Translation across Time: Natural and Strategic Archaization of Translation | October 2016 | Translation Journal

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Translation across Time: Natural and Strategic Archaization of Translation


This article studies the strategies of rendering chronological time and artistic time in translation based on the comparison of naturally aged and strategically archaized multiple translations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Prose into Russian covering a period of almost a century. Archaization is studied in a language (stylistic), cognitive and pragmatic aspects. The comparison exposes differences between naturally aged and strategically archaized translations, proving that archaization does not lie in mere imitation of the language features at its earlier stages, but rather in selective overuse of stylistically marked elements preserved in the modern language. Moderate archaization optimal for translation of a classical work is realized predominantly at the linguostylistic level with inclusion of some historic concepts; however, basic cognitive and pragmatic structures are those of the modern time.

The development of translation theory and translation practice opens new research perspectives and new problems to be studied. This article focuses on the problem of translation and time: chronological and artistic. Time, a universal physical quantifier (often referred to as the fourth dimension), and a basic philosophic category (usually associated with space), may be differently perceived by the human mind. The Ancient Greeks believed that there are two types of time: chronological, or sequential time, and kairological time which refers predominantly to the qualitative, not quantitative aspect, indeterminate time in which an event of significance happens. The problem faced by the translators of historic texts is of a somewhat similar nature: the life of the text in chronological time and the qualitatively different (from the time of their creation) artistic time, specially created by the author, result in the necessity to work out a strategy of dealing with the problem of rendering time. Our aim is to study translators' approaches to the artistic text depending on the temporal distance between the creation of the original and translation. Research material is a series of translations of the same original – A Christmas Carol in Prose by Charles Dickens created in 1843 – into Russian by L. Mei (supposedly before 1866 (the year of translator’s death), published in 1898), by S. Dolgov (1891), S. Vrangel (1909), N. Pusheshnikov (1912) and T. Ozerskaya (1959). Our hypothesis is that differences between the texts of translations almost contemporary to the original and those distant in time will expose translation strategies, tactics and methods of recreating chronological or artistic time in translation. The methods of linguo-stylistic, cognitive and pragmatic analyses, intralingual and interlingual comparison, and quantitative analysis are used to attain the research aim.

The problem of translating the texts of other historic epochs has already attracted the scholarly attention as the problem of the translator’s position between the source text and the target audience. Researchers of the problem trace it to Schleiermacher’s famous maxim: “Either the translator leaves the author in peace, as much as possible, and moves the reader towards him; or he leaves the reader in peace, as much as possible, and moves the author towards him” [16, p. 149], a phrase which is also believed to have laid the foundation for distinguishing domestication and foreignizing strategies [see: 18]. By this statement the philosopher supposedly places the translator between two cultures which may be separated by space or by time. However, the main attention of the researchers of historically distant text has so far been focused predominantly on their language features: archaic language or deliberate stylization [10; 24]. The solution of the problem of temporal distance is traced predominantly through the language features of the translated text: “… translations are deliberately, consciously archaic, full of such peculiarities of language that they are difficult to read and often obscure. No concessions are made to the reader, who is expected to deal with the work on its own term, meeting head-on, through the strangeness of the TL, the foreignness of the society that originally produced the text” [3, p. 73].

In communicative aspect, solution of the problem of bridging the time gap is seen in the choice between formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence [15; see also 24, p. 30-31], where formal equivalence means reproducing the style of the archaic text, while dynamic equivalence is approximating the text to the target audience, recreating it in a different culture, i.e. modernizing it, although E. Nida believes that “Between the two poles of translating (i.e. between strict formal equivalence and complete dynamic equivalence) there are a number of intervening grades, representing various acceptable standards of literary translation” [15, p. 130].

While for many authors the choice between archaizing and modernizing the text lies in the same plane as exoticizing (foreignizing) and familiarizing (domesticating), U. Eco describes these as two differing oppositions which may interact or complement one another and analyses an example of the translator at once foreignizing the text and making it archaic [6, p. 28].

The problem of archaizing and modernizing an artistic text is much deeper than just rendering the style; the category of time in belles-lettres in translation aspect may be analyzed as a part of chronotope, or artistic time.

