Dialect and point of view: The ideology of translation in The sound and the fury in French

Simo K. Määttä
Department of French, University of California at Berkeley


This article is an analysis of translations into French of non-standard literary dialect, in particular the speech of African Americans, in William Faulkner’s The sound and the fury. It shows that the contingency of dialect variation upon narrative point of view (focalization) is not taken into account in translation, an omission that alters the ideological framework of the novel. In addition, it argues that the maintenance of this variation, when systematic, should be at least as important a concern as, for instance, the most accurate translation of single dialectal or non-standard words and utterances.

Table of contents

Literary representation of non-standard language, imitating the lexical, morphosyntactic, and phonological characteristics of the characters’ alleged real speech, plays an important role in William Faulkner’s novel The sound and the fury. This non-standard language is part of the polyphonic structure and the ideological construction of the novel: it reflects and creates focalization (cf. Genette 1972: 206, 1989: 49), i.e., narrative point of view or narrative focus, indicating through whose perspective the events and the speech are described. In this article, I will analyze the French translations of The sound and the fury and show how they, albeit translating in innovative ways, adversely alter the representation of dialect, especially that of African American characters, which flattens the distinction between different focalizations. While the analysis concentrates on the translations of The sound and the fury, examples from [ p. 320 ]translations of Sanctuary (Sanctuaire) and Light in August (Lumière d’aoÛt) will also be used.

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