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  • D.Shatalov. Metaphorical Conceptualization of Translation in Russia

    Dmitri Shatalov (Voronezh, Russia – Oxford, UK)

    Metaphorical Conceptualization of Translation in Russia

     УДК 811.111’25

    Д. Г. Шаталов (Воронеж, Россия – Оксфорд, Великобритания). Метафорическая концептуализация перевода в России. Статья посвящена метафорической концептуализации перевода в России XVI-XXI вв. Когнитивный подход даёт возможность выделить группы метафор, с помощью которых описывается перевод. Особое внимание уделяется метафорам достижения тождества и подобия. Хотя эти две группы метафор и выделялись ранее исследователями (Chesterman, Wagner 2002; Round 2005; Martín de León 2010), в статье предлагается более систематический способ классификации метафор. Это позволяет создать более строгую таксономию метафорических средств. Предложено объяснение, почему метафоры подобия более предпочтительны, чем метафоры тождества; показана необходимость сложной метафоры подобия для описания различных аспектов перевода.

    Ключевые слова: перевод, метафора, Россия, метафорическое осмысление, тождество, подобие


    This article focuses on the metaphorical conceptualization of translation in Russia from the 16th to the 21st century. A consistently cognitive approach is taken, which makes it possible to identify the most generic groups of metaphors. Special attention is given to metaphors of translation as the achievement of identity and similarity. Although these two metaphorical clusters were identified by previous researchers (Chesterman, Wagner 2002; Round 2005; Martín de León 2010), the author proposes a more systematic way of conceptual classification, which makes it possible to establish comprehensive taxonomies of metaphors. Finally, reasons why metaphors of similarity are preferable to metaphors of identity are given and it is suggested that a complex metaphor of similarity should be developed within translation studies to describe various aspects of the process of translation.

    Keywords: translation, metaphor, Russia, metaphorical conception, identity, similarity

    1. Introduction

    Over the last decades, metaphors for translation have become an object of intense academic analysis (Hermans 1985, 2004; D’Hulst 1992, 1993; Hanne 2006; Skibińska, Blumczyński 2009; Thinking 2010; Шаталов 2010; Шаталов 2011). However, there has been no attempt to provide a comprehensive overview of the whole system of conceptual metaphors for translation in a particular country (probably, with the exception of Tan (2006), who takes a thematic rather than cognitive approach). The lack of research on the metaphorical conceptualization of translation in Russia makes it necessary for us to pay attention to it.

    Metaphors are one of the main ways in which we understand the world (Lakoff and Turner 1992: xii), ‘a means of seizing the uniqueness of an object or a phenomenon’ (Арутюнова 1998: 348), ‘a means of active cognition’ (Кашкин, Шаталов 2006), which pithily and vividly represents complex entities; that is why it is extremely important to study the metaphorical conceptualization of translation – both for historical reasons and in order to understand contemporary theories of translation, and also in order to work out new theoretical positions on the basis of the information we have. Besides, since the phylogenetic development of approaches to translation is reflected in the ontogenetic process which forms an individual translator (Chesterman 1997: 159), the established conceptions will help translators to understand how their own knowledge about translation develops.

    As a result of this study of prefaces and afterwords, dedications, letters, interviews, theoretical and critical works by Russian translators and theorists of translation, i. e. translational metatexts, produced between the 16th and the 21st centuries, the following groups of conceptual metaphors were identified: 1) metaphors of perception, 2) metaphors of identity, 3) metaphors of similarity, 4) metaphors of limitation, 5) metaphors of reaction, 6) metaphors of production and coproduction, 7) metaphors of certain kinds of actions or states.

    Metaphors of identity and similarity are the most frequently used and earliest metaphors for translation. They reflect the most widespread understanding of translation: as the achievement of identity or similarity with the ST. Since words denoting translation in many languages are calques from the Greek metaphora, Guldin (2010: 161-191) comes to the conclusion that the theory of metaphor might be useful for understanding translation. In this regard it is important to note that metaphor is often created by ‘the hybridization of identity and similarity’, i. e. ‘by the fact that similarity is represented as identity’, as Arutiunova has argued (Арутюнова 1998: 279; Арутюнова 1990: 7-32). Thus, the concepts of identity and similarity interact in the conceptualization of both metaphor and translation. When we talk of translation, similarity is frequently represented as identity: although it is clear that two texts exist (ST and TT), they are conceptualized as one text (the ST), which is preserved in the process of translation. On the other hand, translation can be understood as the achievement of similarity and also as the limitation of the translator’s freedom, as a certain reaction, etc. Let us consider metaphorical conceptions of translation in the above-mentioned order.

    2. Metaphors of perception

    The act of translation starts when the translator perceives the object of his/her action. Metaphors of perception describe the translator’s interaction with the object of his/her action at the first stage of translation. The objects of the translator’s action include the ST, the SL, the TL, and various texts written in the TL. The TL is an object of the translator’s action since the translator uses the TL as material for producing the TT. Texts written in the TL can be an object of the translator’s action since the translator may decide to create the TT in the image and likeness of some texts written in the TL. Metaphors of perception describe the translator’s mastering of the object before the creation of the TT. They are not focused on the result of the translator’s action, i. e. on the TT. Metaphors of perception are divided into the following interconnected groups:

    2.1. Metaphors of sensual perception

    Since our eyes gather most of the information about the world around us, the perception of the ST is often conceptualized as seeing. Zabolotskii (1959) argues that ‘the translator who follows the linguistic method <…> stares at each word [of the ST] through an enormous magnifying glass’ (Заболоцкий 1959: 252). The translator’s object is not only the ST, but also the reality that was perceived by the author and is now perceived by the translator. In Etkind’s metaphor (1963), the original is ‘a window though which the translator looks out at a world already comprehended <…> by the predecessor-poet’ (quoted in Leighton 1991: 159). The original can be cognized by touch. Solonovich (2001 – 2004) states that he must ‘weigh every word of the original’; that is why he cannot work with cribs (Калашникова 2008: 473).


