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Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics

Polylingualism as Reality and Translation as Mimesis


Author(s): Meir Sternberg
Source: Poetics Today, Vol. 2, No. 4, Translation Theory and Intercultural Relations (Summer Autumn, 1981), pp. 221-239
Published by: Duke University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/1772500 .
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POLYLINGUALISM
AND TRANSLATION

AS REALITY
AS MIMESIS*

MEIR STERNBERG
Poeticsand ComparativeLiterature,Tel Aviv

I
Translatorsand theoristsof translationnaturallyrecall with gratitudethe
incident of the Tower of Babel - as the felix culpa responsiblefor the
crisscrossof interlingualchasms which theyare constantlyurged to survey
and as far as possible to bridge.The attitudeof writersto thissociolinguistic
is, however,less uniformand certainlymore ambivalent.True,
turning-point
it has widened theirrange of both materialsand devices farbeyondanything
conceivable in a state where "the whole earth was of one language and of
one speech." But fromanother viewpoint,this very asset may be regarded
as a liabilityor at least a mixed blessing.For the disruptionof the state of
world-widelinguistichomogeneityhas made the profusionand confusionof
tonguesnot only a verbal but also an existentialfact,and, in additionto the
basic tasks of referringto extraverbalrealityand reportingverbal messages
withinthe same code, it has laid on each language the burdenof reporting
messages originallyencoded in other languages. This formsof course the
common source of all translationalproblems. But what should be noted is
that the complicationsarising are intratextualas well as intertextualand
representationalas well as communicative.These complicationsmanifest
themselvesto some extentwheneverwe trynot, as in standardtranslation,
to substituteour own discoursefor an utterancemade in anotherlanguage,
but to incorporatethis utteranceintoour own discourse.Such framingand
juxtapositionof differently-encoded
speech are, however,particularlycommon within the fictiveworlds created in literature,with their variegated
referentialcontexts,frequentshiftsfrom milieu to milieu, abundance of
dialogue scenes, and keen interestin the language of realityand the reality
*

Paper presentedat Synopsis1: "TranslationTheory and InterculturalRelations," held at the

Porter Institute for Poetics and Semiotics in collihborati)on

with the M. Bernstein Chair of

TranslationTheory,Tel Aviv University,27 March-1 April 1978. Previousversionin Degrds16


(1978).

? PoeticsToday,Vol. 2:4 (1981),221-239

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222

MEIR STERNBERG

of language. Literaryart thusfindsitselfconfrontedby a formidablemimetic


challenge: how to representthe realityof polylingualdiscourse througha
communicativemediumwhich is normallyunilingual.'
The interlingualtension between language as representedobject (within
the original or reported speech-event) and language as representational
means (withinthe reportingspeech-event)is primarilymimeticratherthan
communicative.In this,object-sensitivereportingradicallydiffersfromthe
gratuitousalternationor arbitraryblending of linguisticvehicles in multilingual literature:it poses such communicativeproblems as intelligibility
only in so far as some attemptis made to rise to the mimeticchallenge.
Since this tensionbetween object and mediumor inset and framearises in
principle regardless of the polyglot qualifications of the audience, it
obviouslycould not be resolvedeven if the authorwere to communicatein a
lingua franca,like Greek in ancient times,Latin in the Middle Ages, or the
more recent Esperanto. For the raison d'etreof these is not to bridge the
gaps of representationbut to remove the barriersto communication,often
witha view to ultimatelyturningback the wheel of timeto a pre-Babel state
of universalunilingualism.But in the absence of a drasticlevelingchange in
social reality,whichComrade Stalin indeed saw as a necessaryconditionfor
universallanguage, theyall face the same exigenciesas any other language
in renderingheterolingualdiscourse.
Nor can thisintratextualtensionbe resolved by the equally attractivebut
perhaps even more millennialvision of language as an abstractspiritrather
than a concrete substance, put forwardby Clemens, the monk servingas
narratorin Thomas Mann's Der Erwdhlte(The Holy Sinner):
Es ist ganz ungewiss,in welcher Sprache ich schreibe,ob lateinisch,
und es ist auch das gleiche,denn
deutschoder angelskichsisch,
franz6sisch,
Alamannen
wie die Helvetienbewohnenden
schreibeich etwa auf thiudisch,
reden,so stehtmorgenBritischauf dem Papier,und es ist ein britunsches
Buch, das ich geschriebenhabe. Keineswegsbehaupteich, dass ich die
inmeinem
und
mirineinander
allebeherrsche,
abersierinnen
Schreiben
Sprachen
werdeneins, niimlich
Sprache.Denn so verhiltes sich,dass der Geist der
Geistist,dessenMitteldie
Erzahlungein bis zur Abstraktheit
ungebundener
Sprachean sichundals solche,die Spracheselbstist,welchesichalsabsolutsetzt
Das wareja
undnichtvielnachIdiomenundsprachlichen
fragt.
Landesg6ttern
GottistGeist,undfiberden Sprachenistdie
undheidnisch.
auchpolytheistisch
Sprache(Chap.1).
I am concerned here with the linguistic diversity or uniformity of the utterances
(usually made by different speakers) within the world of a single text, I deliberately avoid the
sociolinguistic terms "multilingual" and "monolingual," which are (and should he) used to
characterize the linguistic range of a single speaker or community. In contrast, a work may be
said to represent a polylingual reality of discourse even though each individual speaker or
milieu is strictly monolingual, and to represent a unilingual reality of discourse even though
each speaker is potentially multilingual. The terms are thus complementary. I have also added
the term "heterolingual" to denote a foreign language (or dialect)usually a language other
than that of the reporting speech-event.
ISince

