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Berman Auberge du lointain

Berman Auberge du lointain

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 La Traduction et la lettre ou l’Auberge du lointain
, Antoine Berman
1
(compte-rendu— 2007-8)Introduction
Antoine Berman develops his theories on translation through two moments: he starts bycriticizing the traditional theories which see translating as regurgitating the meaning in a more“beautiful” way, then analyzes great “literal” translations to pinpoint the “work on the letter”they did, insisting upon the idea that “literal translation” is far from meaning “word for wordtranslation”.Berman then explains he replaces the brace theory/practice by this of experience/thinking:he defines translatology as the “thinking translation does on itself from its nature of experience”. As so, translation is linked to philosophy, to interpreting.For him, translatology is not meant to build a general theory of translating but to givethought to all the already existing “forms” of translations. He sets up the notion of “meaningexceedance” (“dépassement de sens”) as a reflection field for translatology: translation can aswell mean giving back a text from one tongue to another (“narrow translation”), as “different‘passings’ about writing, and even more secretly, about living and dying” (“generalizedtranslation”).Berman then reasserts the importance of seeing translation as “translation-of-the-letter”, asAlain says, even though literalism is usually condemned.
1. Domesticating translation and hypertextual translation.
Berman explains domesticating (ethnocentric) (bringing everything back to its ownculture and norms, and considering the Other as something to be adapted to increase thisculture’s wealth) and hypertextual (“any text born by (…) any kind of formal transformation”,says G.Genette) translation are considered as the standard and prescriptive forms of translation.In fact, domesticating translation began in Rome with Horace, Cicero and Saint-Jerôme,whose theorie
 
: “
non verbum e verbo, sed sensum exprimere de sensu
” (translating meaning,not words), became the rule and were expanded by the translating momentum given both bypagan romanity aiming at building up its own culture and by christian evangelism. They drewthis view of things from the difference Plato made between the visible and the intelligible :
 
1
Paris, Seuil, 1999, 142 pages.
 
translation thus becomes an ideality, a way to let meaning cross from one tongue to another,without using its formal, sensible “body”. This perception of translation as aiming to capturemeaning only asserts the primacy of a tongue upon another.Domesticating translation, Berman explains, is based on two axioms: the text producedmustn’t look like a translation, but should give the impression of being what the author wouldhimself have written if originally in this tongue (which thus becomes a prescriptive one—itmustn’t shock the reader) : the translator needs to use literary devices, and his translationbecomes an hypertextual one (by the means of a pastiche, imitation, transformation, version).Berman then reminds the reader that any text is a compactness of meaning, being as suchimpossible to translate perfectly. This induces “a suffering of the translator, of the translatedtext and of the meaning deprived of his letter”, translation then being impossible.“UntranslatBermanility”, in fact, has been perceived as something of a standard, of aneminence, when linked to poetry (then to prose) : it’s “one of the self-assertion modes of atext”. Translation thus becomes a lying unnatural activity.It’s maybe why, as Berman underlines it, almost all attempts at defining it usedmetaphors, often negative ones : a translation is the unfaithful communication of an oftendistorted meaning.
2. Translation’s analytics and distortion’s systematics.
Berman then analyses the translators’
tendencies
to distort the
text:
his major problem is tokeep, to respect the unshaped polylogy set by the author in his novel/essay (as well as thepolysemy in poetry). Berman lists thirteen distorting
tendencies:
i) Rationalisation: the translator linearizes the syntactic arborescence of the source-text, andconcretises it.ii) Clarifying: he tends to impose define ideas/words where the source-text is voluntarilyundefined.iii) Lengthening: it only increases the length of the text, and is no good to its rhythm.iv) Ennoblement: stylishness is sensed as the most important achievement in the translation,thus provoking a rhethorisation of prose.v) Qualitative impoverishment: it is done by replacing “colourful” words by plainer ones.vi) Quantitative impoverishment: it is caused by a lexical loss (one may translate threedifferent words by only one).vii)
Homogenisation
: when the translator tends to blend the heterogeneous cloth of a text.
 
viii) Destruction of 
rhythms
ab
ove all,
 punctuation
.ix) Destruction of the underlaying signifying networks: content words may create a network.x) Destruction of systematicities: those being
characteristic
“traits” of an author—syntax, useof verbal
tenses…
The translated text becomes more homogeneous but less coherent.xi) Destruction or “exoticisation” of vernacular linguistic networks: vernacular terms aretraditionally translated by making them sound exotic—but it can lead to
dispersion:
only“koinai” can be translated one into another.xii) Destruction of expressions: it is
frequently
caused by replacing an expression/image/proverb… by its equivalent.xiii) Erasing of overlaying languages: local dialects often overlay upon a koinè (seeBakhtine’s “heteroglossy”).Berman concludes his list by defining the “letter” as “all the dimensions attacked by thedistorting system”.
3. Translation’s ethics.
Berman then tries to suggest an analytics of positive (not methodological) translation,which implies he has defined the “playing ground” of translation and its “pure and sinlessgoal”.Translation
cannot
result
rom a methodology, as it’s far from only being acommunication process: a literary work is not meant to convey information. On the otherhand, Berman wonders if a translation isn’t aimed at transmitting a work to an audience—heanswers by quoting
Guiraud:
“One is caught between telling everything to no one, tellingnothing to everyone, and those two ways are inversely proportionate”. The point is that atranslation is supposed to popularize, not to generalize: an “upbringing to strangeness” isneeded. This cultural communication is based on a translation’s ethics: the concepts of “accuracy” and faithfulness” are fundamental. For faithfulness implies a belonging to thisethical dimension: the translation must be led by a “will to open the Other—as an Other— toits own space of language”. A translation is thus supposed to uncover the “display of adisplay” (for any work is a display of the entire world) and the “display of an original” (for awork is the first before its derivatives, and the first in is own language).A work, Berman explains, is fleshy, tangible, living, on the level of language: hence thetranslation cannot but be linked to the letter and respect it, for its aim is to receive this fleshyliterality in one’s mother-tongue.

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