Can the work really be translated? If so does it lose it’s original written meaning? Authorship? Intentions? What are the consequences of translating authors into different languages and what gets picked and what does not? These are the basic questions researchers and students ask when it comes to translations.

There are many barriers and drawbacks of translations like losing the writers original distinct usage of particular words and idioms, a probability in loss of intended meaning, aesthetics and genre. Like many authors, Gallant worked closely with her translators but still did not enjoy translating her works because it was an “inferior” activity (Woodsworth 56).

Gallant’s “Overhead in a Balloon” has been translated into 4 languages and published 6 times

Although her works have been translated into 6 different languages, because of their shared global concepts and cosmopolitanism, Gallant states that her work is “bound to English syntax, to the sound, resonance, and ambiguities of English vocabulary” (Woodsworth 53). Gallant also argues that if translators who are also writers translate works, then this would not be real translations but rather “variations on a theme” (Woodsworth 54).

There are many reasons to as why Gallant dislikes translations other than syntax and distinct usage of the English language, but also a possibility of quality and creative control by Gallant. There are also other possibilities like translators making mistakes, different unintended notions being exploited, or a change in the point of view.

For instance, in Lois Grant’s 1985 thesis “Translating Mavis Gallant into French – the effects of shifts on narrative style”, the presence of the narrator is more obvious in the translated texts as a storyteller. Lois states that “many of the characteristic signs of narration effacement found in the original form is altered to varying degrees in the translation version” (Grant 153), thus resulting in the narrator’s presence as a story teller “that can be verified by a variety of linguistic signals” (Grant 153).

Grant’s argument on Gallant & Translation

Because of the shifts on point of view and narrative, readers can determine the “situations in which the choice is dictated by semantic restrictions, the introduction of an increased narratorial presence is unavoidable” (Grant 104). Nonetheless, translation shifts in the “temporal adverbs” may also have a potential effect on the representation of “character consciousness in subjectively oriented discourses” (Grant 104). Translations can be biased as Grant states translators, as narrators, may ultimately “add information to the texts above and beyond the information supplied in the source text” (Grant 153).


Translators as guides

In contrary, there are different kinds of translations and reasons as to why such conversions are made. If works are never to be translated, readers may not enjoy the beauty of literary classics unless they learn the language to a certain perfection and cultural level that allows them to understand idioms and cultural specific language. Translations will always be an interpretation of author’s original work, as Grant states “The translator acts as a guide and interpreter for the reader” (Grant 14).

The published translation is ultimately a different work not 100% replica of Gallant’s original English publications. In reference as to why translations may be an “inferior activity” is because the conversion may not ultimately convey the same intended voices, syntax, context and culture specific idioms.

Works Cited

Grant, Lois. “Translating Mavis Gallant into French : effect of translation shifts on narrative style.” SFU’s Summit: Institutional Repository (1990).

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Woodsworth, Judith. “Writers and their Translators: the Case of Mavis Gallant.” TTR : traduction, terminologie, rédaction 1.2 (1988): 47-57.