    2.2. Metaphors of extraction

    Since languages are often conceptualized as containers, the understanding of the ST may be seen as ‘taking information out of the ST’ (Комиссаров 1973: 162). This is how Komissarov (1973) conceptualizes the first stage of translation (before the linguistic expression of the information by means of the TL).

    2.3. Metaphors of penetration

    In many metaphors, the perception of the object is conceived of as penetration. Either the translator penetrates the object, or the object penetrates the translator. Kazavchinskaia (2002 – 2004) mentions that some translators do not read the original before translating it since they are afraid to lose ‘the freshness of perception’. For her, this approach is impossible; she needs to ‘enter in advance the world of the book’ she translates. (Калашникова 2008: 239). Viacheslav Ivanov (2004) believes that Michel Aucouturier ‘tried to penetrate deeply the sense’ of Mandelstam’s poetry (Ibid.: 224). Blok (1906) praised Annenskii’s ability ‘to get into the soul of various feelings’ experienced by the author (Русские писатели 1960: 202). Votrin (2003 – 2004) describes himself as a proponent of ‘deep-water diving’ into the Russian language, ‘into its most archaic layers’ (Калашникова 2008: 148).

    The attempt by the translator Khrushchev (1719) ‘to enter the sense’ of the author, while using simple words and ignoring the style of the text, is characteristic of the period of Peter I (Николаев 1986: 119). By contrast, Belinskii (1838) demanded from the translator that he ‘enter’ not only the sense but also the ‘spirit’ of the original, i. e. he insisted on a profound emotional experience of the literary text (Русские писатели 1960: 202). Since, in the period of Peter the Great, translation had a merely utilitarian function, only the information of the original was reproduced.

    If the translator does not penetrate the object, the object must penetrate the translator. Argo claims that the translator should be ‘imbued with the author’s spirit’ (Арго 1959: 295). Kogan (2001–2005) believes that he must ‘absorb’ the author’s idea (Калашникова 2008: 260).

    3. Metaphors of identity

    Metaphors of this group describe translation as the preservation of an entity despite concomitant alterations (Chesterman, Wagner 2002: 14). When translators think that the text (or its element) remains identical to itself, translation is conceptualized metaphorically as change in the following systems: 3.1. Containers and their content (objects holding substances or other objects; bounded areas and entities located in them; covers and that which they cover; the body and the soul). 3.2. Entities and their aspects. 3.3. Entities positioned in a certain relation to each other (not conceptualized as containers and their content; in this case, a spatial relation exists between entities or parts of the whole).

    3.1. Containers and their content

    Although in European countries translation has often been conceptualized – and still is today – as the transference of liquid from one linguistic vessel to another (some 17th-century translators expressed this idea in alchemic terms),[1] in Russia this metaphor did not become widespread. Probably this was linked with the fact that alchemy was not popular in the country. On the other hand, many metaphorical conceptions of translation come from the meanings of the Latin word translatio, which means not only ‘translation’ and ‘metaphor’, but also “metempsychosis” (Blaise 1954: 826), “death” (i. e. transportation “dans un autre monde par la mort”) (ibid.), “translation of the body of a saint” (Niermeyer 1984: 1039), “transplanting, ingrafting” (Lewis and Short 1880: 1892), and “pouring out into another vessel” (ibid.). It may be that the latter meaning was not evident for Russian translators.

    The conceptualization of translation as the transference of an entity from one place to another is embedded in the words п(е)ревод, п(е)реложение, translatio, μεταφορά. As languages may be understood as containers (for example, a word may come into English) and as countries are bounded areas, which are also conceptualized as containers (for instance: in England, in Russia), languages may be understood as countries, and translation as the movement of an object from one country to another. Pushkin (1825), for instance, compares the translation of the Iliad by Gnedich to treasure brought on board a ship to Russia (Русские писатели 1960: 159). Furthermore, Pushkin (1830) called translators ‘post-horses of enlightenment’ (Русские писатели 1960:157). We may presume that he means international post.

    It can be asserted that every movement of an object from one place to another will fall into this group since the location of an object is understood as a container. In this way languages can be understood as the loci of an object. On the other hand, metaphors of this sort can be described within the last group of metaphors of identity (3.3) since the location of an object has changed in relation to the receiver. For instance, in the 16th and 17th century translators of religious texts compared the original with water, food, or light, which the reader received as a result of translation. Probably, the use of these metaphors can be partly explained by the fact that God is often understood as water, food, or light.[2] The metaphor of the source which is widely used by contemporary translation theorists originally referred to the translation of religious texts. Maximus the Greek argues (in the 16th century) that only the translation of the LXX interpreters, inspired by the Holy Spirit, should be used as the ST in the translation of the Bible into Russian. He urges Juan Luis Vives to ‘stop calling the Hebrew books the sacred source’ (Грек XVI c.: 177). Epifanii Slavinetskii (1655), in his preface to the Tablet (Skrizhal), refers to the ST as a source of water and describes the process of translation as drawing water from the source (Славинецкий 1655: 35). Kurbskii (1575) decides to translate the works of John Chrysostom into Russian when he comes to know that non-Orthodox Christians have the opportunity to read the writings ‘of our teachers’, translated into Latin, whereas ‘we waste away in spiritual hunger’ (Курбский 1868: 274). Thus, he conceptualizes translation as giving food to the reader. Maximus the Greek (1522) claims that thanks to his translation of the Psalter, divine light reaches the reader. He hopes that Orthodox Christians will read his translation and will enjoy ‘the rays emanating from the sun of the Comforter’s mind’ (Грек 2008: 165).

