ISSN 2330-717X

Exploring The Concept Of Fidelity In Translation – Analysis


The perception of translation in Western culture is based on an ambiguous relationship to “truth” and the demand for “fidelity”. Translation thus touches on major philosophical questions : it sets in motion traditional conceptions of truth and fidelity, but also of identity.

The obligation to be faithful to the original, which began to be established from the Renaissance onwards, is therefore a fairly recent invention in the history of translation. Even today, it refers to a concept that is not well-defined in legal terms.

In reality, fidelity is not something absolute and well-defined, but rather a plurality of “contradictory loyalties” (Davreu, 1986: 24) (1)  that the translator is supposed to respect :

“Between literality and meaning, between sensible meaning and intelligible meaning, between speech and language, between acoustic image and concept, between source-language and target-language, between said and written, the translator’s test is to never be able to choose a principle without transgressing it in the next minute. “

Defining the notion of fidelity

The word “translation” comes from the verb translate, whose origin is the Latin verb traducere: “to pass on”. Indeed, translation is often conceived by the common opinion as the action of interpreting, or of transposing into another language different from the original one, a written or oral text. But in reality translation goes far beyond this simple general definition.

Fidelity in translation has been a widely debated issue among translators in symposia and conferences. However, the subject remains topical. Early thinkers opposed fidelity and freedom. The faithfulness, for these thinkers, consists in rendering the author and his text while respecting the language-source. But it remains to be seen whether such a practice is one hundred percent possible, since bilingualism is never achieved one hundred percent.

In The Savvy Newcomer, a specialized blog in translation, the concept of fidelity is introduced in the following terms: (2) 

“Fidelity defines exactly how precisely a translated document conforms with its source. It can allude to how a document corresponds with its source in a variety of ways, from being ‘faithful to the message’, to being ‘faithful to the author’. Also one must factor in the register, the languages and grammar, the cultures and the form. Fidelity theory and its discussion has dominated the history of translation studies. In the early days, adherence to the source text in a verbatim way was seen as the best fidelity. However, as time has progressed, society has learned to define fidelity quite differently  

In order to address the subject of fidelity, we must first know what a translation is. The notion of translation, as already stated, does not stop at the simple fact of translating a text from one language (source language) to another (target language), as most dictionaries tell us when we look up the definition of translation. It is also an act of communication, as Jean René Ladmiral tells us in his book Translating: theorems for translation, (3) and above all a selective work, which involves excluding other possible choices.

The notion of fidelity is essential in translation, insofar as it poses a problem concerning the purpose a translator can have for fidelity. First of all, it is important to distinguish between fidelity and what is called literal translation, i.e. word-for-word: the latter consists only in the exact reproduction of the word in the target language, without taking into account the meaning or the context; whereas fidelity is the quality of what is in conformity with reality, with coherence. 

But what is fidelity? It is the claimed and subjective attitude of imitating the linguistic means of the original text to obtain its re-expression in the target language.

It is this notion of subjectivity that is important to remember: translation is indeed a rather subjective practice because not all translators are faithful to the same thing. Some are more faithful to the cultural context of the language in which they want to write; others are more faithful to their style, or to their own way of writing. Thus, with time, a real debate has been created in the world of translation between “dowsers”, those closer to the source text, and “targeters”, those who are closer to the target text.

The distinction between targeters and dowsers is at the heart of the debate on fidelity in translation. When translating a text, the translator is faced with a choice: “fidelity or elegance. “(Ladmiral). (4) The latter belongs to the category of translators who refuse literal translation: “(…) translation does not only involve vocabulary, but also syntax (…) which makes pure and simple word-for-word translation impracticable (…)” (Ladmiral). (5)

Those translators, who tend to give more importance to the meaning, and therefore the content of a text, than to its form are a category that gives value to the cultural context of the language in which one writes. Thus, J.C. Catford (6) tells us that “Translation lies in the identity of the “cultural meaning “. However, if we do not take this factor into account, we risk modifying the meaning of the word, even proposing a word that has no meaning in the context of the the sentence.

However, should we follow Nouss in his “eulogy of treason” (2001) (7) and in what may appear to be a movement of flight forward fully assuming the motto “traduttore, traditore“? (8) Should we then conclude that “[a] very good ‘translation must be abused” (Berman, 1999)?  (9) This position seems extreme. However, a conception of translation which starts from the idea that it can bring gain to the work by the creativity with which it interprets and recontextualizes it certainly appears richer than moralistic rhetoric. 

A critical perspective on the values ​​of fidelity, identity and truth thus leads to a more flexible conception of translation. Instead of postulating a truth inherent in the original that translation can only betray and destroy, one should open up to the potentials of a plurality of historical understandings which is reflected in the plurality of translations.

Defining faithfulness in translation

At the beginning of the third millennium, when computers have invaded our daily lives, we can ask ourselves the relevance of a reflection on translation. Indeed, for more than half a century, teams have been working on the development of an automatic translation system or at least a computer-controlled translation aid. However, at present, despite the enormous progress made in the description of languages and in the development of computer hardware and software, we are still at an impasse: 

“Is translation possible ? All the objections against translation can be summed up in one – it is not the original.” (10) 

This truism stated more than half a century ago is still relevant today. Certainly, 

“the translation is not the original; it is other. It contains a part of of identity and a part of otherness. For all that, this otherness does not discredit it, does not invalidate it. To seek a relation of total identity between a text and its translation is an illusion.“(11)   

If the models of translation activity differ from one another, they all agree on one point : they take into account, in one way or another, the need to remain faithful to the original. (12) This idea is of concern not only to professionals: linguists, translators and interpreters. It is deeply rooted in everyday language to such an extent that it has even become an integral part of various expressions used in the non-technical sense. Thus, we speak of faithful translation,  (13) we ask the student or the interpreter to remain faithful to the original, etc. The same preoccupation with fidelity is hidden behind expressions such as free translation vs. faithful translation etc., which are among the technical terms used in translation science. 

A model of faithfulness in translation is proposed by A. Hurtado-Albir (1990). (14)  Three indissociable elements appear in his approach: 

  1. The author’s intention;
  2. The target language, and;
  3. The reader. 

According to this author, to betray one of them is to fail in the fundamental requirement of fidelity.

The problem of fidelity has preoccupied translators since the dawn of time. As Christian Balliu notes, long before an organized theoretical reflection was detached from the practice of translation, many translators had, by means of often brief and embryonic remarks, underlined: (15)  

“The difficult passage from practice to theory, that is, to the emergence of a translation methodology. The teaching of translation meets the same criteria of requirement and rigor as other scientific disciplines. The transmission of knowledge must be based on clearly identified notions and materialized in the language by a terminology that is as precise as it is univocal. It is important to point out that the metalanguage of translation remains to this day labile, shifting and varies from one institution to another, not to say from one teacher or researcher to the other.

A dive into the history of translation has allowed us to relativize many notions, including that of fidelity. Christian Balliu defines fidelity as: (16) 

“The quality of a translation that, according to its purpose, respects as much as possible the meaning attributed to the source text by the translator and whose formulation in the target language is in conformity with usage.

This definition is followed by several notes, including the following: (17)

“Fidelity, a key concept in translation studies, is one of the most difficult and controversial notions to define and most controversial. (…) We cannot define fidelity “a priori” and “in abstracto”, and, in no way, can it be defined from a normative point of view.

