When Hic et Nunc is the Only Right Thing: Discussing Ethics in Translation in Light of a Personal Case

By Emilia Di Martino & Monica Pavani (Università Suor Orsola Benincasa, Italy & Independent)

Abstract

This paper steps into a well established area of research to sketch a model of meta-reflection that prospective translators may use to both document the key stages of the translation process and justify and support their choices, all the while reflecting on the ethics of translation. Such a model may also be of help for novice translation critics who are learning to identify, comment and assess translators’ decisions.

Keywords: ethics in translation, meta-reflection model, novice translators, prostive translators, class resources

©inTRAlinea & Emilia Di Martino & Monica Pavani (2021).
"When Hic et Nunc is the Only Right Thing: Discussing Ethics in Translation in Light of a Personal Case", inTRAlinea Vol. 23.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
Stable URL: https://www.intralinea.org/index.php/archive/article/2530

0. Foreword

It is not the aim of this paper to convince the reader of the need to embrace an ethnographic approach when dealing with the issue of ethics in translation; nor is its aim to offer new insights into the ethnographic practice of translation research. Its novelty is rather in the authors’ attempt to sketch a model of meta-reflection which may be fruitfully used in translation and translation criticism classes while also offering the occasion for making general considerations on the ethics of translation. While there is ample precedent of reflective accounts of translation practice (see, e.g. Bassnett, Bush 2006; Pertenghella, Loffredo 2006); of such process-oriented methodology as Think-aloud Protocols (see, among others, Bernardini 2001 and Li 2011), which ─ though currently mostly focused on the linguistic aspects of translation ─ could also be used to analyse and reflect on ethical issues; and of ethnographic approaches in translation studies focusing on the specific issue of ethics (see, e.g. Pym 2001 and 2012), there has been as yet no attempt, to the authors’ knowledge, to demonstrate which particular features might actually make an approach to translation ethics ethnographic and consequently be fruitfully applied to translation and translation criticism learning and teaching. This is exactly the authors’ aim in this paper: to step into a well established area of research in order to offer a framework for reflection that prospective translators may use to both document the key stages of the translation process and justify and support their choices. Such a model may also be of help for novice translation critics who are learning to identify, comment and assess translators’ decisions.

1. Introduction

With this aim in mind, the paper will address the issues of ethics in translation in the light of a personal case, which provides practical evidence of the possible uses of a model of meta-reflection in educational contexts. The authors will both relate their experience of dealing with the same text, Alan Bennett’s The Uncommon Reader (hereafter abbreviated to TUR) (2007) but from a different standpoint: Monica Pavani is the Italian translator of Bennett’s book; Emilia Di Martino has focused on Pavani’s work as a translation critic (Di Martino 2013, 2012, 2011a and 2010). The translation critic will also show how a deeper understanding of the reasoning behind the choices made by the translator for terms she had identified as problematic changed her previous assessment of the translation work.

Despite only starting their exchange of ideas after their individual work on the book had been done, the translator and the translation critic have managed to keep their conversation going, also meeting up in Copenhagen in November 2011 for a conference on ‘Authorial and Editorial Voices in Translation’ and subsequently collaborating on a co-authored paper (Di Martino, Pavani 2012). 

In reporting here how her ideas have evolved as her exchanges with the translator progressed, the translation critic will also reflect on the more general issue of ‘ethics’ in the light of such an evolution. In particular, she will illustrate how, despite still thinking Pavani’s translation of TUR offers a different characterization of the protagonist (in particular, due to the choices made in relation to the use of allocutives) and slightly normalizes the most subversive area of Bennett’s writing (probably in an attempt to make a prototext which may have otherwise sounded too crammed with gay references more ‘palatable’ for the Italian reader) (Di Martino 2012, 2011a and 2010), she views the Italian text (a new, independent text in terms of translation as creative writing, Petrilli 1999/2000; Bassnett, Bush 2006, Loffredo, Pertenghella 2006) positively in terms of the ethical principles identified by Simon (1996) and Berman (1995), as well as of Nord’s Loyalität (1991). Pavani’s convincing narration of her translation path (already presented in part in Di Martino, Pavani 2012) and a more in-depth consideration of the ‘real’ contexts of translation (Di Martino 2011b, Künzli 2007, Mossop 2001) are good evidence that ethics in translation is a complex issue indeed, dependent as it is on other (often hidden) variables. As such, it cannot be easily pinpointed, nor measured in the same way in different cases. The educational value of discussing competing points of view and evolving perspectives on the same text  for both prospective translators and novice translation critics is apparent.

Due to the nature of this paper, which was conceived as the report of the authors’ personal experiences, the first-person narrative will be used instead of the third-person point of view that is more common in scientific research and the two authors’ narrative accounts will be placed side by side in a dialogic manner. This is also in line with recent developments in Translation Studies, which seem to favour Narrative Theories over discourse in view of its focus on the person (Baker 2006a, 2006b). In addition to  presenting translation criticism (and not just translation) as a dynamic, evolving process rather than a static form of judgement, the introduction of a time dimension into the meaning-making of the translation process effectively emphasises how texts are interpreted differently within different narrative frames. Moreover, the recourse to narrative/dialogic accounts lends itself to good use in the translation/translation criticism class: narratives are powerful teaching tools which promote the learner’s making sense of the world through a specific mode of thought. The narrative mode of thought works towards verisimilitude, through engaging with the narrator’s subjective experience and transforming one’s understanding of the issue at hand (Bruner 1990). More practically, the two authors’ dialogue presented in the next two sections may be offered to the class as teaching material to be used in a collective activity of reflection and debate carried out through oral production in a medium-sized class; in large classes, students may be asked to work in groups with a spokesperson from each group later reporting the main points of discussion to the class and one student being in charge of pulling the threads together and drawing conclusions. Eventually, the translator’ choices could be more precisely commented upon and assessed making reference to the translation ethics framework which is also presented in the next sections, using similar groupwork patterns. This would hopefully enable prospective translators to become familiar with a tool they may find useful to employ to both document the key stages of the translation process and justify and support their choices in real job situations. It would probably also benefit novice translation critics in identifying, discussing and assessing translators’ decisions.
To avoid confusing the reader with the continuous swapping between voices, the author of every single paragraph will be named at the start of each.

