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The Literary Translator and the Concept of Fidelity:

Kirkup's Translation of Camara Laye's L'Enfant noir as a Case Study

Kolawole, S. O. and Salawu, Adewuni
Department of French, University of Ado-Ekiti, Ado-Ekiti, Ekiti State,
The paper critically analyzes the English translation of Camara
Laye's L'Enfant noir. It also explores the practical possibility of fidelity in
literary translation. Since fidelity as a major translation criterion has been
understood or misunderstood in many ways, this writer feels that it is
essential to investigate the subject in order to ascertain whether fidelity is
actually possible, particularly in literary translation, using a novel of an
African author translated by a European as a case study.
The paper relies on Saint Jrme's theory of 'non verbum pro verbo, sed
sensum exprimere de sensu' (not word-for-word but sense-for-sense), the
forerunner of the Interpretative Method propounded by the Paris School o
Interpreters and Translators, University of Paris III, to analyze the English
translations done by James Kirkup. The paper concludes that fidelity is a
possibility in literary translation using the interpretative method.

iterary translation implies the translation of all genres of literature, which
include prose, drama and poetry. Johnson (1999:1) describes literature as
'an apparently nebulous body of knowledge in oral or written form, an
imitation of life, which reflects civilization and culture, and which covers
every angle of human activities-culture, tradition, entertainment,
information among others.' It is one of the great creative and universal
means of communicating the emotional, spiritual and intellectual concerns
of humankind.
Literary translation has to do with translating texts written in a literary
language, which abounds in ambiguities, homonyms and arbitrariness, as
distinct from the language of science or that of administration. Literary
language is highly connotative and subjective because each literary author

is lexically and stylistically idiosyncratic and through his power of

imagination, he uses certain literary techniques such as figures of speech,
proverbs and homonyms through which he weaves literary forms.
The literary translator is therefore the person who concerns himself with
translation of literary texts. A literary translator, according to Peter
Newmark (1988:1) generally respects good writing by taking into account
the language, structures, and content, whatever the nature of the text. The
literary translator participates in the author's creative activity and then
recreates structures and signs by adapting the target language text to the
source language text as closely as intelligibility allows. He needs to assess
not only the literary quality of the text but also its acceptability to the
target reader, and this should be done by having a deep knowledge of the
cultural and literary history of both the Source and the Target Languages.
Literary translation may be said to have the greatest number of peculiar
problems. Problems in literary translation largely depend on who is
translating and what he knows.
The problems of literary translation include cultural, linguistic,
psychological, deceptive cognates, equivalence, and style.
Language and culture are closely related and one is indispensable to the
other. In fact, language acquires its meaning from the country's culture. A
single language may cross several culture borders. For instance, English
and French are Indo-European languages but belong to different cultures.
There are generally problems in the translation of cultural words in a
literary text unless there is a cultural overlap between the source language
and the target language. It is not enough for a translator to know what
words are used in the target language; he must also make the reader
understand the sense as it is understood by the reader of the original. For
instance, in a text where there is a cultural focus, there can be translation
problems due to the cultural gap between the source and the target
The meaning of a single word or expression is largely derived from its
culture. Therefore, translation, being a simple linguistic process, a cultural
understanding comes into play because the translator is supposed to
produce equivalence and where this does not exist, problems occur. Okolie
(2000:208) affirms that:
"Most of African literature is a rendering of 'living manners'...If
translated by someone who is not conversant with or close to

