Chapter 1 – Introduction
This unit offers a practical exercise in the form of a case study. We will compare and try to account for the differences between three translations of a particular original. It is aimed at students with an interest in narrative, in literary translation and in historical studies.
The primary material for the exercise consists in three short passages in English. They are from three different translations of the same original. The original text does not concern us. It is a Dutch novel first published in 1860, but we will not look at the Dutch text. The three English translations date from 1868, 1927 and 1967, respectively. The passages all deal with the same scene.
We will compare the different versions, register salient differences between them, and then try to interpret and account for them. To help us identify reasons that could explain the differences, we will draw on the prefaces to each of the three translations. Overall, then, there will be six texts to consider: three parallel passages in translation and, later in the exercise, three prefaces. The main point of the exercise will be the attempt to read different translations of an original as embodying different interpretations of it.
Although we do not need the original Dutch novel as such, Chapter 2 gives some basic information about it. This will allow us to put the passage we will be studying into context.