2. Why use a model for meta-reflection on Translation Ethics

2.1. Introducing the model

Emilia: Set against the background of process-oriented translation studies, which focus on the psychological aspects of translation in order to try to understand and reflect on what happens in the translator's mind (see, among others, Danks, Shreve, Fountain and McBeath 1997; Shreve and Diamond 1997) this paper presents and discusses a case study analysis, with a view to both producing an educational tool of meta-reflection to use in translation and translation criticism classes and making general reflections on the ethics of translation. It feeds on the consideration that it may be hard (if indeed possible) to identify fixed norms, rules and laws in a reality caught up in as dramatic a flux as today’s and which is consequently in a ‘structural’, ‘constitutional’ need of translators (Bauman 1987), while at the same time recognizing that the necessity of such norms, rules and laws is a fact, crucial as it is as a starting point for the decisions of individual translators who constantly re-invent those very norms, rules and laws even when they apparently just seem to re-affirm them (Derrida 1997). It goes without saying that personal responsibility is equally crucial; however, in a (textual) reality where all meaning-making is contextual (ibidem), norms, rules and laws (which, as already hinted at, can only offer themselves as limited guidelines) can only be drawn from observation of individual cases and of singular decisions; they are essentially based on hic et nunc, the here and now. Therefore, also in line with the general orientation of recent research on translation, which seems to see ethics as ‘a broadly contextual question, dependent on practice in specific cultural locations and situational determinants’ (Pym in Pym 2001: 137; see also Baker 1992/2011, ch. 8 and Pym’s more recent call for a ‘regional (i.e. non universal)’ ethics based on the ‘idea that whatever the translator does […], it is always grounded in a situation’, 2012: 4), I will here attempt to offer the prospective reader (a translation and/or translation critic trainee) a model for meta-reflection, i.e. a process framework and representational format that both neophyte translators and novice translation critics may use to account for the key stages of the translation process in a structured way. It is meant to work as a learning tool for the analysis of individual translators’ ethical choices, conceived of as answering the question: what did a specific translator think was the right choice to make when addressing a specific issue in a specific translation?[1]

Taking the form of empirical research into the translation choices of individual translators in specific translation instances[2], such a tool would be a precious class resource to complement Think-aloud Protocols (TaPs) and a useful teaching/learning and assessing technique of its own. In a still interesting and relevant 2001 paper, Bernardini questions the experimental validity of TaPs as a research methodology, stressing ‘the idiosyncratic nature of the translation process, which cannot be reduced to a series of predictable and formalisable problem-solving steps’ (Bernardini 2001, 255) and while the Italy-based scholar does not intend to criticize this approach but just to encourage a more systematic and sounder use of it, this methodology is undoubtedly ‘labour-intensive’ and ‘time-consuming’ (256) not only in the research stage, but probably even more so in the teaching stage of the translation process. In a 2011 contribution Li sums up the most widespread uses of TaPs in educational environments:

[...] we may compare the differences between professional translators and student translators in the translating process and sum up rules or patterns of general applicability for translation teaching. We may also compare the learning and translating habits as exhibited by successful translation learners and less successful ones and apply the findings to the classroom to make translation teaching more purposeful. What is more, we can also resort to thinking aloud to locate and analyze students’ mistakes and to prevent similar blunders in similar situations in the future. We can also analyze the TAPs of students at different learning stages from multiple perspectives, such as the translation unit, translation strategy, the acceptability of translation in the target culture, etc., and compile a translation learning portfolio for each student (Wakabayashi, 2003). The list may go on and on. (112)

As is evident, these uses are of great research and educational value but cannot be thought of as regularly employable in large classes and with a restricted timetable, while a model for metareflection such as the one I am about to sketch may have the merit of easily stimulating class discussion on individual translators’ beliefs and values, and on translation actions taken (i.e. decisions made) on the basis of what was deemed to be right and wrong in specific translation situations. Moreover, it may also be fruitfully utilized as an assessment instrument aimed to promote the student’s personal growth.

Like TaPs, one such model has the good quality of not following ‘the theoretically deductive tradition in translator training, which frequently puts theory learning ahead of translation practice. In contrast, it applies an empirically inductive method, which summarizes the observable characteristics of [...] translation performance [...] before they are theorized into principles with wider applicability’ (Li quoting House, 112). Finally, in order to make clear in what terms it may effectively complement the didactic use of TaPs, it is important to clarify that the main concern of this meta-reflection model is not which choices specific translators should have made in the identified case, nor what choices they have actually made, but the possible (or, if accessible, the actual ─ as stated by the translator) ‘moral reasoning’ behind translation decisions. Building up on the consideration that, despite often being used interchangeably, the adjectives ‘ethical’ and ‘moral’ do convey a slightly different nuance as to the source providing the rules and/or principles referred to, by ‘moral reasoning’ I mean the translator’s practical reasoning directed towards deciding what to do and their description of the process which has led to determine what was right or wrong in a specific translation case based on their own individual principles[3]. Alternatively, an ‘ethical resoning’ would suggest a recourse to rules provided by an external source, which have not necessarily been interiorised (or are not personally shared) by the translator. While, of course, it would be impossible to state, without the translator's own disclosure, which rules in a translation are applied as responding to the translator's personal beliefs and which are respected only to conform to external constraints, it seems fair to assume that a translator will only accept to work within constraints they are sufficiently comfortable with.

The meta-reflection tool is here presented side by side with what may be loosely looked at as retrospection, i.e. analysis of a specific translation process through the participant’s own report (Monica’s account of her translation of Alan Bennett’s TUR). Being based on the participant’s recall after a considerable lapse of time, the data may be more distorted than in TaPs. However, because the overall aim of the model for meta-reflection I am sketching is educational rather than research-focused, what really counts is its possible use as an object to think with rather than as an instrument for ‘truth detection’. The examples I have chosen to discuss my point of view pertain to different textual/extratextual levels in order to offer prospective translators and novice translation critics as wide a range of samples as possible: indeed, some have to do with such aspects as style and humour whereas others refer to choices which touch on a completely different level of ethical/moral values, where social issues (and the possibly very diverse way such social issues are perceived in different cultures) are at stake.

2.2. Evaluating translation ethics: the components of moral translation behaviour

Emilia: Translation quality assessment is a crucial issue in Translation Studies, both for literary (reader- and market-related) and educational (teacher- and student-related) reasons: as House contends, ‘[t]ranslation quality assessment can [...] be said to be at the heart of any theory of translation.’ This explains the ‘soaring interest in translation quality assessment in the translation profession and the translation industry.’ (House 2015: 1) Whether or not we assume a descriptive approach to be more suitable than a prescriptive one, judging a translation work is something we automatically do when faced with one, and something which has an enormous educational value: it implies in-depth reflection on tacit knowledge (Polanyi 1967) and professional know-how, i.e. on the translator's knowing-in-action, ‘[…] the kind of knowing in which competent practitioners engage’ (Schön 1983: VIII). Learning to judge a translation can help prepare to face the complexities of the translator's profession, thus providing smoother entrance into professional practice proper. As a consequence, ‘validating judgements about the worth of a translation’ (House 2015: 1-2) is crucial and requires the identification of clear-cut assessment criteria.