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POLYLINGUALISM

AND TRANSLATION

AS MIMESIS

223

[It is quite uncertain in what language I write, whether Latin, French,


German or Anglo-Saxon, and indeed it is all the same; for say I write
Thiudisch,such as the Germans speak who live in Helvetia, then tomorrow
Britishstands on the paper and it is a Breton book I have written.By no
means do I assertthatI possess all the tongues;but theyrun all togetherin my
writingand become one - in otherwords,language. For the thingis so, that
the spirit of narrationis free to the point of abstraction,whose medium is
language in and for itself,language itself,whichsets itselfas absolute and does
not greatlycare about idioms and national linguisticgods. That indeed would
and pagan. God is spirit,and above languagesis language(trans.H.
be polytheistic
T. Lowe-Porter).]
Having enjoyed the irony of findingan original and a translated version of a
tale that aspires to the condition of "language in and for itself," we can go
on to ask whether Clemens is really so innocent as he sounds. It is no doubt
appropriate that Clemens, who emphatically introduces himself as the
incarnation ("Inkarnation") of the spirit of story-telling,should dream of
communicating in a medium that incarnates the spirit of language. What is
more, his vision of a language above languages derives not simply from his
artistic and religious ideals of communication, but equally from the
embarrassingly polylingual nature of his world. After all, this means of
evading the mimetic pressures of "national linguistic gods" would not be
such a bad solution for an Irish monk writingin a German monastery about
a French duke brought up on an English island and finally exalted to the
papacy of Rome. And since Clemens himself ultimately bows to the
necessity of imprisoning the absolute spirit of language in the variable clay
of languages, his lesson, including the clash between his (unilingual) theory
and his (polylingual) practice, actually serves to sharpen and illuminate
rather than eliminate the writer's predicament.
To descend from the heights of utopia to the lowlands of reality, the
problem of heterolingual or translational mimesis can in fact be variously
circumvented by three drastic procedures: 1. referential restriction; 2.
vehicular matching; 3. homogenizing convention.
Referential restrictionconsists in confining the scope of the represented
world to the limits of a single, linguistically uniform community whose
speech-patterns correspond to those of the implied audience, sometimes to
the point of excluding interdialectical as well as interlingual tensions, as in
the novels of Jane Austen. Vehicular matching, on the other hand, far from
avoiding linguistic diversity or conflict, accepts them as a matter of course,
as a fact of life and a factor of communication, and sometimes even
deliberately seeks them out - suiting the variations in the representational
medium to the variations in the represented object. Such consistent
matching is quite common in scholarly works, the proceedings of international conferences or the daily operations of bilingual societies; but it may
also be found in differentvarieties of polyglot art, whether Jean Renoir's
bilingual filmLa grande illusion or G. B. Shaw's polydialectical Pygmalion. In

