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Figures de l'homogénéisation

Re-working translations for the American reader — or the domestication of British English translations

Linda Pillière
p. 45-67

Abstracts

This article analyses the various changes made to the British translation of a novel when it is republished in the United States. Far from being limited to a simple Americanization of the spelling and lexis, these changes include alterations to the syntax and typography resulting in a homogenized and uniform text. Influenced by the advice offered in style guides, the publishing houses prefer to replace foregrounding structures with canonical word order or typography, thus destroying both the rhythm of the text and the diversity of points of view. Far from being of minor importance these changes affect both how we understand and how we read the text.

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1Translation criticism has long been interested in comparing different translations of a literary work, either to underline different linguistic strategies (Guillemin-Flescher, 1981), to analyse translational choices and their potential effects (Hewson, 2011), or to underline the importance of the socio-cultural framework and the ideological importance of translation (Bassnett & Lefevere [eds], 1990; Hatim and Mason, 1990; Venuti, 1995). Such studies provide us with invaluable tools to analyse and compare translations, but they do little to bring the shadowy figure of the editor out of the corridors of power. Indeed, the average reader is largely unaware that any editing has taken place for “once the book is published, the editor’s marks are invisible” (Lerner, 2002 [2000]: 198).

2This article aims to demonstrate that a comparison of different translations can expose both the role of the editor and the differences between publishing practices in the United States and in Great Britain. It will also examine whether the changes made by copy editors and proofreaders result in textual homogenization, and how far these changes reflect a desire to render the text more immediately accessible for the North American readership.

3The study will focus on two translations by Ian Monk. The first is his translation of L’Empire des Loups by Jean-Christophe Grangé, published by The Harvill Press in 2004 as Empire of the Wolves (EWa) and subsequently by HarperCollins in the United States as The Empire of the Wolves (EWb). The second is his translation of Dans ces bras-là by Camille Laurens, which was first published in the United Kingdom by Bloomsbury in 2003 with the title In Those Arms (ITA), then by Random House in the United States as In His Arms (IHA).

4The term editor is often used rather loosely and can refer to a variety of roles, including that of the editor before the author actually submits his final draft (the acquisitions editor). I will be using it here to refer to the role played by the editor on the final draft itself. At each stage, different duties and responsibilities are involved, resulting in different job titles. Once the final draft has been submitted the production editor has the task of scheduling and managing the entire production process, from preparing the manuscript for typesetting to finding a printer and a copy editor. The copy editor carries out the detailed work on the manuscript, at the micro-level of the text, checking it carefully for spelling, punctuation and grammar, making sure that references and quotations are accurate, that the publisher’s house-style, if one exists, is respected. The line editor then carefully reads the manuscript, removing any awkward phrases (Waxman, 1993) and generally improving the readability of the text. Finally, the text is sent to the proof-reader and the typesetter. The result is a lengthy process with adjustments being made to the text at various points for various reasons.

5At every level, the editor—whoever that term may refer to—is a careful reader. In fact, apart from a literary agent, the editor is the first person outside the author’s immediate family and friends who reads the text. Yet the editor is not just any reader. S/he is a reader imagining how other potential readers might read and react. Indeed editors have a very precise idea of who that potential reader might be and their level of sophistication. For most of the members of the editorial team, making changes to the text is not a question of personal whim. On the contrary, they work on the assumption that there is a “correct” version that will avoid awkwardness, inaccuracy and errors, and this belief is supported by the style guides on which they rely so heavily. Whether these guides be in-house guides or style guides, such as The Random House Handbook, The HarperCollins Concise Handbook for Writers or The Chicago Manual of Style, they enable editors to apply a consistent rule throughout a text regarding publication conventions, but their aim is often far broader. Strunk and White begin their influential style guide with the statement that their book “aims to give in brief space the principal requirements of plain English style” (2000 [1959]: xiv), but they continue with the warning that “muddiness is not merely a disturber of prose, it is also a destroyer of life, of hope” (ibid.: 79). Writing about the house style of the Guardian newspaper, David Marsh points out that “part of it is about consistency, trying to maintain the standards of good English that our readers expect […]. But, more than anything, the Guardian style guide is about using language that maintains and upholds our values1.” Such guides make a clear connection between language and morality, and a style guide is often elevated to “holy text” (Pullum, 2004: 7), becoming the undisputed authority of what is and what is not considered to be correct. The heterogeneity of the English language thus comes under threat, with specific grammatical structures such as the passive voice, or different varieties of English, being avoided at all costs.

6The general reader who opens the American English (AmE) edition of L’Empire des Loups or Dans ces bras-là and compares either one to its British English (BrE) counterpart, will first be struck by the Americanization of the text. There are changes to punctuation, such as the BrE use of single inverted commas (‘a’) being replaced by double quotation marks (“a”), or changes to spelling with plough (ITA : 47) becoming plow (IHA: 55), centre (ITA: 119) replaced by center (IHA: 136) or pyjamas (ITA: 49) by pajamas (IHA: 57). In similar fashion, the grammar may be modified, with regular verbs in BrE such as speeded (EWa: 161) being replaced by their irregular AmE counterpart sped (EWb: 161). Changes to the lexis are equally noticeable. A secondary school (ITA: 49) becomes a grade school (IHA: 57), a lift (ITA: 1) is turned into an elevator (IHA: 3), and a holiday (ITA: 57) into a vacation (IHA: 66), while a banknote (ITA: 46) becomes a bill (IHA: 54).

  • 2 . Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, “Editing UK texts for US publication.” Personal email. 21/08/2006.