In order to identify assessment criteria which help build up a tool validating judgements on the worth of translation, i.e. measuring the latter's translation ethics, it is crucial to provide a definition of translation behaviour. Indeed, because the ‘morality’ of translation choices is what is essentially at stake here, such choices would more fruitfully be declined, for validation/assessment purposes, in terms of translation behaviour, which can be looked at as the manifestation of the ‘moral reasoning’ introduced just above. Applying the four-component framework of ‘general’ moral behaviour (Rest 1994) to the translation domain, it is possible to identify four components of moral translation behaviour:

- Moral sensitivity: the ability to recognise an ethical dilemma.

Such recognition requires being aware of how our behaviour impacts others, identifying possible courses of action, and determining the consequences of each potential strategy. Moral sensitivity is key to transformational ethics. We can’t solve a moral dilemma unless we know that one is present (Johnson 2006: 60).

Translators should possess moral sensitivity as a constitutive quality i.e. they should be able to engage in moral reasoning. Possessing moral sensitivity could be declined, for the sake of clarity, into the ability to assess a translation problem, visualize and evaluate multiple possible options and generate creative solutions or, quoting Pym, ‘to conceptualize relational issues, to foresee possible contradictions, to find and propose satisfying solutions, to facilitate debate and decision’ (2012: 69). The necessary previous step to that being the capacity of addressing the question Why translate? (as posed in Pym 2012). Baker’s use of narrative theory as a spur to self-reflexivity (2006, 2008) may be a possible response to this need as it helps identify the interplay of competing narratives which frame every (translation) event.

- Moral judgment: the ability to make judgements about what is right or wrong i.e. about what ‘ought’ to be done in specific translation situations.

- Moral motivation: the translator’s commitment to be consistent with the choices made (see, for example, Baker 2006a) once they have decided what is the best course of action, and to accept responsibility for the outcome. Otherwise, following Pym’s arguments against Baker’s generalised commitment to non-translation when faced with culturally offensive narratives, their ability to constantly re-build up dialogue and mediate: ‘The prime assumptions of a narrative ontology and radical cultural difference not only exclude the position of active intermediaries, they lock the parties into perpetual prolongation of conflict’ (2012: 60; see also Pym’s points on the issue of responsibility and on a specific historical example in 2012: 68-9, 76-81 and the reflections that follow, respectively).

- Moral character: it could perhaps be defined as persistence in the translation action, in spite of any possible temptations to take an easier way out.

2.3. Approaching translation ethics from a local angle

Emilia: In what follows I am going to describe and discuss Monica’s moral translation behaviour in La sovrana lettrice not out of any prescriptive urge to evaluate and criticize somebody else’s translation work, but just to provide practical evidence of the possible uses of a model of meta-reflection in educational contexts. I will do so first introducing my views on Monica’s approach to the problematic areas I have identified in the text (Bennett’s use of allocutives to characterize the Queen’s idiolect; purported gay speak; the interdiscursive relation with Woolf’s The Common Reader) and then reflecting on Monica’s comments to my points. Her comments are in fact her personal explanation of the reasons which are at the basis of her choices, i.e. the arguments she uses to support her translation choices and to evaluate her work. The focus will mostly be on the translation of ‘style’, intended in a context of literary sociolinguistics (Blake 1992) as variation within a specific character’s language use, i.e. as intra-character variation according to addressee, but also on language choice as an index of community-belonging and on interdiscursivity meant as those implicit conversations that texts often entertain with other texts we all know very well.

2.4. Story of the translation

Monica: I had been translating – mainly from English but also from French into Italian – for many years when in 2007 Adelphi proposed that I translate TUR. I immediately accepted the very challenging task as I had previously translated another book for Adelphi and therefore I was already familiar with their revision procedure. As well as being very attracted by the idea of translating one of Bennett’s latest works, I was also terribly frightened. I think that the translator’s awe not only of the text, but also of the author and of the public, is an important element for this discussion, as the translation scholar is not necessarily aware of it. The translator’s loneliness is just the first part of the process of translating, as the following stages – especially at Adelphi – consist of rewriting and revising, first after the main editor’s corrections, and later on the basis of the observations of experts or special readers instructed to do this special task. The Paris Review has recently labelled Adelphi as ‘the most important Italian publishing house’[4], surely in consideration of its almost exclusive attention for prestigious books of literature and philosophy. Therefore, a translator working for them always knows that the book they are translating will be read by a sophisticated audience, particularly sensitive to style and to nuances of tone and meaning.

The translator’s awe does, however, have its positive sides – first of all it encourages the translator’s humility, which I personally consider a positive quality, as it spurs the translator to take into consideration a multitude of different points of view on the text.

The uncommon reader in the story is Queen Elizabeth II, who suddenly becomes obsessed with reading (and later writing) after a chance meeting with the librarian of a mobile library parked just outside the Buckingham Palace kitchens and a gay kitchen help who seems to be the only other borrower of the mobile library’s books. The story follows the consequences of this obsession in an elegant language, which is also rich in audacious jokes. My first impression was that it would be very difficult to render in Italian the very formal and ironical language with which Bennett very wittingly has given life to the Queen. The circumlocutions in Bennett’s English sound very amusing but if I had tried to do the same in Italian everything would have become terribly tedious. In fact, as John Rutherford has underlined in his essay “Translating fun: Don Quixote,” one of the difficulties about translating fun is that

although it is in one sense universal, being a part of nature in that all human societies laugh and smile, in another sense it is not universal, being a part of nurture in that its immediate causes depend on value systems which are specific to individual cultures (Rutherford 2006: 73).

The first revision the Adelphi staff carried out on my first version was intended to make the text and especially the dialogue sound more natural and I agreed with that, as Bennett – who is also and mainly a playwright – is particularly attentive to spoken language in his books. His characters exist first of all as speaking figures, and much of the fun depends on the clash of registers that Bennett exploits. When the time came for the last revision, I was invited by Adelphi to ‘forget about the original version’ and think only about the Italian one so as to make all the jokes (most of which are based on puns and double meanings) as funny as possible in the target language. I think that the very peculiar effect of Bennett’s text is that it amuses while making one reflect and become conscious of the very many social and inner constraints hindering the Queen’s spontaneity. I therefore did my best to make my version sound respectful of this effect.

According to Rutherford, translators of books which are meant to be funny ‘would have to persuade readers that laughing and smiling are compatible with seriousness, that profound themes can be treated as effectively in comedy and in humour as in tragedy’ (Rutherford 2006: 73). Of course this is true for writers too but it must be said that in translation it is often very difficult to keep the balance between these two effects, so dependent are they on social and cultural implications. Bennett’s text is nearly everywhere based on this emotional contrast, which is never openly exhibited but works throughout the text as a powerful undercurrent. This is why I thought that not only should all the research I had done to translate TUR in a manner which be respectful of the original effect remain invisible, but, as far as fun is concerned, my translation could only be successful if the reader were not aware of the scholarship that was needed to achieve it.