    We can conclude that ancient translators of religious texts understood the ST as something extremely important: man cannot survive without water, food, or light. On the contrary, in the 19th century, romantics often compared translation with the planting of flowers. We see how attitudes to translation changed. On the one hand, flowers are not objects of the utmost importance, and on the other the translator of the romantic period begins to pay attention to the unique ‘smell’ and ‘colour’ of the literary work, strives to preserve its national and individual characteristics, its foreignness, the scent of the earth from which the flower originated. Later, when the ideals of enlightenment became prevalent in the literary sphere (proclaimed, for instance, by Belinskii (Ланчиков 2009)), translation, according to Pushkin’s metaphor mentioned above, began to be compared to the delivery of postal correspondence.

    Although we can survive without post from abroad, it has a greater utility than flowers. The romantic principle of faithful translation, which took into account the foreignness of the original, became the principle of realism and manifested itself in the comparison of the ST’s characteristics to clothes. It appears that Russian romantics inherited their scorn for the translator’s redressing of the author from their German counterparts, who insisted on the preservation of the author’s clothes (Van Wyke 2010: 26-27). Through the metaphor of covers, translators argue that it is necessary to preserve the meter of the original, its poetic form (i. e. to translate rhymed poetry into rhymed poetry), and its national characteristics. Bestuzhev-Marlinskii (1822) exalts Gnedich, who translated the Iliad into hexameter and thus let the Russian reader see Homer ‘in his own clothes’ (Русские писатели 1960: 151). Katenin (1830) argues that Cesarotti and Pope ‘did not translate but dressed Homer’s poems in a new way’ (Ibid.: 124). Pushkin (1836) disapproves of French translators, who would improve the style of the original so as not to offend the taste of the learned reader. The Russian poet suggests that the reader should have the opportunity ‘to see Dante, Shakespeare, and Cervantes <…> in their national clothes’ (Ibid.: 154). In Petrova’s opinion (2001 – 2004), those who translate poetry into prose ‘confuse poems with sausages wrapped in cellophane’; such translators think that it is possible to take the ‘content’ out of the ‘form’ and eat it (Калашникова 2008: 388).

    The metaphor of clothes was used in the 17th century as well, but at that time clothes referred just to the languages. Russian translators often mentioned the beauty of the Church Slavonic language. Evfimii Chudovskii (1688) mentions that Patriarch Ioakim ordered to ‘clothe’ the works of St Symeon of Thessaloníki ‘in Slavonic translation as if in a most valuable and richly decorated chasuble’ (Соболевский 1903: 317). At the end of the 17th century, a conciliar act, written in Constantinople, ‘gained a Slavonic dress, the beauty of which should be seen by every Orthodox community’, as it was stated in the title of the translation (Соболевский 1903: 317).

    Literalist approaches, adopted by some 19th-century translators and expressed through the metaphor of body and soul, were a result of the great attention that the romantics payed to the form of the ST. Viazemskii (1829) thought that the alteration of the author’s expressions would result in the alteration of thoughts; that is why he was impressed by what he called ‘the transmigration of souls’, but was against such a method of translation: ‘independent translations, i.e. recreations, transmigrations of souls from foreign languages into Russian, were exemplified by brilliant translations, hardly attainable: this is how Karamzin and Zhukovskii translated’ (Русские писатели 1960: 131). However, not all romantics held this opinion. For instance, Kiukhelbeker (1834) gives his preference to the translators who convey ‘the soul, the poetic sense’ of the ST rather than ‘the letter, the body of the original’ (Русские писатели 1960: 170-171).

    3.2. Entities and their aspects

    When translators focus not on the components of the ST, but on its aspects, translation is described through metaphors of entities and their aspects. Some translators conceptualize translation as the death of a living entity. For instance, Volchek (2002 – 2004) compares translators to taxidermists: ‘you steal a beastie, insert glass eyes into it, glue it to a board’ (Калашникова 2008: 138). Allegedly, he means that no translation is comparable to the beauty of a ‘living’ original. One of the first translators to use a metaphor of this sort was Anne Dacier (1699), who believed that poetry should be translated into prose (otherwise the sense would be altered, which she thought unacceptable); that is why she compared her translation of the Iliad to a mummy of Helen of Troy, in which one could still discern the former beauty (Homère 1741: xxxiv-xxxv). However, not all translators agree that the death of the ST in translation is the norm. Viazemskii (1819) borrows Dacier’s metaphor and compares French (prose) translations of Horace to the corpse of a beautiful girl: ‘you can see her features, the regularity of her beauty, but where is that freshness, where is that look, that smile?’ (Русские писатели 1960: 135). Fet (1888) likens prose translations of Horace, Juvenal, and Virgil to the dead Julius Caesar, who ‘does not shake the world any longer’ (Русские писатели 1960: 334).

    On the whole, translators assume that the TT should not be inferior to the ST, and that is why the assassination of the author is a drawback rather than the norm. For instance, Vitkovskii (2009) noted in the programme ‘Difficulties of Translation’ that there were ‘tens of world-famous authors killed by our translators’, and years would pass before these authors are ‘resurrected’ (Трудности перевода 2009). Unsuccessful translation can also be conceptualized as the loss of beauty (not connected with the author’s ‘death’). Zhukovskii (1828) claims that Pope ‘disfigured’ the Iliad through his ‘mincing translation’ (Русские писатели 1960: 88).