the culture and the specifics that make it alive, then the
translation resulting horn such a text fails to communicate the
spirit of the culture producing a sterile, literal translation, which
does not re-create or reproduce the people."
The translator is expected to creatively exploit the altered cultural,
linguistic and literary context in order to realize the different potentials of
the target language in an act or literary creation since translation is an
intercultural activity.
Linguistically, each language has its own metaphysics, which determines
the spirit of a nation and its behavioral norms, and this is what is known as
linguistic relativity or the Whorfian hypothesis. Benamjn Lee Whorl, quoted
by Penn ( 977:2 17) believes that 'the background linguistic system (...) of
each language is itself the shaper of ideas....' This means that language
directs our intellect and even our sensory perception. Since words or
images may vary considerably from one group to another, the translator
needs to pay attention to the style, language and vocabulary peculiar to the
two languages in question in order to produce an 'exact' translation of the
source language text.
The literary translator also faces the problem of style. Style is not an easy
term to define, however, it can readily be said that style is how one says a
thing. In other words, style is the way in which something is written or
said, as distinct from its subject matter. Naturally, each language poses its
own problems of style, but the practical considerations that go into the
making of translation do not seem to differ much from one translator to
The Interpretative Theory and the literary Translation
The interpretative theory of translation, also known as the theory of sense
translation (1976:4) and semantic /communicative translation (1988:39)
was developed at the ESIT (Ecole Suprieure d'Interprtes et de
Traducteurs) of the University of Paris III and made popular by Mesdames
Danica Seleskovitch and Marianne Lederer. The Interpretative theory
implies that the totality of the sense of the source text is understood and
transmitted. This means that the interest of comparison of languages only
has a limited interest for the analysis of translation. It is not the languages
that are translated but the texts, that is, the discourse, in a bid to
According to Seleskovitch (1976:23-42), the invariant part of translation

which is the sense has a contextual and dynamic value. It is the synthesis
of style, connotation, the message and all which play significant roles in
communication process to produce the sense. The interpretative theory
therefore postulates that any reading done is part of the comprehension
process of a text. The reader develops an interpretative process whereby
he mobilizes all the cognitive operations whose product is the fully
understood meaning.
Through the Interpretative theory (comprehension-deverbalizationreexpression), the process goes through reformulation, because all that is
required is finding the same meaning in the target language. This is what
Hurtado-Albir (1991:72) calls 'sense equivalence.' A translator is then
described as being faithful in the interpretative conception of translation if
he is faithful to the sense and not necessarily to the words and expressions
in the Source Language Text.
Concept of Fidelity in Translation
Guralnik (1979), in Webster's English Dictionary, writes that
"faithfulness/fidelity" means "the quality of being accurate, reliable, and
exact." In that case, the meaning that best matches the source text's
meaning is the one that best complies with the precision, accuracy,
conformity to the original (adhesion to a fact, or to an idea). Translation
implies a high degree of demand for exactitude, so that there can be
effective communication between different languages and cultures. Fidelity
as a key word in translation has been understood and interpreted in many
ways by different translators. To some translation critics of translation,
faithfulness in translation is just a word-for-word transmission of message
from the source text to the target text, while some believe that fidelity to
the source text is adopting the free, idiomatic method in passing on the
message. On the other hand, unduly free translations may not necessarily
be considered as a betrayal or infidelity. This is because sometimes they
are done for the purpose of humor to bring about a special response from
the receptor language speakers.
Fidelity in translation is passing of the message from one language into
another by producing the same effect in the other language, (in sense and
in form), in a way that the reader of the translation would react exactly as
the reader of the original text. The relationship of fidelity between the
original and its translation has always preoccupied translators, but the
problem is, as far as translation is concerned, one should decide to whom,
to what the supposed fidelity pertains. Is it fidelity to the proto-text, to the
source culture, to the model of the reader, or to the receiving culture? Is it