7The present paper will not be focusing on these changes since I have discussed them at length elsewhere (Pillière, 2008). Instead, I shall concentrate on more subtle changes that do not strike the reader as being “American” per se. It is important to point out that the publication of The Empire of the Wolves was not a bilingual operation. The French source text was completely ignored and the BrE translation was examined simply in terms of its impact on a hypothetical AmE readership. Indeed, in the case of L’Empire des Loups, the copy edits would not have gone to the British translator for review. For books of this sort, the only people who see the edits are the copy editor, the in-house acquisitions editor and production editor, the typesetter, and the proof-reader. No author is involved2. There is no reason to suspect that the process was any different regarding Dans ces bras-là.

The microtextual level

  • 3 . By convention, when the original and its translations are presented together, the French text ap (...)

8The first kind of change involves factual references that are deemed too esoteric for the transatlantic reader. These references are either explained or another term, generally a superordinate, is substituted3:

Ils parcourent le monde en 4L. (DB: 101)

They travel around in a 4L. (ITA: 65)

They travel around in a little Renault. (IHA: 75)

Ils ont dormi ensemble comme des enfants, blottis dans le grand lit jaune de la maison du Tarn. (DB: 115)

They slept together like children, snuggled up in the yellow double bed in the house in the Tarn. (ITA: 75)

They slept together like children, snuggled up in the yellow double bed in the house in the south. (IHA: 87)

  • 4 . Hélène Chuquet rightly pointed out in a private conversation that it would be more common to say (...)

9Thus a 4L becomes a little Renault, while the Tarn becomes the south of France. The first change could be deemed felicitous as the term 4L is not widely used4. However, while the hyponym adds local colour and evokes a precise mental picture, the superordinate has a far wider range of reference, and thus invariably leads to a loss in meaning. The south of France could be the Côte d’Azur or Provence, and a little Renault could refer to any number of car models. Removing such specific cultural references is characteristic of a domesticating translation as defined by Venuti (1995), and it results in “the production of textual effects that signify only in the history of the receiving language and culture” (Venuti, 2000: 485).

10The desire for greater clarity can result in abbreviated terms being given their full form or in pronouns being modified. In the following extract from the AmE translation of Monk’s L’Empire des Loups, the full term is given each time before the acronym. Moreover, in order to be consistent—another important aim of the copy editor—an acronym (EHESS) is even added to the text, while only the full term École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, appears in both the French text and the original translation:

De retour en France, il avait rédigé une demande de fonds à l’attention de l’INSERM, du CNRS, de l’École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, et aussi de différentes universités. (EL: 293)

When he returned to France, he had applied for funding from such public bodies as INSERM, the CNRS, the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales, as well as various universities. (EWa: 190)

When he returned to France, he had applied for funding from such public bodies as Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM); the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS); the École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), as well as various universities. (EWb: 190)

11Most style guides agree that to avoid ambiguity a pronoun must have a clear antecedent. In the following example, the UK edition of the translation of L’Empire des Loups begins with an initial use of the 3rd person plural they which in fact refers to the two protagonists who are the subject of most of the passage. The translator was perhaps motivated in his choice by a desire to maintain textual cohesion with the preceding text or to avoid reusing the verb appear, since it occurs just eight lines previously: “The hospital finally appeared.” As a result, the second use of they, to refer to a different set of people, is potentially ambiguous. This ambiguity disappears in the AmE edition with the substitution of everyone, which can only be applied to a group larger than two:

  • 5 Words in boldface are used liberally throughout the text to emphasize crucial points.

Au hasard des allées, des groupes de visiteurs5, portant des fleurs ou des pâtisseries, apparaissaient. Ils marchaient avec une raideur sentencieuse, presque mécanique. (EW: 94)

As they went on, they passed groups of visitors carrying flowers or cakes. They walked with stiff, almost mechanical seriousness. (EWa: 56)

As they went on, they passed groups of visitors carrying flowers or cakes. Everyone walked with stiff, almost mechanical seriousness. (EWb: 57)

In the next example, the AmE edition introduces a relative clause and a verb that are not present in the BrE text:

On trouvait des cahutes de sandwichs, pour manger sur le pouce, à fleur de trottoir ; des agences de voyages, pour mieux arriver ou repartir ; des boutiques de change, pour acquérir des euros ; des stands de photocopie, pour dupliquer ses papiers d’identité. (EL : 177)

There were kiosks selling sandwiches to snack on while walking down the street; there were travel agents to prepare departures and arrivals; there were bureaux de change to acquire euros; there were photocopy stores to duplicate identity papers. (EWa : 112)

There were kiosks selling sandwiches that you could snack on while walking down the street; there were travel agents to prepare departures and arrivals; there were bureaux de change to give out euros; there were photocopy stores to duplicate identity papers. (EWb : 112)

  • 6 . Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, “Editing UK texts for US publication.” Personal email. 22/08/2006.

12The copy editor explained6 in a private email that the change was made to clarify the fact that it is the people who are walking down the street and not the kiosks. The second modification, the substitution of acquire by give out, also aimed to improve the clarity of the text, as the AmE copy editor believed the BrE text read as if it were the bureaux which acquired euros. Such readings seem a little far-fetched, yet they demonstrate the copy editor’s quest for clarity and her close reading of the text. They also reveal her constant preoccupation with how a hypothetical American readership might read the text. Other changes made in the name of clarity and readability are less easily defended. Substituting “smooth phrasing for awkward language, heightening narrative thrust and eliminating overlong citations” (Waxman, 1993: 164) will also modify the way information is organized and presented, as in the following example:

It was a huge old Parisian apartment with varnished parquet floors, full of colonial knick-knacks. (EWa: 24)

It was a huge old Parisian apartment full of colonial knick-knacks and with varnished parquet floors. (EWb: 24)

  • 7 . Ibid.

13The AmE copy editor explained that the modification was necessary because the BrE text has “a misplaced modifying phrase that makes things sound as if the floors are full of knick-knacks7”. However, such “smooth phrasing” can result in substituting a canonical word order, where the BrE text has chosen to highlight a particular element in the sentence:

She thinks about the father often.

(ITA: 44)

She often thinks about the father.

(IHA: 51)

14By placing the adverb often before the verb it modifies, the AmE editor has rationalized the text. Consequently the adverb is no longer foregrounded and there is a loss in emphasis.

  • 8 . Ibid.

15Other examples of “meticulous” changes include modifying lexical items. For the AmE copy-editor each of the following changes is justified by the fact that the original term was considered to be “overblown” for the tenor of the novel:8

‘Do you have any other memory problems?’ […]

‘Of elocution?’ (EWa: 8)

“Do you have any other memory problems?” […]

“Of speech?” (EWb: 8)

The men at once gathered around him, forming a human quincunx. (EWa: 352)

The men at once gathered around him, forming a human shield (EWb: 352)

In the distance, jagged clouds were drifting away like a battalion armed with assegais. (EWa: 263)

In the distance, jagged clouds were drifting away like a battalion armed with spears. (EWb: 263)

16Both quincunx and assegai are literal translations of the French text and it could be argued that their presence goes some way to foreignizing the text (Venuti, 1995: 20). The AmE edition, on the other hand, erases all foreignness in order to produce a text that corresponds to the target audience’s culture.

17The various substitutions and additions examined so far demonstrate that the editor is not merely an attentive reader, but a reader who is constantly imagining how other readers will react. Yet one cannot help wondering if the editor does not underrate the general reader at times, and if American readers really do desire the text to be domesticated in this way. Moreover, by “smoothing” the text, the editor has removed many of the subtleties and nuances to be found in the BrE edition. Although the microtextual changes studied so far may seem minor in themselves, they have a cumulative effect, thereby introducing modifications at the macrotextual level and altering the reader’s experience of the translated text as a whole.

The macrotextual level

18Two specific aspects of the works are particularly affected by the microtextual changes outlined above: rhythm and voice.

19One of the striking characteristics of Jean Christophe Grangé’s L’Empire des Loups is its fast-paced narrative. The Harvill Press talks of a “riveting narrative” and a 2004 book review says of Empire of the Wolves that Grangé “keeps the plot constantly on the boil. The pace is tremendous: this is a page turner of a book.”9 This fast pace is accomplished in a number of ways including short chapters that end on cliffhangers, but the present study will focus simply on two: the use of elliptical syntax and the spatial layout of the page.

20It is often observed that verbless sentences are more frequent in French than in English (Demanuelli, 1987: 36), and the French text of L’Empire des Loups provides ample evidence of this predilection. While the BrE translation tends to reproduce a similar syntax, the AmE edition clarifies and expands upon these structures:

Un grand carré vide, tapissé de carreaux grenat. La pulpe d’une orange sanguine. Schiffer appuya sur la sonnette, puis vit arriver une infirmière à l’ancienne : blouse cintrée à cordon, chignon et lunettes double foyer. (EL: 356)

A large, empty space, covered with scarlet tiles. The pulp of a blood orange. Schiffer pressed the bell, then saw a traditionally dressed nurse arrive, with her white coat done up at the waist with a belt, hair in a bun and bifocals. (EWa: 231)

It was a large, empty space, covered with scarlet tiles—the pulp of a blood orange. Schiffer pressed the bell, then saw a traditionally dressed nurse arrive, with her white coat done up at the waist with a belt, her hair in a bun and bifocals on her nose. (EWb: 231)

21Although it might be argued that expansion of such elliptical structures is standard practice when translating from French to English, in this instance the verbless structures closely mirror the spontaneous thoughts and impressions of the character, which may explain why the BrE text has opted for a literal translation. The AmE edition, on the other hand, has introduced It + be and through the repetition of the possessive pronoun at the end of the text presents the information in a more organized fashion, distancing the reader from the immediacy of initial impressions. Similarly, in the following passage the verbal ellipsis has disappeared from the AmE edition, thus producing a more fluid text:

Des pas derrière elle.

(EL : 27)

The sound of footsteps behind her. (EWb : 12)

Footfalls sounded behind her. (EWb : 12)

22In the French text these truncated sentences frequently begin a new paragraph, with the result that the text itself seems segmented, as in the following example:

Mais elle avait trouvé beaucoup mieux ici. Un refuge. (EL: 34)

But she had in fact found far more. A refuge. (EWa: 17)

But she had in fact found far more—a refuge. (EWb: 17)

23Once again the BrE text imitates this style while the AmE edition has preferred to incorporate some of these truncated sentences into the preceding paragraphs, so that the divisions are far fewer in number. A similar pattern can be seen at other points in the novel, where the sentences are not truncated but are visually juxtaposed as new paragraphs, creating a staccato rhythm in the text. Once again, the AmE edition has integrated these sentences into far fewer paragraphs:

Il était 16 heures et le soleil était encore là.

Soudain, il décida de ne pas attendre la nuit.

Trop impatient de fuir.

Il traversa le salon, attrapa son sac de voyage et ouvrit la porte.

Tout avait commencé avec la peur.

Tout finirait avec elle.

(EL: 298)

It was four p.m. and the sun was still high in the sky.

Suddenly, he decided not to wait for nightfall.