    Apart from aspects of the text, aspects of the TL can be changed in the process of translation. Romantic translators strove to enrich the TL (Chesterman 1997: 27). Zhukovskii (1810) noted that his contemporaries often entertained the idea of ‘enriching the Russian language’ by means of translation (Русские писатели 1960: 78). The TT ‘enriches’ both the TL and ‘the ideas of the nation’, as Polevoi (1842) states (Русские писатели 1960: 174). On the other hand, romanticists criticized translations which ‘broke’ the Russian language ‘on the wheel’ (Bestuzhev-Marlinskii, 1819), ‘stretched’ it ‘on a Procrustean bed’ (Viazemskii, 1829), and ‘violated’ it (Kiukhelbeker, 1834; Zhukovskii, 1849) (Русские писатели 1960: 145, 131, 170). Thus, from the translator’s point of view, both the TL and the ST should preserve their identity.

    3.3. Entities positioned in a certain relation to each other

    Translation is understood not only as the alteration of aspects, but also as the alteration of an entity’s elements, which may not be conceptualized as a container and its content. As Chesterman notes (Chesterman 1997: 21), translation has been understood as a rearrangement of building blocks since Antiquity. In poetic translation the necessity of this rearrangement is felt even more acutely since apart from linguistic barriers, the translator has to overcome the barriers imposed by the poetic form. In Bogdanogskii’s opinion, ‘translation is in some respect similar to building a house. You have to dismantle the house of the ST and build your own log hut’ (Богдановский 2003). He claims that ‘in order to translate a quatrain, one has to dismantle into frameworks the last two lines’ (Ibid.). Briusov (1905) speaks about poetry in a similar vein: he paraphrases Shelly’s metaphor and comes to the conclusion that the rearrangement of a unique combination of elements inevitably leads to the translator’s defeat: ‘To decompose a violet into its main elements in a crucible and then to recreate the violet from the elements – this is the task of those who decided to translate poems’ (Русские писатели 1960: 534). In addition, the text either loses or acquires some elements in the process of translation. The translator himself/herself can serve as a new element, which ‘implants himself’/herself into the text, as Medvedev (2004 – 2005) refers to it (Калашникова 2008: 509); turns either into a transparent glass (put on the ST and becoming an element of the TT) or into glass with scratches. According to Kashkin (1955), the translator can be absolutely transparent only in the translation of scientific texts, while in literary translation ‘various scratches, blebs, dust, and other defects become especially noticeable on this glass’ (Кашкин 1955a: 442).

    Finally, translation is understood as the alteration of the text’s position in relation to other entities. The text is ‘bent’ from the SL on the TL (in Kurbskii’s metaphor (Устрялов 1868: 275)), ‘bent on our [i.e. Russian] customs’ (in accordance with Lukin’s conception (Русские писатели 1960: 54)), or is ‘moved’ to the reader (i. e. adapted to the target culture; the accent here is not on transference into a linguistic container, but on adaptation). Gasparov (1971) argues that both free and literalist translations are unacceptable: ‘Free translation aspires to move the original to the reader and therefore violates the style of the original; literalist translation aspires to move the reader to the original and therefore violates the stylistic habits and tastes of the reader’ (Гаспаров 1971: 102).

    4. Metaphors of similarity

    The TT is understood though metaphors of similarity (unlike metaphors of identity) as an entity which is not the ST, but is similar to it. The main groups of metaphors of similarity include the following:

    4.1. Translation as an imitative art or technique

    The domain of imitative arts, such as painting and sculpture, is one of the most recurrent source domains for the target TRANSLATION (Tan 2006: 43). There is evidence that Old Russian translators may have found metaphorical sources for TRANSLATION in their conceptions of iconography (the use of the terms ‘image’ (образ) and ‘archetype’ (первообраз); the correspondence between Evfimii Chudovskii’s conception of lifelikeness and his literalist approaches to translation) (Шаталов 2010). In the 19th century, translators often compared artistic literary translation to painting a picture, while literalist translations were described as photographs, lithographs, or prints (Русские писатели 1960: 173, 264). Fet, who took the ideals of romanticism to the extreme, argued (1884) that ‘the worst photograph’ is better ‘than various verbal descriptions’ (Русские писатели 1960: 327). The same opinion was expressed by Viazemskii (1827): ‘a lover of architecture [i. e. a translator] would not be content with a beautiful picture of a wonderful building; instead he would prefer an unadorned, but true and detailed drawing, which would convey literally all of the architect’s means, thoughts, and orders’ (Русские писатели 1960: 131). It seems that Viazemskii’s metaphor was a reply to Zhukovskii (1810), who had argued that the author gives the translator ‘the plan of the building’, but the translator should use ‘his own materials <…> without any guidance’ (Русские писатели 1960: 131). As we see, Zhukovskii’s and Viazemskii’s conceptions are quite different. In Zhukovskii’s metaphor, the author designs a plan of a building, which is built by the translator. The materials are not specified in the plan. The translator is the creator of the building, i. e. of the TT’s ‘expression’ (Русские писатели 1960: 79). In Viazemskii’s conception, the author builds a literary building, and the translator, as it were, makes a detailed drawing of the building, indicating in the drawing the materials used by the builder. The author is the creator both of the thoughts and expressions, which are copied by the translator. It is revealing that Zhukovskii conceptualizes the translator as a builder (i.e. as the creator of a text), while Viazemskii compares the translator to a draftsman. Zhukovskii (in his early translations, such as Bürger’s Lenora) epitomizes the first stage of Russian romantic translation, which is characterized by the translator’s self-expression, by his aspiration to a deeply individual ideal (the translator inherits his freedom from the classicist paradigm of translation strategies (Ланчиков 2009)). Viazemskii’s translation of Adolphe by Henri-Benjamin Constant represents the second stage of Russian romantic translation (i. e. literalist approaches and the reproduction of the ST’s national specificity).