possible to have exactly the same translation of the same text done by
different translators? And/or to what extent can a translator be accurate or
exact in his translation? The majority of translators agree that translators
should be adequately familiar with both the Source and the Target
Language, but there is a less agreement on 'faithful' translation and the
way in which linguistics should be employed
Amparo Hurtado-Albir (1990:118) defines fidelity in relation to three
things, which are (1) What the author means to say, (2) The target
language and (3) the reader. According to her,
Fidelity is three-fold relationship to the author's intentions, to
the target language and to the reader of the translation is
indissociable. If one remains faithful to only one of these
parameters and betrays the remaining ones, he cannot be
faithful to the sense. (Our translation).
Faithfulness to the original means faithfulness not only at the level of
words, the content, and the period, but also at the level of the author and
the genesis of the meaning (sense) he is transmitting. To understand the
sense of a text, therefore, the translator must grasp the intent of the
author. As we demonstrate in this paper, James Kirkup, in his translation of
Camara Laye's L'Enfant noir, shows both linguistic and extra- linguistic
familiarity with the author and his works. It is this extra-linguistic
knowledge that provides him with the cognitive complement necessary for
his work.
Camara Laye wrote L'Enfant noir as a student in France. Having run out of
money and as a result of his loneliness in Paris, he developed a nostalgic
feeling for home and especially for the events of his youth as they came
flooding his memory. He began to write the memories of his childhood in
Kouroussa and Tindican and this is what is contained in this well-known
novel, which recaptures his past. A masterful literary translator, James
Kirkup, translated virtually all of Camara Laye's novels, viz: L'Enfant noir in
1954 as The African Child, Le Regard du roi in 1955 as The Radiance of the
King, Dramouss in 1970 as A Dream of Africa and Le Matre de la
Parole (1978) as the Guardian of the Word(1980).
A close study of L'Enfant noir (The African Child) reveals to the reader that
the work is an autobiography. The contents of the novel show that it is
more of a narration of events of Laye's life. L'Enfant noir tells the story of
an African child and his subsequent emergence to manhood and his final
departure for France. The episodes of Laye's life are artistically narrated by

Laye himself in L'Enfant noir and faithfully translated into English by Kirkup.
James Kirkup's translation of L'Enjant noir as The African Child
The evaluation of the English translation of L'Enfant noir as The African
Child in this work is effected on four planes, that is, stylistic, semantic,
metalinguistic, and pragmatic planes. It is only proper to state at this point
that a critique of any translation does not necessarily suggest a
condemnation of the work but rather identifies areas of faithfulness to or
departure from the original text. In fact, as Newmark (1988:187) rightly
affirms, 'good translations can and do tolerate a number of errors.' James
Kirkup's English translation of Camara Laye's novels is not and cannot be
an exception. Although a few shortcomings may he found in a translation, it
is possible for the translator, particularly of a literary text to remain faithful
to the original work in both content and form.
As Kelly (1979:42) writes, a good literary translator has three major tasks
ahead of him. 1) He must understand the theme and the style of the
original text 2) He must be able to reconcile the different linguistic
structures of the texts and 3) He must be able to reconstruct the original
linguistic structures in the target language. All these functions of the
translator would guide our critical evaluation of James Kirkup's translations.
There are two versions of the English translations of the novel L'Enfant noir.
It was first translated into English under the title The Dark Childby James
Kirkup and Ernest Jones, with an introduction by Philippe Thoby-Marcelin.
That version was published in New York by Farrar Straus and Giroux in
1954 and was reprinted in 1969.
This first English title is a literal transposition of the French title The Dark
Child. Apart from being a literal translation, it is also pejorative in meaning.
The adjective 'dark' has a negative connotation and it is not on the same
connotational level as 'noir' in French. It also fails to express the dignity of
the African child and his traditional values which Camara Laye portrays in
the original text. The adjective of color (dark) used falsifies the 'vouloir
dire' of the author. It should be noted that Camara Laye is not only
interested in the color of the skin but also in the cultural values of the
African people. For example, L'Enfant noir, literally should translate The
Black Child, and not The Dark Child as published in English. The choice of
literary translation title may be governed by cultural considerations; it may
also represent modulation or even embody the translator's interpretation of
the contents of he original work.

