System, agent, process : the selection of translation strategies in the translation of crime novels from Afrikaans to German : a comparative study of two novels by Deon Meyer
Barrow, Wendy Leigh
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Deon Meyer is one of the most prominent South African crime fiction authors both locally and internationally. His novels have been translated into more than 27 languages, as he only writes in Afrikaans. More than half of his novels have been translated into German via indirect translation from the English text, and since 2009 have they been translated directly from Afrikaans. This provides a unique opportunity to analyse and compare the translation strategies used in direct and indirect translation of culture-specific items. Culture-specific items present challenges to a translator during the translation process, especially in literary translation. During this process, the translator can either foreignise or domesticate culture-specific items. This study arose from the need to enquire which translation strategies were used to address the challenges surrounding the translation of culture-specific items, their foreignising or domesticating effect, and also looks at the differences, or similarities between the strategies in the direct and indirect translation. From this enquiry, three research questions arose. The first research question was aimed at situating Deon Meyer’s novels in the German literary polysystem and to find out what their purpose and function were. The second research question posed wanted to determine what translation strategies were used to translate culture-specific items in the German translation of Meyer’s novels. The third and last research question was asked to find out why particular strategies were chosen in terms of the purpose, function and position of the novels in the German literary system and the role of the individual agents involved in the translation process. The theoretical framework used to help answer these questions consisted of polysystem theory, descriptive translation studies, and sociological theories of translation. Polysystem theory provided the basis from which to explain how a literary system, along with its subsystems, function. Descriptive translation studies helped to establish a link between systemic position and the selection of translation strategies. However, these theories can be very abstract as they do not account for the human agents involved in the translation process. Therefore, sociological translation theories were necessary to explain the role and background of the author and translator in the translation process. An empirical and qualitative research approach was used to conduct this study. In order to answer the first research question, the paratext and online reviews of the two German novels were analysed. To answer the second research question, the categorisation of culture-specific items and translation strategies was necessary before a textual analysis was done. The analysed texts were chosen because the translation of the first was done via indirect translation and the second via direct translation. Firstly, Blood Safari (English target text) was compared to Onsigbaar (Afrikaans source text); then Weisser Schatten (German target text) was compared to Blood Safari (originally a target text which changed to a source text during indirect translation). Secondly, Dreizehn Stunden (German target text) was compared to 13 Uur (Afrikaans source text). Culture-specific items identified were proper nouns and forms of address, idioms and fixed expression, and slang and taboo. The different strategies were categorised as transference, cultural substitution, generalisation, modification, mutation, transposition and translation couplet. Lastly, to answer the third research question, interviews were conducted with the author and three translators to determine what influence the translators’ background and the network of agents had on the translation process. The findings obtained for the first research question indicated that Meyer’s novels function as crime novels and are central to the translated crime fiction subsystem in the German literary system. One reason proposed for this is that his novels add an exotic flavour to the recipient’s system, which is created through the use of foreignising translation strategies. The findings of the second research question were that translation strategies used to translate proper nouns and forms of address had a foreignising effect in both the direct and indirect translation. Domestication mostly occurred in the translation of idioms and fixed expressions due to the use of generalisation and cultural substitution as strategies. The translator of the direct translation used more expressive German idiomatic substitutes, whereas the translator of the indirect translation used more general expressions (the English text had already been translated with more general expressions). Domestication was also found to be the main strategy in the translation of slang and taboo words in both the direct and indirect translation, with euphemistic effects in all the target texts. In answer to the third research question, it was found that the background of the translators and their contact with the author, as well as the source language and culture, influenced their choice to either use foreignising or domesticating strategies.
- Humanities 
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