    4.2. Translation as a performing art

    Russian translators have conceptualized their work as acting: as copying the author and the reality, created by him/her. Many Soviet translators used the theory of acting developed by Konstantin Stanislavski to conceptualize translation. Translators who perceive the text through the prism of Stanislavski’s system do not just copy the text, but rather strive to use their own emotional experience in order to understand and reproduce the text most adequately. Levik (Левик 1959: 257) believes that ‘if translators had their own Stanislavski, he would probably find methods and approaches which would help translators to cultivate a creative attitude to the original.’ Antokolskii contends that theorists of translation must take into account Stanislavski’s acting method (Антокольский 1964: 7-8). The same idea is expressed by Markova, who compares the theory of translation to Stanislavski’s theory (Маркова 1982: 144).

    As Benshalom argues in his illuminating paper on metaphors of acting (2010: 68-69), the translator’s emotional identification with the characters of the ST may develop the translator’s creativity and help him/her to produce a ‘convincing and natural’ translation. Stanislavski’s method makes performance natural, i. e. the audience forgets that it is only acting and not a real life. However, there are translators in modern Russia who do not want their translations to sound natural and do not want the reader to forget that he/she is reading a translation. Rudnev, who opted for foreignizing strategies and (awkward) literalism in his translation of Winnie-the-Pooh (1994), compares his way of translation to Brechtian theatre, where the actor alienates rather than impersonates the character, so that the audience is fully aware of acting (Руднев 2000: 50).

    In the same way as acting, musical performance implies the achievement of similarity. The musician produces sounds which are similar to the sounds produced by the composer. Similarity may be achieved not only with the ST, but also with a text in the TL which is stylistically similar to the ST and which was created during the same epoch as the ST (the so-called ‘parallel text’, in Neubert’s (1989: 147) terminology). The metaphor of a tuning fork, which was frequently used by Soviet translators, expresses the idea that translators can use similar texts in the target culture as a starting point. The translator, as it were, copies the first note, and then starts to sing or play. For instance, Andres (1964) mentions that Kulisher used Pushkin’s prose as a tuning fork in her translation of Adolphe (Андрес 1964: 119). The Hero of Our Time by Lermontov served as a tuning fork, which helped Engelke to translate Servitude et Grandeur Militaires by Vigny (Андрес 1964: 130). Not only original texts written in the TL, but also translations can tune the TT. Lev Ozerov (1985) argues that his translations of the Bulgarian poet and writer Ivan Vazov served as a tuning fork for his later translations of other poets (Озеров 1985: 104). In Nesterov’s opinion (2001 – 2004), previous translations of the ST can be used as tuning forks for new translations (Калашникова 2008: 381).

    4.3. Translation as a natural or physical process

    Translation has been conceptualized not only as a certain kind of art (imitative or performing), but also as a natural or physical process of copying: mirroring, shadowing, echoing, etc. Unlike their western counterparts, Russian translators started to use the metaphor of translation as mirroring only at the end of the 18th century (for instance, Muraviev (1790s) argued that ‘not only beauties but also flaws should be visible in translation as in a clear mirror’ (История 1996: 225)). For many centuries, Russians did not have large mirrors in their houses: the Russian Church did not approve of them (Забылин 1880: 480). According to Zabylin, ‘pious people’ avoided the mirror ‘as a foreign sin’ (Забылин 1880: 481). The 1666 Moscow Council prohibited the use of mirrors in churches (Книга 1893: fol. 2v).

    The metaphor of mirroring implies literalism and absence of creativity by default since mirroring presupposes a high degree of similarity and mechanical copying (unlike painting, where the painter – a human being – is an essential component). It is for this reason that the TRANSLATION AS MIRRORING metaphor was rejected by many Soviet translators. According to Kashkin (1955), an exceedingly meticulous approach can result in the TT not resembling the ST at all: ‘Soviet translation is not a dead copy in a mirror, but a creative reproduction <…> in the light of our world view’ (Кашкин 1955b: 127). Interestingly, the metaphor of translation as mirroring was adapted in the Soviet Union to a theory which was and is the basis of dialectical materialism – the theory of reflection, developed by Lenin (Zeev 1978). Dialectical materialism was the official philosophy of Communism. In this philosophy, cognition is understood via the metaphor of reflection. According to The Philosophical Dictionary (1981), ‘Marxist philosophy understands reflection dialectically – as a complex and contradictory process of interaction between perceptional and rational cognition, between thought and practice, as a process in which man does not adapt to the outer world passively, but influences it, transforming it and subduing it to his aims’ (Фролов 1981). Since reflection was understood as an active process entailing transformation, the metaphor of translation as reflection implied adaptation and creative approaches to translation. In Gachechiladze’s opinion (Гачечиладзе 1970: 125 – 126), ‘the creation of an artistic translation is <…> a creative process of reflecting the objective world, which in a given instance is presented by the original’. The translator recreates the original ‘for the satisfaction of his own creative demands in accordance with his psychological make-up’ (Гачечиладзе 1970: 128-129).