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224

MEIR STERNBERG

all these instances,the framedheterolingualor polylingualspeech-eventsare


replicated and in this sense given full communicativeautonomy,while the
overt role of the reportingspeech-event is limited to the provision of
bridginglinks, interscenicsummaryor possibly no more than the inverted
commas of quotation. The recourseto the homogenizingconvention,finally,
retainsthe freedomof referencewhile dismissingthe resultantvariationsin
the language presumablyspoken by the charactersas an irrelevant,if not
distracting,representationalfactor.Alice does not findit strangeto hear the
White Rabbit mutteringto itselfin English, and there is indeed no reason
why she should. After all, doesn't Balaam's ass break into pure Biblical
Hebrew and doesn't La Fontaine's fox bringto bear on the poor raven all
the rhetorical resources of French? Even more extreme, such linguistic
but a
uniformity
may be not simplya conventionalmeasureof simplification
vital basis for the work's overall structuringand functionality:in Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra, the development of the most complex
figurativepatterns known to literary art hinges on the anti-historical
Englishingof the polylingualdiscourse held in the world of Romans and
standardizationis, then,diametricalEgyptians.This principleof intratextual
to
that
of
vehicular
not
so
much
matchingas to the vehicular
ly opposed
from
the medieval muwas'ah to
macaronic
of
writing
promiscuity
typical
of
medium are mimetically
where
shifts
Wake
Joyce's Finnegans
means
are
often
and
flagrantlysummoned to
polylingual
gratuitous
of
discourse.2
a
represent unilingualreality
What is commonto the threediverserepresentational
strategiesis thateach
to
the
in
own
eliminate
its
complicationsof imitatingforeign
manages
way
Vehicular
matchingsubstitutesthe literalnessand
("heterolingual") speech.
for
the
of
stylizationand selectivityof mimesis,
thoroughness reproduction
in
its
each
original wording so as to effectas perfecta
speech
quoting
the signifiedpolylingualismof reality
between
as
correspondence possible
and the signifyingpolylingualismof the text. Whereas both referential
restrictionand homogenizingconventionjustifytheiradherenceto unilingual
communicationby resortingto a simplifyingdevice that enables them to
preclude or neutralize one of two factors presupposed by each act of
mimesis:the one, in realisticterms,by standardizingthe imitatedobject; the
other, in aesthetic terms,by standardizingthe imitatingmedium.
Therefore,if these three primarytheoreticalpossibilities
referential

restriction

vehicular

matching

homogenizing

convention

vehicular

promiscuity

object

unilingual

polylingual

polylingual variable,possibly
unilingual

medium

unilingual

polylingual

unilingual

polylingual

For an accountofthelatterphenomenon,whichis outsidemypresentconcerns,see Forster,1970.

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POLYLINGUALISM AND TRANSLATION AS MIMESIS

225

indeed reflectedthe facts of literarypractice, there would be hardlyany


room leftfor translationalmimesis.In fact,however,the veryextremity
that
renders these relationshipssuch clear-cut theoreticalcategories very frequentlyalso disqualifiesthemforservingas viable artisticstrategies.Each of
the three either demands or sacrificestoo much. Referentialrestriction
imposes such severe constraintson the selection of extraverbalas well as
purelyverbal materialas mustprove unacceptableto any artistinterestedin
the developmentof certainpolyvalentthemes (say, Henry James's international conflictof manners)and/orin the interactionof language and culture
(as in Swift or Nabokov) and/or in the mimetic effectof sociolinguistic
variety (even by way of dialectal tensions, as in Fielding or Zola, or
registerial shifts, as in Henry Cecil's novels of litigation). Large-scale
vehicular matching,on the other hand, so inconsistentwith the normal
conditionsof communication,may in some periods and genresbe thoughtto
divert attention from more importantmattersand to require too much
polyglotexpertiseon the part of the author and his reading-public.While
the adherence to the homogenizingconvention,which may be thoughtto
require too little,riskspayingan even heavierrealisticprice than referential
and indisrestriction,preciselybecause its unilingualvehicle is artificially
criminatelycoupled witha polylingualtenorand the staticsof the reporting
speech glaringlycontrastwith the dynamicsof the framedcode-switching.
Literature,like politics,is the art of the possible. No wonder,then,that
literarypractice is marked, above all in referentially-oriented
genres like
fictionand drama, by the spiritof mimeticcompromise,manifesting
itselfin
various mixtures,combinations and contextual adjustments of the basic
possibilities. The mixed representationof polylingual or heterolingual
discourse may ultimatelybe reduced, however, to four distincttypes or
procedures of translationalmimesis,lying between the polar extremesof
vehicular matchingand homogenizingconvention.
takes the form of intermittent
1) Selective reproduction
quotation of the
originalheterolingualdiscourseas utteredby the speaker(s),or in literature,
as supposed to have been utteredby the fictivespeaker(s). And fromthe
functionalviewpoint,it usually operates as a kind of mimeticsynecdoche.
The Biblical Book of Ezra, for instance, suddenly incorporatesinto the
Hebrew narrative (4.6 if) the correspondence ("written in Aramaic")
between the enemies of Israel and Artaxerxes king of Persia: the
reproductionof the documentaryevidence in the originalAramaic heightens
the tale's impression of historical authenticity,not with regard to the
reproduced parts alone but also to other speech-events (including the
famous proclamationby Cyrus,with which the book starts)thathave been
standardizedby way of unilingualtranslation.And the same combinationof
selective matching and selective leveling devised in this ancient tale
repeatedly shows itselfin more modern works. Consider War and Peace,
whose Russian text is interspersedwith segments of reported speech

