Allusion as Translation Problem: Portuguese Versions of Second Isaiah as Test Case
Cherney, Kenneth A.
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An allusion in the source text poses a serious problem for a translator. A relevance-theoretic approach would define an “allusion” as the re-use of language from a prior text such that, by calling the prior text to mind, an implied reader is aided in his/her attempt to plausibly reconstruct the alluding author’s meaning. For this to happen, the reader’s “context” in the relevance-theoretic sense must include the source of the borrowed language. To explicate the connection for the reader, however, can thwart the pragmatic effects of an allusion, since these often require maintaining some “openness” in the text; hence the translator’s dilemma. Isaiah 40-55 (Deutero-Isaiah or DtI), a richly allusive text, furnishes an ideal test case for a descriptive translation study (DTS) focused on this source-text feature. This investigation of eleven Portuguese versions will attempt to determine whether and how the translators’ decisions with regard to DtI’s allusions might be accounted for. Source-oriented approaches to translating often tend toward lexical concordance; therefore, these approaches—in theory—should tend to preserve instances of vocabulary that is shared between an alluding- and an alluded-to text. Target-oriented approaches (e.g. “functional equivalence”) are more interested in contextual clarity than lexical concordance; these could then be expected to produce target texts that are less allusive. Increased sophistication in translation theory should result in more sophisticated approaches to allusion in translating. Collaborative and coordinated translation projects should produce more allusive target texts than those whose procedures are more piecemeal. The investigation reveals less correlation than expected between general source-orientedness and allusiveness in the target text. Target-oriented approaches—e.g., classical functional equivalence—do tend to produce less allusive target texts. In addition, there is a correlation between a translation project’s organization and the perspicuity of allusion in the target text, but it is mostly negative. That is, projects that do their work piecemeal produce unallusive versions, but more collaborative and coordinated projects still leave many inter-textual resonances inaudible. It appears that translations will preserve this source-text feature in a way that tends toward randomness unless the perspicuity of inter-textual allusions is articulated as a conscious value in translating. Above all, “allusion-friendly” translating will require target cultures that want more allusive Bibles. Translators, as “model readers” themselves, will need to recognize the presence and function of allusions in the source text and make the attempt to represent these in translation a priority.