Another version of the same novel , although, with same content, was
released under the title The African Child by James Kirkup only, with an
introduction by William Plomer and published by Collins, London, in 1954.
With this choice, one is apt to say that his approach represents his
interpretation or the work and the realities it evokes. The title of this
second version, published in 1959 by Fontana, demonstrates from the
beginning the cultural theme of traditional Africa and the universal theme
of childhood and the subsequent growth to adulthood. The use of Africa
here is very symbolic. It symbolizes Africa as a protector. It is indeed an
interpretation of the original version
Structurally, Kirkup focuses more on arranging his English words according
to English syntax and not according to French syntax (Laye's language
in L'Enfant noir) in order to satisfy his English-language readers. In most
cases, Kirkup seems to have adopted Saint Jerome's theory of 'non-verbum
pro verbo sed sensum exprimere de sensu' otherwise known as the sense
translation or the interpretative theory of translation.
Kirkup's translation strategy is not to produce word-for-word equivalence,
but rather to discover and use idiomatic equivalence between the Source
Language (French) and the target Language (English). In doing so, Kirkup
establishes a compromise between the African and European cultures. His
concern for fidelity is manifested, among other things, in his respect for the
entire texts he translated. His use of thought-for-thought equivalence, (that
is, dynamic equivalence) enables him to interpret accurately and render the
message in idiomatic English. He carefully avoids linguistic calques by
replacing French idiomatic expression with their specific English
equivalents. That is, instead of translating knotty idiomatic expressions
word-for-word, he resorts to the use of the direct equivalents. For example:
'Une carrire o vous serez perpetuellement treize la douzaine (p. 206)'
translated as 'Clerks are ten a penny.' The expression is simply showing
that the job of the clerks is insignificant or even worthless.
Although in a few cases, particularly where there are omissions and
explanations, the translator may not have followed the original version in a
line-by-line format, the overall translation is generally very close to the
original both in style and message. When one scans the translation, the
familiar traits of Camara Laye's prose are easily recognized. One of those
traits is Laye's frequent interrogative pattern often expressed in a free
indirect style by way of rhetorical questions. The idealistic and selfconscious commentary and rhetorical questions are carefully worked out
and are well demonstrated in the English translation of the novel. The
interrogative method is very common in all of Laye's works and is always

adequately transposed by Kirkup in his English translations. For instance, at

the very beginning of the novel Laye writes:
J'tais enfant et je jouais prs de la case de mon pre. Quel
ge avais-je en ce temps l? (p.9)
(I was little boy playing round my father's hut.
How old would I have been at that time? (p. 11)).
The rhetoric question style is pronounced in the following passage. James
Kirkup understands that just like any child likes asking questions which are
direct and simple, Camara Laye does not beat about the bush in his
conversations. This is well illustrated in the scene where Camara Laye's
father tells him about the significance of the little black snake. Also, the
scene after Kouyat's father dealt with the big boy who always bullied his
son at school:
Ce jour-l, il ne fut plus question de quarantaine; Kouyat et sa
soeur se mlrent nous sans qu'aucun des grands levt ou
fit le moindre signe. Est-ce qu'un nouveau climat dj
s'instaurait? Il semble bien (p. 112-113).
(That day, there was no longer any question of sending Kouyat
and his sister to Coventry: they mingled with us freely, and
none of the big boys dared raise his voice in protest or lift a
finger to us. Was a new era beginning? It felt like it (p.75)).
As mentioned earlier, James Kirkup also skillfully adopts the use of dialogue
by Laye. The question and answer technique used by Laye to clarify the
story is actually well replicated by Kirkup. In addition, the direct
conversational style used by Laye is faithfully adhered to in the English
translation. Kirkup, in his translation makes use of terms that seek a style
that is more compatible with the subject it conveys. For example, when the
child is asking about the little snake, the following dialogue ensues:
- Pre, quel est ce petit serpent qui te fait visite?
- De quel serpent parles tu?
- Eh bien! du petit serpent noir que ma mre me dfend de

- Ah! Fit-il? (p. 18)

('My father, what is that little snake that comes to visit you'
'What snake do you mean?
'Why, the little black. snake that my mother forbids us from
'Ah,' he said. (p.16-17)
From the passage quoted above, it could be affirmed that dramatic effect of
the original version is retained in the English translation with dialog. Kirkup
presents the scenes as practically as possible, and makes the reader to
have the feeling as if participating in the dram of the rice harvest. The
translation of the scenes of the transformation of gold and the scenes of
the Konden Diara rituals are also typical examples of creating the same
dramatic effect as in the original version.
In any literary translation, stylistic adequacy and appropriateness are very
desirable in any translation activity. In fact, they are as important as
grammatical accuracy in literary translations. It is therefore expedient to
state that good translators should take the problem of style very seriously.
Part of the success of the Kirkup's translation of L'Enfant noir is the style,
which is simple, comic, and sometimes dramatic. Although not an African,
Kirkup, was able to grasp the true qualities of African writing. He thus
identified with the people of Africa, their aspirations and hopes, their
culture, history and soul. Kirkup accordingly translated, into English,
Camara Laye's original presentation of Africa in French as a coherent
society with a consistent way of life, which appears devoid of vulgarity.
Camara Laye's use of the question and answer technique is one of the
styles adopted by Kirkup to clarify his story.
Another of the many techniques used by James Kirkup is amplification,
whereby Kirkup adds more information to the original text for the reader to
be able to understand the significance of metaphoric expressions. By
amplification, we refer to situations when the target text contains more
words than to make the message clearer. For example:
Et puis, o nous tions, ne permettait pas de se tenir l'cart.
En dcembre, tout est en fleur et tout sent bon et tout est
jeune (pp. 64-65).