M.M. Bakhtin sees literary-artistic chronotope as a merging of space and time features in a meaningful integrity, where time is condensed, becoming artistic and visible; and space is intensified, is drawn into the movement of time, plot and history. The signs of the time are revealed in space, and the space is interpreted and measured by time… <>. Chronotope also determines to a considerable degree human images in literature; these images are essentially chronotopic [21, p. 234].

Thus, the concept of time in artistic translation is to be considered in at least two aspects: real time (the time of making the translation related to the time of creation of the original) and artistic time (a complex image of historic epoch created by the author in integrity with the place of setting). These aspects have been studied so far in connection with the problem of ‘aging’ of the language and deliberate stylization [24], or dealing with archaisms in translation [10, p. 40–56].

Focusing on archaism as a feature of style, translation theorists point out its potential in creating atmosphere of the past; yet in languages with a rich history a translator faces a risk of mixing the elements pertaining to different historic periods, which M. Kharmandar, with a reference to G. Steiner, describes as ‘a collage of different voices and identities in history’ [10, p. 46]. Such a ‘mixture’ of language elements of different historic periods may result in quite an inadequate effect, as V.K. Lanchikov and E.N. Meshalkina [23] point out analyzing a new translation of J. Austen’s Pride and Prejudice abundant in incongruous clashes of words and grammar elements with rather different historic and sociolinguistic characteristics. The resulting impression of the Russian readers is that all the characters and the author (narrator) herself speak some artificial language combining Biblicisms with officialese and hoi polloi slang. Since the audience normally treats a translation as the author’s (not translator’s!) creation, in the scholars’ opinion, the Russian readers will be startled at the bizarreness of those Englishmen who adore the books written by the author evidently suffering some ‘stylistic insanity’ [ibid., p. 15].

G. Steiner warned of such a hazard:

Translators may opt for forms of expression centuries older than current speech. They may choose an idiom prevalent only a generation back. Most frequently, the bias to the archaic produces a hybrid: the translator combines, more or less knowingly, turns taken from the past history of the language, from the repertoire of its own masters, from preceding translators or from antique conventions which modern parlance inherits and uses still for ceremony. [17, p. 360].

Another hazard is revealed by a Ukrainian researcher and translator T. Nekryach [24] who, while translating O. Wilde’s Salome from English into Ukrainian, faced a problem of the lack of archaic words to render the specific feature of Iokanaan, the Prophet’s speech in contrast to other characters. Her solution was to translate it in blank verse, which shows fuzziness of equivalence ranks: in case of differences in quantitative characteristics of archaisms in source and target languages, other language levels may be used for compensation. Not only quantity of archaic words creates a translation problem, but their status or functions in different cultures may comprise qualitative divergences. M. Kharmandar [10] claims that in Persian, a language and literature with a deep historic background, archaism is a historical foundation that can reinforce Persian, safeguarding the language from the risk of being colonized; it can also perform emotional function and serve as a basis for forming new terms [ibid., p. 44]. Different are the functions of archaisms in Russian and Ukrainian. Many of them derive from Old Slavonic, a language of the Holy Scripture, and therefore have strong religious associations; others have been preserved in the official-documentary style and sound officialese. Their use in the speech of fictional characters, besides temporal distance, will create a certain sociolinguistic characteristic. This shows that even at the lexical (lexico-stylistic) level, the idea of viewing the archaisms of different languages with similar denotative meanings as translation equivalents will be too superficial. An archaism is a word with its own memory, which should be taken into account in translation of texts of other historic periods. As G. Steiner remarks:

When using a word we wake into resonance, as it were, its entire previous history. A text is embedded in specific historical time; it has what linguists call a diachronic structure. To read fully is to restore all that one can of the immediacies of value and intent in which speech actually occurs. [17, p. 24]

Linguostylistic dimension of archaization comprises the surface, observable level of historical markedness of the texts. Through the perspective of polysystems theory it is studied at lexical (historic and archaic words and idioms), morphological and syntactic (archaic word forms and structures, ‘structural archaisms’ [10]) levels. Not so conspicuous but nonetheless important are cognitive and pragmatic dimensions. These so far have not acquired enough scholarly attention as a specific research topic, but even existing findings show how important they are for translation.

