Monday, 25 October 2010

English translations of Ivo Andric's Travnicka Hronika



Criticism of English translations of Ivo Andric's Travnicka hronika is confined to a small number of reviews and occasional comments in periodicals praising the first two translations for their fidelity to the original.1 Kenneth Johnstone's The Bosnian Story (1958), as the first English version of Andric's masterpiece was titled, had generally been regarded superior to John Hitrec's later Bosnian Chronicle (1963). Yet some American critics, notably professional Slavists, preferred Hitrec's translation for having masterfully captured the 'cadenced flow of the original' and for preserving 'a marvelous tapestry of Turkish Bosnia.'2 The novel's latest translation, The Days of the Consuls (1992), done by Celia Hawkesworth, likewise failed to generate extensive translation criticism. The few reviews published in Great Britain and abroad are said to have extolled Hawkesworth's translation as the most accomplished English version of Travnicka hronika today.3
The above criticism is based on random comparisons of translations against their original, and, as such, lacks credibility. This article endeavors, therefore, to collate all the texts-the three translations and the Andric original-examining each of the four books cover to cover and drawing conclusions on the basis of linguistically-based analysis. Of the four most commonly-used methods in translation criticism, the linguistic method I have adhered to in this article has proven the most efficacious for the study of literary translation.4 Such a method does not give the critic and the reader a one sided picture of the quality of a translation, but rather evaluates all of the multifarious layers of the texts, both the original and the translations. The method offers, first and foremost, a much-- needed "insight into the style and meaning of both original and the translation."5 In a word, such comparisons are bound to reveal "patterns, tendencies, trends, habits, strengths, and failings"6-all of which will help a translation critic to classify the study within linguistic categories which most accurately and comprehensively register the style and meaning, building a firm foundation from which to assess the true quality of the translations examined here.
The language of Travnicka hronika is indeed complex. Even the novel's very first paragraph includes Turkisms-one of the novel's most prominent language stratums. Although all three English translations7 of Andric's novel have conveyed the essence of the word "balija," for example, the word's defamatory connotation of a Bosnian Moslem's supposed backwardness remains undetected: "Nikad, ni posljedni balija ispod Vilenice."8-"No one, not even the humblest true-believer in the backstreets" (Johnstone, p. 17); "no one, not even the last Moslem bumpkin from the mountain hinterland" (Hitrec, p. 7); and "No one, not even the lowliest Muslim peasant from the slopes of Vilenca" (Hawkensworth, p. 5). The English speaking reader cannot glean from these renderings the important detail that the word "balija" is another word for the Moslem nationality. Similar stumbling blocks occur with many other Turkisms, particularly if they are used as doublets, such as "peksinluk" and "prljavstina"-both meaning "filth," "dirt" or "squalor," with the former used by Moslems only: "'I blato i peksinluk bosje davanje"' (p. 117)"`dust and dirt were also God's gifts"' (Johnstone, p. 115); "Mud and filth `come from God"' (Hitrec, p. 103); and "Mud and dirt were also gifts of God" (Hawkesworth, p. 91). The translations of a Moslem character's speech laden with linguistic peculiarities,-the ethical dative ("`sta mi se"'), words predominantly used in Bosnian Moslem's speech ("kantar"')9 and rhymed prose ("mjera je vjera">do not faithfully reflect the original either: "`sta mi se unosis i kasljet u kantar? Mjera je vjera; i dah joj moze nauditi"' (p. 77)-"`Do you want to shove yourself forward and cough into the scales? True measure's a treasure; and a breath can spoil it"' (Johnstone, p. 78); "`Stop pushing and coughing into the scale! True measure's the same as faith, a breath can spoil it"' (Hitrec, p. 64); and "Don't you go shoving your nose into the scales and coughing all over them! `Right measure is real treasure' and the merest breath could upset it" (Hawkesworth, p. 58). Though Hawkesworth's rendition con-veys the sense of the original, two arbitrary additions in one sentence alone ("right" and "real") place her translation below Johnstone's and Hitrec's. ...
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