(Un)translatability revisited: Cover Image

(Un)translatability revisited:
(Un)translatability revisited:

transmetic and intertextual puns in Viktor Pelevin’s Generation “P” and its translations

Author(s): Roman Ivashkiv
Subject(s): Language and Literature Studies, Theoretical Linguistics, Applied Linguistics, Pragmatics, Descriptive linguistics, Translation Studies
Published by: Krakowskie Towarzystwo Popularyzowania Wiedzy o Komunikacji Językowej Tertium
Keywords: wordplay; puns; untranslatability; transfiction; transmesis; multilingualism

Summary/Abstract: Babylen Tatarsky, the protagonist in Russian writer Viktor Pelevin’s novel Generation “P”(translated into English by Andrew Bromfield as Homo Zapiens), works to adapt Americanadvertisements for the Russian market and witnesses how the reality of Russia’s tumultuous1990s is replaced by a consumer-driven television simulation. Puns in the advertising slogansthat Tatarsky translates, interspersed throughout the novel, are central to its plot. Some of thesepuns exhibit greater sophistication than others: in addition to utilizing homonymy, homophony,homography, paronymy, and polysemy, they involve transmesis, multilingualism, andintertextuality. This article compares how Pelevin’s translators (English, German, Polish,Spanish, and French) approached these difficult puns. The objective of this comparative analysisis to demonstrate how the intertext(s) evoked through wordplay may, on the one hand, impedetranslation, but, on the other, open avenues for creative solutions, by producing new traces andechoes of meaning that make the act of translation possible. The issues raised by the varioustranslations point to a need to re-examine the roles and tasks of the translator and underscorethe importance of keeping the (un)translatability debate open. Ultimately, this article aims tocontribute to the ongoing reconceptualization of what literary translation is and, especially,what it does: with texts, readers, literatures, and, above all, with language.

  • Issue Year: 7/2019
  • Issue No: 1
  • Page Range: 109-125
  • Page Count: 17
  • Language: English