He was too impatient to get away.

He crossed the living room, grabbed his bag and opened the door.

Fear had been at the beginning.

And fear would be at the end. (EWa: 193)

It was 4:00 PM and the sun was still high in the sky. Suddenly, he decided not to wait for nightfall. He was too impatient to get away. He crossed the living room, grabbed his bag and opened the door.

Fear had been at the beginning. And fear would be at the end. (EWb: 193)

24In both the French and BrE texts, the text layout affects the reading experience. The visual fragmentation of the narrative renders the reading experience more difficult; it is for the reader to connect the various sentences. At the same time, the separate paragraphs are each given end weight and focus. The final sentence, And fear would be at the end, detached from the preceding one, has a far more ominous ring in the BrE translation than in the AmE text. Longer paragraphs, on the other hand, create a different reading experience. In the AmE text the reader no longer pauses at each sentence, but is invited to see them as forming a sequence, which in turn renders the individual sentences or words less emphatic. The reading experience is therefore different and the variety of rhythms to be found in the BrE translation and the French source text are replaced by a more regularly paced narrative. Once again, the changes have homogenized the text.

25The change in rhythm can also be illustrated by an example quoted earlier where the AmE text introduces a relative clause and a verb that are not in the BrE text:

There were kiosks selling sandwiches to snack on while walking down the street; there were travel agents to prepare departures and arrivals; there were bureaux de change to acquire euros; there were photocopy stores to duplicate identity papers. (EWa: 112)
There were kiosks selling sandwiches that you could snack on while walking down the street; there were travel agents to prepare departures and arrivals; there were bureaux de change to give out euros; there were photocopy stores to duplicate identity papers. (EWb: 112)

26In the BrE text a rhythm is created through the repetition of existential there + noun phrase followed by to + infinitive. This rhythm is destroyed by the modified syntax in the AmE edition, as is the point of view. In the BrE text the implicit agent is a person, while in the AmE edition the agent changes from an animate being to an inanimate one (bureaux de change). It is these modifications to point of view, or what I shall be calling “voice”, that I now wish to examine.

27There are various voices that can be identified in a text. Firstly, there are the characters’ voices, which may be clearly perceived in the use of direct speech, or less easily identified, but nevertheless present, in the use of free indirect discourse (FID). Then there is the first person narrator, who establishes an interlocutory relationship with the reader, or the omniscient third person narrator who comments and guides, or the less overt authorial presence. This is not the place to discuss the merits and shortcomings of the various theories and models that are especially prolific on the subject of the narrator’s voice (Genette, 1972; Lanser, 1981; Chatman, 1978). The concept of voice that I shall be investigating is very much a stylistic concept; it implies studying the features of style that enable the reader to identify a subjective centre and how the modifications in the AmE editions affect the way the reader interprets the voice.

28The desire to obtain consistency within the text has important consequences on how we perceive these various voices. Many of the literary means used to produce a textual voice involve hybrid forms of discourse, the most notable being that of FID. Although in FID the tenses and pronouns used are those associated with indirect speech, the deictics are frequently those belonging to the character rather than those of the main narrative framework. This has led many scholars to view FID as introducing two different modes of utterance: the narrator’s and the character’s. Each mode has its own spatiotemporal references, but FID gives the impression that both narrator and character are speaking simultaneously. The two voices may converge or be separate (as in the case of irony). Michael Toolan calls this “a strategy of alignment” and stresses that “in terms of lexicogrammatical markers and aesthetic or narrative effect, there is a continuum from pure narrative words to pure character words” (2001 [1988]: 135). Most linguists agree that FID cannot be identified through grammatical forms alone and that context plays an important role. In other words, it is the shift from one voice to another that marks the presence of FID, such as the shift from the main narrative to a specific point of view that is identified by the reader as belonging to a character. In other words, FID is, by its very nature, hybrid and not homogeneous. This hybrid aspect can be found in the following example where the point of temporal reference tomorrow belongs to that of the character and thus establishes a specific point of view:

Et puis un jour – elle doit partir le surlendemain chez sa correspondante à Londres – elle cède. (DB: 82)

Then, one day—she’s leaving tomorrow to stay with her penfriend in London—she lets herself go. (ITA: 51)

Then, one day—she’s leaving the next day to stay with her pen pal in London—she lets herself go. (IHA: 61)

29In the AmE editions these spatiotemporal references that one would associate with the character’s inner voice are often omitted or replaced by other terms of reference such as next day, as in the preceding example, with the result that the discourse is more homogeneous.

30In the following passage Anna is presented as the focal point from which the observations are made:

While answering, she observed the woman in front of her. She was struck by her brilliant, ostentatious, almost American manner. Her brown hair glistened on her shoulders. Her broad, regular features scintillated around her extremely red, sensual mouth, which drew your eyes. She thought of crystallised fruit, full of sugar and energy. This woman inspired immediate trust. (EWa: 72)

31Anna’s viewing position is established through the verbs observed and she was struck and the passage then moves imperceptibly to her thoughts through the use of the possessive determiner your and the deictic this. In the AmE edition this becomes:

While answering, she observed the woman in front of her. She was struck by her brilliant, ostentatious, almost American manner. Her brown hair glistened on her shoulders. Her broad, regular features scintillated around her extremely red, sensual mouth, which drew one’s eyes. She thought of crystallized fruit, full of sugar and energy. This woman inspired immediate trust. (EWb: 72)

32The change in possessive determiner in the AmE edition means that the reader no longer has the impression that the thoughts belong to the character; the use of the third person distances the reader from the character. Similarly, in the same novel we find:

