Self-translation

Chiara Montini
Paris, France and Bologna, Italy

Table of contents

Popovič’s gives a basic definition of self-translation as “the translation of an original work into another language by the author himself” ([1976]: 19). Popovič also argues that self-translation “cannot be regarded as a variant of the original text but as a true translation” ([1976]: 19). Most studies of the last decades on self-translations are not so positive in defining this practice. Koller distinguishes between what he defines “autotranslation” and “true” translation because of the difference in the issue of faithfulness, “as the author-translator will feel justified in introducing changes into the text where an “ordinary” translator might hesitate to do so”(1979/1992: 197). Of course, it is hard to apply faithfulness to translation, and today this concept is becoming obsolete and can’t be applied to self-translation either. What Koller suggests is that the difference between translation and self-translation is a matter of authority. Goldoni, the playwriter (1707–1793) who wrote both in Italian and French, practicing self-translation, confirms that: “I nevertheless had an advantage in this regard over others: a mere translator would not have dared, even in the face of difficulty, to sidestep the literal sense; but I, as the author of my own work, was able to change words, the better to conform to the taste and customs of my nation” (Goldoni, 2003: 257). Drawing on the difference in authorship between translation and self-translation, Jung emphasises an important advantage of self-translators in respect to the “original” text: “The main difference between ordinary translators and self-translators […] is the fact that self-translators can access their original intention and the original cultural context or literary intertext of their original work better than ordinary translators” (Jung 2002: 30).

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