Translators’ voices in Norwegian retranslations of Bob Dylan’s songs

Annjo K. Greenall
Norwegian University of Science and Technology

Abstract

This paper tackles several questions relating to the issue of the translator’s voice in retranslation: how do others’ voices (including other (re)translations) interact with the translator’s voice in the production of a translation? How does the intersubjectively constituted voice of the translator manifest itself in paratexts, in the translated text and, in the case of singer-translators, in the translator’s physical, performing voice? The case discussed is that of Bob Dylan in (re)translation into Norwegian, and it is concluded that different singer-translators involve others in the process in various ways and to varying degrees; that there are great subjective differences in how and to what extent they take other (re)translations of Dylan into account; and that they choose different strategies for displaying their voices in paratexts, texts and performances, differences that can be explained by reference to the singer-translator’s role and status on the cultural scene.

Keywords
Table of contents

In Norwegian there exists a synonym for translation, gjendiktning, which is not easily translatable into English. The most literal option is ‘re-poetization,’ broadly understood as ‘re-creation.’ The term is mostly used for the translation of poetry and songs. In these genres, linguistic form (e.g., rhyme and metre) is crucial for the identity and overall meaning of the text, and translators therefore often strive to preserve these aspects. The translation may thus drastically depart from the original on the semantic level. And in song translation, the necessity of fitting the lyrics to pre-existing music (Low 2005) frequently heightens this effect. The term gjendiktning captures these realities, and its use is possibly a way for translators and audiences alike to positively acknowledge the (co-)authorship and inevitable presence of the translator’s voice in these genres.

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