Through the prism of literary translation: The sheltering Sky

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The subject of the present paper is the timbre and stylization of the novel The Sheltering sky. Thus, the relevance of this work is in revealing the crucial features of the timbre of this novel.

Each text is the product of a certain epoch, usually created under the influence of cultural and social trends. Thus, it often represents considerable difficulties for any reader: what was so clear for those who lived, for example, in the 20th century, may seem nearly incomprehensible for a modern person. And the problem lies not only in some realities, but also in the Geist seiner Zeit as it was defined by G.W.F. Hegel. This Geist seiner Zeit or simply the spirit of the time is what has to be taken into account while translating and what must be conveyed to the reader. This can be done by virtue of stylization, which, in general, presupposes the imitation of both the narrative style that is typical to this or that literary genre and the author’s style and also reproduction of the main features of a work. However, this definition seems somewhat incomplete. Linguists and literary critics proceed from the fact that stylization is an instrument to create timbre in keeping with the particular intention. And our intention is not to produce the authentic text in another language, but to highlight those points that will create the auditory image in the mind of the reader and the basis for a proper understanding of the text today. In other words, we should emphasize those things that are rather neutral in the original text to make it possible for the reader to unravel the message of the text that was quite recognizable for the contemporaries of the author, but quite ambiguous for us now.

The object of the present book is the novel of an American writer of the 20th century- Paul Bowles- The Sheltering sky. The choice of the object has been determined by several factors. Firstly, the works of Paul Bowles have not been properly examined by the Russian scholars, yet, whereas in the foreign literary criticism he was acknowledged as a prominent writer. Secondly, the book seems to be quite peculiar in terms of the timbre: the events in the novel take place in Morocco, Africa, which presupposes some difficulties from the point of view of the vertical context. Besides, like other early works of Paul Bowles, The sheltering sky fell under the influence of existentialism. Moreover, as the novel under analysis belongs to such cultural movement as modernism, the translator should bear in mind Freud’s concept of the unconscious mind and the psychoanalysis as such. It is impossible to translate the text and transmit timbre properly, if one neglects this fact. But why is it so important? In fact, the subject of this book is quite complicated and if one translates just the course of events, all underlying themes of the novel may pass unnoticed by the reader. But by virtue of timbre and stylization the translator gives some hints to the reader that will lead to the adequate understanding of the text.

The goal of my book is to reveal the timbre of the novel and the ways of transmitting it in the translation. This goal can be reached by fulfilling a number of tasks: 1) to identify the role of the vertical context and its influence on the timbre and stylization; 2) to find out how the author’s own experience predetermines the timbre of the novel; 3) to examine the stylistically-marked units of the text and their influence on the timbre; 4) to compare the existing translations with the original.

The problem of timbre and stylization in translation is far from being new, but, nonetheless, highly relevant in the linguistics, especially because of its intrinsic diversity, and that is why each case should be observed in all particulars. Thus, the current interest of the research is grounded in the approach to stylization. I am going to examine and analyze not only stylistically-marked units as such, but in relation to some key concepts of the novel, both cultural and philosophical. Thus, the practical importance of the work is to show on the examples from the book how the timbre of the novel can be transmitted and how the disregard of the conceptual framework may ruin the translation.

The methodology of my research consists of several approaches: the analysis of the vertical context, linguo-stylistics, linguo-poetics and hermeneutic analyses.

The vertical context is of special importance to this research, because the book The sheltering sky deals with plenty of cultural phenomena. The events in the novel take place in Morocco, Africa, which means that the translator has to convey the “oriental taste” that we can find in the original. We cannot “russify’ the text that belongs to another culture, otherwise its peculiar timbre will be lost. Therefore, it is necessary to find the Russian equivalents that would evoke all kinds of cultural association for the reader. On the other hand, the author tells us the story of a married American couple, thus, the plot itself leads us to the clash of cultures and different nations. Besides, it is highly important to find out the author’s conception of the Arabic world and its representatives, as his view has a crucial role in creating the timbre. Apart from this, the book deals with the most influential philosophical tradition of that time, namely existentialism, and that’s why the reader should not regard the novel as simply a tragic story with an exotic and at the same time simple plot, but he or she is expected to perceive it as a dialogue with the philosophy of that time. Thus, some philosophical categories that we can find in the text should be emphasized in the translation, so that the reader would be able to catch the implications in the book. And without being familiar with the relevant to this novel philosophical school, it is difficult to understand the overall tone of the writing. Hence, we see that stylization is not a purely linguistic phenomenon, it involves some cultural and historical aspects.