3. Discussing the ethics of La sovrana lettrice

3.1. Language variation in translation: the Queen’s different identity in the Bennett/Pavani text

3.1.1. The translation critic’s point

Emilia: As outlined above, the first constitutive area of complexity I identified in the journey of TUR across languages/cultures was Bennett’s use of allocutives to characterize the Queen’s idiolect, i.e. it concerns the translation of ‘style’, intended as variation within a specific character’s language use. Looked upon in this way, style can be said to represent the central component in the construction of each character’s social identity and specific language choices thus become indexes of different levels of closeness/inclusion and distance/exclusion and community-belonging. Translation of such choices across languages irremediably results in building up different identities and social relationships in target texts, thus often making the same book tell different stories across different cultures.

In previous papers about the Bennett/Pavani text (Di Martino 2012, 2011a and 2010), I have focused on the verbal ‘actions’ in which Bennett’s Queen is made to engage, addressing the semantics of pronoun address, in particular, and showing how the Queen positions herself in relation to others by using specific linguistic forms that convey social information but also relate to power and solidarity dimensions (different language choices characterise relationships with different categories of people and hint at different levels of symmetry/asymmetry). In addition to that (and more importantly), looking at the Queen’s use of allocutives as indexes of subtle levels of closeness/inclusiveness and/or distance/exclusiveness, I have drawn attention to how the social information and the meaning of power issues that style implies completely change when TUR (actually any literary text) journeys across languages/cultures. In particular, Monica’s translation seems to remove from the text the linguistic signs of a Queen who gets progressively closer to common people with a passion for reading than to members of her usual entourage, while foregrounding Her Majesty’s wish to make her point clear and have her way. Though present in the source text, this wish is not re-enforced linguistically, thus producing in TUR the image of a Queen who is faithful to the British ideal of self-control and understatement, as well as perfectly aware of her minor political role.

3.1.2. The translator’s point

Monica: One of the most delicate issues in the translation was certainly the Queen’s language, pronoun usage in particular. Bennett’s Queen makes use of (1) the ‘royal we,’ or majestic plural; (2) the ‘royal one,’ and (3) the first person ‘I.’ Together with the staff at Adelphi – the main editor and a consistent number of proof-readers who each put forward suggestions – I tried out a good many versions alternating between ‘noi’ (first person plural in Italian) and ‘io’ (first person singular). Somehow the ‘io’ choice always seemed artificial and inadequate. The Queen sounded neither as majestic nor as childish as she sounds in English. I felt that I had to make a different choice and considered that my overall impression of Bennett’s Queen was a very positive one. In fact, although she is ridiculed, it is also evident that the author’s aim is to describe her gradual transformation into a true human being through reading. In the final part of the book in fact she gives a speech which turns out to be surprising both for her audience within the book and for the audience outside the book. Indeed, it is the Queen’s attitude and the language she uses which are completely different from the rest of the book: she is much more self-confident and not at all afraid of telling the truth about her duties as a ruler of her country. I later found confirmation of my interpretation when I listened to Bennett’s radio recording of TUR, and I noticed the completely different tone of voice he uses in the final speech compared to the very high-pitched falsetto in the first part.

My choice was to consistently use the first person plural ‘noi’ in the first part, where the Queen sounded much more depersonalized – and to start using the first person singular ‘io’ more often towards the end of the book so as to culminate in the final speech, where the Queen has finally become a true human being.

To bolster my decision, I watched Stephen Frears’ The Queen – a film about the British monarchy which came out in cinemas around the world in 2006, the year the book was published – in the dubbed version just to see how the Queen was made to speak in Italian, and I noticed that the ‘noi’ was prevalent. I also found that the Queen in the movie was very different from Bennett’s and therefore there was no need to make her speak exactly in the same way.

My choice was immediately approved by Adelphi. My decision in this case probably stems from my personal approach to translation. I feel that my translation in its entirety should be endowed with a voice (in this case a multitude of voices) which can be recognizable and coherent with the content (and context) of that precise book. In his recent book Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, David Bellos observes that the translation of humour requires a different approach from the translation of style: ‘The first is typically done by concentrated effort; the second is better done by taking a slight distance from the text and allowing its underlying patterns to emerge by their own force in the process of rewriting in a second tongue’ (Bellos 2011: 301). I believe that my final decision to translate the Queen’s use of pronouns as a progression towards the first person, which does not exactly mirror the original, emerged from my umpteenth reading of TUR from a ‘slight distance’, allowing me to better penetrate the innermost aspects of the Queen, who is a much more complex character than she seems at first glance.

3.1.3. Evolutions in the translation critic’s ideas

Emilia: All of this section, which is the core, descriptive and evidence-providing section of this paper, is going to build around a tripartite structure:

1) The translation critic’s point

2) The translator’s point

3) Evolutions in the translation critic’s ideas.

This is intended to practically illustrate what I mean by empirical investigation in the area of translation ethics: it is essentially field-based research aimed at generating ethnographical understanding, i.e. at providing a detailed, in-depth, ‘thick’ (Geertz 1973) description of translators’ decisional practice which is not a substitute of but complementary to TaPs in contexts in which the latter may prove impractical: teaching/learning/assessing translation and translation criticism in large classes with a limited timetable, where whole class discussion and/or assessment of translation tasks can provide precious, time-effective, enjoyable and anxiety-free didactic activities. The translation critic’s point paragraph presents my hypotheses and original assessment of Monica’s translation decisions, whereas the Evolutions in the translation critic’s ideas paragraph illustrates how my original assessment of those decisions has changed after I collected primary data which provided me with in-depth understanding of the decisional process.

I am not going to address specifically the first problematic area I have identified partly because the main points have already been summed up in paragraph 3.1.1 and partly due to the fact that most of the arguments that I would have put forward here will nevertheless appear in the paragraphs relating to the other two problematic areas of the text, which might have made them redundant.

3.2. Interdiscursivity in translation: the loss of the Woolf reference in the Bennett/Pavani text

3.2.1. The translation critic’s point

Emilia: I have argued in my previous papers that Bennett’s title was to me an open reference to Woolf’s The Common Reader, and this both because Bennett’s Queen, ‘uncorrupted by literary prejudices’, (Johnson 1925/1984) moves from one book to the next following her instinct and personal taste, like Woolf’s common reader who reads English literature free of the conditionings which often enslave literary critics, and due to my awareness that Bennett often weaves interdiscursive relationships in the titles of his books. Probably due to my firmness in this conviction, I took Monica’s use of the word ‘cagna’ (the Italian equivalent of ‘bitch’) instead of ‘cane’ (‘dog’) in her translation of the title My Dog Tulip (La mia cagna Tulip) (one of the books the Queen’s newly made literary aide after meeting him at the travelling library outside Buckingham Palace brings to Her Majesty’s attention) both as a way to recreate (albeit in a highly sophisticated, indirect manner[5]) the interdiscursive relation with Virginia Woolf which had been lost in the title and as a potential act of feminine dissidence placing La sovrana lettrice at the heart of a complex network of references ranging from Barrett and Woolf to as far as Riot Grrrls and other contemporary feminist artists. The term ‘cagna’ does stand out – I still think after hearing Monica’s report of the translation process ─ where it appears, and it may indeed be looked at as a peculiar choice considering that the dog’s sex is totally irrelevant in TUR.