(Besides, at the particular season, it was impossible not to wait

to join in everything. In our December, the whole world is in
flower and the air is sweet. All is young and fresh (p. 17))
Here, "December' becomes 'our December,' 'tout' becomes 'whole world,'
and 'jeune' becomes 'young and fresh.'
Modulation is another technique used by Kirkup whereby the Source
Language's grammatical point of view is changed without necessarily
causing any damage to the meaning expressed in the Target Language.
Kirkup particularly uses the technique where the Source Language sentence
or phrase cannot be translated word-for-word. For instance, the use of
'soothsayer' in African Child instead of 'diseurs des choses caches' used
in L'Enfant noir' implies a wider meaning and retains the pragmatic and
concise nature of the English language.
From the above, it could also be inferred that, on a strictly linguistic plane,
the structure of English is more dynamic. English accepts a greater variety
of derivations and composition options than French does. For example,
'green-looking,' cannot be translated word-for-word into French. Such
words are mostly ignored by French, particularly in the areas of
adjectivation of the noun and verbal forms, e. g. very green-looking
islands, for 'les les apparaissaient trs vertes.'
Translators, in an attempt to solve the problem of omission, use
compensation and explicitation, techniques, which James Kirkup also used
in his translations. Compensation is, according to Hervey and Higgins
(1992:248), the technique of making up for the translation of important
Source Text features by approximating their effects in the Target Text
through means other than those used in the Source Text. By explicitation,
we mean 'the process of introducing information into the Target Language
which is present only implicitly in the Source Language but which can be
derived from the context or the situation' (Vinay and Darbelnet, 1958:8).
In James Kirkup's translation, there is the proof of the transposition method
used in the translation. Transposition, as the name implies, is a situation
whereby two or more items change positions in translation. it is a technique
by which a particular part of speech in the Source Language is replaced by
another in the Target language without altering the meaning of the Source
Language sentences. For example:
Ces faucilles allaient et venaient avec rapidit, avcc une

infallibilit aussi, qui surprenaient (p. 58)

(These sickles kept rising and falling with astonishing rapidity
and regularity (p. 47).
Allaient et venaient has to do with movement from one place to the other,
while 'rising and falling' does not indicate any change of position, that is,
there is no movement from one place to the other.
- Mais je ne veux pas devenir un ouvrier! Dis-je
- Pourquoi le deviendrais-tu? (p. 206).
(That I do not want to be a workman! I said
- 'Why not? (pp. 127-128).
Kirkup translates 'pourquoi le deviendrais-tu? as 'Why not? using
transposition method. Whether the question is asked negatively or
positively does not matter here; rather, what counts is to know why he
wants or why he does not want to become a workman. It should be noted
that in literary translation, each modality requires specific competence
according to the features of each translation. This is why the competence
translator is not the same as that of a technical translator. A literary
translator, as a matter of necessity, should have the traits of a literary
person and the pertinent literary expertise to catch the information given in
a text and re-express it according to the rules of the language. It is only
when a translator does not recognize what he is up to that he records what
can be called infidelity, because he will misinterpret the sense. For
Tu n'as pas done le ventre creux? disait-il
Le mien est si creux que je pourrais y loger un boeuf (p. 58).
'Is there a hole in your stomach? He would ask me
'I could stable an ox in mine, I am so hungry' (p.52).
The use of tenses in the Kirkup's English translation of L'Enfant noir is very
significant. In English, there are only two main tenses, that is, present and
past tenses while French has more than two tenses. In literary translation,
one of the most delicate issues is the translation of verbal forms i.e. the
translation of the preterit, particularly in situations where they accumulate
values of many tenses at the same time. In English, the preterit has a basic
meaning, indicating that the event or the state being described has already
broken away from the moment of enunciation. Therefore, the preterit is

