This essay attempts to justify translator’s way of rewriting the Angela Carter’s story “The Company of Wolves” into Italian language. Departing from a general introduction on the book “The Bloody chamber”; the essay will go on with a general and brief explanation of the short story “The Company of Wolves” and a brief overview on themes and on the writer’s style and aim will be given. A detailed explanation on the translation techniques which has been applied to the text will then follow, highlighting difficulties that have been found and explaining why solutions that have been found have been seen as the most appropriate ones.
“The Bloody Chamber” – themes and style
“The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories” is an anthology of short fiction written by Angela Carter. It was first published in the United Kingdom in 1979 by Gollancz and won the Chaltenham Festival Literary Prize. The anthology contains ten stories which share the common theme of being closely based upon fairytales and folktales.
“My intention was not to do ‘versions’ or, as the American edition of the book said, horribly, ‘adult’ fairy tales, but to extract the latent content from the traditional stories.”
Even though these stories clearly contain links with traditional fairytales, Carter highlights her intention of writing new kinds of stories updated to more modern settings instead of rewriting old stories. In fact, Angela Carter’s short stories challenge the way women are represented in fairytales, retaining an air of tradition through her voluptuously descriptive prose and playing with the conventions of canonical fairytales.
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The stories deal with themes of women’s roles in relationships and marriage, their sexuality, coming of age and corruption. Stories such as “The Bloody Chamber” and “The Company of Wolves” explicitly deal with the horrific or corrupting aspects of marriage and sex and the balance of power within such relationships. Themes of female identity are explored in the “Beauty and the Beast” stories such as “The Tiger’s Bride”.
Angela Carter’s stories are colourful and vivid, partly because they feature extremes and represent hopes and fears of ordinary people. Fear is usually of disaster, death or being eaten by ugly, fearful, supernatural beings and monsters. The hopeful, optimistic side is unrealistically represented by beautiful heroines and courageous, handsome heroes. Carter uses this hybrid of horror and wishfulfillment, but uses ornate, rococo and baroque language, heightening the emotion and developing the mood.
Carter illustrates non-human characters within “The Courtship of Mr Lyon” and “The Tiger’s Bride” by using highly metaphorical language, with many adjectives to a single noun which creates in depth descriptions of the attitudes and features of the non-human beings. By utilising simple characters, Carter projects her emphasis onto texture, colour and sensation with her sophisticated language.
“The Company of Wolves”
In her transformation of the well-known fable “Little Red Riding Hood,” Angela Carter plays upon the reader’s familiarity. By echoing elements of the allegory intended to scare and thus caution young girls, she evokes preconceptions and stereotypes about gender roles. In the traditional tale, Red sticks to “the path,” but needs to be rescued from the threatening wolf by a hunter or “woodsman.” Carter retells the story with a modern perspective on women. By using fantasy metaphorically and hyperbolically, she can poignantly convey her unorthodox and underlying messages.
“The Company of Wolves”, in its original short story form, stands in stark contrast to these expected representations of women, men, relationship and sex.
The original story is only a few pages long. It is a non-linear tale, narrating several episodes involving werewolves (a witch who turns the lover who spurned her into a wolf, the young bride whose groom returns and reveals his beastly nature, the youth who turns into a wolf when he applies an ointment) and finally culminating with Little Red Riding Hood meeting a hunter, a “fine fellow” who turns out to be a werewolf.
The encounter, however, does not go as you might expect. Instead of being devoured or conveniently saved by a man, the nameless heroine “burst out laughing; she knew she was nobody’s meat.” She rips off the young man’s clothes (“if you burn his [the werewolf’s] human clothes you condemn him to wolfishness for the rest of his life,” the story explains), flings them into the fire and, naked, both of them fall into bed.
The last line of the story reads: “See! Sweet and sound she sleeps in granny’s bed, between the paws of the tender wolf.”
Thus/In this way, the story obliterates the old roles of victim and victimizer prescribed for the characters and the old moral of the story. And, like the werewolf, a new creature rises from the skin of the old one.
General explanations on my translation technique.