3.2.2. The translator’s point

Monica: In my opinion this is the point where the translator’s work and the translator critic’s work diverge most. As a translator, my ethical approach is always derived from the book I am translating and possibly from an extended knowledge of the writer’s style, which is of course subjected to the limit of the short time allowed for translating. When I read a text with the aim of translating it, I always try to avoid preconceptions and ideological interpretations of it. This is also why I firmly believe that the translation of Ackerley’s book as La mia cagna Tulip – which by the way was not mine but was suggested by the main editor at Adelphi – comes from the effort of rendering in Italian as many as possible of the features the title is meant to give to the reader in English: the dog in the book was actually female and its owner was gay.

From an idealistic point of view, and especially as far as TUR is concerned, the translator should have exactly the same ‘reading horizons’ as the writer, that is to say that they should have read the same books by the same authors. This, however, is actually impossible, due to the short deadline translators must respect to give in their work. I had to hand over at least the first version of the first part of TUR just after one month’s work, even though it is true that the many following revisions were aimed at coming to a better rendering of the author’s style. On the other hand, the time a translation would require is potentially infinite, therefore a precise deadline is sometimes beneficial in so far as it forces the translator to produce a coherent and consistent text despite the gaps in knowledge. All things considered I think I would have probably made the same choices even if more time had been allowed.

3.2.3. Evolutions in the translation critic’s ideas

Emilia: As I have already hinted at above, even now I know that the decision to translate Ackerley’s book as La mia cagna Tulip was actually not Monica’s but the main editor’s choice, what I then considered to be a ‘new intertextual marker’ still seems to me to function extremely well in the ‘architecture’ of the target text as I see it, which makes me want to stress that reading is always a personal experience, and each time brand new, in so far as it is far more widely affected by each reader’s unique repertoire of previous (and therefore also always constantly broader and, as a result, essentially new) readings than it is influenced by other people’s reading of the same books. This opens up, in turn, in my mind, yet another ethical issue within the ethical issue at hand since, as I have argued elsewhere,

I believe that, as in all fields, diversity in translation should be encouraged and stimulated rather than controlled and channelled; it contributes to safeguard the wealth, uniqueness and value of the individual reading process and ensures the ongoing progress of the mind, the life of texts, the survival of literature, the wealth of culture and, ultimately, the improvement of human kind (Di Martino in Di Martino, Pavani 2012: 256).

Moreover, it is also worth stressing that an author’s ‘original’ intentions are always essentially elusive, so faithfulness to the source text is always, in a way, problematic.

Having said that, I think I need to stress that Monica’s account of the specific translation process we are here analysing is crucial in understanding that variables of different nature also make up the ethics of a translation process. Monica has indeed provided an interesting insight into the ‘real’ contexts of translation. I have touched upon the paradox between the present market’s demand to work at increasingly faster rhythms and the ethical need to guarantee the production of high quality translated texts elsewhere (Di Martino 2011b). It is probably worth stressing again the need for more detailed research into the contexts of translation as well as into how such contexts affect the quality of the final product (and at the very same time, it is worth clarifying that the – high – quality of Monica’s work is not at stake here): ‘A not-so-good translation might often be the result of lack of time or lack of access to an information source rather than of insufficient linguistic or extralinguistic skills’ (Künzli, 2007: 53). Recent research on the topic (Künzli 2007, Mossop 2001) also provides interesting details as to how ethics in translation is a more complex issue than it is often conceived of, dependent as it is on ‘external’ (often hidden) variables[6], as well. As such, it cannot be easily pinpointed, nor measured in the same way in different cases.

3.3. Language choice in translation: the disappearance of gay community belonging in the Bennett/Pavani text

3.3.1. The translation critic’s point

Emilia: In my previous papers I have also attempted to show how in fiction, as in real life, speech patterns are also tools that speakers/characters manipulate in order to place themselves and to categorise others. In doing so, they automatically create and/or identify themselves as part of particular speech/cultural communities (Di Martino 2012: 73).

The evidence drawn here from the Bennett/Pavani text in support of my argument concerns purported gay speech, in particular some language choices which I had identified as a crucial element in Bennett’s text. This was due to the fact TUR followed Bennett’s both delicate and crude coming out in Written on the Body (a diversity manifesto, in my opinion) and also to a reference to Cecil Beaton in the text possibly ‘encapsulating’ the fictitious character of the Queen’s literary aide for the British reader (Cecil Beaton, who is still celebrated for his loving portraits of the Royals and especially of Queen Elizabeth II was indeed gay and the Queen Mother’s friend). In a very crude summary, I have argued that the social/cultural groupings implicit in the Bennett text can only be inferred by a handful (if any) of readers of the Bennett/Pavani text due to linguistic choices that may stem from the translator’s (or editorial staff’s) deliberate attempt to affect the text’s reach.

3.3.2. The translator’s point

Monica: I think that the point here is very close to the translation of the title My Dog Tulip with La mia cagna Tulip in Italian. In TUR Bennett makes immediately clear that Norman is gay and his sexual orientation is particularly important as he is bestowed with the responsibility of recommending books to Her Majesty. Of course he suggests all the books and the authors he prefers and the comic effect is created by the fact that the Queen at the beginning is totally unaware that all the books that she is reading are gay-oriented. Having said that, Bennett in this book is more concerned with the effect of reading on the Queen (and the human as well as political consequence of such an activity) than with the ‘gay issue.’ This is why I – together with the editorial staff at Adelphi – particularly concentrated on rendering the effectiveness of the dialogues more than on the single words that could refer to Norman’s belonging to the gay community.

An interesting example perhaps is when Norman’s plainness is the object of mockery and he is described by the equerry as ‘(n)ot dolly enough’ on one occasion. The word ‘dolly’ – which is not reminiscent of ‘pretty’ or ‘beautiful’ to the ordinary person – has a strong gay connotation in this context. I did not know the meaning of ‘dolly,’ so I asked an English friend of mine and was told that ‘dolly’ means ‘pretty or nice for a gay.’ After the equerry says ‘Not dolly enough’, the private secretary comments ‘Thin, ginger-haired. Have a heart’.

I did not know of any adjective in Italian which indicates ‘nice for a gay.’ At first I had translated «Ma non è certo un figurino» (‘But he’s not certainly a fashion-plate’), which was different but to me sounded closer to ‘not dolly enough.’ The final choice of the main editor was in favour of «Non è abbastanza carino» (18) (‘He is not nice enough’), which in fact loses its gay connotation but within the dialogue, because the comment is made by the equerry (a man) ‘to the private secretary not to the Queen,’ (that is, to another man), it is pretty clear that the equerry might be personally interested in Norman if only Norman were nicer.