The description of the vertical context will be accompanied by the study of the existing Russian translations. This comparative analysis is of high importance in the present research. I will adduce some examples to show how the timbre of the book can be lost, when the translator neglects the vertical context.

I have also followed the linguo-stylistic approach, which presupposes the study of the elements of the speech in terms of their “connotativeness’ and associativity. The literary stylistic is also of considerable use for our research, as it studies the system of aesthetic means, tropes and figures of speech, which is typical for this or that writer, literary movement and époque, and all these affect the timbre greatly. However, the stylistically significant units of speech are used exclusively for the sake of decoration of the text and that is why the linguo-stylistic analysis is only the first step in the research of any literary work. By analyzing the tropes, figures of speech, marked units, etc., we pursue to define the artistically significant units. And this is the point where the linguo-poetic analysis is to be applied. Linguo-poetics is of paramount importance when it comes to the conceptual and aesthetic design of the text. The aim of the linguo-poetic analysis is to define how this or that unit of speech is involved by the author in the process of creating the literary text and how this or that collocation produces an aesthetic effect and conveys the main ideas of the work6. The aesthetic properties of any text become distinct when we can look at the text through the prism of two or more languages. Hence, when making the linguo-poetic analysis, I apply the comparative approach. By looking at the original and several translations of the novel, we’ll be able to define the most crucial elements of the text that have aesthetic impact. And by estimating the connotative elements of the text correctly, we can achieve considerable success in the translation.

However, I, as a researcher, cannot confine myself to the stylistic and linguo-poetic approaches. The thing is that, as any modernistic texts, The sheltering sky cannot be understood unequivocally. Despite the seeming simplicity of the plot, the novel is full of implications. Hence, we may interpret the text differently, and all these interpretations are the domain of the hermeneutics. The understanding of the text goes beyond the outer layer. When we come across the literal meaning of the word, phrase, idea, we are supposed to bear in mind that there are also hidden, secondary, allegorical meanings. This is what is called the hermeneutic circle and this approach is essential, when we turn to the novel under analysis.

As far as the structure of the present research is concerned, it is as follows:

In the first part I am going to give a theoretic consideration of the basic terms underlying my research and the history of the question.

Part 2 of this paper comprises three chapters: 1) the author’s outlook on the Arab society; 2) the Arab world in the novel; 3) the folklore in the novel and its timbre.

Part 3 consists of four chapters: 1) The portray of the central characters 2) book as a dialogue with philosophy and psychology of the time; 3) expatriate tradition and the concept of estrangement; 4) the influence of Edgar Allan Poe’s novel on the structure and timbre and the psychological implications.

The conclusion sums up the results of my research.

The bibliography includes reference materials and philological studies of my question.

Part 1

Theoretical foundations of the research.

In the broadest sense of the word, stylization is the imitation of the manner of narration, style of speech, etc. The subject in question has been studied scholars and translators for hundreds of years.

The art of translation aroused interest even in Ancient Rome. The views of Horace and Cicero had a profound influence on the succeeding generation of the translators. That time translators’ main concern was to transmit the sense — not the structure. Another milestone in the development of translation and stylization was reached during the spread of Christianity. The need for translation of the Bible caused bitter arguments. Although in the Vulgate St. Jerome follows the principles that were established before Christ, “the problem of the fine line between what constituted stylistic license and what constituted heretical interpretation was to remain a major stumbling block for centuries”.

In the 17th century an English poet and translator of Virgil and Ovid John Dryden singled out three types of translation: metaphase (which is the word-for-word translation), paraphrase (the translation of the meaning) and imitation. The latter is already close to stylization, but it still presupposes a rather free translation.

In 1792 Alexander Tytler published his Essay on the Principles of Translation, where he formulated three basic rules: 1) a translator should give “a complete transcript of the ideas” of the original; 2) a translator should preserve the manner and the style of the original; 3) “a translation should have all the ease of original composition”. From this time the issue of stylization has come to the fore and become the object of in-depth research.

In the 19th century the method of literary translation prevailed. The theorists of that time believed that a translator should preserve the peculiarities of the original text, even if it turns out to be greatly to the detriment of the lucidity of the text. Thus, for example, the translation of Aeneid made by William Morris preserves the Latin syntax. It was supposed to spark the readers’ interest in the original.