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226

MEIR STERNBERG

formulated(Tolstoy observes as early as his opening chapter) "in that


refinedFrench in which our grandfathers
not only spoke but thought";or
Nabokov's Pnin, into whose flowof Englishthe narratorintercalates(among
many other things)a specimen of the execrable Russian verse produced by
one of his less favoritecharacters;or Mann's The Holy Sinner,where the
complex polylingualreality and the frequentgeographicalshiftscorrelate
with the interlardingof the German narrationwith choice monologic and
dialogic bits in Medieval French, English and Latin.
To illustrate the flexibilityand many-sidednessof this pars-pro-toto
principle,some of whose functionalimplicationswill be reserved for later
treatment,let me just mentionone or two suggestivevariables.As concerns
the quantitativevariations(in overall extentor local continuity)of selective
matching,there is an interestingminimalunit that may be called mimetic
cliche - often an expressiveinterjection(like the French "Parbleu!", the
English "Damn!" or the German "Donnerwetter!") that is conventionally
regarded as typical of a certain sociolinguistic entity and therefore
economically serves the purpose of mimeticgesture or synecdoche. Such
ready-madelocutionsmay have littleintrinsicimportance,merelyfunctioning like the bundle of distinctivefeatureswithinthe phoneme: to denote
otherness by way of opposition. The intratextual equivalent of the
traditionalmimetic cliche is the imputed tag, namely, a phrase that is
constantlyrepeated in the original by a characteror a group, so that it
operates in a way similar to the (unilingual) mannerismsof speech in
Dickens's world. A case in point is the Yiddish curse "May his bones rot!"
recurringthroughoutthe Hebrew versionof Mendele Mokher-Seforim'sThe
Book of Beggars. And the extent to which such devices are deliberately
employedis demonstratedby Thomas Mann's distinctionin The Holy Sinner
uses or users of what is semanticallythe same phrase. The
between different
monkishnarratorhimselfis as fond as his monk-bredhero of the colloquial
appeal "Believe me!"; but in the interestsof idiolectal mimesis,he uses in
his own discoursethe German locution"Glaubt mir," consistentlyreserving
for Gregorius the Latin equivalent "Credemi."
Even more significant,what underlines the mimetic role of selective
reproductionis the fact that,unlike vehicularmatchingon a large scale, it
does not necessarilyrequire or presuppose bilingual competence on the
reader's part, certainlynot beyond a minimalstandardand not to an equal
degree in all periods and genres. One measure of the variabilityof this
standardis the wide range of actual heterolingualpractice,leading fromthe
uncompromisingdemands of unique dialogue and esoteric quotation
(especially prevalentin minoritycultureand/orcanonical literature)to the
minimalreproductivegestureof mimeticclich6 and imputedtag (currentin
mass media and modern and/or popular literature). A complementary
in orderingbetweenvariousinstancesof
measure is the suggestivedifference
intratextual"dual-language" rendition,whereeitherthe heterolingualsource
or its narratorialtranslationis parentheticallysuperadded: the sequence

