translator sheds light on the strategies and assumptions that have [End Page 203] guided his or her complex, and often overlooked, literary activity. The North American critic's interest in foregrounding the translator's voice is reflected in the structure of Laura Mongiardo's book "El mar" i "L'elefant" de Mercè Rodoreda, una proposta de traducció a l'italià. Published by the Fundació Mercè Rodoreda, this slender volume does exactly what Venuti suggests, as it offers detailed insights into the translation process and in doing so prepares the reader for the final product, a very carefully crafted Italian rendering of two of Rodoreda's short stories, "El mar" and "L'elefant," originally published in La meva Cristina i altres contes (1967). As Joaquim Mallafrè indicates in his introductory essay, these texts, unlike most of Rodoreda's works, had not previously been translated into Italian, probably due to the editorial market's preference for novels over short stories.
Mongiardo, a Catalanist with extensive knowledge of Rodoreda's work and of the reception of Catalan literature in Italy, proposes a linguistic analysis of two short stories from La meva Cristina i altres contes through the lens of translation theory. This unconventional approach complements the myriad of studies that have often privileged the political or the gender perspective of Rodoreda's novelistic production, some of which are listed in the footnotes. Acknowledging the centrality of short fiction to this influential writer, Mongiardo draws attention to the thematic and stylistic innovations of her second collection of short stories, for example their oneiric and fantastic aspects, as studied by Ángeles Encinar. Mongiardo also sees links between style and characterization; for her, the protagonists' marginalization and inability to communicate are related to personal loss. Characterized by a remarkable kind of orality that requires special attention on the part of the translator, both short stories display a dialogic structure. While in "El mar" the protagonists engage in a dialogic though often disjointed exchange, in "L'elefant" the presence of an interlocutor is alluded to and contained in the protagonist's monologues.
While English-language translators have often remarked on the difficulties posed by Rodoreda's language, Mongiardo reassures the reader that in general they have not created significant problems for her. Catalan diminutives and colloquialisms, for example, can be easily translated in a related language like Italian, therefore for the most part the translator has found suitable equivalents in the target language. Only a handful of puns or polysemic words cannot be preserved in Italian. In these cases, the translator aims to retain the most important features of the original.
In her discussion of the strategies employed in her translation, Mongiardo relies on Umberto Eco's semantic theory, which postulates the existence of a model reader and an empirical reader, whose respective "encyclopedias" in the source and target languages will inevitably fail to coincide. This problem becomes evident when Mongiardo deals with the intertextual elements of the Catalan text. When resonances and allusions are present, the translator goes to great lengths to explain the process that led her to opt for one choice over another. When confronted with the possibility of turning to compensatory mechanisms to explain the meaning of words that would be readily identifiable by the Catalan readers, as in the case of "Fabra," the normative Catalan dictionary mentioned in "L'elefant," she prefers to insert a footnote explaining what "Fabra" is, rather than inserting the word "dictionary," which is not present in the original. [End Page 204]
The numerous lists of noteworthy lexical and syntactical features that appear in Mongiardo's introductory essay display a keen philological sensitivity. This methodology allows the translator to identify the trauma that haunts the nameless characters and...