Translation is usually studied from another language to ours, in order to consider changes that have to be made. With Samuel Beckett, it is interesting to analyze the process of translation from French, which is not his mother tongue, to English. In fact, Beckett was, in the 50's, one of the rare bilingual authors. In the case of Samuel Beckett, translation was a way both to begin and to continue the writing process, a way for him to explore the relation of writing to language. Translation provides Beckett with the possibility of writing across languages. He sets out to resist assimilation to any cultural context: he is not exclusively anything-neither just an ‘Irish' writer nor just a ‘French' one. He chose French as his writing language for many works in order to shake off the stylistic accretions and tics that he had accrued in English, and translated them himself, which is the interesting point of this essay. To the question “why did you choose French?” he answered “pour faire remarquer moi “(to put myself forward). As if he wanted to show that French written by an English person is very different from French written by a French man. Words change meaning as a distorting mirror. The process of auto-translation is a real re-writing of each text that leads to the question of fidelity.
[...] Beckett uses thus the process of equivalence that one can find in a good bilingual dictionary: - De justesse by a hair's-breadth - Tout compte fait when all is said and done - Réclamer à cor et à cri to clamour for (Malone meurt and Malone Dies) Moreover, cultural contexts have to be adapted to be understood by an English audience. This process is used when the situation whose the message refers to does not exists in the other language. [...]
[...] One can think that Beckett wanted to correct the original version to make it shorter and delete the heaviness of the French text. The additions and deletions structure the text. It may be the result of the return to the authority of the mother tongue that censor and impose a structure. When Beckett translates in English, he falls into silence, into conformism of a mother tongue. And this is exactly what he wanted to avoid by writing in French: he said français me permet d'écrire sans style” (French allows me to write without style). [...]
[...] Moreover, Beckett is keen on moving closer words that sound the same in the French version, Il n'est pas percé de part en part mais il est mal en point (Malone meurt p 37) and in the English one as well but on different words Perhaps it is a lack of rupees. Or a lock of hair.” (Malone Dies p 181) Beckett is bilingual and also bi-cultural and likes playing with customs of civilizations. To translate semble ne pas trop se déplaire, mais rien n'est moins sûr, et ainsi de suite »(Malone meurt) Beckett, uses a question-tag, caricaturing the English language. [...]
[...] Thus, in French, a notion of moral consciousness appears because of guilt whereas it is reduced in the English text: le droit de me lever? Cria Macmann (Malone meurt) Up ! cried Macmann. Let me (Malone Dies) In the opposite, the English version expresses more the confusion between human and animal which is threatening. In fact, some words are in English reserved for animals: “[mother]will drop mere] va accoucher” the head small from over-breeding” tête petite et racée” Finally, one of the particularity of the English language is the frequent use of the passive voice. [...]
[...] The repetition of words and expressions and the use of synonyms and antonyms, in addition to producing a semantic effect - most usually one of foregrounding - , result in the accent being placed on the very structure and rhythm of the sentence: j'essaierai de faire, pour tenir dans mes bras, une petite créature, à mon image, quoi que je dise (Malone meurt) Yes, a little creature, I shall try and make a little creature, to hold in my arm, a little creature in my image, no matter what I (Malone Dies) Another sort of repetition consists on using two synonyms in the translation where there was only one word in the original text, giving the impression that Beckett seeks the right word: corps était dans le grand trou his body was in the hole or Punctuation is also more abundant in the English version than in the French one: [ ] depuis de la dernière inspection, datant de je ne sais plus quand, ce qui est d'autant plus frappant (Malone meurt) [ ] since my last examination of them, dating from I don't know when. [...]
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