most often translated into either the simple past or the imperfect and at
times into the past historic.
The two mostly used tenses in Kirkup's works are the past tense and the
past historic. However, there are instances where the present tense and the
past continuous (l'imparfait) tenses are used. The 'pass simple' known as
the literary historic past or the simple past is extensively used especially in
historical accounts. Kirkup uses essentially the same stylistic devices and
tenses as they are used in the original French version. There is absolute
unity and coherence in the translation in relation to tenses, character,
scenes and even in story-telling. For instance,
Autour de moi, on menait grand bruit; ma mre surtout criait
fort et elle me donna quelques claques. Je me mis pleurer,
plus mu par le tumulte qui s'tait si opinment lev, que par
les claques que j'avais reues (p.10).
(There was a terrific commotion going on round me; my mother
was shouting harder than anyone; and she gave me a few
sharp slaps. I began to weep. more upset by the sudden uproar
than by the blows I had received (p. 12)).
The use of the historical tense fixes events clearly in space and in time and
this is contrasted with the use of the imperfect to relate to events which are
not unique or which recur throughout his childhood and adolescence, for
example, his visit to Tindican, his years at the local school and his outings
with Marie.
In the description of the rice harvest, for example, Camara Laye uses the
past continuous tense to keep the general scene before the eyes of the
readers; this idea is also kept alive in Kirkup's translation. For example,
Les jeunes lanaient leurs faucilles en l'air et les rattrappaient
au vol, poussaicnt des cris, criaient vrai dire pour Ie plaisir de
crier, esquissaient des pas de danse la suite des joueurs de
tam-tam. (p. 64).
[The young men used to toss their glittering sickles high in the
air and catch them as they fell, shouting aloud for the simple
pleasure of hearing their own strong young voices and
sketching a dance step or two on the heels of the tom-tom
players. (p.46).

At his best, Camara Laye's uses of the past continuous tense is to

demonstrate that he lives through the various experiences recounted,
showing his growth within the traditional society. The change of tense from
the imperfect tense to the present in some passages reflects the child's
growth into awareness and corresponding, of innocence and conveys
changes in thoughts and in actions. Kirkup not only translates with clarity
the text but also makes the target text reader understand the 'vouloir-dire,'
that is, the intent of the author through the change in tenses.
On the metalinguistic level, as we know, language is at the same time the
mirror of a culture and its instrument of analysis. Vinay and Darbeluct
(1958:229) define metalinguistics as 'l'ensemble des rapports qui unissent
des faits sociaux, culturels et psychologiques, aux structures linguistiques'
(the totality of links which unite social, cultural and psychological facts with
linguistic structures). The divergences between two languages are
enormous on the metalinguistic plane. We observe that James Kirkup noted
these facts because the equivalencies given reflect this knowledge. For

Les griots

Praise singers

La concession


Praise singing, like the one recorded in L'Enfant noir and translated in The
African Child, is intended to have a stimulating effect on the individual
being praised. It may not, however, be easy to find the direct equivalent,
but the message can be communicated using terms such as 'thou,' 'thy,'
'shall,' which are invocative. This procedure does not suggest infidelity;
rather it proves further the linguistic and cultural competence of the
In a literary translation, as we discussed earlier, it is not impossible to have
fidelity in translation in terms of message and form. This, however, does
not suggest that there cannot be mistranslations or errors in translation. It
is essential to note here that even though some critics see Kirkup's
translations as presenting difficulties, (cf. Adle King, 1980) which make
them to judge him as not being faithful in his translations. Kirkup's