But as we can see, for many years, translation, style and stylization had been studied mostly by the translators, as the development of the linguistics refers only to the end of 19th century. However, in the beginning of the 20th century the subject of stylization has become widely-discussed among scholars. The study of translation occupies a prominent place at the department of English linguistics of the philological faculty of Moscow state university. Thus, for example, the master’s thesis of M.V. Verbitzkaya is devoted to the problem of the imitative genres in general and the parody in particular. L.A. Baranova wrote about different types of stylization and also analyzed different imitative genres such as translation, adaptation, screen version and dramatization. She draws the conclusion that if the secondary text (translation) belongs to this or that genre, it does not mean that it can be called stylization. Hence, L.A. Baranova singled out some parameters by which the stylization can be defined. They are the relation to the original, the tempo of narration and the preservation of the text.

Stylization is directly connected with the vertical context. The problem of vertical context has been thoroughly studied by I. V. Gubbenet. The imitation and stylization of the text is apparently impossible without shared background knowledge. But the ability to recognize allusions, quotations, reminiscences, cultural realia, etc. is also one of the key points in translation, because all these things open up hidden layers of the literary work. Stylization is the complicated process that requires deep knowledge of the text. M.E. Konurbayev, the professor of English Philology at Department of English Linguistics at Lomonosov Moscow State University, who has been closely examining the subject of stylization, also writes about the importance of profound background knowledge in understanding the text: “some of these elements are neutral and form the background for perception, while others have a great semantic and emotional expressive potential that is variously realized in a context of speech. There are ordinary and familiar contexts whose stylistic background is more or less universally perceived, but there are also others that imply a vast reading experience and erudition on the part of the reader”.

However, the vast knowledge of the theory is not enough. Practical approaches to translation and stylization are being developed by scholars at the English department of the philological faculty Of Moscow state university. Thus, V. Y. Zadornova believes that the deep analysis of both the original and the existing translations should precede the process of translation. And then all the material should be synthesized to create the best variant. Translation, hence, is considered as the means of in-depth comprehension of the original.

Timbre is another subject of the present research that cannot be isolated from the stylization. Under timbre we understand “forms of gestalt (recognizable shape, figure) or a set of prominent points in the narration that eventually form a complete and coherent identifiable image, or a chain of related images foregrounded by means of style, syntax and lexical semantic associations and brought to life by our memories and life experiences”. The study of voice and timbre has been working on for hundreds of years, starting with Aristotle, although at that time it was not formalized. In the 20th century the major dispute concerned the “nature’ of the auditory imagery. According to Eduard Sievers, it is impossible to perceive the written text without uttering it. The Russian philologist Lev Shcherba shared the ideas of the German linguist: “…всякий текст требует, для своего понимания, еще перевода на произносимый язык”. However, there were some linguists that criticized this approach. Thus, V.V. Vinogradov claimed: “Легко представить к чему могло привести последовательное развитие [высказываемых Щербой] принципов. При такой точке зрения правильное понимание замысла автора отождествлялось с правильным произнесением соответствующего литературного произведения. Этим самым ставится знак равенства между литературным произведением и его воплощением в звучащей речи, его артистическим исполнением”. (Теория и практика тембрального анализа текста)

The subject of timbre has been also studied by M.E. Konurbayev. In his work The style and the timbre of English speech and literature he writes that the “revealing the voice and timbre of the author is based on a complex analysis of factors including style, modality and focalization”.

To put it in a nutshell, we see that the problem of stylization and timbre (and translation as such) is of immense diversity and rests upon different branches of linguistics. It is increasing in importance nowadays. Literature has firmly established itself in the marketplace and the publishing houses are aware of the need for “quick translations” of foreign literature. This time pressure results in the translations of low quality that do not provide clear insight of the original. Thus, it seems essential to carry out the philological analysis of the text, its style and timbre, before turning to translation as such.

Part 2

Shared background knowledge and Vertical context.