However, Lederer’s assumption that the translator can dispense with any formal reference to the original language “de toute référence formelle à la langue originale“ (Lederer 1981: 345) (18), since only the grasped thought is taken into account, simplifies the act of translation, reducing it to an easily decodable linguistic activity, in other words, to an efficient transfer of information but puts, nevertheless, the whole concept of faithfulness in some kind of jeopardy.

This is why it is important to conceive translation as a rewriting that is subject to the same constraints as writing, as Meschonnic (19) and Derrida (20) often remind us. Translation is a finished and autonomous text, and, like any other statement, it contains, in a particularly explicit way, both the author’s word and that of the other. Not without reason, Antoine Berman (21) criticizes Gideon Toury’s postulate concerning the secondarity of translated literature in the literary polysystem of a language (Berman 1995 : 54).(22)  

The translated texts, foreign, coming from outside, are accompanied by the transposition act that helps them to take root in the host culture. They are grafted into the discursive networks of the latter and become an integral part of it. Comments, criticisms, interpretations, retranslations, intertextual references constitute, in the Bakhtinian terminology, the dialogical chain that knows neither limits nor borders. 

Moreover, Berman gives an important place not only to the translation, but also to the translating subject who is fully involved in a work of reflection and creation that is inseparable from its product. Berman’s hermeneutic approach takes a different view of translation: no longer the object of objective analysis or the phenomenon embedded in often normative social discourses, it acquires a special status by the very fact that the translator intervenes in the text and becomes the active participant in the great dialogue, where, as Bakhtin (23) often repeats, the depths of an individual’s inner life are revealed.

In the words of Umberto Eco :

Fidelity is rather the conviction that translation is always possible if the source text has been interpreted with passionate complicity, it is the commitment to identify what the deepest meaning of the text is for us, and the ability to negotiate at every moment the solution that seems to us the most correct. If you consult any Italian dictionary, you will see that among the synonyms of fidelity, there is not the word accuracy. Instead, there is “loyalty, honesty, respect, piety.“ (24)

For some experts, fidelity in translation rhymes with the invisibility of the translator in the sense that the translated work runs smoothly as if it were the original. In ths regard Venuti (2008 : 1) argues: (25) 

“A translated text, whether prose or poetry, fiction or nonfiction, is judged acceptable by most publishers, reviewers and readers when it reads fluently, when the absence of any linguistic or stylistic peculiarities makes it seem transparent, giving the appearance that it reflects the foreign writer’s personality or intention or the essential meaning of the foreign text – the appearance in other words, that the translation is not in fact a translation, but the “original”.“

The notion of fidelity in translation from a historical perspective

Man has always sought to translate faithfully from one language to another. Already Cicero, in the Roman era, concerning the translation of Greek texts, advocated a translation that privileged the meaning rather than the words, giving supremacy to the spirit over the letter. In the East, during the Abbasid period (750–1258), the art of translation was pushed to the point of refinement and advocated the following two principles:

  1. To restore the meaning of the text without betraying it ; and
  2. To take into account the addressee, the translation must be readable in a natural way, without feeling the translation.

It is true that throughout history translators have defined themselves as discoverers, cross-border workers, conveyors of meaning. But not all have sought this meaning in the same place. To know where they have focused their efforts, it is of little use to know their professions of faith. When they write in their prefaces or their prologues that they ” sought to be faithful to the author ”, that they“ have scrupulously reproduced the foreign text without betraying it ”, these vague statements in fact express nothing other than the personal feeling of a duty accomplished. They reflect their satisfaction and are intended to some extent, one might assume, to reassure the reader of their competence. They are of no use in knowing the treatment that translators have given to the meaning. 

In the Middle Ages, on the other hand, the monks who translated sacred texts, for fear of making the slightest misinterpretation, adopted a literal translation, that is to say, word for word, because they believed that the integrity of the content should be preserved to the detriment of the form.

However, non-religious translators of the Middle Ages, on the contrary, sought to give meaning to the translated works. It was not the text itself that mattered, not even its author, however prestigious, but the use that was made of the text at the time it was translated. From this point of view, we can say that the medieval translators really updated the old works, an operation which required a work of relaxation of the syntax and the creation of many neologisms because of the youth of the vulgar languages still under discussion. These translators did not have the historical or philological concern to reproduce the work as close as possible to its original form. Far from it. Any writing that had more or less didactic value was seen as perfectible, as raw material that could be rearranged as it pleased.

Humanism and the Reformation, the two great currents that characterized the Renaissance, both contributed to freeing spirits and brought about a return to the sources : to Greco-Roman Antiquity as well as to Hebrew and Greek. The high walls of the Roman Catholic Church are starting to crack and this has repercussions on how to translate. “Protestantism allowed a new approach to the notion of meaning” (Balliu 2002 : 55). (26) During this golden age of translation, in fact, the meaning no longer depends on the finality of the work nor on an intangible original imposed more or less by tradition, but emanates from the human and religious convictions of translators concerned with being understood by their readers : the mass of the faithful to whom they recognize the right to identify individually the meaning of the Holy Scriptures. 

Erasmus (27) proclaims that the truth of the text must be respected more than its authority. It revolutionizes the conception of religious translation by questioning the authority of the doctors of the Church and, in doing so, rehabilitates the work of the translator. Translations are individualized. The multiple versions of the Bible are referred to by the names of the translators, even if they did not work alone: ​​Luther’s Bible, Olivetan’s Bible, Coverdale’s Bible, Matthew’s Bible, etc. 

William Tyndale (1494 ? -1536) (28), one of the foremost English translators of the time, produced a very personal version of the Bible from which the King James writers drew heavily. We can say that it was in the 16th century that the translator became aware of participating fully in the construction of meaning, which is no longer seen as “hidden” within the original text, but perceived as a personal construction.

The translator is therefore constantly confronted with these choices, in addition to any requirements of the client (use such and such a vocabulary, not translate such and such a passage…). In some languages and texts, these requirements can be reconciled, but with others, the differences in language and culture are too great. It can then be difficult, if not impossible, to respect the totality of the meaning of a sentence in the original language, in the translation, while trying to satisfy these two requirements. A certain amount of transposition is therefore necessary, as well as freedom from the form of the text.

It can be difficult to transpose a concept exactly into another language with a non-existent vocabulary (Arabic has many words for camel, horse and sword, Eskimos have dozens of words for snow according to its consistency, color, etc.). Indeed, languages are not adaptable tracings in all circumstances. They differ according to the culture, the environment, the customs, etc.  Therefore, a good translator must have an excellent knowledge of his or her own language, as well as of the language to be translated, but also a good knowledge of the country and culture of the original text.

Therefore, the translator will always have an interest in locating and identifying the origin of the text to be translated, or in identifying the audience to which it is addressed. For example, in marketing translations from English to French, if you have to translate advertising slogans that mention “you” in English, should you translate them as “vous” or as “tu” ? It all depends on the audience you are addressing. Similarly, in many commercial, financial texts in English, the wording of dates can be confusing (especially since there is no hard and fast rule). Thus 05.06.2021 will be understood by an American as May 6, 2021, while in many other countries, it will read June 5.