3.3.3. Evolutions in the translation critic’s ideas

Emilia: Briefly going back to the ‘My Dog Tulip’ title issue (which gets translated as La mia cagna Tulip in the Italian translation of Bennett’s TUR), let me mention that, as I have hinted at above[7], the name of the dog of which Tulip is the fictional counterpart was Queenie (as we learn in TUR) and this name has curiously become Reginetta in Monica’s translation (actually the only proper name that is translated in the book). Unlike Monica, I do not think that Reginetta sounds like an obvious choice for a gay person’s dog name[8]. Quite the opposite, I believe that, had Monica or the Adelphi editors decided to leave it unchanged, Queenie would have sounded nearly as suggestive of the gay world in Italian as it is in English ─ Queenie was actually changed to Tulip when My Dog Tulip came out because the publisher thought the name would encourage jokes about its author’s sexual orientation. Indeed, I am of the opinion that quite a straightforward mental association of the name Queenie is with the band Queen, whose vocalist Freddie Mercury was widely known to be gay. Let me offer an extract from the book to rest my case. It will hopefully provide an opportunity to read more closely into the utterance where the name appears with all its most provokingly gay associations (the dog’s name is in bold in the text for clearer reference; the phrase appearing four times in square brackets is mine, again used for reference):

«Tulip» disse più tardi la regina a Norman. «Che strano nome per una cagna [‘dog’ in the English version]». «La storia è romanzata, Maestà, ma l’autore una cagna [‘dog’ in the English version] ce l’aveva veramente, un pastore tedesco». (Non le disse che si chiamava Reginetta [‘Queenie’ in the English version]). «Quindi fuor di finzione è un libro autobiografico». «Oh, » disse la regina «Ma perché fingere?» Norman pensò che l’avrebbe scoperto leggendo il libro, ma lo tenne per sé. «Tutti i suoi amici detestavano quella cagna [‘dog’ in the English version], Maestà». «Ci siamo passati tutti, disse lei, e Norman annuì con aria solenne, perché anche i cani reali erano generalmente invisi. La regina sorrise. Che fortuna aver trovato Norman! Sapeva di incutere soggezione; pochi domestici riuscivano ad essere spontanei con lei. Ma Norman, per quanto strambo, era solo e soltanto se stesso. Una vera rarità.

The allusion I personally get as an Italian reader is of the character in question not daring to confess to the Queen that the dog’s name is Reginetta, lest she takes it as an irreverent act of equalling her royal person with a dog (actually a ‘cagna’, a female dog, i.e. a bitch. I think I can actually detect an intention of building up a whole network of equations regina=cagna, i.e. ‘detestata’/detested/disliked intensely and ‘invisa’/unpopular to comic effect). Had the character used the name Queenie, instead, the gay references (with all their embarrassing weight for the utterer as being aware he is gay – both daring and not daring but finally daring ─ throughout the book because he does not really know how the Queen would feel about him once she realised he was gay) would have been clear to me in Italian, as well. Having said that, whereas my previous understanding of the disappearance of such words as ‘dolly’ and ‘Queenie’ ─ which are highly evocative of gay speech (in gay-speak ‘queen’ is used to depict a rather flamboyant homosexual) in the Pavani/Bennett text was slightly judgmental, described as it was in essentially negative terms (loss, sanitization etc.), I feel I have now steered towards a more descriptive position in so far as I am more aware that it is indeed difficult to clearly identify to whom or what the translator should be faithful. The disappearance of the references to gay-speak mentioned just above in the specific decision-making process at hand was, in my opinion, norm-governed, i.e. it was, paraphrasing Toury (who would however certainly disagree with this recourse to non-observable conjecture) the translation of a value/idea ‘shared by a community – as to what is right and wrong, adequate and inadequate – into performance’ (Toury 1995: 55)[9]. It is related to the type of fidelity that, in Arrojo’s opinion, ‘we owe to our own assumptions, not simply as individuals, but as members of a cultural community which produces and validates them’ (1994: 160), the fidelity which is essential to make the translation ‘prospectively adequate’ (Vermeer 1996: 77) to its target-text skopos, the intended function of the translation I am here analyzing clearly being an escapist or amusing one. This is also close to Levine’s idea of responsibility towards the translation’s readership: ‘recontextualizing the ideology of the original text’ (1991: 3) is actually one of the effects translation should pursue. As Levine states, ‘what matters here is not the monolithic value of a quoted text but rather the relationship between texts, and between the novel and its reader’ (1991: 131) and, one may add, such readers’ worldviews, their expectations and the constraints implicitly imposed by the receiving culture. Monica’s many references to the teamwork involved in her translational process both withdraws her, in a way, from personal responsibility, and guarantees that the meanings the Bennett/Pavani text conveys are ‘shared’.

3.4. Assessing the translator’s ethical behaviour in La sovrana lettrice

Emilia: Because Monica’s ‘translation purpose justifies the translation procedures’ (Nord 1997: 124) that have been used and her account of the translation process here and in Di Martino, Pavani 2012 also reveals awareness of her responsibility to the translated author, i.e. of her ‘bilateral commitment’ and the consequent, commendable attempt to integrate the perceived aims of the source into the target text as far as possible, I cannot but look at the Italian text (a new, independent text in terms of translation as creative writing, Petrilli 1999/2000; Bassnett, Bush 2006, Loffredo, Pertenghella 2006) positively in terms of the ethical principles identified by Berman (1995), of Simon’s idea of fidelity to the writing project (1996) and of Nord’s Loyalität (1991, 1997 a and b; Nord in Pym 2001). Moreover, I think Monica’s work can also be assessed positively in terms of the four components of moral translation behaviour I have identified in 2.2: Monica’s comments provide evidence of

1) ability to recognise an ethical dilemma (moral sensitivity) and engage in moral reasoning;

2) ability to make judgements about what ‘ought’ to be done in a specific translation situation (moral judgment) (in support of my opinion on both points 1 and 2 in this list, let me kindly ask the reader to briefly turn back to Monica’s arguments in paragraphs 3.1.2 and 3.2.2; Monica’s comments in Di Martino, Pavani 2012 are further evidence of the abilities under analysis);

3) a commitment to be consistent with the choices made (moral motivation) (for this point the reader could refer back to paragraphs 3.1.2 and 3.3.2 and, also in this case, expand the issue reading Di Martino, Pavani 2012);

4) persistence in the translation action (moral character) (the reader should here consider Monica’s persistence in translating the text, despite the pressing deadline imposed by the publisher and the commitment to let the editors have the last say may have led her against accepting ─ or completing ─ the job.