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POLYLINGUALISM

AND TRANSLATION

AS MIMESIS

227

"source -- translation" often implies a lower standard of bilingual


competencethan the sequence "translation-- source," thoughneitherform
is common in the strictlypolyglotart of the past.
Reproduction,finally,does not necessarilymean accurate reproduction.It
may turn out less than impeccable by linguisticstandards: either unconsciously,as in many cases of anachronismor dialectal hotch-potchor other
forms of authorial blundering,or deliberately, as when by a typical
dual-language trick, Mr. Shandy mistranslates"Amicus Plato sed magis
amica veritas" to equal "Dinah was my aunt but Truth is my sister"
(TristramShandy, Vol. I, Chap. 21). And even when perfectlyacceptable
fromthe linguisticviewpoint,reproductionmay stillinvolvegross distortion
or daringmanipulationfromthe factualand compositionalviewpoints.Thus,
the intertextualallusions ostensibly signalled by Stendhal's polylingual
epigraphs, like the Aramaic sayings that color the Yiddish discourse of
Scholem Aleichem's famous dairyman,are often pure invention.Not to
speak of less extreme varieties of deviant allusion and internal
misquotation (cf. Sternberg,1976). Which is to say that in dealing with
translationalmimesisin general and selectivereproductionin particular,we
must take into account the variables of implied literary,bi-literaryand
bi-culturalas well as purelybilingualcompetence.
2) A more oblique and varied type of translationalmimesis is verbal
transposition- the poetic or communicativetwist given to what sociomoreoblique
linguistscall bilingualinterference.
Transpositionis mimetically
than reproduction,since it suggestspolylingualor heterolingualspeech in
and throughan ostensiblyunilingualmedium ratherthan directlyincorporates such speech into an openly mixed framework.And it is also more
varied, since its polylingualor heterolingualsuggestivenessderivesfromthe
narrator's(the "translator's")superimposingon the translatedquotationone
or more of a variety of features and patterns distinctiveof the source
language but unacceptablein the targetlanguage- thismontageaccordingly producing an interlingualclash of the two codes withinthe transposed
utterance.
The devised translationalinterferencemay relate to any verbal level or
aspect at which the two languages involved are less than perfectly
isomorphic.The jarringeffectof transposedspeech may forinstancebe due
to the retentionor imitationof what becomes in the targetlanguage:
(a) phonicor orthographic
idiosyncrasy
(as withSwift'sword"Houyhnhnm,"
which,howevernormalwithinthe phonologicalstructure
ofthelanguage
ofhorses,is simplybeyondthearticulatory
powerofmereYahoos likeus;
or,to citea moreprevalentphenomenon,thecarrying
overofthe"low" or
foreignintonationsof theoriginalspeakerintothefabricofthetranslated
discourse);and/or
(b) grammatical irregularityand ill-formedness(whether by way of
discrepanciesin concordor tenseor aspect,unnaturalor ambiguousword

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228

MEIR STERNBERG

order, or the ruthlesslystandardized morphologyaimed at in the


worldofGeorge Orwell's 1984); and/or
nightmarish
(c) lexical deviance (as with the literally rendered Spanish idioms in
Hemingway'sFor WhomtheBell Tolls); and/or
and fromthespecificto
(d) to move fromthe unacceptableto the infelicitous
the general,even stylisticfeaturesthatare contraryto the "spiritof the
language" (as when the proverbialRussian emotionalismsurfacesin the
dialogues of Rebecca West's The BirdsFall Down, or whentheunEnglish
flourishesthroughoutSomersetMaugham's "The Man withtheScar" are
at last explicitlyascribedby thenarratorto his Guatemalecaninformant:
"I have translatedwhathe told me as wellas I could,butI have made not
language").
attemptto tonedownhisratherhigh-flown
But whateveritsmodes and combinatorytechnique,transposition
significantly differsfrom(overall and local) matchingin that it is not so much a literal
reproductionof substanceas a stylizedmimesisof form;or fromthe reader's
viewpoint,not so mucha heterolingualdatum or directlyobservedfactas an
interpretive
hypothesisaccountingforverbaltension,deviance and incompatia given unilingualdiscoursein termsof the reporter'sselective,
within
bility
mimetically-oriented
(mis)renderingof an originallyheterolingualutterance.
The transpositionalhypothesisis not only more attractivethan the obvious
due to its
structure,
geneticalternativebutalso presentsa subtlercommunicative
distributionof linguisticfeaturesbetween the two speech-eventsdifferent
postulatinga less drastic degree of reportinginterferencewith the quoted
material and correspondinglyallowing the heterolingualspeech greater
autonomyofpointofview.What a genetichypothesismightdismissas authorial
error withinan otherwisehomogenizedframeworkis as a rule much more
and interperspectival
montageon
explainedas covertinterlingual
satisfactorily
the partof a narrator(reporter,translator)deliberatelymixingthecodes ofthe
frame(inhabitedby himselfand his audience) and the inset(inhabitedby the
vividness
fictivespeaker and his addressee) in the interestsof representational
and complexity.
However,just as a polylingualmediummaybe used (as in macaronicwriting)
in theabsence of a corresponding
polylingualobjector shiftwithintheprojected
is not necessarilyan instanceof
reality,so every act of bilingualinterference
For boththereporterwithintherepresentedframework
mimetictransposition.
are as liable as the
and certainlythereporteewithintherepresentedframework
restof humanityto sociolinguisticaccidents.On the one hand, thoughwhatI
have just called the genetic hypothesisis no doubt less integrativethan the
mimetic,it cannotbe ruledout categorically- least ofall, whenwe have to do
withauthorswho (like Conrad or Nabokov) choose to writein a languageother
thantheirown or,whatis morecommon,in dialectstheydo notfullycommand.
enough,theseare amongthewritersmostaddictedto translational
Interestingly
mimesis,so that one sometimeswonders where literarystrategyends and
linguisticself-defensebegins. But fromtime to time we come across verbal