So, translating without betraying is the constant concern in the field of translation. Humor and poetry are difficult areas for the translator, with poetry, for example, calling for syntactic constructions that are very specific to each language and difficult to translate without adaptation. A literal translation does not make sense in this case, and in most other cases as well.

Aspects of faithfulness

In translation, what poses a problem in most cases is the notion of fidelity because the translators do not always have the same object for fidelity : some privilege the form, and others the meaning.  Therefore, the following question arises: How to ensure a “beautiful translation” and thus syntactically consistent, while remaining faithful to the original text ?

The notion of fidelity, on the other hand, has a strong moral dimension ; it is in fact a value rather than an objective criterion. The correspondence is in this case not “objective” but rather based on moral attitudes such as loyalty, attachment or respect for a commitment. Of these three criteria, the respect of a commitment still seems to be the closest to the relationship between the translator and the author of the original, or even between the translation and the original text, two fundamentally different but often confused relationships.

On this question of fidelity, it is then more a question of duty, principle and propriety, than of submission. The position of Victor O. Aire (2002 :63) illustrates this point of view: (29) 

“Anyone who has ever had to translate a passage from one language into another will really agree that it is not always easy to find corresponding equivalences, some of which, in fact, do not exist. Indeed, quite often, the translator has to resort to glossing, descriptions and even glancing circumlocution. It is in this context tha one must commend the effort of d’Almeida and Simpson in producing a generally satisfactory French translation of the Arrow of God. There are even instances where they have improved on the source language text and the others where they have offered translations that are particulary remarkable for their sheer originality. ”

The notion of fidelity is essential in translation, insofar as it poses a problem concerning the object that a translator can have for fidelity. First of all, it is important to distinguish between fidelity and what is called literal translation, word-for-word: the latter consists only in the exact reproduction of the word in the target language, without taking into account the meaning or the context; whereas fidelity is the quality of what is in conformity with reality, with coherence. But what is fidelity? It is the claimed and subjective attitude of imitating the linguistic means of the original text to obtain its re-expression in the target language.

It is this notion of subjectivity that is important to remember: translation is indeed a rather subjective practice because not all translators are faithful to the same thing. Some remain more faithful to the cultural context of the language in which one wants to write ; and others are more faithful to their style and to their their own way of writing.

The modern conception of the relationship between original and translation is based on the observation that, since there is no translation possible without the original, the original is its sine qua non and translation by definition a secondary activity. However, Nesterova invites us to question the nature of this secondarity more deeply by pointing out that the definition of taking place for the second time does not correspond to the nature of the translated text : “la définition d“ayant lieu pour la seconde fois“ ne correspond pas à la nature du texte traduit“ (Nesterova, 2011 : 110). (30)

Finally, for Tytler (1997 : 14), as for us, the “good“ translation has the following characteristics: (31) 

“That in which the merit of the original work is so completly transfused into another language as to be as distinctly apprehended, and as strongly felt, by a native of the country to which that language of the original work.”

Since fidelity, which is never total, depends on the translator’s stance towards his translation, the question of imperfection becomes obvious; no translator can escape this failure. No matter what method is adopted there will always remain a gap, a void that the translating activity will not be able to fill. Every translation consciously or unconsciously, presents these imperfections for reasons that have been many times in the course of the work and also because of the idiosyncratic nature of the translation. For these reasons, the translation cannot escape criticism. Some imperfections come from the translating subject and characterize it.

First of all, the translator has a restriction that prevents him from working in all freedom. This lack of freedom deprives him of some of his ingenuity and creativity. The translator cannot therefore be satisfied with this restriction and work while respecting certain principles of his method, of his text, of the genius of the target language and its audience. The resulting imperfections do not pass without his knowledge.

On the contrary, he arranges them so as to produce a text which is not the same the original, but which is not detached from it either. The new text is thus foreign to both the original and the new reader. The imperfections of the methods used must not harm either the original nor the target audience. 

Translation is more than a mere transposition of words, since the ideal of literary translation is to satisfy two masters who seem to be in opposition. In this case, the translator becomes a messenger, a negotiator, a canvasser, between two deaf clients and a peace officer at all levels. This privileged position is conferred upon him by Mounin (1963 : 232) in his proclamation: (32) 

“Translation is a meta-communication that necessarily passes through the mediation of the subjectivity of the translator, who consequently appears as an interpreter in all the senses of the word.”

This is how wrong they are who consider the translator as a simple reproducer, who only reproduces what someone else has produced. Such a point of view can only be shared by those who profess that translation is a mere transposition of words and believe that the author is simply following the strategies imposed by the the author of the original text. However, the translator cannot be a simple reporter who has no other task than to faithfully reproduce the text of his author. If this were all it was translation was as easy as it is claimed to be, the translation machine could have replaced the translator. Today, we realize that the human factor must necessarily intervene at all levels of translation. By the nature of his work, the translator is called upon to make important decisions, that ultimately make his work more or less original.

The Debate of fidelity

First of all, we must start with this question : what should be privileged in the translation, the source or the target? In a purely linguistic approach, we speak of source translation since the text to be translated is the starting point and it is the support on which we base ourselves and which we must transmit in another language. According to another perspective, it is the target language that is important, since the translation is aimed at a different audience that may not be familiar with the source language or the target language.

 But how do you manage the gap? What about the context? Translation as language contact is a practice in continuous dynamics. Today, languages are no longer studied as stable and institutionalized systems ; instead, they are seen as tools of communication in continuous transformation.

Multilingualism is a phenomenon that is becoming more and more widespread thanks to mobility, economic exchange, social networks and the communication wave. Discovering the other is no longer a choice but a necessity. The contact of languages has allowed a certain fusion between the linguistic systems and an assimilation, whatever its degree, of the other and his culture. The contact of language is thus imposed as the result of the operation of the exchange between the source and target languages, on the one hand and translation imposes its relative supremacy on the other and can lend it some functions or representations. These changes are essentially observed during the contact situation, they create zones of convergence between the two languages in question. Y. Matras (Matras, 2013 : 8)  (33) affirms that in any situation of language contact there are transformations which create a language of the contact situation: 

“Alongside these, almost ‘ordinary’ processes of contact-induced change, contact linguistics embraced the exciting phenomenon of the birth of a language in a contact situation. “ 

Matras insists on the fact that contact whatever its process induces change, that is why when translation which is in fact a situation of contact, since two languages are in the process of influencing each other and maintaining exchange relations, we are witnessing the birth of a language which borrows the characters and features of each of the two languages

The translators in the great debate on the fidelity or the respect of the culture of reception, have not all followed the same path. The French translators, for example, until the 19th century have privileged, at the time of the translation of texts of foreign cultures, to remain faithful to what their own culture likes and understands, totally ignoring the nuances of what is foreign to a French speaker. We also notice that the first translations were made into Latin, the preferred language of the scholars. Is it necessary to recall that the treaty of Cicero (34) which is in reality a preface to his translation into Latin of two Greek texts, wanted to give his vision of the perfect speech? (Masson, 2017 : 40).(35) 

This tradition has been preserved either in a clear or implied way. The translators aimed to preserve the language into which they were translating. Indeed, this was the purpose of translations from Latin into French in France, from English or Spanish literature into German, etc. Translation allows the receiving language to open up to new dimensions, to broaden its horizons. Masson (Masson, 2017 : 42), says what follows about translation into the French language: (36) 

“Since it was essentially a matter of enriching the target language, one operated on the original, on the source work, a certain number adaptations. It was a question of offering works passed through the filter of a kind of measure which will give what one calls the taste, the good taste, the French taste. It was necessary to francize these works.”