Cognitive dimension includes mental representations: concepts, frames, scenarios which underlie the narration in historic texts and often remain unnoticed or are improperly understood by contemporary readers. In our interpretation of events, we almost inevitably rely on our own system of ideas and values. As a Ukrainian linguist A. Prykhodko states,

Striving to find the key to understanding of the ethos of other nations, researchers often proceed from their own mentality, i.e., describe it through the world view of their own nation [26, p. 133].

Cognitive scenarios represented in archaic texts may be also misinterpreted against the background of contemporary cultures which offer different values, different motivations, different behavioral reactions.

The studies of evolution of concepts over time are rather few, but indicate difference in the worldviews. Some studies prove that not only the concept structures but even the ways of conceptualizing the world differed [13; 2]. Ancient concepts are imbedded in our contemporary view of the world as represented by metaphors, images and other symbolic representations [ibid.], but we do not always decode them as such. As R. Hoyle observes,

Sometimes we are given clues to understand why characters act the way they do, but we do not spot them. Instead, we infer our own reasons, from our own viewpoint [7, p.2].

K.A. McElhanon believes that such construal based on the wrong cognitive foundation may result in misinterpretation of the meaning:

It is… an inappropriate hermeneutical practice for contemporary interpreters to impose their Western inferential patterns upon the biblical texts. The result is a skewing of the meaning, not a discovery of a deeper meaning. A responsible hermeneutic requires, rather, that the biblical passages be studied, in this case to discover which conceptual metaphors structure how the biblical authors wrote and in which ways they only partially structure their knowledge [14, p.42].

R. Hoyle quotes examples of ancient behavioral scenarios described in the Bible that may be perceived by our contemporaries as ‘unguided’, ridiculous, and pointless … (as viewed from the standpoint of other cultures, whose scenarios do not match theirs): They lie down to eat; They deliberately tear their clothes; They smash jars instead of taking the lid off; They make music at funerals, etc. [7, p. 52]. The scholar suggests explicating such scenarios:

If we do not wish our translations to be Pythonesque, we will need to make explicit the reason for such actions, and/or make it explicit that for those people, in that era, these actions were normal. The source culture may still seem weird, but at least the characters themselves are seen to be acting normally not eccentrically within their own culture [ibid.].

However, explicating scenarios is not the only choice: translating literally, explicating, substituting scenarios [see: 14, p. 51] or translating based on universal knowledge [7, p. 421] are manifestations of different translation strategies.

The third aspect, in which translation through the time is studied, is pragmatic – the rules of communication, the norms of speech behaviour, politeness, methods of influencing the interlocutor that undergo changes over time [27; 22; 20]. Analyzing differences in the freedom of expressing emotions in remote periods (Victorian times) and today in Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and its four Finnish translations (1906, 1972, 1995, and 2000), beyond the problems of translating emotionally coloured puns and speaking names, Aila Malkki observes that ‘all of the four translations of Alice reflect (or react against) the values or the translation strategies of their own time [12, p. 10 (emphasis added – T.A.)]. This shows that, to experience immediate feelings or emotions, the reader should be ‘placed in the familiar environment’; although basic emotions are universal [8], conventions regulating their manifestation may be imposed by the society in a specific historic period, therefore, in choosing the strategy of rendering aspects of speech behaviour in translation, the determining factor will be either the focus on rules and social conventions of the time, or exposing the reader to the pragmatic effect, which is only possible on the basis of the reader’s own conventional behavioral experience. Thus, comparing the translations of Alice, Aila Malkki concludes that ‘we do not need to cross the bridge to the past, because distance gives us an opportunity for deeper, universal reading’ [12, p. 10], while in most cases, direct translations of dialogues in the texts of the past have familiarized us with the style of communication in those days.

The review of translatologists’ opinions on the problem of translating historically distant texts proves that temporal distance, either objectively existing or artificially simulated by the author as a part of the complex mega-concept of the original text, creates a translation problem which may be solved by working out and implementing a translation strategy. The strategy governing the translation of the whole text is termed as a global translation strategy, and strategies of translation of particular fragments comprising translation problems are referred to as local strategies.