4. Conclusions

4.1. In search of a translation ethics framework (if there is such a thing)

Emilia: It would obviously be desirable (and, above all, useful) to sketch a framework for the professional translator’s use as a sort of point of reference to help more clearly identify and address the ‘delicate’ areas of a text. And yet I wonder whether this is really possible, first and foremost because what will be counted by each individual translator as a moral issue or challenge will most certainly vary according to the theory they decide (or feel naturally bound) to refer to: in short, how do we identify what moral considerations are most relevant so as to raise translators’ attention to them? And how do we guide translators’ moral imagination? Moral reasoning clearly depends upon translation theory (and ethical translation theory) to anticipate issues and possible strategic options as well as to account for the different ways in which the factors implicit in the choices to be made may interact in various contexts. Also, contexts are virtually infinite and each new context always makes even the most widely talked about and deeply analysed issues unique. Moreover, as is evident in Monica’s comments, when faced with translation problems, sometimes translators address them through explicit reasoning, attempting to reach a well-supported decision to a clearly identified translation problem, sometimes they reason tacitly, thinking in much the same way as during explicit reasoning, but without explicitly identifying all the aspects of the question, sometimes they have to act instinctively because they do not always have time to pause to reason about what ought to be done.

Despite being more of an ideal than an actually feasible point of reference for the professional translator to use in real work-related situations, one such framework (a possible example is provided in Table 1) would be a useful object to think with, a valuable stimulus for reflection and discussion for the prospective translator and the novice translation critic to use in hypothetical situations (simulations) or real, other-produced translation tasks presented in class (particularly large classes, as hinted at above) contexts. Moreover, it could easily be turned into an assessment tool: providing shared criteria for the evaluation of assigned translation tasks, its use would make the assessment stage of the translation teaching/learning process meaningfully world-related, involving a good coverage of abilities which are most likely to ensure future success in any working (and life) situation, i.e. evaluation of such high-order skills as thinking and presentation abilities. This would, in turn, integrate and relate assessment with/to teaching, avoiding useless ‘eating into’ teaching/learning time, and enable the teacher to get a good overview of student profiles. In addition, it would empower the student providing greater involvement in, and therefore greater control over, their learning and assessment (the framework may actually be used as an object of self-directed learning). As a consequence, the assessment process would prove to be highly beneficial in terms of learner growth and self-awareness (and as such scoring high in terms of consequential validity) and overall more motivating and rewarding for students, with a potential high backwash on the whole teaching/learning process.

Framework of moral translation behaviour

(to be filled out with reference to both translations and other sources of the translator’s voice: prefaces, footnotes, book events, conference presentations,  papers, interviews, etc.)

This framework is aimed at guiding you to both collect and analyse information about specific translating processes performed by others, and/or to raise awareness to your personal translating activities in order to both help to identify areas for improvement, and to enable you to demonstrate your translation’s or translation criticism’s strengths. The information you collect and highlight will allow you to better communicate your abilities to others, which is critical to gradually build a successful career and/or attract immediate interest from potential employers. The end result is an evaluation of the formative type (i.e. results are meant to promote your personal growth, not to express a pass/fail judgement on a specific translation activity), that is why you will find more room for notes ─evidence─ than precise criteria (these should be fine-tuned to the specific translation in an actual context).

Moral sensitivity

(ability to recognise an ethical dilemma)

Does the translator appear to be aware of how their behaviour impacts others?

Does the translator appear to have identified possible courses of action?

Does the translator appear to have determined the consequences of each potential strategy?

 

Tick or Cross the following:

Tick or Cross the following:

Tick or Cross the following:

 

YES (ability to assess a translation problem)

Evidence:

YES (ability to visualize and evaluate multiple possible options)

Evidence:

YES (ability to foresee possible contradictions)

Evidence:

 

NO

NO

NO

Moral judgment

(ability to make judgements about what ‘ought’ to be done in specific translation situations)

Evidence:

 

Evidence:

 

Evidence:

 

Moral motivation

(commitment to be consistent with the choices made and to accept responsibility for the outcome)

Evidence:

 

Evidence:

 

Evidence:

 

Moral character

(persistence in the translation action)

Evidence:

 

Evidence:

 

Evidence:

 

Table 1: Framework of moral translation behaviour

4.2. Beyond class use. In search of fidelity to the reader

Emilia: What is still missing in this picture ─ (the gap some researchers are trying to fill) and necessary, in my opinion, to ‘triangulate’ the translation operation, i.e. to increase its credibility and validity, despite taking us well beyond the didactic scope which is the aim of the present paper ─ is that faithfulness to the reader which is implicit in Levine’s stress on the readers’ need to receive information about the translation process, about how ‘differences and similarities between cultures and languages affect what is finally transmitted’ (1991: XV). At the end of the day, what in my opinion is really morally questionable in a translation is unspoken, undercover manipulation as opposed to openly reporting what has been (i.e. who has decided what and possibly why)[10]. But withholding such information is usually the publisher’s, not the translator’s choice, and whether or not it is commendable to inform a reader whom such a publisher has targeted as being one of escapist literature is, admittedly, in itself debatable.

4.3. In search of Applied Translation Ethics Studies (ATES)

Emilia: Resonating much of the present academic reflections in different fields of study, I have argued above that the study of translation ethics should be ‘situated’, i.e. contextualised and focused on individual translators’ decisions, thus taking the shape of qualitative, ethnographic research that tackles specific translation cases and discusses ethical behaviours that are hardly ever re-applicable as such in other contexts. Yet this also means that such a study should be ‘diffused’, i.e. aware of the need for norms, rules and laws of wider applicability, and as such open to a constant, mutual exchange of influences: each individual behaviour is part of a system which constantly re-defines the very status of translation ethics. As such, it should be ‘disseminated’ as case study, read not as ready-made recipes to be re-used in different contexts, but as experience repertoires and, in relevant cases, passed on to encourage others to take up political action in the form of critical engagement aimed at social transformation. Which also means it should, vocationally (and ethically!), always be applied in so far as it should not merely aim at expanding general knowledge on the topic but also at increasing what is known about the topic with a view to paving the way for increasingly more ethical translation behaviours.

Note

Emilia Di Martino is the author of sections 0, 1, 2.1, 2.2, 2.3, 3.1.1, 3.1.3, 3.2.1, 3.2.3, 3.3.1, 3.3.3, 3.4, and 4; Monica Pavani is the author of sections 2.4, 3.1.2, 3.2.2, and 3.3.2.

References

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Baker, Mona (1992/2011) In Other Words. A Coursebook on Translation, London-New York, Routledge.

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-----(2006b) “Translation and Activism: Emerging Patterns of Narrative Community”, The Massachusetts Review 47, no. 3: 462-84.

Bauman, Zygmunt (1987) Legislators and Interpreters. On Modernity, Postmodernity and Intellectuals, Cambridge, Polity Press.

Bellos, David (2011) Is That a Fish in Your Ear?, London, Particular Books by Penguin Books.