Faithful to what ?

What seems most important to us is undoubtedly to answer this old question: faithful to what? Let us return to the two categories that Georges Mounin defined for us. Once again, we will be faced with a difficult choice : virtues peculiar to the language or virtues peculiar to the style of the author? We see that great writers often tend to break language rules. So Joachim du Bellay thinks that “translation would be impossible no longer because of the properties of languages ​​themselves, but because of the very particular way in which writers, especially poets, use languages ​​” (Mounin, 1955).(37)  Here, the dualistic opposition between fidelity and recreation immediately turns into another : will we be faithful to the common language or to the specific means of expression of writers (often greater than us translators) ? Can we be faithful, at the same time, to the language (in addition, to the source language or target language) and style ?

Indeed, today, French theorists are still trying to answer this question and they adopt different approaches : linguistic, textual or philosophical, for example. But most theorists are still content with one level or one aspect of fidelity. Only Albir gives us three parameters of fidelity: the author’s “meaning”, the target language and the recipient of the translation, and she writes (1990 : 114): (38) 

“This triple relationship of fidelity – to the meaning of the author, to the target language and to the recipient of the translation – is inseparable. If we only remain faithful to one of these parameters and we betrays others, one will not be faithful to the meaning. A translation which is not clear to the recipient or which has language errors is not a translation which is faithful to the meaning.”

It is the nature of the translation that decides whether fidelity exists, whether we like it or not. But, as we see, there are unanswered problems in the concept of loyalty. To clarify them, it is necessary to introduce here the notion of recreation, not as the opposite of fidelity and the means necessarily adopted when one cannot be faithful, but as another complementary angle.

But what is recreation? This is not a question we can easily answer. If we want to define this notion and distinguish it from the notion of creation that the artistic school offers us, we should first bring out what is opposed to the notion of recreation in literary translation. What is opposed to the notion of recreation is not the objective reality of literary translation, nor is it its linguistic basis, it is, in the first place, the notion of reproduction that some confuse with that of fidelity.

For a long time, translation remained an untheorized social practice and we cannot help but wonder why. However, if we understand the naive attitude that one maintains towards translation – until today, some still believe that we can reproduce original texts as long as we are bilingual – that does not seem so paradoxical to us. What reproduction requires is obviously not a certain theory, it is rather, like all crafts, a kind of technique.

Thus we consider the notion of recreation as a complementary conception of the notion of fidelity. Fidelity is a prerequisite for recreation, and recreation can materialize, in translating practice, through recreations of different degrees. We believe that the translator can adopt three attitudes towards the original text : superiority, equality and inferiority. Most translators accept the latter in the name of fidelity. As Meschonnic (1982) indicates in his book: (39)

“Most translators are not ‘creators’. Translation is aging – why? Where the text it translates does not age – why? and we are retranslating it – why “

Why? Because we are chained by this absolute notion of loyalty.

The limits of fidelity

Remaining at a fairly high level of generality, translation theorists put the notion of fidelity forward, all of them asserting it loud and clear, while knowing pertinally that fidelity remains an ambiguous notion. The ambiguity inherent in this notion remains inescapable even if one tries to study it through the concept of equivalence. Such attempts have all led to the proposal of several variants. They are to be found in the writings of researchers from different backgrounds. For example, M. Lederer (1994)  (40) distinguishes between cognitive and affective equivalence; it is also emphasized that translation does not only consist of the linking of pre-established meanings related to fragments of the text: to translate is also to restore to the maximum in the target language, the network of associations and values of all kinds conveyed by the original. 

E. Nida (1964, 1975)  (41) speaks of formal equivalence when a grammatical category in the source language is translated by the identical category in the target language. The German school of translation, however, has placed the most emphasis on this notion. Thus, W. Koller (1979)  (42) distinguishes between connotative equivalence, referential equivalence, normative equivalence, pragmatic equivalence, formal equivalence and aesthetic equivalence. Other authors make different distinctions, which leads to a rather complex overall picture.

But no matter how much “fidelity” it aspires to, no translation can be identical to the original because the translator produces another text. It is in this context one must evoke the difficulty, indeed the impossibility, of judging the accuracy of a translation. This results from the absence of the third text which would constitute an objective means of controlling and verifying the “correspondence” of the translation to the original. It follows that there is no absolute criterion for a good translation and that any search for perfection would be futile. 

Marianne Ranua states, quite forcefully, that: (43) 

“Newmark (1981 : 7-8) writes that translation always involves a loss of meaning, as the source writer and the translator have different individual uses of language. He also writes that people have their own lexical and maybe even grammatical idiosyncrasies, and everyone attaches ‘’private’’ meanings to certain words (ibid : 8). The writer of the source text and the translator also have different theories of meaning as well as different values, and the translator’s theory of meaning has an effect on his or her interpretation of the text (ibid). As translators are apt to attach certain values and emotional reactions to some words, they may set greater value on connotation than denotation where the author of the original primarily places value on the denotations (ibid). “

Obviously, it is impossible to be one hundred percent faithful, which is why one can spot “losses” and “shortcomings” in every translation. However, one must take into account the parameter of intention, which we had identified as what distinguishes lying from falsehood and error. In this perspective, an additional distinction is necessary between the two bodies concerned with loyalty : the one who is “deceived” because one “lies” to him (therefore a large and vaguely defined target audience), and the one who is “betrayed”. Because one is“ unfaithful ”to him (therefore the original text and / or its author). 

To illustrate this difference, it is interesting to consider translations made or co-signed by the author of the original, for example two works by James Joyce: (44) Ulysses  and Finnegans Wake. (45) These translations can certainly be considered “non-faithful” to the original, they even deviate greatly from it. Oustinoff, having noted several important deviations from the original in the translation of Ulysses, points out that an evaluation of this translation based on the criterion of fidelity would risk 

leading to an aporia : as a translation-monument, it is untouchable ; as a translation with errors, it would be a ‘bad translation’ ” (2001 : 121). (46)

This example makes it possible to question the status of the author : is he the only one with the right to deviate from the original? And Joyce, as the “owner” of his work, did he see these kinds of translations as the ideal and therefore as the model for any other translation he did not co-sign? These questions clearly reflect the problem of the two reference bodies of fidelity: if the author considers the “free” translation adequate, the public and the critics will not receive it in the same way. In this case, it would be “faithful” to the will or intentions of the author, but not necessarily to the original text itself. Loyalty can therefore only constitute an abstract value. It seems necessary to put this notion into perspective in order to go beyond the “moralizing lexicon” (de Launay, 2011a : 182)  (47) in relation to translation.

Language and translation

Without wishing to enter into the controversy that has arisen between culture and language, which is as futile as the one that has arisen concerning thought and language (which Piaget (48)  perceived very well). 

Thus, language provides us with a real construction of the world, a system of representations indissociable from the culture it conveys. One can indeed consider, with constructivist epistemology, that we construct this world, even though we believe we perceive it. (49) Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s reflections in Decolonizing the Mind, the Politics of Language in African Literature help us to see language as the carrier, the vehicle of a culture. (50)  But it is also its memory, whether it is oral or written, and this is undoubtedly why it will be a place of fixation, on occasion the most important one, for a cultural identity, when it feels threatened. It is through language and in it that the defeated and colonized peoples will try most strongly to organize their resistance to the intruder and to the invader.

The translator must therefore be wary : behind the language, and in its beyond, he will find all the components of a culture and its history. He must therefore pay the greatest attention to it, and try to decipher this sensitivity to the world, which is not an easy task when we belong to a very different universe, to a very different system of representations. 

Georges Mounin has classified the arguments for untranslatability into two main categories: 

  1. One because of the virtues specific to each language, i.e. those of “clean words, sentences and energies, the magnificence of words, the gravity of sentences, etc.” ; and
  2. The other because of the reasons specific to each author in particular, i.e. the use, specific to each author, of “all that is necessary for a language to be understood. ” The other because of the reasons specific to each author in particular, that is to say the use, specific to each author, of “all that touches the style” (1955 : 33).  (51)

It is from this classification that he justifies the possibility of translation by looking for arguments – in linguistics, of course. However, the problem is far from being solved, because if one can be faithful to semantics, to morphology, to phonetics, even to stylistics separately, one never manages to realize all these fidelities at the same time.

No one can deny the necessity and function of translation, literary or not. But necessity cannot mean possibility at the philosophical level : this is our problem, hence the deep gap between the practice of translation and the theory of translation. When translators ask themselves : “Can we imagine any other human activity comparable in importance, scope, and durability, or can we deny its existence in law, in defiance of the realities that can be observed daily in fact? “(Ladmiral 1994: 85), (52)  and when historians of translation say that the target language “will only receive its full perfection only by going to its neighbors to trade and to recognize its true riches ; by delving into the antiquity to which it owes its first leaven and by seeking the the limits that separate it from other languages” and affirm that “translation alone will render such services“ (Mounin 1955: 31-33), (53)  there is also the risk of falling into the “absolute circle” (in the sense of Antoine Berman) that is translation.

Western culture is marked by a “long tradition that translating is impossible” (Mounin, 1955 : 8)  (54) because of an alleged irreducible difference between languages. To the extent that translations exist, the “theoretical archaism” (Ladmiral, 1995: 41) (55) of this position seems obvious. However, translation is still confronted with the famous “preliminary objection” (cf. Ladmiral, 1994) (56) which attributes to it an inherent flaw. Any translation undertaking would then “prejudice” the original and would be detrimental to everything that constitutes the latter, from its content to its form, from its meaning to its letter, etc. The metaphor of the “beautiful infidel” clearly underlines the ambiguous status of the translation : the formula is used by Gilles Ménage around 1650 (57),  and aims at a translation of Ablancourt whose language and style was very “beautiful” but did not correspond to the “Content” of the original text (cf. Zuber, 1968) (58). The discourse on translation constantly comes up against this ambiguity especially with regard to conceptions of truth, fidelity and identity. Indeed, these notions are not based on well-defined concepts and can be questioned in the field of translation.


For falsification to occur in translation, the original must be perceived as the holder of truth. But this dichotomy must be put into perspective. Even if we start from a general definition of truth as conformity to reality as defined by Aristotle: “propositions are true insofar as they conform to the things themselves” (On Interpretation, 9, 19a) (59),  it must be noted that if this definition applies to language and therefore a priori also to writing, it proves to be reductive when it comes to writing fiction or ideas. In these cases, an immanent relationship to a reality that could be called “external” is no longer immediately graspable, as Aristotle already noted in his differentiation between the historian and the poet (cf. Poetics, 9, 1451ab). (60)

Now, in the case of translation, which is in essence a secondary writing, a second level of distance to tangible reality is interposed by the linguistic and historical distance between the original and the translation. It seems almost impossible to speak of “conformity to an external reality” in relation to a translation. This apparent impasse can only be overcome by considering the original as a point of reference. But the original is both a vague and contradictory reference point, since it is neither absolute nor unhistorical.

An additional difficulty arises from the fact that the concepts of “truth” and “fidelity” are situated on two fundamentally different conceptual planes. Controversial and difficult as it may be to define, the criterion of truth is supposed to be governed by a certain objectivity as an epistemological principle, either as a correspondence to a reality “in itself” and therefore independent of the subject who perceives it, or subject to principles of observability and intersubjective verifiability that the philosophy of science has tried to establish. (61) 

We can therefore conclude that translation is a very subjective practice, which means that each translator has a different and personal approach in relation to the original text. Consequently, fidelity is also a subjective and plural notion, because translators are not all faithful to the same thing, and share different points of view, thus creating this distinction between dowsers and targeters which is not always well defined because sometimes a third “category” of translators the one without a name, who toggles between the two.

While the act of translation is inherently complex and in many ways problematic, the particular case of poetic translation, one would imagine, is to an extreme degree. In addition to the difficulties relating to meanings, which overlap only partially from one language to another, there are those relating to the material and formal properties of the language and to the metric specific to each tradition. These properties are not found across languages (for example, French verse is syllabic, while English verse is stressed) ; at the same time, they contribute – if they are not quite simply the essential – to the poetic dimension of a text. So much so that, if the translation of prose is problematic, the poetic translation seems, quite simply, impossible.

Besides the idea of a timeless and intersubjective identity of the text is illusory, both for the work and for its translation. The risk of an absolute relativism can be overcome by highlighting the historicity of meaning and the role of the contextualized subjectivity of the translator. But the fact that the original cannot be considered identical to itself puts the question of whether a translation is faithful to the original in brackets. It can only be as faithful as the translator’s understanding of the text. This understanding cannot claim to be true. We must therefore abandon the idea of an “objective” translation that would correspond either to the “external truth” or to the “textual truth”.

You can follow Professor Mohamed Chtatou on Twitter : @Ayurinu

Bibliography :

Copeland, R. Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages : Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts. Cambridge : Cambridge University Press, 1991.

Munday, Jeremy. Introducing Translation Studies. Oxon : Routledge, 2012.

Steiner, G. After Babel : Aspects of Language and Translation. Oxford : OUP, 1998.

Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibility. Oxon : Routledge, 2008.

Venuti, Lawrence. The Translation Studies Reader. Oxon : Routledge, 2012.


Angelelli, Claudia and Baer, James Brian (eds). 2016. Researching Translation and Interpreting. London : Routledge.

Baker, Mona, and Gabriela Saldanha (eds). 2009. Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies. Second edition. London : Routledge.

Bermann, Sandra, and Catherine Porter (eds). 2014. A Companion to Translation Studies. Malden/Oxford : Wiley Blackwell. Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Gambier, Yves, and Luc van Doorslaer (eds). 2010-2013. Handbook of Translation Studies. 4 vols. Amsterdam/Philadelphia : John Benjamins. Online at

Guidère, Mathieu. 2016. Introduction à la traductologie. Penser la traduction : hier, aujourd’hui, demain. 3ème édition. Bruxelles : De Bouck.