Paul observed him. He had regular features with short-cropped black hair that fitted over his skull like a balaclava. A clear face, drawn by a Rotring. Only his stare was disturbing, with asymmetric eyes. The left pupil never moved, remaining forever fixed on you, while the other was fully mobile. (EWa: 290)

33Once again a character is clearly presented as the point of observation: Paul observed him. The verbless sentence, a clear face, drawn by a Rotring can therefore be interpreted as representing the fragmentary or partial thought of the character. The pronoun you could also be interpreted as belonging to the character’s thoughts. The AmE edition has chosen a more impersonal structure, which shifts the voice to that of an external third-person narrator:

Paul observed him. His regular features with short-cropped black hair fit over his skull like a hood. A clear face, drawn by a calligrapher’s nib. Only his stare was disturbing, with asymmetric eyes. The left pupil never moved, remaining forever fixed on whoever he was looking at, while the other was fully mobile. (EWb: 290)

34All the changes outlined above result in a uniformity of voice. Where the BrE edition maintains the variety of perspectives to be found in the source text, the AmE blurs them into a single homogeneous voice.

35Another form of hybrid discourse concerns the combination of direct and indirect speech, the use of indirect speech in the main clause and direct speech in the subordinate (also known as subclausal quotation). Once again, the AmE text removes all heterogeneity in the search for consistency:

D’un ton d’impatience, il ordonna au chauffeur de les « sortir de là ». (EL: 32)

Impatiently he asked the driver to ‘get us out of here.’ (EWa: 16)

Impatiently he asked the driver to get them out of there. (EWb: 16)

36In the source text, the character could not have pronounced these words exactly as they stand—sortir de là—so what we have is a hybrid form, a sentence that has, to all intents and purposes, the structure of indirect speech, except for the presence of the inverted commas. The quotation marks serve to draw attention to the exact possible wording (not just the semantic content of the words as in ordinary indirect speech).

37For the AmE copy editor, when a character’s speech is only partially quoted, it should be for a good reason—it is dramatic or it is in quotes because it is an unusual use of a familiar term. In this instance, she felt neither of these reasons applied. However, the changes introduced flatten the urgency of the character’s voice and the only indication of how the words were pronounced is the adverb impatiently.

38Inverted commas are not the only kind of typographical means used to mark off the direct speech of a character from the main narrative. Italics can play a similar role. In the following example, the character’s words from an earlier dialogue appear in italics in the BrE text. In order to understand the shift in voice here, it is necessary to quote the preceding text:

Elle se redressa, stupéfaite d’apporter quelque crédit à l’histoire de cette femme. Non, vraiment, elle se mettait à déjanter elle aussi… À cet instant, elle remarqua de nouveau les cicatrices sur le front – trois traits verticaux, infimes, espacés de quelques centimètres. […]

Qui avait fait cela ? Comment Anna pouvait-elle avoir oublié une telle opération ?

Lors de sa première visite, elle avait évoqué l’instant où elle avait effectué ses tests tomographiques. C’est à Orsay. Un hôpital plein de soldats. Mathilde avait noté le nom quelque part dans ses notes. (EL: 218)

She stood up in amazement at having almost believed the woman’s story. No, really, she herself must be out of her mind as well… At that moment, she once again noticed the scars on the forehead—three tiny vertical lines barely an inch apart. […]

Who had done that? How could Anna have forgotten such an operation?

Right from her first visit she had mentioned the institute where the tomographic tests had been carried out. It’s in Orsay. A hospital full of soldiers. Mathilde had written the name down somewhere in her notes. (EWa: 140)

She stood up in amazement at having almost believed the woman’s story. No, really, she herself must be out of her mind as well… At that moment, she once again noticed the scars on the forehead—three tiny vertical lines barely an inch apart. […]

Who had done that? How could Anna have forgotten such an operation?

Right from her first visit she had mentioned the institute where the tomographic tests had been carried out. It was in Orsay. A hospital full of soldiers. Mathilde had written the name down somewhere in her notes. (EWb: 140)

39The pronoun she, at the beginning of the extract, refers to Mathilde and it is her thought processes that we follow. In the third paragraph, the third person pronoun she refers to Anna, it was she who visited Mathilde and mentioned the Institute, and the passage in italics represents Anna’s words on that visit. The BrE text has chosen to reproduce the typography and the present tense to be found in the French source text. However, the AmE edition has rationalized the tenses by choosing to use the simple past throughout, and has also simplified the typography by omitting the italics. As a result, although the whole vignette keeps to the same tense, the switch from narrative to direct speech is lost and the identity of the speaker becomes more ambiguous. It could now be Mathilde reporting what Anna said: she had mentioned it was in Orsay. Once again, this change of discourse means that we no longer “hear” Anna’s voice as clearly as in the BrE text. Thus the desire to obtain a consistent pattern of tenses in a text results in a character’s voice becoming distanced and indirect.