    Translation was understood as reflection because cognition was understood as reflection and because translation presupposes cognition, as Gachechiladze (1970) states: “Сognition of a world populated by peoples who speak different languages, cognition of the culture of these peoples and particularly of their literature, is possible with the help of translation. This does not necessarily signify that translation fully reflects the object of cognition, that is, the original <…> Every translation, including an artistic translation, is a recreation of a work created in one language through the means of another language” (Гачечиладзе 1970: 114). Gachechiladze’s metaphor highlights individuality, both personal and cultural; it justifies the adaptation of the ST to the Soviet ‘point of view’.

    4.4. Translation as obedience or a battle

    When we play a musical instrument or perform in a theatre play, we, as it were, carry out the composer’s or author’s orders. When we execute somebody’s orders, we act in such a way that the reality corresponds to the order. Our wishes are mental pictures, and the realization of a wish can be either similar or dissimilar to our mental picture. Since slaves and servants are supposed to obey the orders of their masters, translation can be conceived of as slavery or service to a master. In prose translation, the translator may achieve a much greater similarity with the ST than in translation into verse. Zhukovskii (1809) claims that “in prose, the translator is a slave; in verse, he is a rival’ (Русские писатели 1960: 87). Druzhinin (1856) believes that Zhukovskii ‘never stuck to the letter of Moore, Schiller, or Bürger <...> He went into battle with the translated poets, and the battle ended quite often with a decisive victory for the translator” (Русские писатели 1960: 305). Since wars are waged in order to find out which of the sides in stronger, the metaphor of translation as a battle highlights difference between the author and the translator, between the translation and the ST. Belinskii (1845) specifies Zhukovskii’s metaphor of the poetic translator as the author’s rival by arguing that the translator of poetry is the author’s rival “in language, style, and verse, i. e. in expression, but not in thought, nor in content. Here he is a slave” (Русские писатели 1960: 210).

    Unlike in the 19th century, the translator of the Petrine period did not consider himself/herself as the author’s rival; instead, his/her aim was to convey the information and make the translation as comprehensible as possible. Kokhanovskii (1721), who translated one of Justus Lipsius’s works (Увещания и приклады политические), noted that the author’s style is very convoluted. That is why in his translation, Kokhanovskii (as he states in his preface) “was not enslaved by the style of the aforementioned author, but served only the truth” (Пекарский 1962: 219).

    4.5. Translation as proximity or remoteness

    Similarity can be understood as proximity. At the same time, translators have always expressed the opinion that there should be some distance between the author and the translator, between the ST and the TT. Belinskii (1838), exalting Polevoi’s translation of Hamlet, argues that ‘by moving away from the original’ Polevoi ‘expresses it in the right way’ (Русские писатели 1960: 203). Belinskii adds that ‘this is the secret of translation’. Since Polevoi ‘tried to convey the spirit and not the letter’ (Русскиеписатели 1960: 203), moving away from the ST should be interpreted as abandoning word for word translation. Etkind (Эткинд 1963: 43) believes that the art of poetic translation starts with the ability to find the ‘angle of divergence’ between the ST and the TT. According to Etkind, it is sometimes possible to reproduce the sense, images, sounds, and composition of a poem, but at other times only one of these components can be reproduced. Sometimes “the angle may be acute, only several degrees, and in that case the translator will be walking very closely to the original”. But in other cases, “the translator has to be bold enough to expand the angle, sometimes making it almost ninety degrees’ (Эткинд 1963: 43). According to Kashkin (Кашкин 1959: 526), “great poets tried to move away from the original to a proper distance, to move away in order to come closer”.

    Proximity to the ST can be understood as either static or dynamic. In his translation of Diego de Saavedra Fajardo’s Idea de un principe politico cristiano, Feofan Prokopovich (1709?) moves away from the words of the original but not too far: “If one tried to translate it [the original] so that no trace of its language was lost, the result would be something absolutely incomprehensible, impenetrable, and jarring. If one wished to interpret it in such a way as to render it entirely different and to depart significantly from its words, that would be not a translation, but one’s own piece of writing. I tried to remain somewhere in the middle” (Прокопович 1709?: fol. 3v – 4r). Livergant also takes a relativist position, but he conceptualizes translation in a different way to Prokopovich. For the latter, translation is understood as being far enough away from the ST, but not too far. This is a static approach. Livergant’s approach is dynamic: he (2001 – 2004) compares the translator to an airplane flying over the earth, sometimes closely to it, sometimes soaring upwards, depending on whether the original can be translated literally or not (Калашникова 2008: 297). Thus, the distance between the translator and the ST is never constant; it changes during the process of translation.

    4.6. Translation as following

    In a similar way to painting, following presupposes copying (Martín de León 2010: 90-93). When we follow someone, we copy the direction of his/her motion. In a similar way to painting a picture, following can be more or less exact. Copying the ST exactly can be conceived of as following in the author’s footsteps. It seems that the metaphor TRANSLATION IS FOLLOWING IN THE AUTHOR’S FOOTSTEPS developed from the metaphor IMITATION IS FOLLOWING IN THE AUTHOR’S FOOTSTEPS, which was used by Quintilian (Hermans 1985: 107). When Russian conceptions of translation were only beginning to take shape, translators pointed to the fact that one should not follow the linguistic structures of the SL: genders, word endings, etc. (which seems obvious now). Silvan (1524) states that the SL ‘should not be followed’ because the systems of ‘gender, tenses, and word endings’ are different in Russian and Greek (Силуан 1524: 342). In the Petrine period, the translator followed only the sense. In the preface to his translation (from a French version) of Thomas à Kempis’s The Imitation of Christ (Утешение духовное), Khrushchev (1719) states that he tried to ‘follow’ the author’s sense (мнение) “without looking at the words and expressions of the French language” (Николаев 1986: 119). The translator hopes that not only learned people, but also simple ones who can read “will be able to understand [the translation] without effort” because he “translated not word for word <…> but explained the whole of the author’s sense by simple words”. In the epoch of classicism, following the text became even less strict: the translator just walked ‘in the same direction’ as the author and gave ‘freedom to his thoughts’, as Sumarokov (1771) described the process (Русские писатели 1960: 52). At the second stage of Russian romantic translation, the translator aspires to follow words. Zhukovskii (1849) argues that in his translation of the Odyssey, he ‘followed every word’ of Homer (Ibid.: 89).