Hermans, Theo. 2014 (1999). Translation in Systems. Descriptive and System-oriented Approaches Explained. Abingdon/New York : Routledge.

Malmkjær, Kirsten, and Kevin Windle (eds). 2011. The Oxford Handbook of Translation Studies.  Oxford : Oxford University Press.

Millan, Carmen and Bartrina, Francesca (eds). 2013. The Routledge Handbook of Translation Studies. London and New York : Routledge.

Mellinger, Christopher D. & Hanson, Thomas A. 2017. Quantitative Research Methods in Translation and Interpreting Studies. London and New York : Routledge.

Munday, Jeremy. 2016. Introducing Translation Studies. Theories and Applications. Fourth edition. Abingdon/New York : Routledge.

Pym, Anthony. 2014. Exploring Translation Theories. Second edition. London/New York : Routledge.

Pöchhacker, Franz. 2004. Introducing Interpreting Studies. London : Routledge.

Pöchhacker, Franz (ed). 2015. Routledge Encyclopedia of Interpreting Studies. Manchester : St Jerome.

Saldanha, Gabriela, and Sharon O’Brien. 2013. Research Methodologies in Translation Studies. Manchester : St Jerome.

Toury, Gideon. 2012. Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond. Revised edition. Amsterdam : John Benjamins.

Venuti, Lawrence (ed.). 2012. The Translation Studies Reader. Third edition. London/New York : Routledge.


Across Languages and Cultures (Budapest : Akadémiai Kiadó)

Interpreting (Amsterdam : John Benjamins)

JoSTrans – The Journal of Specialised Translation

Meta : journal des traducteurs / Meta : translators’ journal (Presses de l’Université de Montréal)

Perspectives (London : Routledge)

Target (Amsterdam : John Benjamins)

The Interpreter and Translator Trainer (Manchester, UK : St Jerome Pub)

The translator (London : Routledge)

Translation and Interpreting Studies (Amsterdam : John Benjamins)

Translation studies (London : Routledge)


BITRA. Bibliography of Interpreting and Translation, ed. by Javier Franco (University of Alicante)

CIRIN. An international information network on conference interpreting research (CIR), ed. by Daniel Gile.

Translation Studies Bibliography (TSB), ed. by Yves Gambier and Luc van Doorslaer  (Amsterdam: John Benjamins)