According to I.I. Rezcker, the aim of a translator is to transfer holistically and accurately the content of the original by means of another language, preserving its stylistic and expressive peculiarities. This, however, by no account, means that the task of a translator becomes easier, because the identification of the “task’ is only the first step. Now we face the questions: how to “transfer” and how to “preserve”. The answer seems to be clear: we should know shared background, without which the full understanding of what we are going to translate is apparently impossible. However, according to O.S. Ahmanova and I. V. Gubbenet shared background knowledge is not enough. Thus, we come across the notion of the vertical context, which is purely historical-philological concept that implies that by virtue of allusions, quotations, reminiscences, realia and etc. the understanding of the text goes beyond horizontal context. Besides, in her work Gubbenet introduces the notion of the global vertical context, which implies the mode of life of this or that social group, the outlook, that is inherent in the society- in short, all the facts that are essential for the understanding of this or that author or this or that genre or literary trend by representatives of different cultures and epochs. Hence, in the present paper I should properly examine the text of the novel to prove that shared background knowledge, vertical context and global vertical context play the key role in creating the timbre of the Paul Bowles’ book.

Chapter 1. The author’s outlook on the Arab society.

In reference to the vertical context and shared background knowledge, we should pay attention not only to the objective facts. Subjective view of the author is what should be taken into account in this research as well. As a matter of fact, Paul Bowles’ views are of major significance, as the characters of Arabs are created by subjective perception of the author.

Paul Bowles left us a remarkably diverse range of interviews, memoirs, notes, etc. Besides, during his long life, he was acquainted with people from different backgrounds, but mostly with the men of letters, translators, journalists and musicians, whose personal recollections of the writer are a valuable source of information for the researchers, as the personality of the author plays a great role in his depiction of the characters, and his perception influences the overall timbre of the novel. So, what was his perception of the Arab world like?

First and foremost, the novel catches the atmosphere of post-war Algeria. And in the colorful descriptions of Oran we may hear the voice of the author. As he wrote in his memoirs, the appearance of the city did not alter much, on the one hand: “nothing has really changed here either, with everything old being systematically destroyed’’. On the other hand, the attitude of the inhabitants to the foreigners appears to be different from what it used to be: “…the recent upsurge of nationalist feeling has somewhat modified the attitude of amicable indifference which the Moslem used to show toward the anonymous foreigner.” These changes can be traced in the novel. “People pushed against him as they passed, stared from doorways and windows, made comments openly to each other about him whether with sympathy or not he was unable to tell from their faces-and they sometimes ceased to walk merely in order to watch him. The changes in the attitude to the foreigners can be easily explained by the historical facts, which I will touch upon later. But the fact is that by describing the atmosphere of the city, the author conveys his own impression and creates a specific visual image of this extract.

Another distinguishing trait of the seaport is that Oran is the place for the desperate ones or simply those who want to change something in their life, because no one is going to take an interest in what your past life was like, who you were and what you were. “A place where people of a variety of nations were able to exist without valid documents to identify them.” This, however, does not negate the fact that the native people are highly inquisitive, when it concerns their interests. For example, in chapter four, the character Smail questions the main character Port closely about where he is going or what he is doing in this place (“Qu’est-ceti churches la? Qu’est-cetivo”), although they don’t know each other. As it becomes clear in the end of the chapter, it is not pure curiosity on the part of Smail. The reflections of this trait of the national character can be found in the speech of the Arab, which will be shown later in this research.

Also, I would like to pay attention to the fact that people tend to take their time, they never in a hurry. Africa is the place where time drags. You never know whether it has passed an hour or fifteen minutes. “He had an oppressive sensation that daybreak was near at hand-surely not more than an hour or so away, and he felt that all this time was being wasted. He looked anxiously at his watch; it had stopped at five minutes of two”. The author transmits this peculiarity with the help of prosody and tempo. The complex sentence with several subordinate clauses, additional information incorporated in the phrase and fricative consonants slow down the tempo. The last sentence is also significant, as it creates an impression of non-existence of time.

The perception of the main character is also something that we should pay special attention to, because sometimes inhabitants of Algeria’s towns are presented the way this or that character see them. There are some simple cases when the information is given in the stream of consciousness — a narrative mode or method that attempts to depicts the multitudinous thoughts and feelings which pass through the mind, for example: “They have no religion left. Are they Moslems or Christians? They don’t know. They know money, and when they get it, all they want is to eat. However, sometimes it is difficult to tell the narrator’s description from the characters’ view. “It was perfectly clear that he was being evasive now; his character seemed to have changed again. The beginning of intimacy was gone. To Port he was once more the anonymous dark figure that had stood above him in the garbage at the end of the street, smoking a bright cigarette. This is the scene when Port and an Arab are moving towards the edge of the town to visit a girl that dance in the Quartier. Despite the third person narration, the whole scene transmits the hero’s perception.

