Wednesday, November 13, 2013

New Publication: Translating and Adapting Romance Fiction

Heather Schell has a new article out. It's "Bringing the Mid-West to the Middle-East: An Analysis of a Harlequin Romance in English and Turkish" and she's made it available via Academia. It's Chapter 17 of The Silk Road of Adaptation: Transformations across Disciplines and Cultures. Ed. Laurence Raw. Newcastle upon Tyne: Cambridge Scholars, 2013.

Schell argues that
a translation could be considered a type of invisible adaptation. In fact, global economic enterprises may actually prefer to downplay the "new readings" wrought by translation [...]. It falls to us to question the supposed transparency of translation and appreciate instead the ways in which a translation adapts the source-text. (160)
Schell notes that cultural differences make
the social meaning of a novel's content inherently unstable. For example, because of differing cultural norms about adult children's relationship with their parents, the scene in which Cade defies his father for the sake of his wife might seem noteworthy to a Turkish reader but unremarkable to an American reader. In contrast, popular attitudes towards abortion are probably more conservative and conflicted in the United States than in the Republic of Turkey. (164)
What is certain is that "Arda Gedik, the force behind HQN's Turkish publications for nearly two decades [until his death in 2011], saw these books as providing progressive role models" (169).

The "source-text" Schell chooses to analyse is Shirley Jump's Back to Mr. and Mrs. (2007) which was published in Turkey in  "2010 as a 112-page novella" (162). The novel, like others chosen for translation and publication in Turkey, was selected "based on customer star ratings" (164) and the translation makes minor changes which, cumulatively, make the characters seem "less foreign" (166) to Turkish readers.

It also makes "small changes [which] consistently make the women more stereotypically feminine and less intelligent" (167) and ensures that the ageing heroine "conforms to beauty ideals" (168). Such changes are not, however, unique to Turkish translations: in France, for example, translated novels "often made the heroine less confident and experienced that in the source-text" (168).

The essay is relatively short and, in my opinion, well worth a read.

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