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POLYLINGUALISM AND TRANSLATION AS MIMESIS

229

peculiaritiesthatmustclearlybe accountedforin termsof authorialsliprather


thandeliberateshiftto themediumemployedbytheoriginalspeaker.
On the otherhand, the original(real or fictive)speakersmaythemselvesbe
responsibleforimposingon a foreignlanguagethevariousfeaturesand patterns
peculiarto theirnativetongue,or even theotherwayround.Thus,in Conrad's
Lord Jim, Stein's sentence structure("To my small native town this my
collection I shall bequeath," "One thingalone can us frombeing ourselves
cure") is twistedinto the verb-stoppedword order favored by his native
German; the same result is produced by a more complicated process of
transmissionin the speech of the Jugoslavianhotel-keeperin Oliver Bleek's
Protocolfora Kidnapping:
"If you willwait untilI myclothesput on, I willwithyourluggagehelp," he said,
gettingall the verbs nicelytuckedaway at the end of his phraseand sentence.
Maybe he thoughtin Serbian, translatedit into German,and theninto English

(Chap.21).
Nabokov's Pninsuperlatively
exemplifiestheravagesofforeignaccent:

If his Russian was music,his Englishwas murder.He had enormousdifficulty


("dzeefeecooltsee" in Pninian English) withdepalatization,never managingto
removetheextraRussian moisturefromt'sand d'sbeforethevowelshe so quaintly
softened.His explosive"hat" ("I nevergo in a hateven in winter"'differed
from
the common American pronunciationof "hot" [...] onlyby its brieferduration,
and thussounded verymuchlike the German verb hat (has). Long o's withhim
inevitablybecame shortones: his "no" sounded positivelyItalian,and thiswas
accentuatedby his trickof triplicating
thesimplenegative("May I giveyou a lift,
Mr. Pnin?" "No-no-no,I have onlytwopaces fromhere" (Pnin,Chap. 3).
Pnin's "two paces from here" bringsus to the level of lexis, variously deformed
out of shape by Conrad's half-caste captain, " whose flowingEnglish seemed to
be derived from a dictionarycompiled by a lunatic" (Lord Jim,Chap. 23); or by
the doctoral candidate in Molibre's Le Malade imaginaire, with his verbally as
well as medically preposterous panacea
"Clysterium donare,/Postea
seignare,/Ensuitta purgare": or by Henry James's M. Nioche, whose
"vocabulary," the narrator of The American informs us, "was defective and
capricious. He had repaired it with large patches of French, with words
anglicized by a process of his own, and with native idioms literallytranslated." So
it is not entirelyin jest that Nioche is told by his prospective pupil, the American
Christopher Newman, that "listening to your English [...] is almost a lesson in
French" (Chap. 4).
Still, though James and Bleek actually describe theircharacters' speech as the
product of translation, all these cases of mixed speech must nevertheless be
sharply distinguished fromour translational mimesis of heterolingual discourse.
They may indeed be "translational" in the sense of resultingfrominterlingual
operations; they may also be "mimetic" both as tokens of existingverbal models
and as more or less verisimilar representations of discourse; and they are of
course indicative of a polylingual reality. But these similarities in interlingual