To some extent we can say, that the character’s opinion coincides with the ideas of the author, but still we must distinguish one from another and in the same time take into account both the author’s concepts and the characters’ ones.

One more key point in this respect is the traditions and the social code of the natives. “Arabs are not as mobile as people in the West, and they have a high regard for tradition.” Apart from certain traditions, there is an intricate system of values, the influence of which we can see in the description of minor characters’ behavior and speech in the novel. The dominant values are:

— An appropriate behavior.

— A person’s dignity, honor, and reputation.

— Relation to a certain class. “Social class and family background are the major determining factors of personal status, followed by individual character and achievement.”

— The concept of friendship.

— Manners.

To conclude, the values and vertical context that were described above, will be necessary in the next part of the present research, where I will take a closer look at the examples from The sheltering sky to prove that all these factors are important in the understanding the novel and conveying the timbre.

Chapter 2. The Arab world: the role of vertical context in creating the timbre.

— General outlook

As it has been already mentioned previously, the cultural and historical background is of central importance in the present research, because it is far from what we can find in the classical literature. The Arabic world of Algeria remains obscure for most of us. “Foreigners find very little material available to help them understand Arab society. Not much has been written on the subject of the Arab cultural and social practices, either in Arabic or in Western languages”. First and foremost, I am going to start with some socio-historical peculiarities that can be relevant for this research and, then turn to mores, customs and different features of the national character of the Arabs that can be useful for establishing the connection between the mentality and the timbre.

Oran, the first place of the journey of the main characters, is a coastal city in Algeria, the ancient part of the town is called the Medina Quarter, a distinct city section with narrow, maze-like streets, with plenty of cafes both for native inhabitants and foreigners. The formation of the streets was supposed to confuse the invaders. But the reader will not find the detailed description of what Medina Quarter is in the book. The author did not even mention the name of this historical part of the city, because we see the Medina Quarter through the eyes of the main character. However, the knowledge of how the city looks like seems to be noteworthy to be able to follow the main hero in the fourth and fifth chapters. It is inconceivable that one will grasp the timbre of a certain moment without vivid image in one’s head, as the timbre is the key to understanding the author’s implications and the idea of the book. Hence, the reader should be aware of the vertical context and provided with the notes.

The Medina Quarter encircles the, so-called, Casbah, the walled citadel, which, having built on a hill, was supposed to protect the city from possible attacks. The author gives a clue in which direction the characters Port and Smail move in the fifth chapter by mentioning the Casbah on their way: “They walked for a good distance through the Casbah, making a sudden exit through a tall gateway onto a high, open space outside the walls”. Thus, if the reader has the knowledge of the shared background, he will understand that the characters go beyond the walls of the Casbah to the place where “social misfits’ live. This knowledge immediately creates mental image and the timbre, which help to unravel the message of the author.

The history of Oran is one more important aspect which is worth mentioning. From time immemorial, Oran was in a prominent position in Algeria, because of its location: it is situated right by the Alboran sea, at the west end of which the Strait of Gibraltar lies. The distinguishing feature of this place is the intermingling of Berber, Spanish and French cultures. “The few scattered people sitting at the tables were for the most part silent, but when they spoke, he heard all three of the town’s tongues: Arabic, Spanish and French.

During the Second World War, Oran was held by the Vichy government, which tried to preserve neutrality in the war, but de facto it was the puppet regime of the Nazi Germany until the British-American invasion during the operation Torch. Thus, it is only natural, that the war left its mark on the city. In the second chapter of the novel the main character calls Oran a “colorless mess” (“If you mean this colorless mess that calls itself a town, yes”). This remark is certainly a hint about the war and the troops that settled in the city for quite a long period of time. Thus, the collocation “colorless mess” is an occasion of the vertical context. “Mess’ here more likely denotes the difficult situation in the city, as any war leads to devastation and poverty. One of the existing translations of the novel transmits a bit inadequately the meaning that the character attributed to this word. In the translation of V. Boshnyak we can read “бесцветное нагромождение”. The translator refers to the city structure rather than to the mess in the social, economic, political situation and in culture. Another translator got the grasp of the allusion to war and used the expression “бесцветная мешанина”. The word “мешанина” denotes the mix of heterogeneous elements, on the one hand, and the mess itself, on the other. This word fulfills the potential of the word “mess’ and, to our mind, creates historical associations in the mind of the reader and the understanding of socio-cultural situation of that time, including the heterogeneous population: in the first half of the XXth century the population of Oran was highly assorted and consisted from 65% to 85% of Europeans, some of them were refugees, that tried to escape the horrors of the war, and some were people of dubious reputation. We can find this confirmation of such diversity in the Paul Bowles’ memoires: “You will run into Polish refugee who arrived ten years ago without a penny, borrowed enough to become a peanut vendor, and today runs a prosperous delicatessen and liquor store; an American construction worker who came to Morocco to help build the US air bases, and has since become a freelance journalist; a Moslem who spent two years in a Spanish jail for voicing his opinions on Generalissimo Franco, and now is a clerk in the municipal administration offices…”