The text has generally been translated through a literal translation, because of the aim to be as faithful as possible to the source text. Because of the richness of words and the variety of adjectives used by Angela Carter to describe settings and characters, it was unfair to avoid such terms or to generalize them in the target text. The translation is based on the aim of being as adherent as possible to Angela Carter’s new way of writing stories and appreciating her accurate way of merging words together, of creating images through metaphors and similes, of changing points of views alternating present and past tenses, I’ve tried to respect her choices, using a refined language to express images and respecting the provocative combination of words of the source text. Due to the target text’s need to be understood by the Italian audience, when it was possible, I’ve tried to find some equivalents in the target language which express exactly the same meaning of the source text’s expressions.
Following what Antoine Berman said “The principal problem of translating a novel is to respect its shapeless polylogic and avoid an arbitrary homogenization”, I’ve tried to translate this text respecting as much as possible Angela Carter’s style, structures and speech figures.
Obviously, translating a text of this kind into another language imply the need of some adaptations, because of the lack of equivalents in the target language or because some expressions and combinations of words may sound unacceptable by the target audience. For this reason and for the target text’s need to be written in a fluent manner , the target text contains some adaptations and some changes in the sentence structures and some other adaptations which will be explained in the ongoing text.
The choices that have been made will be explained using Berman’s list of “deforming tendencies” in translations, techniques that tend to reduce the linguistic variety and creativity of the novel.
Even though I agree with Berman point of view, it is difficult to transfer the same meaning trough a literal translation, and for this reason some techniques, that are criticized in Berman’s work, have been used to be faithful to the message of this short story.
As Berman intends it, rationalization is the technique which mainly affects syntactic structures including punctuation, sentence structure and order. Obviously in a translation, the sentence structures and punctuation change because of the aim to be acceptable to the target audience. Some examples of the most important changes are quoted below, followed by the explanation of why these changes have been made :
“And she waited, and she waited and then she waited again”(ST- )
“Attese â€¦ e attese â€¦ e poi attese ancora”(TT-71)
In this case, suspension points have been used to highlight the flow of time, because punctuation helps the text representation of the slowness with which the time passed.
For what concerns sentence structures and order, changes have been made to make the text sound more natural and fluent in the target language:
“Così all’istante un lupo diventò, e prima di essere fatto a pezzi dall’accetta che utilizzavano per spaccare la legna, lacerò il piede sinistro del loro figlio maggiore.” (TT – 103/104)
“Ma lo riconoscerai ancora, in tutte le sue forme, poiché gli occhi, quegl’occhi fosforescenti ,sono la sola cosa che rimane inalterata dopo la metamorfosi.” (TT – 117/118)
“Messa in guardia, porta con sé un coltello affilato nel cestino che la madre aveva riempito di formaggi, anche se é quasi del tutto convinta che le bestie selvagge non potranno farle del male.” (TT – 125/126).
In these cases, some adaptations were compulsory because keeping the same structure would have had as a result a lack of fluency in the target text, and would have increase the risk of be incomprehensible.
On the contrary, sentence structure has been carefully maintained where sentences in the source text show Angela Carter’s poetic style, which confers a more emphatic tone to the text:
“They will be like shadows, they will be like wraiths” (ST- )
“Saranno come ombre, saranno come spettri” (TT-14)
“melancholy infinite as the forest, endless as these long nights of winter” (ST- )
“Malinconia sconfinata come la foresta, infinita come queste lunghe notti d’inverno” (TT – 78/79)
* Alliterations- structure , perse il pelo
Some other changes have been made, and some examples of lack of equivalents in the target language are quoted below:
“the eroding time” (ST- )
“il tempo che la stava consumando” (TT -219)
In the example above, the meaning has been conveyed through a subordinate clause using the Italian equivalent of the verb to consume, instead of the adjective eroding, to confer to the sentence a more natural sound.
“Snow half-caked the lattice and she opened it to look into the garden.”(ST – )
“Uno strato di neve compatto copriva i vetri a losanghe impedendo quasi completamente la visuale, così lei aprì la finestra per guardare il giardino.” (TT 284-285)
In this case, to convey the meaning of the adjective half-caked, the translator applied the terms strato di neve and quasi. In fact, strato di neve convey the fact that the snow is on the window, compatto transfer the meaning of cake, explaining that the snow is sticked on its panes and quasi convey the fact that the lattice are not completely covered by the snow. The Italian sentence conveys exactly the same image that is represented in the source text.