translations could be deemed adequate and acceptable in the light of our

explanation. The omission of some sentences or paragraphs in the English
version of L'Enfaiit noir suggests a remarkable sense of equivalence and not
infidelity. It has to be reiterated here that each text calls for an
interpretation by the reader. The translator, more than just any interested
reader, is the reader par excellence of the text he is translating. However,
he may not be able to successfully translate the text if he does not in
perceive the extra-linguistic reality in the text or if he does not set aside his
own emotions.
One may wish to stress here that some of the avoidable omissions
observed in the translation do not actually have a negative effect on the
overall sense in the final analysis. This is because most of these sections
that are omitted are seen to be repeating what has already been said
earlier, particularly where Laye explains the powers of the child born
immediately after a set of twins, yet the omissions are translation errors
because repetitions could be a style intentionally adopted by the original
From the above, we can see that Kirkup, as a literary translator may not be
completely wrong in not having used the exact words as in the Source Text
or in having added new words in order to faithfully translate the sense of
the Source Text. What actually matters is preserving the message as
Camara Laye has originally intended and making it acceptable to the reader
of the Target Text. This corroborates Henry Rider's opinion about the
translation of literary texts (quoted by Okolie, 2000: 215), who is also
quoting Lawrence Venutti, (1965: 6-7). According to him:
Translations of authors from one language to another are like
old garments turned into new fashions; in which though the
stuff be still the same, yet the dye and trimming are altered,
and in the making here, something added, there, something cut
Since Kirkup does not concern himself with only the transfer of words but
also with the transfer of the integral sense of the novel, many repetitions
are simply omitted in the English translation without having, to the best of
our knowledge, any negative effect on the overall meaning. Generally, any
form of communication, and indeed translation, is subject to the semiotic
law of loss. Nida says, "If one is to insist that translation must involve no
loss of information whatsoever then, obviously not only translating hut all
communication is impossible (Nida, 1959: 13). A literary translator, in some
cases, does not bother with the problem of the translation loss not because

he is not aware of it but because he has to resign to the inevitability of

such a loss.
Kirkup also maintains transparency with the use of simple English in an
attempt to ensure easy readability, he adheres to current usage of the
English language (except on the few occasions when he uses archaic
language to create some effect on the speeches made by the 'griots' or
other elderly people). In the French version, Camara Laye has written in
purely Parisian French. There is practically no interference of the Guinean
French, which makes it very easy for James Kirkup to maintain
transparency, as he does not need to consult people to understand the
cultural affiliation of a word.

Evaluation constitutes an important aspect of practical literary translation.
It brings into focus the theories of linguistic relativity and the language
universals, which posits that human languages have more things in
common than they have differences by virtue of being vehicles of human
communication. In this regard, we discover that the comparative and
contrastive stylistic analysis of the French and English-language texts are
brought into contact in this thesis.
Our assessment of James Kirkup's translations in this study is based on
target language and target culture-oriented translation theories,
particularly the interpretative theory focused on 'the sense' rather than 'the
word.' We have, in this paper attempted to trace the problems of literary
translation to the nature of the literary text itself as a cultural and artistic
product. We discovered that emphasis has shifted from the form of the
Source Text to the responses of the receptor; therefore, the response of
the receptor to the translated message now plays an important role in
determining faithfulness and acceptability. The target reader's response is
compared with the responses of the readers of the original text to confirm
adequacy in the transfer. This implies that faithfulness must then be
explained in terms of the average reader whereby emphasis is placed on
the fact that faithfulness is the degree to which the average reader reacts
to the translated message just as the receptor reacts to the original text
The above is not to say that there are no problems in Kirkup's translation
arising directly or indirectly from the nature of language itself in particular
and interlingual communication in. We see that translation of literary texts

just like Kirkup's necessarily entails a process of acculturation to ensure

readability and acceptability of the Target Text in a different cultural milieu.
It can therefore be asserted that Kirkup's translation is successful by
approaching the two ideals needed in literary translation, namely fidelity
and authenticity. A rigorous word-for-word copy of the original would lose
much of the impact of the writing not only because cultural differences
would be ignored, but also because factors such as idioms would be
trampled upon. For these reasons, word-for-word translations often result
in nonsense as can be seen in translations generated by many machine
translation systems. James Kirkup actually adopts techniques such as
transposition, explicitation, and modulation among others, which assist him
in finding suitable contextual equivalents.
This paper has shown James Kirkup to be a faithful translator in the way he
expresses in English Camara Laye's French works, thereby showing that
vital stylistic and semantic initiatives can be faithfully transferred into
another language.