  1.  Davreu, Robert. “Antoine Berman, penseur de la traduction, “ Poésie, 37, 1986 : 20-25, p. 24.
  2.  The Savvy Newcomer. “Fidelity In Translation, “ The Savvy Newcomer dated May 15, 2018.
  3. Ladmiral, Jean-René. Traduire : Théorèmes pour la traduction. Paris : Gallimard, 1994. In the modern world, translation is everywhere. We have become major consumers of translations : in literature, of course ; in education, as we know ; but also everywhere else, especially in the scientific and technical fields. As for philosophy, the humanities and politics, they are based on cultural and even national traditions, which require a great deal of translation and interpretation, but in this world of accelerated “babelization”, we forget that the translation is not the original, that it is the work of a translator. But what exactly does the translator do ? Everything, or almost everything, has been said about ready-made translations, about “beautiful infidels”. In this book, J.-R. Ladmiral reflects not only on the reception of translations, but also on their production. With the realism of a practitioner who does not give in to the prestige of speculative contruction, he agrees to stick to a “crumbling” or plural theory, to “theorems” for translation that conceptualize in order to effectively translate.
  4.  Ibid.
  5.  Ibid.
  6.  J.C. Catford. A Linguistic Theory of Translation. Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1965.
  7.  Nouss, Alexis. “Éloge de la trahison, “ TTR : traduction, terminologie, rédaction, vol. 14.2, 2001 : 167-179.
  8.  In Italian language : To translate, to betray.
  9.  Berman, Antoine. “L’Âge de la Traduction : ‘La tâche du traducteur’ de Walter Benjamin, un commentaire, “La Traduction-poésie, À Antoine Berman. Martine Broda, dir. Strasbourg : Presses de l’Université de Strasbourg, 1999 : 11-37.
  10. Mounin G. Les Belles infidèles. Paris : Cahiers du Sud, 1955 : 7. “La traduction est-elle possible ? Toutes les objections contre la traduction se résument en une seule : ce n’est pas l’original
  11. Durieux, C. “La traduction : identités et altérités, “ in Cahiers de la MRSH, Caën, n° 44 / 2005 : 7-14, p. 7. « la traduction n’est pas l’original; elle est autre. Elle comporte une part d’identité et une part d’altérité. Pour autant, cette altérité ne la discrédite pas, ne l’invalide pas. Rechercher une relation d’identité totale entre un texte et sa traduction est un leurre. »
  12.  Jehan I. Zitawi, Mohamed S. Abdel Wahab. “Translating and interpreting to win : the foreign language witness testimony dilemma in international arbitration, “ The Translator 20: 3, 2014 : 356-376.
  13.  Kaisa Kukkola. “ On Faithfulness in Translating, “Paragraph, November 2002, vo. 25, No. 3, 2002 : 32-41.
  14.  Hurtado – Albir A. La notion de fidélité en traduction. Paris : Didier Erudition, 1990.
  15. Balliu, Christian. “L’histoire de la traduction : une somme théorique, ” in Cahiers de la MRSH, Caën, n° 44 / 2005 : 15-33, pp 18-19.“ Le passage difficile de la pratique à la théorie, c’est-à-dire à l’émergence d’une méthodologie de traduction.  L’enseignement de la traduction répond aux mêmes critères d’exigence et de rigueur que les autres disciplines scientifiques. La transmission des savoirs doit reposer sur des notions clairement identifiées et matérialisées dans la langue par une terminologie aussi précise qu’univoque. Il est important de signaler que le métalangage de la traduction reste à ce jour labile, mouvant et varie d’une institution à l’autre, pour ne pas dire d’un enseignant ou d’un chercheur à l’autre.
  16. Ibid., p. 19. “ …qualité d’une traduction qui, en fonction de sa finalité, respecte le plus possible le sens attribué au texte de départ par le traducteur et dont la formulation en langue d’arrivée est conforme à l’usage. “
  17. Ibid. “La fidélité, notion-clé de la traductologie, est une des notions les plus difficiles à cerner et de plus controversées. (…) On ne peut définir ”a priori” et ”in abstracto” la fidélité, et, en aucune façon, on ne peut la définir d’un point de vue normatif. “
  18.  Lederer, Marianne. La traduction simultanée. Paris : Minard, 1981.
  19.  Meschonnic, Henri. La rime et la vie. Lagrasse : Verdier, 1989.
  20. Derrida, Jacques. “ Des Tours de Babel, “ dans Joseph F. Graham (dir.), Difference in Translation. Ithaca and London : Cornell University Press, 1985 : 209-248. “Signature, événement, contexte, “ Marges de la philosophie. Paris : Les Éditions de Minuit, 1972 : 365-393.
  21. Antoine Berman, born June 24, 1942 in Argenton-sur-Creuse and died November 22, 1991 in Paris, is a linguist, French translation theorist and translator from German and Spanish.
  22.  Berman, Antoine. Pour une critique des traductions. John Donne. Paris : Gallimard, 1995.
  23. Mikhail Mikhailovich Bakhtin (16 November 1895 – 7 March 1975) was a Russian philosopher, literary critic and scholar who worked on literary theory, ethics, and the philosophy of language. His writings, on a variety of subjects, inspired scholars working in a number of different traditions (Marxism, semiotics, structuralism, and religious criticism) and in disciplines as diverse as literary criticism, history, philosophy, sociology, anthropology and psychology. Although Bakhtin was active in the debates on aesthetics and literature that took place in the Soviet Union in the 1920s, his distinctive position did not become well known until he was rediscovered by Russian scholars in the 1960s. ( Cf. Clark, Katerina & Michael Holquist. Mikhail Bakhtin. Cambridge : Harvard University Press, 1984.
  24. Eco, Umberto. Dire presque la même chose. Paris : Grasset, 2007. Translated into French by Myriem Bouzabe.“This is not a theoretical essay on translation, but an illustration of the problems of translation through examples that Umberto Eco experienced : as an editor, as an author, as a translator himself. These are the three insights that we find again and again in a text that is full of examples, in all languages. Eco asks his readers to be multilingual, not polyglot, and there is no need to master the languages cited to understand, since we are always in the comparative context. When we come to the capital notion of fidelity : if he does not quote the famous traduttore-traditore (that the French invented) he teaches us that fidelity is not the resumption of word to word but of world to world. Words open worlds and the translator must open the same world that the author has opened, even with different words. Translators are not weighers of words, but weighers of souls, and in this story of passage from one world to another, everything is a matter of negotiation. The word is out ; any good translator is the one who knows how to negotiate with the requirements of the original world in order to produce a new world that is as faithful as possible, not to the letter but to the spirit. Everything, therefore, is in the almost of the title. ” Myriem Bouzabe, (translated from French by me, M. Chtatou).
  25. Venuti, Lawrence. The Translator’s Invisibility : A History of Translation (2nd ed.). Abingdon, Oxon, U.K. : Routledge, published in 1995 and revised in 2008 : 1. This book represents one of Venuti’s most-studied works in which the author attempts to retrace the history of translation across the ages. In it, he lays out his theory that so-called “domesticating practices” at work in society have contributed to the invisibility of the translator in translations. He claims that legal and cultural constraints make it so that “‘faithful rendition’ is defined partly by the illusion of transparency“, such that foreignizing or experimental types of translation are “likely to encounter opposition from publishers and large segments of Anglophone readers who read for immediate intelligibility“. This leads to a climate in which “fluency” is the most important quality for a translation and all traces of foreignness or alterity tend to be purposely erased.
  26. Balliu, C.  Les traducteurs transparents. La traduction en France à l’époque classique. Bruxelles : Éditions du Hazard, collection Traductologie, 2002 : 55. “Le protestantisme a permis une nouvelle approche de la notion du sens
  27. Desiderius Erasmus Roterodamus (28 October 1466 – 12 July 1536) was a Dutch philosopher and Christian scholar who is considered to have been one of the greatest scholars of the northern Renaissance.  As a Catholic priest, he was an important figure in classical scholarship who wrote in a pure Latin style. Among humanists he enjoyed the sobriquet “Prince of the Humanists”, and has been called “the crowning glory of the Christian humanists”. Using humanist techniques for working on texts, he prepared important new Latin and Greek editions of the New Testament, which raised questions that would be influential in the Protestant Reformation and Catholic Counter-Reformation. He also wrote On Free Will, In Praise of Folly, Handbook of a Christian Knight, On Civility in Children, Copia : Foundations of the Abundant Style, Julius Exclusus, and many other works. Cf. McDonald, Grantley. Biblical Criticism in Early Modern Europe : Erasmus, the Johannine Comma, and Trinitarian Debate. Cambridge and New York : Cambridge University Press, 2016.
  28.  William Tyndale or Tindale (born in Gloucestershire in 1494 – executed by strangulation on October 6, 1536 in Vilvoorde) is an English Protestant known as the first translator of the New Testament from the Greek text into a modern language (Middle English). A brilliant scholar, he spoke Hebrew, Greek, Latin, Spanish, English and French, so well that each of these languages could have been his mother tongue. The influence of his translation of the Bible into English was major both on the religious development of England in the sixteenth century and on that of the English language.
  29.  Aire, Victor O. Essays and Review on African Literature and Criticism. Jos : St Stephen Book House Inc., 2002.
  30.  Nesterova, Natalya. “ Le problème philosophique de l’Autre, “ in : Berner, Christian et Milliaressi, Tatiana, dir. : La traduction : philosophie et tradition : interpréter/traduire. Villeneuve d’Ascq : Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2011 : 97-112.
  31.  Tyler A.F. Essays on the Principles of Translation. In Western Translation Theory from Herodotus to Nietzsche. Manchester : St Jerome, 1997.
