(Un)translatability revisited: transmetic and intertextual puns in Viktor Pelevin’s Generation “P” and its translations

Roman Ivashkiv

Abstract


Babylen Tatarsky, the protagonist in Russian writer Viktor Pelevin's novel Generation “P” (translated into English by Andrew Bromfield as Homo Zapiens), works to adapt American advertisements for the Russian market and witnesses how the reality of Russia’s tumultuous 1990s is replaced by a consumer-driven television simulation. Puns in the advertising slogans that Tatarsky translates, interspersed throughout Generation “P”, are central to its plot. Some of these puns exhibit greater sophistication than others: in addition to utilizing homonymy, homophony, homography, paronymy, and polysemy, they involve transmesis, multilingualism, and intertextuality. This article compares how Pelevin’s translators (English, German, Polish, Spanish, and French) approached these difficult puns. The objective of this comparative analysis is to demonstrate how the intertext(s) evoked through wordplay may, on the one hand, impede translation, but, on the other, open avenues for creative solutions, by producing new traces and echoes of meaning that make the act of translation possible. The issues raised by the various translations point to a need to re-examine the roles and tasks of the translator and underscore the importance of keeping the (un)translatability debate open. Ultimately, this article aims to contribute to the ongoing reconceptualization of what literary translation is and, especially, what it does: with texts, readers, literatures, and, above all, with language.

Keywords


wordplay, puns, untranslatability, transfiction, transmesis, multilingualism

Full Text:

VIEW FULL TEXT

References


Ackerman, G. & Lorrain, P., translators. (2001). Homo zapiens: [roman]. By Viktor Pelevine [Viktor Pelevin]. Paris: Éditions du Seuil.

Apter, E. (2013). Against World Literature: On the Politics of Untranslatability. London: Verso.

Attridge, D. (2009). ‘Unpacking the portmanteau; or, who’s afraid of Finnegans Wake?’. In Bloom, H. (ed.), Blooms Modern Critical Views: James Joyce, New Edition, Chelsea House, pp. 5–24.

Baer, B. (2011). ‘Translation theory and cold war politics: Roman Jakobson and Vladimir Nabokov in 1950s America’. In Baer, B. (ed.), Contexts, Subtexts and Pretexts: Literary Translation in Eastern Europe and Russia. Amsterdam: John Benjamins Publishing Company, pp. 171–186.

Bassnett, S. (2002). Translation Studies. 3rd edition. Routledge.

Beckett, S. (2009). Murphy. London: Faber and Faber.

Beebee, T. (2012). Transmesis: Inside Translation’s Black Box. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Blake, G. (2012). A Freudian Slip Is When You Say One Thing but Mean Your Mother: 879 Funny, Funky, Hip, and Hilarious Puns. New York: Skyhorse Publishing.

Blasing, M. (1995). Politics and Form in Postmodern Poetry: O'hara, Bishop, Ashbery, and Merrill. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Bromfield, A., translator. (2002). Homo Zapiens by Viktor Pelevin. New York: Viking.

Culler, J. (1988). ‘The call of the phoneme: introduction’. In Culler (ed.), On Puns: The Foundation of Letters. London: Basil Blackwell, pp. 1–16.

Davis, Kathleen. ‘Signature in Translation’. In Delabastita, D. (ed.), Traductio: Essays on Punning and Translation. Routledge, pp. 23–43.

Delabastita, D. (1993). There's a Double Tongue: An Investigation into the Translation of Shakespeare's Wordplay, with Special Reference to Hamlet. Amsterdam: Rodopi.

Delabastita, D. (1996). ‘Introduction’. Wordplay and Translation, special issue of The Translator 2(2), pp. 127–139.

Delabastita, D. (2004). “88. Literary style in translation: wordplay.” In Kittel, H. et al. (eds.), Übersetzung - Translation - Traduction. Teilband 1: Ein Internationales Handbuch Zur Übersetzungsforschung = an International Encyclopedia of Translation Studies = Encyclopédie International De La Recherche Sur La Traduction. Berlin: Walter de Gruyter & Co.

Derrida, J. (1986). ‘Proverb: “He that would pun.’” In Leavey, J, Ulmer, G, & Derrida, J. (authors), Glassary. Lincoln, Nebraska: University of Nebraska Press.

Derrida, J. (1985). ‘Des tours de Babel’. In Graham, J. (ed.), Difference in Translation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, pp. 165–207.

Eagleton, T. (1977). “Translation and Transformation.” Stand 19(3), pp. 72–77.

Freud, S. (2002). The Joke and Its Relation to the Unconscious. Translated by Joyce Crick. London: Penguin.

Gruner, C. (1997). The Game of Humor: A Comprehensive Theory of Why We Laugh. New Brunswick, N.J: Transaction Publishers.