The available data show that the study of translation strategies of the texts with a temporal distance should consider at least such levels of the text as:

  • language (stylistic);
  • cognitive and
  • pragmatic

The strategy of rendering the style of historically distant texts in translation has been described as a strategy of historical stylization in a specialized study by E. Meshalkina [24]. Dealing with cognitive and pragmatic temporal differences has not been specifically studied yet, however comprising theoretical as well as practical interest.

The researches of translation of historically distant texts point out the factor which is determinant in developing a translation strategy: whether the text was created to be perceived as archaic or whether it aged over time. Jones and Turner [9] point out:

All our discussions refer to source texts where language and text-world will have appeared contemporary to their original readers but appear markedly past to present-day source readers; an example here might be Dante’s Divina commedia. Thus we exclude source texts, like Eco’s Il nome della rosa, where text world and/or language are deliberately constructed by source authors to appear past to their intended readers [9, p. 160].

E. Meshalkina distinguishes between three types of texts with a temporal distance:

(1) archaic texts that were created in the contemporary language but aged over time; their translation is termed as ‘diachronic’;

(2) modern archaized texts which have been deliberately stylized to depict situations remote in time (artistic past), where synchronic translation is required, and

(3) archaized archaic texts that were created with the illusion of the past artistic time but are also remote in real time; the translation of such texts is described as ‘diachronic translation of archaized texts’ [24, p. 109]

It is the translator’s choice to let the reader communicate with the author as his/her contemporary or maintain a temporal distance in the case of aging of archaic texts, but when creating the effect of remoteness in time was the author’s intention, it is the translator’s responsibility to render it faithfully. The alternative strategies of translating the texts with temporal distance are archaizing / archaisation and modernizing / modernisation [6; 24; 9].

Jones and Turner claim that the ‘translator’s communicative context is not bipolar but diachronic’ [9, p. 162], which implies a spectrum of translation decisions termed by the authors after R. Lefere [11] as ‘hyperarchaisation’, ‘time-matched archaisation’, ‘updated archaisation’, ‘superficial archaisation’, ‘minimal modernisation’, ‘violent modernisation’ [9, p. 163]. However, these approaches, sometimes also termed by the authors as tactics or techniques, may be combined within the same work. Statistical analysis of translation reviews shows apparent dispreferral of both archaisation and (violent) modernisation, with the critics favouring the ‘middle-way’ solution, avoiding extremes of archaisation and modernisation [ibid., p. 171]. The authors also note ‘the real-world fact that minimal modernisation is seen by many if not most translators and translation-users as timeless. Its actual, norm-mediated deictic effect, therefore, is more likely to be the stressing of the translated work’s universal rather than merely modern-day relevance’ [ibid., p. 173 (original emphasis)]. This agrees with Malkki’s opinion, who sees the translation which leaves opportunities for the reader’s interpretation as a positive phenomenon:

Leaving a translation as open as possible lets it breathe freely and live longer than texts manipulated with fixed interpretations. This flexibility – even vagueness – contributes to creating literature of long-lasting beauty [12, p. 10 – 11]

In congruence with the real or artistic time gap between the original and translation, E. Meshalkina offers the following solutions: adequate modernizing strategy for the archaic texts, adequate archaizing for modern archaized texts and combining adequate modernizing and adequate archaizing for archaized archaic texts [24, p. 129], construing adequacy in the following way:

Adequacy requirement applying to all the proposed strategies is a systematic, focused and consistent selection – filtering of all possible variants of translation based on the key factors of translation. Ideally, such a filtering should be based on the rightly chosen stylistic reference point and therefore prevent undue literalism and free translation, as well as the emergence of modernisms and anachronisms… [24, p. 130]

The material of actual translations of the same original made in different periods may reveal different translation strategies chosen with the account of the temporal distance between the author and the target audience. This may be done by comparing the strategies of the translation of an archaic text almost contemporary with the original and performed after a certain period of time. Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol in Prose created in 1843 has enjoyed numerous translations into Russian (which shows its unceasing relevance for the target audience). While the original reads natural and quite understandable for the modern English-speaking audience (its language perceived not as ‘old’ but rather as ‘classical’), the first Russian translation done by L. Mei supposedly before 1866 (the year of translator’s death), but published in 1898, and translations by S. Dolgov published in 1891 and baroness S. Vrangel in 1909 are perceived as markedly old, or even outdated:

Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ’Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. (Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol in Prose, 1843)

Начнемъ сначала: Мэрлей умеръ. Въ этомъ не можетъ быть и тѣни сомнѣнія. Метрическая книга подписана приходскимъ священникомъ, причетникомъ и гробовщикомъ. Росписался въ ней и Скруджъ, а имя Скруджа было громко на биржѣ, гдѣ-бы и подъ чѣмъ-бы ему ни благоугодно было подписаться. (Чарльз Диккенс «Скряга Скрудж: Святочная песня в прозе» Пер. Л.Мей, 1898)

Марлей умеръ – начнемъ съ того. Сомнѣваться въ дѣйствительности этего событія нѣтъ ни малѣйшаго повода. Свидѣтельство объ его смерти было подписано священникомъ, причетникомъ, гробовщикомъ и распорядителемъ похоронной процессіи. Оно было подписано и Скруджемъ; а имя Скруджа, какъ и всякая бумага, носившая его подпись, уважалисъ на биржѣ. (Чарльс Дикенс «Рождественская пѣсня въ прозѣ» Пер. СДолгов, 1891)

Дѣло началось съ того, что Марли умеръ. Насчетъ этого не могло быть ни малѣйшаго сомнѣнія. Свидѣтельство о его смерти подписали священникъ его прихода, конторщикъ, хозяинъ похоронныхъ процессій и его душеприказчикъ. Самъ Скруджъ подписалъ его, а подпись Скруджа пользовалась полнѣйшимъ довѣріемъ всего биржевого міра, на чемъ бы ему ни было угодно ее поставить. (ЧарльзДиккенс «Рождественскаяпѣсньвъпрозѣ» Пер. СВрангель, 1909)

The impression of obsolescence results from the use of functional words and grammar structures and idiomatic expressions which are no longer natural, as well as reference to the phenomena of the life of contemporary Russia which do not exist or have changed today – historic nominations (underlined in the text); more examples: вития; почти осязательный воздух (Мей); законъ о бѣдныхъ въ полномъ ходу (Долгов) / всѣ эти заведенія въ ходу (Врангель); праздные люди (Долгов) / тунеядцы (Врангель); газопроводныя трубы(Мей)/ газовыя трубы (Долгов) / газовые провода (Врангель) etc.

On the other hand, translation by N. Pusheshnikov includes some words that mark the beginning of the 20th century: народ, народонаселение. In contrast to archaic nominations, 19th century translations include literalisms, which today will be perceived as undue modernisms or anachronisms:

He carried his own low temperature always about with him; he iced his office in the dog-days; and didn’t thaw it one degree at Christmas.

Всегда и повсюду вносилъ онъ съ собою собственную свою температуру — ниже нуля, леденилъ свою контору даже въ каникулы и, ради самыхъ святокъ, не возвышалъ сердечнаго термометра ни на одинъ градусъ.(Мей)

Свою собственную низкую температуру онъ всюду приносилъ съ собою: замораживалъ свою контору въ праздничные, не трудовые дни и даже въ Рождество не давалъ ей нагрѣться и на одинъ градусъ. (Долгов)

Онъ всюду вносилъ съ собой свою низкую температуру, леденилъ воздухъ своей конторы въ лѣтнее время и ни на Іоту не согрѣвалъ его въ дни рождественскихъ святокъ. (Врангель)

For comparison, later translations render this metaphor by a conventional Russian metaphor:

Он вносил с собой этот холод повсюду; холодом дышала его контора — и такой же была она и в рождественские дни(Пушешников)

Он всюду вносил с собой эту леденящую атмосферу. Присутствие Скруджа замораживало его контору в летний зной, и он не позволял ей оттаять ни на полградуса даже на веселых святках.(Озерская)

Someobsolescentexpressionssoundofficialese, e.g.: въ качествѣ адвоката святокъ (Мей): не желаю содѣйствовать радости тунеядцевъ(Врангель), whichmakesthetextstylisticallyincongruent.