” the rime of saliva on the grizzled chops”
” l’effetto simile a brina della saliva che dona un colore brizzolato alle ganasce”.
For the same reason, in the example above, the structure has been changed trying to convey exactly the same image of the source text. A literal translation, such as la brina della saliva sulle ganasce brizzolate would not have conveyed the image and moreover it would have sound unnatural and incomprehensible for the target audience.
Berman’s point of view is that a translator should avoid clarification, all the adaptations which aims to render “clear what does not wish to be clear in the original”. Following his opinion, I’ve tried to leave the implicit meaning of this figurative language, even though sometimes I needed to add something to allow the target audience understand the image Carter is trying to transfer. Some examples of clarification are listed below:
“She knew the worst wolves are hairy on the inside”
“Lei sapeva che i lupi peggiori sono quelli che nascondono il pelo sotto i vestiti ” (TT – )
In this example, the translation is faithful to the meaning, and makes explicit that the worst wolves are the men, whose pelt is not visible, and for this reason I chose to convey the meaning through the use of the verb to hide and the name vestiti, that are directly associated with humans instead of animals.
“They say there’s an ointment the Devil gives you that turns you into a wolf the minute you rub it on. Or, that he was born feet first and had a wolf for his father and his torso is a man’s but his legs and genitals are a wolf’s. And he has a wolf’s heart.”
“Si dice ci sia un unguento che il Diavolo ti dà che ti trasforma in lupo nel preciso istante in cui lo strofini sul corpo. Si dice anche che l’uomo-lupo nasca da un parto podalico, che abbia un padre lupo e che il suo busto sia come quello di un uomo mentre le gambe e i genitali siano quelli di un lupo; ma soprattutto si dice abbia un cuore di lupo.”
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In the sentence above, it was necessary to clarify who the pronoun he is referring to, giving a sense to the sentence and avoiding misunderstandings. In fact, if the pronoun was implied, as it usually happens in the Italian language, he would have sound strange because the subject is not clear, and this does not allow to imply the pronoun.
“grey members of a congregation of nightmare”
“Grigi membri di una congregazione di fedeli da incubo”
Following the same reasons explained above, the meaning of congregation has been made explict, because the Italian word congregazione can also mean assembly. Even if the English word congregation can mean as well assembly, in this text is quite clear that is referred to a religious congregation, because the whole text shows a multiplicity of words which are linked to the religious sphere, for example Bible, pious, immaculate, Christ and Angels which are in contrast with Devil and the danger represented by the wolf, which is carnivore incarnate, or explicitly the wolf is the Devil incarnate.
Certainly, this text could have been translated in a more elegant and natural Italian style, but because of the aim to be as faithful as possible to the source text, I think that an ennoblement would have meant a loss in the variety of images that are represented in the source text; moreover, some figures of speech would have been lost, such as alliterations, metaphors, synestesia, oxymoron, and Angela Carter’s poetic way of writing would have suffer the lack of repetition of words and of tenses’ structure.
“Sono grigi come tempi di miseria, sono inclementi come la peste.”
“Ma i lupi conoscono molti modi per profanare il tuo focolare”
“La melodia intonata dal lupo è il suono dello strazio che subirai”
“freddo verde innaturale, freddo come un minerale”
Even for what concerns verbs tenses, the text to sound more usual into the Italian language would have required the past tense, that is the proper tense for a narrative text. But also in this case, the target text would have lost the well-planned structure of the source text, and the aim of the author.
The alternate use of past and present tenses.
To avoid qualitative impoverishment, the translator has tried to transcribe words or expression not just with their Italian equivalents but through expression or words that maintain their significance on the text.
Furthermore, avoiding quantitative impoverishment, the translator has tried to maintain the lexical variety of the source text.
Underlying networks of signification have been kept through the use of words which allow connection through the text
The translator has tried to avoid changes in sentence constructions and pattering, trying to keep
The effacement of the superimposition of languages.
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