    5. Metaphors of limitation, reaction, production, and coproduction

    Through metaphors of limitation, translation is understood as the limitation of the translator’s freedom of choice by elements of the ST (boundedness, being fettered by words, sense, or the poetic form, etc.) Levik (1959) states that the translator ‘is tied hand and foot’ by the author, but still has to ‘rise’ to his/her level (Левик 1959: 256). The limitation of the translator’s freedom is characteristic of the second stage of Russian romantic translation. In Gnedich’s opinion (1829), the greatest challenge is translating an ancient poet since the translator should always ‘bridle the freedom’ of his/her own creative spirit (Русские писатели 1960: 96). Viazemskii (1829) claims that he “tied himself by subordinate translation” (Русские писатели 1960: 131). He regarded “departures from the author’s expressions, often from the very symmetry of his words” as an “unnatural alteration of his [the author’s] thought”.

    When translation is understood as a reaction to the original (for instance, a reply to the author’s words), the correspondence between the ST and the TT is far less strict than in the cases when translation is conceptualized via metaphors of identity, similarity, or limitation. Olga Sedakova (2002 – 2004) is a proponent of what she calls ‘authorial translation’, when “the translator replies to the author ‘from his or her place’, in the same way as one person replies to another” (Калашникова 2008: 435). In other cases, Sedakova argues, translators lose their identity. “Ideal, complete correspondence is impossible, but a translation can be outstanding exactly as a translation, as a response to the original” (Калашникова 2008: 437). Sedakova gives as an example Lermontov’s poem Gornye Vershiny, a free translation of Goethe’s Ueber allen Gipfeln. As Sedakova states, “it is not Ueber allen Gipfeln, but it is wonderful” (Ibid.).

    Translation, in a similar way to original writing, may be understood via metaphors of production as the creation of an object by the translator or by the author. Nesterov (2001 – 2004) compares the translator to ‘a small crystal’, around which ‘druses grow’ (Калашникова 2008: 386). According to Nesterov, the translator “forms something that never existed in his native culture”. Bogdanovskii (Богдановский 2003) conceptualizes translation as giving birth to a child. As we can see, in these metaphors, the focus is on the creation of the TT by the translator, whereas the author and the ST are not conceptualized. Alternatively, the author may be conceptualized as the creator of the TT (which is understood as a different entity than the ST). For instance, Sedakova (2002 – 2004) claims that Lermontov’s translation of Ueber allen Gipfeln ‘was born out of Goethe’ (Калашникова 2008: 437). It appears that she uses this metaphor to justify the method of ‘authorial translation’: although the translator changes the original text, he/she is not conceptualized; the translation is born ‘out of’ the author without the translator’s participation.

    Interestingly, Zhukovskii compared translations to the translator’s children at the beginning of his career (1810) (Русские писатели 1960: 79), but at the end of his life (1843), when he had already changed his approaches and preferred to translate more precisely, he regarded his translation of the Odyssey as his adopted daughter: he used a metaphor of identity rather than a metaphor of production.[3] In metaphors of coproduction, translation can be understood as the joint creation of the author and translator (for instance, as the offspring of the author and the translator).

    6. Metaphors of certain kinds of actions or states

    Metaphors of identity, similarity, limitation, reaction, production, and coproduction are ontological metaphors for translation. They define the relation between elements of the concept TRANSLATION (the ST, the TT, the author, the translator, and the receptor). Unlike ontological metaphors, the focus of metaphors of translation as a certain kind of action/state is not on the being of the TT, the translator, etc., not on the definition of some elements of the concept TRANSLATION in relation to other elements, but on the character of a translation activity. (Ontological metaphors can nevertheless be used as characterizing metaphors. In these cases, the focus of ontological metaphors is shifted from definition to characterization). Metaphors of translation as a certain kind of action/state characterize a translation activity as a whole along the following aspects:

    6.1. Pleasant – unpleasant

    Translation is often conceptualized as love. Bogdanovskii (2003) states that when he starts to ‘live’ with a book, he is “in seventh heaven, then he gets accustomed, gets disappointed, cools off; after that the feeling is again reborn, and cycle begins anew” (Богдановский 2003).

    6.2. Passive – active

    Bogdanovskii (Ibid.) does not agree with Kharitonov and Golyshev, who argue that there is something feminine in every translator: “From their point of view, the translator receives the author into himself or herself, dissolves in the author. In my case, the opposite is true: translation for me is a kind of penetration into the author, if not an act of violence against him or her”. The sexual metaphor normally presupposes pleasure, but in this case the focus is on the translator’s active or passive role in the process of translation.

