Brief Thoughts

Thirlwell, Adam. (2008). Amerikas. The Believer, 6(8), 3-17.

“The reason why style in a novel is translatable is because it is inextricable from composition. And it is through the composition itself, through a style, that a novel becomes true to life.” (8)

I am not a fan of this solution to the problem (can and how does style in the novel translate?). Thirlwell flattens the term style to be nearly meaningless. He also has escaped the actual problem prompting this piece: Nabakov’s dilemma of translating the rhyme and ‘blossom’ of Pushkin in Eugene Onegin.

Of course the translation has a style. Nabakov did not lament the loss of style in the translation. Nabakov lamented the loss of Pushkin’s style in the translation. Here we come to what I find is the real problem at work: how does the translator reproduce her reading in the reader? Nabakov wanted to share the joys of the novel with others, not necessarily the novel itself. The difference may seem slight but it gets to the heart of the problem.

The reason Thirlwell concludes, correctly, that there is not a definitive text is because we are not really concerned with the text. The text is a mediation. What we, writers, readers and humans, are concerned with is communication and crossing the gap of mediation.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *