Self-translation

Chiara Montini
Paris, France and Bologna, Italy

Table of contents

Popovič gives a basic definition of self-translation as “the translation of an original work into another language by the author himself” ([1976]: 19). He also argues that self-translation “cannot be regarded as a variant of the original text but as a true translation” ([1976]: 19). Numerous recent studies are less positive in defining this practice. For Koller faithfulness “autotranslation” from “true” translation: ‘the author-translator will feel justified in introducing changes into the text where an ‘ordinary’ translator might hesitate to do so” (1979/1992: 197). Yet the application of the concept of faithfulness to translation has been challenged, and today the notion is virtually obsolete. Koller suggests 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, practising 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 with 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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