    6.3. Easy – difficult

    The idea of the translator’s passive participation in translation is often combined with the idea that translation is easy (and vice versa: the more active the translator must be, the more difficult is translation). If translation is easy, translators feel that somebody dictates the TT to them. According to Boroditskaia (2003), “Tikhomirov claims that the translation of the Rigveda was dictated to him” (Калашникова 2008: 95). Translators may also feel that they are picked up by a wave (Богдановский 2003), that they swim in a large ‘stream of ocean salty water’ (Ibid.). Thus, translation becomes easy when it proceeds at the unconscious level.

    6.4. Takes a long time – takes a short time

    Translation of prose usually takes more time than poetic translation. Boroditskaia (2001 – 2004) compares translation of prose to getting married (Калашникова 2008: 96), and Vankhanen (2002 – 2005) to running a marathon: ‘translators of prose <…> must be extremely diligent; they run day after day, gaining speed’ (Ibid.: 107). As Ilin notes (2002 – 2004), “in the short genre, you have just started to breathe steadily when you reach the finish line” (Ibid.: 226).

    6.5. Predictable – unpredictable

    For Bogdanovskii (2003), “translation is a cohabitation: the text is under your skin, but whether or not there will be happiness, whether you will get on, you never know” (Богдановский 2003).

    6.6. Creative – uncreative

    In many metaphors of translation as the achievement of relative visual similarity, translation is conceptualized as a creative process. In Chukovskii’s opinion (1968), the translator is not “a craftsman or a copyist, but an artist. He does not take a photograph of the original <…>, but reproduces it in a creative way” (Чуковский 2008: 8).

    6.7. Appreciated – underrated

    Even when translation is creative, the translator’s efforts are often not appreciated. According to Silakova (2002 – 2004), “translators are like cesspool cleaners; as long as they cope with their task, nobody notices them” (Калашникова 2008: 444). Miram (1999) believes that translators ‘sell their intellect on the cheap’ in the same way as prostitutes sell their bodies cheaply (Мирам 1999: 14).


    6.8. Regulated by certain conceptions – should not be regulated by theories

    Although many translators believe that they do not need theory, Barkhudarov (1975) states that the translator should not be afraid of theory in the same way as a practicing doctor should not be afraid of medicine theory or as a musician should not be daunted by music theory (Бархударов 1975: 43).

    6.9. Discrete – indiscrete

    The metaphor of steps is used by Shiriaev (1979) to conceptualize simultaneous interpreting as a multistage process (Ширяев 1979: 19). Garbovskii (2004) suggests that not only simultaneous interpreting but translation in general is a multistage process: the translator, as it were, makes many steps, which Garbovskii also calls ‘portions of translation’ or ‘units of translation’ (Гарбовский 2004: 248-249). It seems that the list of aspects of translation, conceptualized metaphorically as aspects of actions or states, can never be complete, and it is possible to enumerate only the most recurrent conceptual attributes.

    7. Conclusion

    The metaphors analysed in this paper reflect views of translation in different periods of Russian history. The metaphorical conceptualization of translation developed gradually. From the earliest times onwards, translation has been conceptualized as the achievement of identity or similarity (it appears that metaphors of identity were far more widespread than metaphors of similarity until the 19th century). Later, metaphors of similarity and metaphors of identity were supplemented by metaphors of perception, limitation, production, coproduction, and reaction. In the 20th and 21st centuries, when, on the one hand, the theory of translation became established as a discipline, and on the other hand, translators became visible and were turned into an object of research, there was a surge in metaphors of translation as a certain kind of action or state. Having emerged, metaphors did not disappear, but accumulated in culture: translators today use all metaphors that appeared at various stages of the metaphorical conceptualization of translation (Chesterman 1997: 3).

    Interestingly, many contemporary translation scholars understand translation as the achievement of similarity rather than the achievement of identity (cf.: Chesterman 1997: 2-3; Гарбовский 2004: 13-14). Translation theorists point out that the achievement of identity in translation is only a metaphor since the ST and the TT are, of course, different texts (Бархударов 1975: 6; Швейцер 1988: 118). It is important to understand that not only the identity of texts is metaphorical; the identity of sense is metaphorical as well. Sense is created by the receptor of translation on the basis of the TT. Since the mind of one person is inevitably different from the mind of another, since experience, background knowledge and linguistic competence are unique to the individual, since our individual associations are different, sense cannot be identical. Similarity, but not identity, is real in translation – in a similar way to metaphor.

    One of the challenging tasks that modern translation scholars should tackle is the creation of an extended metaphor of similarity (which could also incorporate metaphors of translation as perception, limitation, certain kinds of actions or states, etc.), complex enough to describe the process of translation in the most complete and precise way. This metaphor (or a group of interconnected metaphors) would be extremely useful in translator training since metaphors are easily memorizable; they stimulate the learner’s interest, and make it possible to express complex ideas compactly and vividly (Mayer 1993; Petrie and Oshlag 1993).


    1. Андрес, А. Л. Дистанция времени и перевод // Мастерство перевода. – 1965.– Vol. 5.
    2. Антокольский, П. Г. Черный хлеб мастерства // Мастерство перевода. – 1963. – Vol. 4.
    3. Арго, А. Факты и выводы // Мастерство перевода. – 1959. – Vol. 2.
    4. Арутюнова, Н. Д. Тождество и подобие (заметки о взаимодействии концептов) // Логический анализ языка. Тождество и подобие. Сравнение и идентификация. – М.: Ин-т языкознания АН СССР, 1990.
    5. Арутюнова, Н. Д. Язык и мир человека. – М.: Языки русской культуры, 1998. – I-XV, 896 с.
    6. Бархударов Л. С. Язык и перевод. Вопросы общей и частной теории… Продолжение »
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