40The Chicago Manual of Style points out that “thought, imagined dialogue, and other interior discourse may be enclosed in quotation marks or not, according to the context or the writer’s preference” (2003: 457). Obviously, a text that does not visually mark the passage from narrative to free indirect discourse presents a more fluid homogenous text, yet the type of discourse being used in certain passages may appear more ambiguous. Empire of the Wolves has opted for quotation marks to introduce thought, while the AmE edition uses italics again:

‘Lousy cop,’ she thought. (EWa: 16)

Lousy cop, she thought. (EWb: 16)

‘Hand her over,’ he thought. ‘Hand her over, it’s the only way.’ (EWa: 195)

Hand her over, he thought. Hand her over —it’s the only way. (EWb: 195)

‘A druggy,’ he thought to himself. (EWa: 228)

A druggie, he thought to himself. (EWb: 228)

41However, the change in type poses problems in this particular AmE edition. When the characters are presented as shouting, the BrE edition presents the dialogue in capital letters, while the AmE edition opts once more for italics with inverted commas:

‘LET ME IN!’ (EWa: 97)

Let me in!” (EWb: 97)

‘STOP OR I’LL SHOOT!’ (EWa: 122)

Stop or I’ll shoot!” (EWb: 122)

42Perhaps the publisher or typesetter was following the advice here of The Chicago Manual of Style for whom “capitalizing an entire word or phrase for emphasis is rarely appropriate.” (2003: 291) In all events, italics are being used on yet another occasion. Furthermore, when a word or expression is referred to as the word or term itself, the BrE text either uses quotation marks or keeps to Roman type, while the AmE edition once again resorts to italics:

She would never have used the word ‘love’ to describe their relationship. (EWa:16)

She would never have used the word love to describe their relationship. (EWb:16)

‘I said modern, not loose’ (EWa: 173)

“I said modern, not loose” (EWb: 173)

Terrible words were on everyone’s lips— conditioning, brainwashing, infiltration. (EWa: 202)

Terrible words were on everyone’s lips— conditioning, brainwashing, infiltration. (EWb: 203)

43Whatever the reason for the change in type, this extra use of italics in the AmE edition creates a problem elsewhere in the text, since one of the features of the novel’s narrative style is the way the various characters recall the words spoken to them on previous occasions. A network of associations is thus created, and these words appear in italics in the BrE edition:

For a few seconds, he tried to think his way under the skin of that Turk. On the night of 13 November 2001, when she saw the hooded Wolves arrive, she had thought that it was all over for her. But the killers had grabbed the girl next to her. A red-head who looked like her previous self. That woman had suffered enormous stress. It was putting it mildly. (EWa: 236)

44In this example, the character Schiffer is presented as trying to imagine the reactions of the Turk, Sema. The words in italics however do not belong to his mental reconstruction of the scene, but are a quotation of a doctor’s words pronounced earlier: “That woman had suffered enormous stress. So much so, you could say she had been traumatized.” (EWa: 235) The -ing form is thus to be read as a direct comment by Schiffer on the doctor’s words. The AmE text removes these italics and substitutes an infinitive structure for the -ing form. As a result, unless the reader remembers who originally spoke the words that woman had suffered enormous stress, the entire passage seems to belong to the thought processes of Schiffer, especially with the use of ellipsis points:

For a few seconds, he tried to think his way under the skin of that Turk. On the night of 13 November 2001, when she saw the hooded Wolves arrive, she had thought that it was all over for her. But the killers had grabbed the girl next to her. A red-head who looked like her previous self. That woman had suffered enormous stress… to put it mildly. (EWb: 237)

45On another occasion, the character Mathilde is quoting Sema’s words:

‘And the dope… where is it?’
‘In a cemetery. In funeral urns.
A little white powder amid all the grey powder…
He nodded again. He recognized Sema’s ironic touch, the way she had practised her trade as if it was a game. (
EWa: 371)

46The words a little white powder amid all the grey powder first appear some hundred pages earlier:

‘Where is it? Where are the drugs?’
‘In Père-Lachaise cemetery.’ […]
‘A little white powder amid all the grey powder…’ […]
When Mathilde spotted the large building, topped by two chimneys, at the end of the slope, she understood.
A little white powder amid all the grey powder. (EWa : 268)

47This use of italics illustrates quite clearly Philippe Dubois’s theory (1977) that italic type is part of Jakobson’s conative function. It seeks here to remind the reader that the words have already been spoken by another character, thereby creating a series of echoes within the text. The AmE edition could hardly use italics in these examples, having already opted for italics to represent interior thought, foreign expressions and a raised tone of voice. Indeed, in so far as italics mark a difference from the surrounding text, their overuse will destroy their very value. The AmE edition could have chosen to use inverted commas, but instead there is no distinction made between the quoted words and the character’s thoughts; it is all in Roman type. This small change has important repercussions at the macrotextual level. In a novel concerned with loss of identity, with searching for one’s memory and past, such echoes play an important role, and the removal of the italics and the changes in the structure of the paragraphs effectively destroy these echoes. These typographical changes also result in a uniformity or homogenization of the various characters’ voices, destroying the network of associations that is created in the French text and that is reproduced in the original translation. If we take into account the remarks already made about the rhythm of the text, then it is clear that the text has been repeatedly homogenized at a variety of levels.

48Changes to the narrative voice can also be the result of accretion (Hewson, 2011: 85). In the AmE edition of Dans ces bras-là, the adding of fillers such as “just,” “in fact,” “now,” “of course” renders the narrative voice more salient and informal:

Je lui expliquai que c’était un bon film, excellent même, et comme il me regardait avec une expression d’intérêt profond, j’ajoutai que j’avais beaucoup aimé, vraiment, qu’il devrait aller le voir, que c’était bien. (DB: 21)

I explained that it was a really good film, excellent, and as he was staring at me with great interest, I added that I had enjoyed it enormously and that he should see it too, it was wonderful. (ITA: 7)

I explained that it was a really good film, excellent in fact, and, as he was staring at me with great interest, I added that I had really enormously enjoyed it and that he should see it too, it was wonderful. (IHA: 7)

49The editor has opted to create a more marked voice. The reading experience may not be radically different, but there is no doubt that the voice of the narrator in the AmE edition belongs to a more informal spoken register.