The atmosphere of the post-war city and the poverty is usually created by description of the clothes of the native. “Their European clothes were worn and gray; it would have been hard to tell what the cut of any garment had been originally” or “Beneath the awning they had a glimpse of the open vehicle in the sunshine as it rocked past. It was crowded with people in tattered clothes.

Another striking feature of the African cities is the climate. The excessive heat of the place is shown with the help of stylistically-marked units of speech, comparisons and conceptual metaphors. For example, “The long main street was empty, cooking in the afternoon sun…” The verb “cook’ is a conceptual metaphor, which evokes a certain image in the mind. The existing translations preserve this metaphor. For instance: “Главная улица городка, длинная и пустая, жарилась под палящим предвечерним солнцем. However, the use of “палящий” in this sentence is redundant and looks like tautology, because all the information is fully expressed in the word “cook’ and the repetition of the idea of the “excessive heat’ is unnecessary. Another example of how the same idea is put across we can find in the sentence: “I’m being baked by this horrible sun. The metaphor is similar to the previous one. The word “bake’ means to cook something using dry heat, in an oven and again the translations preserve the connotativeness of this word-combination (“Я спекусь на этом проклятом солнце” or “На этом жутком солнце я скоро испекусь”) I will not analyze the slight blemishes of these translations, as our task was to show the use of conceptual metaphors every time the author describes the heat.

Another group of metaphors, that is used to describe the climate, is “war-metaphors’. For example: “the men walking with the hoods of their burnouses drawn up over their heads against the sun’s fierce attack”. “The Sun’s attack’ is not a reproducible word-combination, thus we should pay special attention to it and to the similar metaphors that can be found in the novel. In the Russian translation we can find the following: “Мужчины шли, спрятав головы от палящих лучей полуденного солнца в капюшоны бурнусов”.

Skidan transmitted the meaning, however, the conceptual metaphor in the original turned to the dead metaphor in the Russian variant and lost its aesthetic effect. However, it is not a simple task to find an adequate counterpart and it is a disputable question whether the word-for-word translation “яростная атака” sounds better.

The climate of Algeria left its mark on the behavior of the natives. The absence of vitality (at least at work) of the Arabs is emphasized not just once in the novel. This impassiveness serves to create the certain timbre, image in the mind of the readers. “The nearly naked shoeshine boys squatted on their boxes looking down at the pavement, without the energy to wave away the flies that crawled over their faces” or “The waiters were impassive and moved slowly”. Even animals lack energy. “One of them feebly raised its head an inch or so off the floor and looked at the newcomers vacantly through its pale yellow eyes; the other did not move”. Let us look closer at the samples of translations and at how the timbre is preserved. “Одна из них безвольно приподняла морду на каких-нибудь несколько сантиметров от пола и безучастно посмотрела на новоприбывших своими тусклыми желтыми глазами; другая не пошевелилась”. The word “feebly’, according to the Longman dictionary of contemporary English, means “extremely weak’, but in the translation we read the word “безвольный”, which denotes “the absence of will’, and the word “will’ itself’ has nothing to do with energy, it expresses one’s aspirations and volition. Thus, the choice of the word is rather inadequate. The disregard of shared-background knowledge leads to the change of the effect the extract produces on the reader. The translation conjures up the distorted image. The word “бессильно”, “немощно”, “измождено” might suit better to the context (“Одна из них бессильно оторвала голову от земли на дюйм или около того и тупо посмотрела на новоприбывших своими бледно-желтыми глазами”)

To conclude, I would like to point out that these minute details penetrate the whole novel and that is why it seems necessary to study the text of the novel before translating it.

— The analysis of stylized speech


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