II: Product-Oriented Literary Translation

Crossing Continents: A Critical Discourse Analytic Study of the Transfer of South African Young Adult Texts into French and German

Judith Inggs

University of the Witivatersrand, Johannesburg


Literature for young adults traditionally reflects their preoccupations and challenges. It is also an important indicator of social change as the protagonists negotiate a sense of identity and position of power within the institutions in which they live (Trites 2000:18). In translation, young adult texts serve a pedagogical function for the new readers given the educational value of YA fiction as a mirror of social and political change. This chapter presents a case study which forms part of a wider project examining the migration of post-apartheid South African young adult (YA) fiction into other linguistic and socio-political spaces. The project aims to identify how this fiction is presented and packaged for the target audience, and how an image of that fiction is created in the target culture by the agents involved in the translation process. Further stages in the project extend to a wider range of texts and analyse the translated content in addition to the paratexts to uncover patterns and trends in the construction of a literary subsystem of translated South African YA fiction. In this study, I examine two South African YA texts and their translations into French and German, respectively, focusing on the role and function of the paratexts. I use a theoretical framework based on critical discourse analysis (CDA), which highlights the link between ideology and power as revealed in language, and facilitates the identification of underlying ideologies and assumptions (Machin and Mayr 2012; Wodak and Meyer 2009).

The educational value of YA texts in translation is enhanced as readers learn about protagonists faced with challenges in different historical and socio-political contexts. With the aim of appealing to the target audience, translators and publishers bridge the gap between the source text (ST) and target text (TT) in a process that has been explored by children’s literature scholars (Klingberg 1986; Shavit 1986; Oittinen 2000; Lathey 2016). These studies show how texts are manipulated to match society’s construct of the child and what is deemed to be appropriate reading for children (Klingberg 1986; Shavit 1986), a practice that has governed the translation of children’s literature for over two centuries (Lathey 2012, 2016). In a parallel process, literature from a particular country or region may be presented in translation in a way that creates a homogenous, but occasionally distorted, picture of a national literature in the target language (Alvstad 2012; Inggs 2015). For example, Cecilia Alvstad’s investigation of ‘world literature’ in Swedish translation reveals that books from Africa, Asia or Latin America tend to be presented and packaged in a similar way, implying “a certain degree of homogenization” (Alvstad 2012:79), emphasising geographic location and universalism. This foregrounds the informative function of the texts, and blurs cultural differences (Alvstad 2012:91). The wider project of which this study is a part examines to what extent works are presented as a homogenous body of texts, or even representative of a national literature.

Commenting on children’s and young adult literature published in other postcolonial anglophone contexts, Roderick McGillis (2000:xxiii) observes that: “[t]he literature of the past twenty years or so in countries such as Canada, Australia, South Africa, India, the islands in the Caribbean, and so on reveals an interest in the national identity and pride separate from an attachment to England”. There may be a detachment from the former colonial power, but this statement is too broad to apply to multilingual countries such as South Africa and India where literature may be written in a number of different languages and is not necessarily connected to a sense of national identity. The current reality in South Africa is that the majority of works for young adults are written in English and Afrikaans, while works written in English are more likely to be translated. Currently, only a limited number of books are translated between different South African languages, such as Bontle Senne’s (2018) Shadow chasers series, translated into Zulu as Abazingeli Bezithunzi (Senne 2019).

While no studies have been done on the image of South African children’s fiction, there are two studies on the image of Australian children’s fiction in France and Germany. Helen Frank (2007) and Leah Gerber (2014) analysed the paratexts of translated works, and identified the dominant themes, with a focus on the representation of Australia and “Australianness” in the source and target texts. Frank’s study reveals an Australia identified primarily by the outback, the exotic, and the unknown, while Gerber notes a marked discrepancy between representations of Australia in the texts and Australia’s view of itself. She highlights the “fractured sense of identity” in contemporary Australia, compared with the creation of a patriarchal and Anglo-Australian stereotype in conflict with her own view of Australia as a multi-ethnic and multi-cultural society (Gerber 2014:48). Both studies provide intriguing analyses of how a nation is represented in translation, and how interpretations of otherness are mediated through translators and publishers.

< Prev   CONTENTS   Source   Next >