The translation by T. Ozerskaya, which has become classical in modern Russian literature, appeared more than a hundred years later; it reads natural and fluent today:

Начать с того, что Марли был мертв. Сомневаться в этом не приходилось. Свидетельство о его погребении было подписано священником, причетником, хозяином похоронного бюро и старшим могильщиком. Оно было подписано Скруджем. А уже если Скрудж прикладывал к какому-либо документу руку, эта бумага имела на бирже вес.(Чарльз Диккенс «Рождественская песнь в прозе»Пер. Т. Озерская, 1959)

However, the translation does not produce an impression of a modern text. Where the modern Russian language offers oppositions of neutral (modern) and stylistically marked (archaic) elements, e.g.: весьма/очень; сей/этот; посему/поэтому; столь/такetc., T. Ozerskaya often gives preference to the marked element. It would be natural to expect such elements in the earlier translations, but the quantitative analysis shows the opposite tendency: in translation by T. Ozerskaya (1959) весьмаis used 7 times, while in translation by L. Mei (1866/1898) – it does not occur, S. Dolgov (1891) uses it 2 times, S. Vrangel (1909) – 2 times, N. Pusheshnikov (1912) – 3 times. The same tendency is observed with other oppositions: стольis not used in the oldest transaltion by Mei, is used 6 times by Dolgov, 1 by Pusheshnikov and 17 times by Ozerskaya; сейinstead of этотis used only in the oldest transaltion by Mei and the newest by Ozerskaya; посему– by Pusheshnikov and by Ozerskaya, while older translations use поэтому (потому) – the words existing in the modern Russian without any specific stylistic colouring. Older translations do not make use of a word with a notable archaic connotations – дабы, using neutral чтобы, while later translations give preference to the archaic word – Pusheshnikov (once) and Ozerskaya (9 times).

This comparison of the use of pronouns and functional words (which do not name concepts) shows a difference between archaic and deliberately archaized translations. Translators of A Christmas Carol working in the 19th – early 20th centuries did not perceive the original text as archaic. They attempted to create a text contemporary to their audience, sometimes modernizing it; their choices of functional words show the tendencies of usual usage at the time. A 1912 translation by Pusheshnikov and especially 1959 translation by Ozerskaya, so far unsurpassed, make much wider use of obsolescent words with connotations of solemnity creating a ‘classical’ style and atmosphere of spirituality. Other means of moderate archaization include the use of some historic realia (which will be discussed at the cognitive level) and common literary style of narration in general. The comparison proves that stylistic means of archaization do not lie in imitating the language or style of the epoch, but rather in overusing elements characteristic of some distant state of the target language, which are perceived by the target audience as such because in the modern language they have neutral counterparts.

Cognitive level (as represented by some notional words referring to historical concepts as well as frames, scenarios, metaphorical mappings) also comprises certain differences in the compared translations. Although all of them faithfully represent the valorative (axiological) and evaluative layer of the text concept (its main moral essence), their conceptual structures differ in associative and sometimes even in denotative aspects. The earliest translations sometimes misinterpret the facts:

Что касается собственно Скруджа, ему и въ голову не приходило вычеркнуть изъ счетныхъ книгъ имя своего товарища по торговлѣ: много лѣтъ послѣ смерти Мэрлея, надъ входомъ въ ихъ общий магазинъ красовалась еще вывѣска съ надписью: „Скруджъ и Мэрлей“. Фирма торговаго дома была все та же: „Скруджъ и Мэрлей“. Случалось иногда, что нѣкоторые господа, плохо знакомые съ торговыми оборотами, называли этотъ домъ: Скруджъ — Скруджъ, а иногда и просто: Мерлей; но фирма всегда готова была откликнуться одинаково на то, или на другое имя. (Чарльз Диккенс «Скряга Скрудж: Святочная песня в прозе» Пер. Л.Мей, 1898)

Фирма его дома была извѣстна подъ двойнымъ именемъ: Марли и Скруджъ. Нѣкоторые же люди, новички въ торговомъ домѣ называли ее иногда "Скруджъ и Скруджъ", а иногда и просто "Марли". Но ему и то и другое имя было безразлично и онъ охотно отзывался на оба.(Чарльз Диккенс «Рождественская пѣснь въ прозѣ» Пер. С.Врангель, 1909)

Sometimes it results in incongruence, as in the second translation (compare with the original: The firm was known as Scrooge and Marley. Sometimes people new to the business called Scrooge Scrooge, and sometimes Marley, but he answered to both names. It was all the same to him.)