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230

MEIR STERNBERG

thecrucialdifference
betweenmimetictransposition
montageserveto highlight
and sociolinguisticinterference.
This difference
may be brokendown intothe
structure:two distinct
communicative
factors:
of
(a)
following complex
and
audiencebeingsetinto
that
the
his
between
originalspeaker
speech-events,
the frameworkof the reporterand his addressee, as opposed to a single
codes: distributedbetween the two
speech-event; (b) locus of different
the
one
with
whollyunilingual,as opposed to
possibly
reported
speech-events,
co-existentwithinthebilingualspeaker'smind;(c) sourceofinterlingual
conflict:
of the forms'and
the reporter'sselective(and usuallydeliberate)substitution
featuresof his own code forthose of the originalutterance,as opposed to the
productionofa double-codedutterance,whose
bilingual's(usuallyinvoluntary)
genesisis sometimesdescribedas thespeaker'sfaultymental"translation"ofa
message fromhis native into a foreignlanguage; (d) mode of existenceof
speaker'sutteranceas actuallyenunciated:partlyin absentiaas opposed to fully
inpraesentia.
Sociolinguistic interference,therefore,just like the code-switchingof
equilingualor diglossicspeakers,is notan instancebutan objectoftranslational
mimesis- amenable to all the modes of heterolingualmanipulation,from
vehicular matching to homogenizingconvention. This practice, variously
manifestedin all the worksI have just cited,is overtlypointedout by James's
narrator:"The languagespokenbyM. Niochewas a singularcompound,whichI
since "the result,in the
shrinkfromthe attemptto reproducein itsintegrity,"
be
would
all
in
which
he
in
it,
form
scarcelycomprehensible
presented
humility
to thereader,so thatI have venturedto trimand siftit."
is even furtherremoved than transpositionfromthe
3) Conceptualreflection
concretetextureof the originaldiscourse: what it retainsis not so much the
socio-cultural
norms,semantic
verbalformsoftheforeigncode as theunderlying
referential
and
distinctive
of
range, segmentationsand
reality,
mapping
hierarchies.Conceptual reflectionthus lies at the crossroadsof language and
reality.Qua mimetichypothesis,therefore- and it is importantto note that
and unlikematching,is an hypothesisthatexplains
like transposition
reflection,
verbal idiosyncrasywithin an ostensibly unilingual message in terms of
perspectival diversityand communicativemontage - its discovery and
validation may require various kinds,degrees and combinationsof readingcompetence.
Sometimestheconceptualclash has a preciselinguisticfocusor grammatical
realization.Thus,whentheholyarkoftheconvenantis broughtintothecampof
Philistines:
Israel,theBiblicalnarratorquotes theshoutingofthefrightened
Woe untous! whoshalldeliverus outofthehandofthesemighty
gods[Elohim]?
withall theplaguesinthe
thesearethegods[Elohim]thatsmotetheEgyptians
almostliteral)
ishereaccurate,
version
wilderness.
(II Samuel,4.8:theKingJames
of the originalspeech seems to have been
At firstglance,theheterolingualism
The onlylinguistic
intrusion.
homogenizedout ofexistencebywayofnarratorial

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POLYLINGUALISM AND TRANSLATION AS MIMESIS

231

clue of translationalmimesishereis thejarringnotesoundedby thePhilistines'


repeatedreferenceto theGod of Israel throughthepluralform(= gods) ofthat
very word (Elohim) which a Jew would use as singular(= God). But this
deviance in nominal categorizationreflectsa conceptuallyand perspectively
charged distinctivefeature, the foreignnessof the utterance being thus
foregroundedthrougha twofoldtensionbetweentheJewishaudiencewithinthe
narrativeframe and the Philistinespeakers withinthe narrativeinset: the
informationaldiscrepancybetween the enlightenedand the ignorant(the
inEgypt,notinthewilderness)and thenormative
plagueswere actuallyinflicted
between
the
monotheistic
and thepolytheistic.
discrepancy
In othercases, the mimeticdiscrepancyis reflectedin termsof thesemantic
structureor limitsof the two languagesin whichthereportedand thereporting
speech-eventsare encoded, as when theLilliputians,whollyunacquaintedwith
manyphenomenawhichWesternculturetakesforgranted,have to fallback on
ingeniousguessingand lengthycircumlocutionin orderto referto Gulliver's
watch:
A globe,halfsilver,
andhalfofsometransparent
metal:foronthetransparent
side
we sawcertainstrange
andthought
wecouldtouchthem,
drawn,
figures
circularly
untilwe foundourfingers
He putthisengineto
stoppedwiththatlucidsubstance.
ourears,whichmadean incessant
andweconjecture
noiselikethatofa water-mill:
itis eithersomeunknown
butwe aremore
animal,or thegod thathe worships:
inclined
to thelatteropinion,becausehe assuredus,(ifwe understand
himright,
forhe expressedhimself
thathe seldomdidanything
without
veryimperfectly)
it(PartI, Chap.2).
consulting
Elsewhere, the conceptual reflectionis based on the lexical or referential
deficiencyof the target rather than the source language, as when the
half-Russianheroineof The BirdsFall Down mentionsthe manylovingnames
conferredon oil by the OrthodoxChurch:"the holyoil, theoil ofgladness,the
oil of sanctification,
a royalrobe, a seal of safety,the delightof the heart,an
eternaljoy, theoil ofsalvation"(Chap. 9).
Most often, however, this mode of intratextualtranslationimplements
indicators that are verbally much less definiteor codified,producingthe
impressionof heterolingualism
throughculturallytypical(or typified)topics,
interests,attitudes,realia, formsof address,fieldsof allusion,or paralinguistic
featureslikegesticulation.
is a directstatementon thereporter's(or even the
4) Explicitattribution,
finally,
reportee's)part concerningthe language (or some aspect of the language) in
whichthereportedspeechwas originally
made.We have alreadyseen morethan
one instance of it conjoined, in the form of generalization,with other
translationaltypes:forexample,in thenarrator'scommentson Pnin'sphonetic
or Nioche's lexical aberrations.But attributionmay also appear by itself,
unsupported and unexemplifiedby even the faintestshade of mimetic
"showing" and consistingin pure narratorial"telling" - whetherabout the
heterolingualnatureof thediscourseas a whole(e.g., "He spokeinFrench")or,