Bennett, Alan (2007) The Uncommon Reader, London, Faber and Faber.

Bernardini, Silvia (2001) “Think-aloud Protocols in Translation Research. Achievements, Limits, Future Prospects”, Target 13, no. 2: 241–63.

Blake, Norman Francis (1981) Non-Standard Language in English Literature, London, Andre Deutsch.

Bruner, Jerome Seymour (1990) Acts of Meaning, Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press.

Chesterman, Andrew (1997) Memes of Translation, Amsterdam-Philadelphia, John Benjamins.

-----(2001) “Proposal for a Hieronymic Oath”, The Translator 7, no. 2: 139-54.

Danks, Joseph H., Shreve, Gregory M., Fountain, Steven B., McBeath, Michael K. (eds.) (1997) Cognitive Processes in Translation, Thousand Oaks, (CA), Sage Publications.

Derrida, Jacques (1997) Of Grammatology, Baltimore, John Hopkins University Press.

Di Martino, Emilia (2010) “La sovrana lettrice e The Uncommon Reader: un approccio critico al testo tradotto ” in Tradurre in pratica. Riflessioni, esperienze, testimonianze, Flora De Giovanni, and Bruna di Sabato (eds), Napoli, Edizioni Scientifiche Italiane: 113-40.

----- (2011a) “Da The Uncommon Reader a La sovrana lettrice: voci in transito ” in Traduttrici. Female Voices across Languages, Oriana Palusci, Trento, Tangram Edizioni Scientifiche: 289-300.

----- (2011b) “La revisione” in Testi in viaggio, Torino, UTET: 168-75.

----- (2012)  “When the Same Book Speaks Two Different Languages. Identity and Social Relationships across Cultures in the Bennett/Pavani text of The Uncommon Reader”, AION-Anglistica 16, no. 1-2: 57-83.

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Di Martino, Emilia, and Pavani, Monica (2012) “Common and Uncommon Readers. Communication between Translators and Translation Critics at Different Moments of the Text's Life” in Authorial and Editorial Voices in Translation, Special Issue of Vita Traductiva, été/automne 2012, Hanne Jansen, and Anna Wegener (eds), Montréal (Québec): Les Éditions québécoises de l'œuvre: 237-61. URL: [url=https://cutt.ly/6jgAbwg]https://cutt.ly/6jgAbwg[/url] (accessed 25 May 2020).

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Holmes, James S. (1972/1988) “The Name and Nature of Translation Studies” in Translated! Papers on Literary Translation and Translation Studies, James S. Holmes, Amsterdam, Rodopi: 67-80.

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Johnson, Craig E. (2006) Organizational Ethics: A Practical Approach, Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage.

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Notes

[1]Also see Chesterman’s statement that ‘descriptive research on ethics seeks to uncover the ethical principles governing particular kinds of actions.’ (1997: 171).

[2] Consider, in regard to this, Pym’s statement that ‘[t]here would seem to be increasing agreement to focus on people rather than texts, and to do so in terms that cannot be reduced to textually inscribed subjectivities.’ (Pym 2001: 137).

[3] For a practical example of what I mean by ‘moral reasoning’, see e.g. Katan and Straniero-Sergio’s (2001) interesting analysis of a corpus of Italian talk show interpreting and their proposal of setting up ‘an ethics of entertainment’, as well as Sidiropoulou’s (2001) reflections on the translation of urgent messages.

[4]See Lila Azam Zanganeh’s interview to Roberto Calasso, available at [url=http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6168/the-art-of-fiction-no-217-roberto-calasso]http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/6168/the-art-of-fiction-no-217-roberto-calasso[/url].

[5] The dog in My Dog Tulip is actually the fictional counterpart of the book author’s own dog, an Alsatian named Queenie (this name intriguingly becomes Reginetta in Monica’s translation), and this brought to my mind both Woolf’s strong bond with Pinka and Pinka’s fictional double, Flush.

[6] Mossop lists such factors as deadlines and text chunking, whereas Künzli,mentions, for example, a frequent lack of direct communication between a translation’s commissioner, ‘who may also be the source-text author and/or the target-text receiver, and the translator; neither is there any direct communication between the translator and the reviser nor between the reviser and the commissioner. This situation may lead to different types of conflicts, not least because of the relative anonymity that characterises the interpersonal relationships. To give one example: revisers might get caught in an ethical dilemma between loyalty to the commissioner (who is willing to give priority to speed rather than quality) and loyalty to themselves or the profession at large (which generally expects priority be given to high quality).’ (Künzli 2007: 44) 

[7] See footnote 5.

[8] Monica has argued, in a previous co-authored paper: ‘The translation of Queenie by “Reginetta” was my choice, as the word kept the reference to “queen” (in Italian “regina”). I also thought that a gay man might name his dog after a kind of beautiful but fake showgirl or a Miss World (in Italy Miss World contestants are often called “Reginette” and they wear a crown). I therefore considered that Reginetta was an amusing name for the dog, and would be an appropriate translation.’ (Di Martino, Pavani 2013: 253)

[9] See, among other things, “Attacco al videogioco con le famiglie gay ‘Minaccia l’educazione dei bambini,’” La Repubblica (14 May 14 2011), where Marco Pasqua gives an account of the reaction of a number of Italian politicians strongly criticizing the videogame The Sims due to its featuring gay families among its characters.

[10] See, for example, Monica’s disclosure that the choice of ‘cagna’ instead of ‘dog’ in the Italian title of My Dog Tulip/La mia cagna Tulip was actually the main editor’s.

About the author(s)

Emilia Di Martino is Associate Professor of English linguistics. Her interests cover a wide variety of topics, mostly focusing on the nexus of identity, language, and power. She sits on the advisory panels of a series of national and international journals. Her latest publication is a research monograph: Celebrity Accents and Public Identity Construction (Routledge, 2019).

Monica Pavani (PhD in Anglo-American Literature from Ca’ Foscari, Venice) is a freelance translator. Among her translations: The Uncommon Reader by Alan Bennett (La sovrana lettrice, Adelphi 2007), Mouvement par la fin by Philippe Rahmy (Movimento dalla fine, Mobydick 2008), Adonais by Percy Bysshe Shelley (Adone, Marsilio 2014) and Parisina by Lord Byron (2G Editrice 2015). She is also author of L’eco di Micòl. Itinerario bassaniano (The Echo of Micòl. A Walk through the Writings of Giorgio Bassani), published in a bilingual version by 2G Editrice in Ferrara in 2011. She is currently translating into Italian a collection of essays and short-stories about the Ghetto in Venice and a novel by British writer S J Bennett.

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©inTRAlinea & Emilia Di Martino & Monica Pavani (2021).
"When Hic et Nunc is the Only Right Thing: Discussing Ethics in Translation in Light of a Personal Case", inTRAlinea Vol. 23.
This article can be freely reproduced under Creative Commons License.
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