Obviousdifferencesareobservedininterpretingtoastonishhissonsweakmind’: окончательно расстроить поврежденные умственные способности своего возлюбленного сына (Мей), перепугать своего трусливаго сына (Долгов), поразить и безъ того слабый умъ своего сына (Врангель), чтобы поразить своего слабоумного сына (Пушешников), поразить и без того расстроенное воображение сына (Озерская). As this fragment of the original contains an allusion to Shakespeare’s Hamlet, differences in translations also refer to another cognitive entity – the image of Hamlet in the Russian literature and culture.

In all translations we observe some facts of socio-political life of Russia of the time: сочельник, святки,фирматорговогодома, причетник, конторщик / писец, полушка, грош. Some metaphors added by earlier translators are evidently domesticated: СтарикъМэрлейвбитъбылъвъмогилу, какъосиновыйколъ(Мей) (Cf., the original: Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail); Такъчеловѣколюбивыйжерновъвсеещемелетънаоснованіизакона? (Мей)  (Cf., the original: Are they still in operation?). Once Mei adds a vivid Biblicism not used in the original: Не мое дѣло! … Довлѣетъ дневи злоба его. А у меня собственныхъ дѣлъ больше, чѣмъ дней (Мей). All these features make the text archaic at the cognitive level, however, this archaization cannot be considered a strategy chosen by the translator – it is a result of natural aging of language and cognitive structures.

A translation by T. Ozerskaya which is strategically moderately archaized, represents cognitive structures of the past through the use of historicisms – the names of objects of the past historic epochs, such as: конторка, перо, острог, работныйдом. At the same time, more complex and abstract cognitive structures are quite in line with the modern worldview, which makes them easy for the target audience to perceive.

On the other hand, English culture-specific concepts in earlier translations are supplied with explanations in the text: pudding, holly {Пудингъ -- необходимое рождественское блюдо англичанъ, какъ остролистникъ -- обязательное украшеніе ихъ комнатъ на святочныхъ вечерахъ.}. (Долгов); {Падубъ, остролистникъ (flexaquifolium) обрядовое рождественское дерево въ Англіи.} (Врангель). These explanations show the need to familiarize the target audience with culture-specific phenomena at that time unknown to them. In later translations no explanations are given, as the Russian audience is already familiarized, through cultural contacts, with the most common English Christmas traditions. This lets us conclude that the aging of translations results not only from language evolution, but also from changes in competence and cognitive needs of the target audience. Strategic archaization, on the other hand, bases on the modern cognitive structures, introducing only some historical concepts to maintain the atmosphere of the past, natural for communication with the author who lived more than a century ago.

Studying the pragmatic level of archaic and archaized translations, we observe some differences in translators’ approaches where norms of communication differ in the source and target cultures, in space or over time. The first translation by L. Mei tends to literalism thus turning the original Christmas greeting into a blessing which in the Russian culture was normally used after a farewell:

“A merry Christmas, uncle! God save you!” cried a cheerful voice.

– Съ праздникомъ, дядюшка, и да хранитъ васъ Богъ! (Мей)

          S. Dolgov and S. Vrangel substitute it with a wish normally accompanying a greeting. These domesticated translations seem archaic today because of the change of norms of communication in the Russian language:

Съ праздникомъ, дядюшка! Богъ вамъ на помощъ! (Долгов)

– Богъ помощь дядя! Съ праздникомъ! (Врангель)

          Later translations (Pusheshnikov 1912; Ozerskaya 1959) modernize and domesticate it at the same time, using typical Christmas or New Year wishes:

– С праздником, дядя, с радостью! Дай вам Бог всех благ земных! (Пушешников)

– С наступающим праздником, дядюшка! Желаю вам хорошенько повеселиться на святках! (Озерская)

          Another problem – representing an invective and euphemism in translation – reveals a similar tendency in translator’s approaches. 19th century translations tend to euphemism and literalism or explication:

Scrooge said that he would see him – yes, indeed he did. He went the whole length of the expression, and said that he would see him in that extremity first.