  32. Mounin, G. Problèmes linguistiques de traduction. Paris : Gallimard, 1963. “La traduction est une méta-communication qui passe nécessairement par la médiation de la subjectivité du traducteur, qui dès lors fait figure d’interprète à tous les sens du mot“.
  33.  Matras, Y. “Languages in contact in a world marked by change and mobility, “ Revue française de linguistique appliquée, 18(2), 2O13 : 7 -13, p. 8. page-7.htm)
  34.  The Treatise on the Laws (De legibus) belongs to the series of political works by Cicero (106-43 BC). It was probably written after The treatise On the Republic (De re publica), written in 54 BC. After having established the best form of government, Cicero proposes to write the laws best adapted to it. As in De re publica, the work is presented in the form of a dialogue, but this time bringing together Cicero, his brother Quintus and his friend Atticus. Three books have come down to us : in book I, the foundations of true law, situated in reason and nature, are examined ; in book II, the laws concerning worship and religion are exposed ; and in book III, the laws concerning public law : magistrates, senate. Several remarks, formulated in the course of the dialogue, let think that other books, today lost, supplemented this unit.
  35. Masson, J.-Y. “Faut-il brûler les belles infidèles ? “34e Assises de la traduction littéraire à Arles., 2017 : 37-53, p. 40. “Comme il s’agissait essentiellement d’enrichir la langue cible, on opérait sur l’original, sur l’œuvre source, un certain nombre d’adaptations. Il s’agissait d’offrir des œuvres passées au filtre d’une sorte de mesure qui va donner ce que l’on appelle le goût, le bon goût, le goût français. Il fallait franciser ces œuvres. “
  36.  Ibid., p. 42.
  37.  Mounin, Georges. Les belles infidèles. Paris : Cahiers du Sud, (1952-53), 1955.
  38. Hurtado – Albir A. La notion de fidélité en traduction. Op. Cit., p. 114. “Ce triple rapport de fidélité — au vouloir dire de l’auteur, à la langue d’arrivée et au destinataire de la traduction — est indissociable. Si l’on ne reste fidèle qu’à un seul de ces paramètres et qu’on trahit les autres, on ne sera pas fidèle au sens. Une traduction qui n’est pas claire pour son destinataire ou qui présente des erreurs de langue n’est pas une traduction fidèle au sens. “
  39. Meschonnic, Henri. Critique du rythme : Anthropologie historique du langage. Lagrasse : Verdier/poche, First edition 1982, reprint 2009. “La plupart des traducteurs ne sont pas des “créateurs”. La traduction vieillit — pourquoi ? Là où le texte qu’elle traduit ne vieillit pas — pourquoi ? et on le retraduit — pourquoi ? “Rhythm is the utopia of meaning. It is from the absence of rhythm in meaning and of meaning in rhythm, in our culture of language, that this book tries to found a new theory of rhythm. What is at stake goes far beyond the history and theory of literary practices, where poetry remains the most vulnerable and revealing place of what a society makes of the individual. Insofar as this issue engages all language, it engages all the subject, all subjects, and this is why, through the problems crossed, such as that of the relationship between language and music, that of voice and diction or typography, through the strategies analyzed, from metrics to psychoanalysis, from linguistics to philosophy, even in its technical aspects, the theory of rhythm is, in the broadest sense, political. It is a critical journey of the human sciences. Crossing their gaps, this book sketches a new way of working on their relationships. In a constant back and forth between the analysis of texts and the research of concepts, it confronts mainly the French, English, German, Russian, Spanish, Hebrew and Arabic domains. It is addressed to all those who are interested in language. For it goes beyond erudition to show the adventure.
  40.  Lederer, M. La traduction aujourd’hui – Le modèle interprétatif. Paris : Hachette, 1994, Classiques Garnier, 2006.
  41.  Nida, E. Towards the Science of Translation. Leiden : Brill, 1964.
  42.  Koller, Werner. Einführung in die Übersetzungswissenschaft. Heidelberg : Quelle & Meyer, 1979.
  43.  Ranua, Marianne. “Connotations in Kenneth Grahame’s the Wind in the Willows and its Finnish Translation. “A Pro Gradu Thesis in English, University of Jyväskylä, Department of Languages, 2009.
  44.  James Joyce, whose birth name is James Augustine Aloysius Joyce (February 2, 1882 in Dublin – January 13, 1941 in Zurich), is an Irish novelist and poet, considered one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century. His major works are a collection of short stories, titled The People of Dublin (1914), and novels such as Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man (1916), Ulysses (1922), and Finnegans Wake (1939). Although he spent most of his life outside his native country, Joyce’s Irish experience is central to his writings and is the basis for most of his works. His fictional universe is anchored in Dublin and reflects her family life, events, friends (and enemies) from school and college days. Thus, he has become both the most cosmopolitan and the most local of the great Irish writers. His work is characterized by a dazzling mastery of the language and by the use of innovative literary forms, associated with the creation of characters who, like Leopold Bloom and Molly Bloom (Ulysses), constitute individuals of a deep humanity. Cf. Michael Groden. Ulysses in Progress. Princeton, NJ : Princeton University Press, 1977. Paperback Edition, Princeton : Princeton University Press, 1987.
  45.  Joyce, James. Ulysse. Traduction par Auguste Morel assisté de Stuart Gilbert ; revue et corrigée par Valery Larbaud et l’auteur. Paris : Gallimard, 1929.
  46. Oustinoff, Michaël. Bilinguisme d’écriture et auto-traduction. – Julien Green, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir. Paris : L’Harmattan, 2001. Do you remain yourself by changing the language ? Often asked question, which we must, in the case of writers, extend not only to style, but also to the problem of writing bilingualism, which sometimes takes on a preponderant dimension in the work of an author, as for Beckett from English to French or Nabokov from Russian to English. Self-translation then plays a crucial role which leads to questioning the identity of the self-translated text : where is the original in relation to the existing versions ? From the title of a work published in 1985 devoted to bilingualism, Julien Green seems to respond in advance to this kind of questions in the form of a paradox : Language and its double. The Language and its Shadow, title in mirror where to the “double” responds the shadow (“shadow”), but also mirror of the translation, insofar as this one is customary of such metamorphoses, when they are not much more spectacular. The change of language, for the bilingual as for the writer, would thus involve an irreducible part of otherness, similar to a game of Nabokovian mirrors. A little quickly confusing alterity and alteration, some will no doubt remember that it is common to say that to translate is to betray. But such criticism, whatever form it takes, is ultimately always negative and is manifestly ineffective when one sees how Beckett or Nabokov pass through the mirror : their bilingual works call for a positive criticism of translation, in other words poetics. 
  47.  Launay, Marc de. “ Éthique et traduction, “ in : Berner, Christian et Tatiana Milliaressi, dir. : La traduction : philosophie et tradition : interpréter/traduire. Villeneuve d’Ascq : Presses universitaires du Septentrion, 2011a : 179-194. P. 182.
  48. Jean William Fritz Piaget, born August 9, 1896 in Neuchâtel, Switzerland and died September 16, 1980 in Geneva, is a Swiss biologist, psychologist, logician and epistemologist known for his work in developmental psychology and epistemology through what he called genetic epistemology (or genetic structuralism). His work sheds light on “intelligence”, understood as a specific form of adaptation of living things to their environment, on the stages of evolution of this in children and their theory of learning. This light will exert a notable influence on pedagogy and educational methods.
  49.  Von Foerster, Heinz, “La construction d’une réalité, ” in P. Watzlawick, edit., L’Invention de la réalité, contributions au constructivisme. Paris : Seuil, 1988 ; translated from German A.L. Hacker.
  50.  Ngugi wa Thiong’o. Decolonizing the Mind, the Politics of Language in African Literature. London : James Currey, 1986, in particular pp. 13-15.
  51.  Mounin G. Les Belles infidèles. Op. cit., p. 33.
  52.  Jean-René Ladmiral. Traduire : Théorèmes pour la traduction. Op. cit., p. 85.
  53.  Mounin G. Les Belles infidèles. Op. cit., pp. 31-33.
  54. Ibid, p. 8. “ longue tradition qui veut que traduire soit impossible “ (Mounin, 1955 : 8)
  55.  Ladmiral, Jean-René. “Traduire, c’est-à-dire… — Phénoménologies d’un concept pluriel, “ in Meta, Vol. 40/n° 3, 1995 : 409-420. 
  56.  Ladmiral, Jean-René. Traduire : Théorèmes pour la traduction. Op. cit.
  57.  Gilles Ménage, born in Angers on August 15, 1613 and died in Paris on July 23, 1692, was a French grammarian, historian and writer.
  58.  Zuber, R. Les “Belles infidèles” et la formation du goût classique. Paris : Albin Michel, 1995. 
  59. Aristotle. Metaphysica (English trans. W. D. Ross). In : Works VIII. Oxford : Clarendon Press, 1908. Categories & De Interpretatione (trans. J.L. Ackrill). In : J.L. Ackrill, Ed. A New Aristotle Reader (pp. 5-24). Oxford : Oxford University Press, 1984.
  60.  Aristotle. The Poetics of aristotle. (Edited with critical notes and a translation by S. H. Hutcher). London : Macmillan and co. Limited, 1902.
  61.  Popper, Karl. La logique de la découverte scientifique. Paris : Payot, 1979.

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou

Dr. Mohamed Chtatou is a Professor of education science at the university in Rabat. He is currently a political analyst with Moroccan, Gulf, French, Italian and British media on politics and culture in the Middle East, Islam and Islamism as well as terrorism. He is, also, a specialist on political Islam in the MENA region with interest in the roots of terrorism and religious extremism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.