Emotions may appear to be a common experience to all people across the globe but this is a generalization that requires some refining. All people feel and convey emotions but different cultures have their own emotional repertoires and their own norms regulating not only the expression of emotions, but as some scholars argue, even the variety of the emotions experienced. [...] The more modern version of the cultural approach to emotions, and the one that this paper adopts, is that some basic emotions, such as happiness, sadness, anger, and fear, are indeed universal. However, culture plays a considerable role in the suppression or heightening of emotions and generates norms governing the when, where, and how these emotions can be expressed (Shaver, Wu, & Schwartz 183). These cultural norms affecting the communication of emotions cannot be ignored in the translation of romances, especially when experiencing the emotions is vital for the identification of the reader with the characters, on which reader satisfaction depends. ("Translated")Lamprinou's initial findings are that
- when translating the word "anger," "translators have a tendency to increase its force in the Greek translation"; there was a "tendency to translate 'anger' as rage." Lamprinou suggests that this "could have been the result of the influence of Greek cultural textual norms which slightly differ in this case from the English ones as Greek authors value the production of more ‘dramatic’ passages."
- similarly, translators may "raise the force of the described emotions [...] by altering the metaphor employed and [...] by introducing [...] personification." This would support the "hypothesis that Greek romance authors prefer more intense emotional passages than their English counterparts."
- "Greek translators seem to eliminate, or at least ignore, certain strategies that were absent from the Greek romances, such as allusions and alliterations." Lamprinou rather tentatively suggests that "the translators may have eliminated the above-mentioned linguistic strategies in an effort to abide to the Greek textual norms, or, more possibly, they did not manage to recognize the importance of the strategies as they have not been often ‘exposed’ to such linguistic strategies through the Greek original romances."
Swedish Harlequins were also reduced in length:sometimes I would get a translation of a book that I had felt was a real tenpointer -- and then a translator had taken it and it comes out like nothing. Then you're so disappointed, because I had maybe laughed out loud when I read it or cried. It had made an impact -- not all books do that, but these are the ones you remember and then you expect so much of them. Then there's the opposite situation. Sometimes you have to take books that you don't believe in to 100%, maybe because it's a particular translator, maybe because the book contains certain parts that are supposed to work in contrast to others that month, so you get a good variation in contents. Sure, it's okay, but not that great according to my way of looking at things -- and then it comes back, and it's just -- YES! -- the best story, dynamite language, and you just feel that...sometimes I've gone back to my notes to check -- is this the same book? Can this really be? (Eva Högberg, Förlaget Harlequin AB, Stockholm, personal communication, May 20, 1996)So the dullness and lifelessness of the first may become the vivaciousness of the next. As she talks about her own reading, the enthusiasm is almost tangible. The book is not just "simply" translated into another cultural context, where it comes out clothed in another language, but essentially "the same." Instead, the process of translation is hazardous territory and what she is suggesting is that translations do matter -- so much so, in fact, that they can "make or break" the book. ("They Seek")
The most important direction given to the translator is that he or she needs to shorten the chapter by 10 to 15% since all Harlequin books are shortened in translation from English to Swedish. Books in the Superromance and Historical series are cut from 304 pages to 272 pages, books in the Romance, Presents, and Desire series are cut from 192 pages to 160 pages. ("They Seek")Further changes may occur because the advice given to translators
is hardly rigid: "it is allowed to distance yourself from the English text to a substantial degree" and even though the recommendation is to keep personal names as they are, they are not holy. At one of the editorial meetings, the pros and cons of the names in the miniseries Calloway Corners (where the individual books are named after each of four sisters) were discussed extensively. Mariah was kept, Jo became Chris (due to a possible mix-up with a Swedish orange juice sold under the name of JO), Eden was considered too foreign for Swedish ears and transformed into Ellen, and the hero in Mariah, Ford (a car, not a name, according to the editors), was rechristened Robert. ("They Seek")In her work Lamprinou mentions that some allusions may not translate well and she gives an example from the Greek translation of Rosamunde Pilcher’s
Winter Solstice, Elfrida, the heroine, is afraid to get out of her car because of a barking dog. The author of the text employs the phrase “a Baskerville hound” to express her fear by alluding to Arthur Conan Doyle’s story The Hound of the Baskervilles. The translator’s choice to render this passage into Greek word for word (literally “Baskerville hound,” as the article can sometimes be omitted in Greek) results in a Greek translation whose word order and phrasing remind readers less of the famous Sherlock Holmes book and sound more like the name of some strange breed of dog: a “Baskervillian hound” or simply “A Baskerville.” ("Translated")The issue of allusions which are lost in translation is also discussed by Wirtén:
Cultural allusions to people or particular phenomena are treated either by exclusion altogether or by substitution. George Burns, George Strait, and Sadie Thompson are examples of characters that are simply deleted, presumably because they will not be recognized as references by Swedish readers; "Kleenex," a brand name synonymous with a product in North America is far better known as "paper napkin" in Sweden; similarly, the expression "Lead on, Macduff" becomes "Lead on, Sherlock" in all likelihood because the translator deems the detective to be better known than the character from Macbeth. References that require some previous knowledge of American culture to be understood at all, like a joke made on the concept of the Fifth Amendment or a pun on the word key (both as keys on a computer and the Florida Keys) are more problematic, either impossible to keep as they are or demanding an extra effort on part of the translator to come up with Swedish equivalents. ("They Seek")In addition, at least with regards to sex scenes, it would appear that in the Swedish-language editions "the overt physicality of the text is substituted with a more reflective, metaphorical language" ("They Seek"); Lamprinou found that in the Greek-language editions of the novels she studied metaphors were also added (though the examples she gives were not taken from sex scenes).
Cumulatively, the cuts and alterations which are made to these texts leave Wirtén asking: "Is this not a new book? And where is the writer in all of this?" ("They Seek").
- Lamprinou, Artemis. "Translated Romances: the Effect of Cultural Textual Norms on the Communication of Emotions." Journal of Popular Romance Studies 2.1 (2011).
- Wirtén, Eva Hemmung. " 'They Seek It Here, They Seek It There, They Seek It Everywhere': Looking for the "Global" Book" Canadian Journal of Communication 23.2 (1998). [This article is available online and is "based on a chapter in my dissertation which focuses in particular on Swedish translations," namely Eva Hemmungs Wirtén's Global Infatuation: Explorations in Transnational Publishing and Texts. The Case of Harlequin Enterprises and Sweden (Uppsala: Publications from the Section for Sociology of Literature at the Department of Literature, Uppsala University, 38, 1998) in which she looks at "the way in which the Harlequin book, through what I have termed transediting – or the combined process of editing and translation – is given a Swedish identity" (20). This is available online.]
The image came from Wikimedia Commons. It was created as an "Icon for translation projects" by Flappiefh.