50The fact that the AmE copy editor does not work from the French text obviously poses problems: the title of Camille Laurens’ work Dans ces bras-là might seem more aptly translated, given the tenor of the novel, as In His Arms. However, the use of this title destroys the intertextual link as In Those Arms or Dans ces bras-là refers to the line of a song on a record that her grandmother plays.

51Reworking a translation without the source text also runs the danger of changing the original meaning as in the following example:

Des napperons protégeaient les appareils modernes – ordinateur, chaîne hi-fi, télévision… – ou mettaient en valeur des cadres photographiques, des bibelots de verre, de grandes poupées noyées dans des frou-frous de dentelles. (EL: 264)

Doilies protected the modern equipment—computer, hi-fi, television—or else decked the framed photos, glass knickknacks and huge dolls drowned in acres of lace. (EWa: 170)

Doilies protected the modern equipment—computer, stereo, television—and sat under the framed photos, glass knickknacks and huge dolls. Everything was drowning in acres of lace. (EWb: 170)

  • 10 . Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, “Editing UK texts for US publication”. Personal email, 22/08/2006.

52For the AmE copy editor10 decked implies covered and since doilies are not usually placed over objects but under them, she felt it necessary to change the syntax. The change in the final sentence however makes the text an inexact translation of the French, which only emphasizes the questionable practice of reworking a translation with no reference to the source text, and the even more questionable practice of publishing the edition as being a translation by Ian Monk.

  • 11 . Ibid.

53This analysis has focused on several important and subtle changes made to the BrE editions of Ian Monk’s translations. Although we can never know for certain who exactly made the changes studied in this article—even the copy editor responsible for many of the changes in The Empire of the Wolves was at a loss to explain others and suggested that they might be the result of the in-house editor or the typesetter11—these changes are significant. While some changes made by the editorial staff may be felicitous and bear witness to careful proofreading, the vast majority illustrate the deforming tendencies of translation, normally associated with interlingual translation, notably the destruction of rhythm and the destruction of underlying networks of signification (Berman, 2005 [1985]). In addition, as we have seen, the subtle changes in voice and in point of view are also smoothed over in the AmE edition.

54The textual changes responsible for these deforming tendencies are diverse and occur at various levels of the text. The first change corresponds to an overt Americanization of the text with BrE terms and punctuation being re-expressed in more familiar terms for the AmE reader. One might be tempted to believe that these changes reflect the fact that the two language varieties have been steadily growing apart over the years, and to some extent this is, of course, true. However, this Americanization also stretches to French cultural terms, suggesting that something else is at work here. Indeed, instead of introducing the reader to a sense of “otherness,” the translation simply seems to reproduce what is familiar, helping to instil the belief that the same culture prevails across the globe.

55The second kind of change is a far more subtle form of domestication and, in so far as the reader is unaware that it is happening, far more insidious. It involves rewriting the syntax, smoothing out awkward phrasing, applying the rules of style guides regardless of literary intent. The result is a destruction of foregrounding techniques, whether it be qualitative foregrounding, “a deviation from the language code itself,” (Leech and Short, 1981: 48) or quantitative foregrounding, “a deviance from an expected frequency.” (Ibid.) The editorial staff seems to be blissfully unaware of the way in which such foregrounding forms a meaningful pattern within the novels and plays an important role in the reading process. Nor do they seem to realize that modifying the syntax affects the subtle changes in voice and point of view.

56Why are such changes made? It must first be said that not all AmE editions make such wide-sweeping changes as those described in this article. Ian Monk’s translation of Jean-Christophe Grangé’s Les Rivières pourpres, for example, has crossed the Atlantic virtually unscathed, although the title has been changed. One explanation might simply be that the editorial staff needs to justify their existence, to prove they have a role to play. Deborah Cameron in Verbal Hygiene (1995: 36) points out that copy editors “regard minor stylistic tinkering” as a crucial part of their function. Another explanation is that the editorial staff blindly follows the style guides that advocate clear, easily read and easily accessible texts, believing that this will increase sales and enable the novels to reach a wider audience. Yet the public outcry at the changes made to the Harry Potter series by Scholastic Press suggests that not every reader in the United States wishes a text to be Americanized. It is paradoxical that in a country where there is no Academy, no official authority on usage, and where one might expect there to be greater freedom, publishing houses set up their own authorities or refer to self-appointed guardians of style. It may be that this widespread reliance on style guides reflects a basic linguistic insecurity that dates back to America’s colonial past. It may also be due to the fact that recent years have seen many corporate mergers in the publishing world with younger, cheaper workers being employed instead of more expensive, experienced staff. Whatever the reason, the result is a uniform, homogenized text leading to “a sharply restricted set of stylistic variants in the speechways of the dominant culture.” (Algeo, 1977: 70) The argument for clarity and consistency that prevails in all style guides is based on a misapprehension of how language works. It is founded on the idea that communication can transfer thoughts and ideas unproblematically from one mind to another and that obeying the rules and writing “clearly” will enable the reader to decode a message successfully. Such a point of view ignores the fact that language, by its very nature, is creative and indeterminate.

57Finally, one can wonder at the ethics of republishing a modified translation as if it were the unadulterated work of the original translator, especially when the rewriting introduces errors into the translation. Working on a translation without the source text means that the editing staff run the risk of not identifying an important stylistic effect as they will be unaware of the context in which it first appeared. They are unable to judge whether the choice of a specific word or syntactic structure stands out in the source text, and should therefore be respected so far as possible in the translation, or whether it is simply a clumsy turn of phrase on the part of the translator. Moreover, there is a covert linguistic imperialism at work here since the reader who buys an AmE edition is usually oblivious to the fact that a BrE edition exists. There is no indication that the text has been modified and the role of the AmE editorial staff is not acknowledged in any way. If we consider that domestication already prevails in translation, then what we have here is a double domestication, with the translations being transformed to reproduce American values and culture.