Скруджъ ему отвѣтилъ, чтобы онъ пошелъ къ… Право: такъ и сказалъ, все слово выговорилъ, – такъ-таки и сказалъ: пошелъ… (Читатель, можетъ, если заблагоразсудитъ, договорить слово). (Мей)

Тутъ Скруджъ, не стѣсняясъ, предложилъ ему убраться подальше. (Долгов)

На это милое приглашеніе Скруджъ послалъ племянника къ... Представьте, онъ дѣйствительно произнесъ это пожеланіе все цѣликомъ, нимало не стѣсняясь. (Врангель)

Later translations are modernized and appear to be more dysphemistic, in line with less demanding rules of communication in the modern time:

Скрудж, в ответ на это, послал его к чёрту. (Пушешников)

Скрудж отвечал, что скорее он наведается к... Да, так и сказал, без всякого стеснения, и в заключение добавил еще несколько крепких словечек. (Озерская)

However, a typical English farewell ‘Good afternoon, gentlemen!’ is rendered as a farewell by all translators (except S. Vrangel who mistakenly (literally) renders it as добрыйвечеръ, почтенныегоспода!’ – a typical Russian greeting): Позвольтесъвамипроститьсягоспода!(Мей); Прощайте, господа!(Долгов); До свиданья, господа. (Пушешников); До свидания, джентльмены! (Озерская). As we see, 20th century’s translations choose a more modern variant of farewell, which is synonymous but less solemn, and this may be also viewed as modernization of the target text. Thus, at the pragmatic level we observe a consistent tendency to adaptation to the contemporary norms of speech behaviuor; with only some confusing literalisms at the earlier stages of translation, all translators appear to modernize the text. The explanation may be the fact that the readers will understand implicatures, intentions and motivations in the speech behaviour of the characters only on the basis of their experiences, their internalized communication principles and rules. In interactional communication theory [1; 4; 5] the reader is viewed as a co-creator, not a recipient of the message; thus, the translation should be a sufficient basis for the reader to complete the artistic image of the original.

Summarizing the above, we may conclude the following:

  1. The problem of temporal distance in translation exists where a translation is done a considerable time later than the original, or where the artistic time of the original is past, and should be re-created as an integral part of the chronotope. To solve this problem, the translator develops a translation strategy, the most typical choice being between archaizing and modernizing.
  2. Translations done a short time after the original may age over time, representing the natural state of language at the time of their creation, and may be used as a reference point for comparison with deliberately (strategically) archaized translations of later periods.
  3. The texts may be archaized or modernized at the language, cognitive and pragmatic levels. The comparison of naturally and strategically archaized translations shows certain differences and allows to conclude that strategic archaization is not a simple imitation of the style, worldview or manners of the respective period in the target culture, but rather a creation of a new artistic image which will be perceived by a modern audience as the ‘chronotopic past’.
  4. At the level of language style, strategic archaization is realized through the use of language means (in particular, functional words and pronouns) which are perceived as archaic and have neutral counterparts in the modern language; using such words more frequently than in the translations of approximately the same time as the original; keeping a common literary vocabulary with some inclusion of historic nominations.
  5. At the cognitive level archaized translations base mostly on the worldview of the modern audience; only simple concepts comprising historic phenomena and material objects are introduced to maintain the historic atmosphere. Relying on the present-day worldview gives the audience a key to understanding the characters and events appropriately.
  6. At the pragmatic level translations represent the rules and norms of communication in the target culture at its modern stage of development. Comparison with earlier translations into the same language show the tendency to simplification and dysphemization of the Russian-language communication, which is also manifested in translations into this language.
  7. Archaization in translation aims at creating the effect of verisimilitude: a truthful representation of chronotope of the original work and maintaining an illusion of real communication with the author who is not the reader’s contemporary. Thus archaization may be described as a means of optimizing communication across time and cultural borders.

The prospect for further research is unveiling differences in strategic archaization and modernization in the translation of archaic and archaized texts at the stylistic, cognitive and pragmatic levels.


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