Translating Edgar Allan Poe The Black Cat

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Translation is arduous and strenuous work that demands not only translation competence from translators, but also broad-based knowledge in many if not in all professional spheres. Any written text is a potential translation assignment. It might be a law or a press release, a letter or a historical document, a play or a novel. Thorough understanding of a subject enables a translator to produce an excellent translation. Practically, it is impossible for a translator to be an expert in every subject and in every professional field. However, there are reliable resources that help translators broaden their knowledge in any particular theme. In order to deliver a quality translation, legal translators read documents that deal with the law and legal system; medical translators use scientific journals and medical encyclopedias; and literary translators have an opportunity to rely on literary criticism. There are three primary reasons why reading literary criticism is advantageous when translating literature. First, reading critical articles helps literary translators distinguish the implicit author's ideas and the mood of the story "The Black Cat". Second, many authors of critical articles investigate and discuss significance of the chosen stylistic devices that may be beneficial when translating the story into target language. Third, reading criticism aids the translators better understand the vocabulary of the story and choose equivalent lexicon in the target text.

In order to provide original motif of "The Black Cat" in Russian, a translator should define the Poe's actual plot. However, without reading criticism, determining the purpose of the story might be challenging since many clues of the story are implicit. As Ed Piacentino unfolds in his work "Poe's 'The Black Cat' as Psychobiography: Some Reflections on the Narratological Dynamics," the possible purpose of the story is to evince the readers that not alcohol is the reason of the "deplorable crime", but the narrator's psychological problems, "his own childhood trauma"(165). It may be difficult to determine this potentially possible author's idea, though. At first sight, it may seem to the readers that the author's intention is to emphasize the negative impact of alcohol on human behavior. However, Piacentino pinpoints that much of the narrator's violence occurs when he is sober (163). Many critics also consider alcohol an indirect reason for the crimes. The narrator blames alcohol for the committed crimes, but he simply conceals the psychological cause for the crimes, or he even may not comprehend it for himself, as Piacentino mentions. He suggests the readers reconstructing narrator's psychobiography to investigate the possible true motives of the horrendous murders. The author says that the true purpose of the cruel crime might consist in psychological trauma which the narrator incurred being a child. He differed from his peers in the peculiarity that he was very kind, merciful, and sensitive. His friends made fun of his sensitivity and humiliated him because of his "tenderness of heart" since in the nineteenth century those characteristic were thought of as feminine and shameful traits for males. Thus, the narrator as a child had no friends and spent most of his time with his pets, as he was fond of them. When he grew up and got married nothing changed. The narrator tells a lot about his pets, but almost nothing about his wife and their relationship. Most likely, they did not love each other; and he got married with her because she shared his interest in cherishing pets. He appeared to be lonesome throughout his entire life. In addition to his psychological problems, alcohol corrupted his personality too. He got a hatred for ones he loved before. They began annoying and disgusting him. After killing his favorite cat, the narrator was conscience-stricken; therefore, he sheltered another cat that resembled Pluto a lot. Despite the fact that the new cat displayed "evident fondness" for the narrator; yet it disgusted the owner. Piacentino asserts that the narrator might have hated the cat because his wife seemed to be giving much attention to the cat and he - narrator - might have felt jealous and neglected by her. In addition, it seemed to him, she deliberately emphasized the cat's white mark on its breast which imaged the "GALLOWS" to taunt him. He started hating this cat and all "mankind." From Piacentino's view Poe intentionally used this word to emphasize that it included his wife (164).

The question of motive is "one of the most troubling and puzzling aspects of the story" says another literary critic, Joseph Stark (258). He writes that there are so many diverse clues, that they give rise to the variety of explanations of the Poe's tale. Some childhood criticism led the narrator spontaneously to put an axe in his wife's head and then calls this act a "predictable natural reaction", Stark raises the issue of determinism of human nature and the problem of human instability. As Stark explains in "Motive and Meaning: The Mystery of the Will in Poe's "The Black Cat,'" the possible purpose of the Poe's story is to prove "the limitations of both the human will as well as human accounts of the will" (263). For these reasons critical articles are indeed useful translator's means for determining principal and significant details of the story in order to better understand the plot of Poe's story and provide an adequate Russian translation.

Numerous literary critics who study Poe argue that "The Black Cat" is created in the gothic mood. Leslie Ginsberg says that one aspect of the genre is that it "includes elements of horror" (100). In "Slavery and the Gothic Horror of Poe's 'The Black Cat'" Ginsberg states that the story follows the gothic literary traditions since it explores the narrator's disagreeable emotions of fear in a quite enigmatic manner. Ginsberg says that the gothic mood helps the readers realize that the narrator is a brutal person with instable personality. The author also mentions that "The Black Cat" contains many hidden elements to support the gothic mood; for example, in Greek mythology, Pluto, the cat's name, is the god of the underworld. This fact suggests that the cat is a bad omen for the narrator. Additionally, Poe deliberately uses the black color for the cats because it is a common superstition that a black cat is a bad omen too. Furthermore, by using "witches in disguise" the author possibly implies that the second cat is reincarnated Pluto. While reading "The Black Cat," in Russian, it is obvious that the translator was aware of the author's implication since he translated "witches in disguise" as 'оборотни,' which means werewolves. A werewolf is a dual-natured creature with the ability to shape-shift. Reading Ginsberg's criticism helps the translators decode elusive elements of the gothic mood that are meaningful for translation of "The Black Cat." It is essential for translators to read these articles since it helps them identify and better understand the gothic mood applied in the story. The translation should maintain the author's planned gothic mood in order to get the same effect on the target readers.

Poe's diction also helps to create the story's sense of horror. Right at the beginning, the story abounds in emotive and strong words, such as "terrified", "tortured", "destroyed", and "terrible," to provoke a sense of fear in the readers. The lexicon used throughout the story helps the readers to realize that the narrator is a perverted and dangerous person, addicted to alcohol, as Michael Williams explains in "A Word of Words: Language and Displacement in the Fiction of Edgar Allan Poe." He states that Poe uses emotive diction to emphasize narrator's "PERVERSENESS". Critical articles enable translators to analyze and better comprehend the lexicon that Poe uses to create the story's frightening mood. A word might have many synonyms, and a translator's aim is to decode what exactly the author implies in a particular case and supply an equivalent word in order to maintain the author's idea. Williams also mentions some stylistic devices that the author of The Black Cat applies to the tale to signify the nervousness and excitement that extend throughout the story. For instance, he uses alliteration - "fiendish", "fibre", and "frame", -- to emphasize the intensity of the murderer's anxious condition (94). According to Williams this device intensifies the horrific gist of the brutal crimes. Alliteration is one of the most challenging tasks for a translator, since it is not always easy to match and convey the same sounds, however criticism might be helpful in this case. The vocabulary and stylistic devices used by the author in The Black Cat definitely support the mood and specific style of the story. Consequently, it is crucial when translating to understand the meaning of Poe's lexicon in order to choose a pattern able to convey the same idea.

To conclude, I would say that reading critical articles is a beneficial means that enables translators to analyze and better comprehend the hidden clues and implicit purposes of the author in order to transmit Poe's original idea of the plot and achieve the same impact on the Russian readers that the original text does on the English ones.

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