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Bibliography

Corpus Texts

Grangé, Jean-Christophe, 2003, L’Empire des loups, Paris, Albin Michel.

,2004 [2003], The Empire of the Wolves, trans. Ian Monk, London, Harvill.

,2006 [2003], The Empire of the Wolves, trans. Ian Monk, New York, HarperCollins.

Laurens, Camille, 2002 [2000], Dans ces bras-là, Paris, Gallimard.

,2004 [2003], In Those Arms, trans. Ian Monk, London, Bloomsbury.

,2004, In His Arms, trans. Ian Monk, New York, Random House.

Works cited

Algeo, John, 1977, “Grammatical Usage: Modern Shibboleths,” in Raymond, J. C. and Willis Russell, I. (eds), James B. McMillan: Essays in Linguistics by His Friends and Colleagues, Alabama, University of Alabama.

Bassnett, Susan and Lefevere André (eds), 1990, Translation, History and Culture, London & New York, Pinter.

Berman, Antoine, 2005 [1985], “Translation and the Trials of the Foreign,” in Venuti, Lawrence (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, London & New York, Routledge.

Cameron, Deborah, 1995, Verbal Hygiene, London & New York, Routledge.

Chatman, Seymour, 1978, Story and Discourse: Narrative Structure in Fiction and Film, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

The Chicago Manual of Style, 2003, 15th Ed. Chicago, University of Chicago Press.

Demanuelli, Claude, 1987, Points de repère. Approche interlinguistique de la ponctuation français-anglais, Saint-Étienne, CIEREC, Travaux 58.

Dubois, Philippe, 1977, “L’italique et la ruse de l’oblique : le tour et le détour,” in L’Espace et la Lettre : écritures, typographies, Cahiers Jussieu n° 3, Université Paris 7, Paris, UGE, p. 10-18.

Genette, Gérard, 1972, Figures III, Paris, Seuil.

Guillemin-Flescher, Jacqueline, 1981, Syntaxe comparée du français et de l’anglais, Paris, Ophrys.

Hatim, Basil and Mason, Ian, 1990, Discourse and the Translator, London, Longman.

Hewson, Lance, 2011, An Approach to Translation Criticism, Amsterdam & Philadelphia, John Benjamins.

Lanser, Susan, 1981, The Narrative Act: Point of View in Prose Fiction, Princeton, Princeton University Press.

Leech, Geoffrey and Short, Michael, 1981, Style in Fiction, London, Longman.

Lerner, Betsy, 2002 [2000], The Forest for the Trees: An Editor’s Advice to Writers, London, Macmillan.

Pillière, Linda, 2008, “When British English becomes a foreign language … for Americans – a study of editorial changes to British novels published in the United States,” Étrange/Étranger Études de linguistique anglaise, Saint-Étienne, CIEREC, Travaux 137, p. 53-68.

,“Intralingual translation,” in Percebois, Jacqueline, de Mattia-Viviès, Monique et Richard, Isabelle (éds), La Production et l’Analyse du discours, E-Rea, Revue électronique d’études sur le monde anglophone, vol. 8.1, mis en ligne le 21 septembre 2010.

Pullum, Geoffrey K., 2004, “Ideology, Power, and Linguistic Theory,” http://people.ucsc.edu/~pullum/MLA2004.pdf (accessed November 1st 2012).

Strunk, William Jr. and White, E.B, 2000 [1959], The Elements of Style, New York, Longman.

Toolan, Michael, 2001 [1988], Narrative: A Critical Linguistic Introduction, London, Routledge.

Venuti, Lawrence, 1995, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, London & New York, Routledge.

,2000, “Translation, Community, Utopia,” in Venuti, Lawrence (ed.), The Translation Studies Reader, New York, Routledge.

Waxman, Maron L., 1993, “Line Editing: Drawing Out the Best Book Possible,” in Gross, Gerald (ed.), Editors on Editing, New York, Grove Press.

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Notes

1 . http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/aug/31/language-style-guide-cliches-grammar, last accessed on October 31st, 2012.

2 . Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, “Editing UK texts for US publication.” Personal email. 21/08/2006.

3 . By convention, when the original and its translations are presented together, the French text appears on the left-hand side, the British edition of the translation in the middle, and the North American edition on the right-hand side.

4 . Hélène Chuquet rightly pointed out in a private conversation that it would be more common to say a Renault 4 in BrE.

5 Words in boldface are used liberally throughout the text to emphasize crucial points.

6 . Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, “Editing UK texts for US publication.” Personal email. 22/08/2006.

7 . Ibid.

8 . Ibid.

9 . http://www.laurahird.com/newreview/empireofthewolves.html, last accessed 31/10/2012.

10 . Katharine O’Moore-Klopf, “Editing UK texts for US publication”. Personal email, 22/08/2006.

11 . Ibid.

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References

Bibliographical reference

Linda Pillière, « Re-working translations for the American reader — or the domestication of British English translations », Palimpsestes, 26 | 2013, 45-67.

Electronic reference

Linda Pillière, « Re-working translations for the American reader — or the domestication of British English translations », Palimpsestes [Online], 26 | 2013, Online since 01 October 2015, connection on 30 April 2017. URL : http://palimpsestes.revues.org/1906 ; DOI : 10.4000/palimpsestes.1906

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