Hermans, Theo. (2009). ‘Translatability’, in Baker, M. & Saldanha, G. (eds.), Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies, London: Routledge, pp. 300–303.

Ivashkiv, R. (2018). “Transmesis in Viktor Pelevin’s Generation ‘P’ and Andrew Bromfield’s English Translation.” Translation Studies, 11(2), pp.201–216.

Jakobson, R. (2000). ‘On linguistic aspects of translation’. In Venuti, L (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 113–118.

Johnston, C., translator. (1979). Eugene Onegin. By Aleksandr Pushkin. New York: Penguin Books. Retrieved from 1 September 2018 from http://lib.ru/LITRA/PUSHKIN/ENGLISH/onegin_j.txt.

Kjerkegaard, S. (2011). ‘Seven days without a pun makes one weak. Two functions of wordplay in literature and literary theory’. Journal of Literature, Language and Linguistics 3(1), pp. 1–9.

Koestler, A. (1964). The Act of Creation. Macmillan.

Levine, S. J. (2009). The Subversive Scribe: Translating Latin American Fiction. Dalkey Archive Press.

Lipovetsky, M. (1999). ‘Goluboe salo pokoleniia, ili Dva mifa ob odnom krizise’ [Blue porklard of the generation, or two muths about one crisis]. Znamia, vol. 11. Zhurnalnyi Zal Retrieved 1 October 2018 from http://magazines.russ.ru/znamia/1999/11/lipovec.html.

Partington, A. (2006). The Linguistics of Laughter: A Corpus-Assisted Study of Laughter-Talk. London: Routledge.

Pelevin, V. (2003). ‘Viktor Pelevin: istoriia Rossii – eto prosto istoriia mody. [Viktor Pelevin: the history of Russia is simply a history of fashion].” Interview. “Park Kultury.” Gazerta.ru. Retrieved 1 September 2018 from www.gazeta.ru/2003/09/02/viktorpelevi.shtml.

Pelevin, V. (2003). Generation “P” [Generation “P”]. In Pesni tsarstva “ia” [Songs of the Kingdom “I”]. Moskva: Vagrius.

Polotovskii, S. & Kozak, R. (2012). Pokoleniie Pustoty [A Generation of Emptiness]. Mann, Ivanov i Ferber.

Prieto, J., translator. (2003). Homo Zapiens. By Viktor Pelevin. Barcelona: Mondadori.

“pun, n.1.” (2018). OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 October 2018 from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/154549?result=1&rskey=cp3VUd&.

Pursglove, M. (2008). ‘Dulcis fumus patriae: Tiutchev, Turgenev and smoke.’ In Andrew, J., Offord, D., & Reid, R. (eds.), Turgenev and Russian Culture: Essays to Honour Richard Peace, Rodopi, pp. 285–300.

Pushkin, A. (1833). Roman v stikhakh Evgenii Onegin [Novel in verse Eugene Onegin]. Retrieved 1 September 2018 from http://www.poetry-classic.ru/8-13.html.

Redfern, W. (1985). Puns. Oxford, UK: Blackwell.

Rodnianskaia, I. (1999). ‘Etot mir priduman ne nami’ [This world was not invented by us]. Novyi Mir, vol. 8. Zhurnalnyi Zal, Retrieved 1 October 2018 from http://magazines.russ.ru/novyi_mi/1999/8/rodnyan.html.

Rojewska-Olejarczuk, E., translator. (2002). Generation ‘P.’ By Wiktor Pieliewin [Viktor Pelevin]. Wydawnitctwo W.A.B.

Sander, E. (2014). Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World. Berkeley, California: Ten Speed Press.

Spivak, G. Ch. (2012). “The Politics of Translation.” In Venuti, L (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London: Routledge, pp. 312–331.

Tartakovsky, J. ‘Pun for the ages’. The New York Times. Retrieved October 1 2018 from https://www.nytimes.com/2009/03/28/opinion/28Tartakovsky.html.

Tretner, A., translator. (2000). Generation P. By Viktor Pelewin [Pelevin]. Verlag Volk and Welt.

Ulmer, G. (1988). ‘The puncept in grammatology’. In Culler, J. (ed), On Puns: The Foundation of Letters. London: Basil Blackwell, 1988, pp. 164–189.

Venuti, L. (2014). “Translation, Intertextuality, Interpretation.” Romance Studies, 27(3), pp. 157-173.

Vinokur, V. & Réjouis, R. (2018). ‘On collaborative translation’. In Levine S.J. & Lateef-Jan, K. (eds.), Untranslatability Goes Global. New York and London: Routledge.

“wordplay, n” (2018). OED Online. Oxford University Press. Retrieved 20 October 2018 from http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/230192?redirectedFrom=wordplay#eid14318694.




DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.7592/EJHR2019.7.1.ivashkiv

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.


Publication ethics and malpractice statement