Titles of Mo Yan’s books in translation into closer and farther languages: Is nature or culture the main cause of changes?
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Translating titles is one of the most complex problems that translation researchers (primarily those working in a literary field) may encounter. For many reasons, which I outline in the introduction to the present paper, the original meaning of a title often undergoes much greater modifications than in other places of the translated text. The object of my investigation are changes – some radical – that occurred in the translations of 12 titles of novels and short story collections by the Chinese author and Nobel Prize winner Mo Yan, which were rendered into languages both close to us geographically and culturally (European ones: Romanic and Germanic) and farther in this respect (Asian tongues: Japanese and Korean). Based on a combined analysis of the translated titles and interviews with some of their (co-)authors, an extensive taxonomy of various causes of these changes is proposed. A crucial question, which unfortunately cannot be answered fully in this paper, concerns the nature-culture dilemma: do the modifications result mainly from the translator’s nature (personality or even simply temperament) or from the culture s/he lives in (i.e. the editorial/translational title-giving custom)?
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