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MEIR STERNBERG

232

more specifically,
about the standardizationof some heterolingualcomponent
in Pygmalionthat "this desperateattemptto represent
when
notes
Shaw
(as
a phoneticalphabetmustbe abandonedas unintelligible
dialect
without
[Liza's]
outsideLondon"). A typicalresultofitsthoroughgoing
applicationis that,when
thequoted speakerswithintherepresentedrealityare themselvesbilingual(as in
Eric Ambler's A Kind of Anger),the omission of an overt notice makes it
impossibleto determinein whichof thepossiblelanguagesa certaindialogue is
conducted.Anotheris whatmaybe called standardizationat a second remove,
usually due to a double communicativeframing:a narrator'sstandardized
quotation(in his language) of a character'sstandardizedquotation(in his own
language) of anothercharacter'sspeech (in a thirdlanguage).In extremecases,
therefore,attributionmergesinto the pole of homogenizingconventionin all
oftherepresentational
mediumand
thatconcernstheuncontestedunilingualism
fromthispole onlyin the"mimetic"awarenessof the poly-or
is distinguished
heterolingualismof the representedobject, signalledthroughthe occasional
referencesto linguistic
diversity.
II
translation
What is commonto thedifferent
typesor categoriesof intratextual
is, then, that the interferencewith the reportedheterolingualspeech-event
produces a verbally and communicativelymixed quotation, combiningthe
perspectivesof theintrusivenarratorwithintheframeand theoriginalspeaker
withinthe inset. But in view of the differencesin the degree of quotational
interference,it is tempting to range the four categories we have just
cases:
along a scale flankedbythetwolimiting
distinguished
verbal
vehicular selective
conceptual explicit homogenizing
transpositionreflection attribution convention
matching reproduction

Such gradationlooks straightforward


enough, but it may prove misleadingly
of communicationand above all the
variables
the
staticand simplified
vis-a-vis
intricaciesof poeticlicenceand mimeticmodeling.
First, it goes withoutsaying that the scale classifiestypes or aspects of
translationalmimesisratherthantextsor textualsegments.It is not onlythat
each of the intermediatedevices is in itselfnecessarilymixedin thatit formsa
selective or stylizedcombinationof the two poles, but that it may variously
Nabokov's
coexistand interactwiththeotherswithina giventextualframework.
Pnin,forinstance,runsup and downthegamutaccordingto itsvariableaimsand
needs,in completedisregardforthedecorumsofconsistency.
Moreover,it is by no meansnecessarilytruethatthemovementfromrightto
leftcoincideswithan increasingapproximationto theoriginalutterance,orwith
or withan increasing
an increasingsense or expectationof reconstructability,
from
the
textualfactorsof
re-translational
of
prerequisities.Apart
complex
it
worth
is
and
notingthatthewide
presentationalcontinuity,
quantitativescope

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POLYLINGUALISM AND TRANSLATION AS MIMESIS

233

in thekindand degreeofimplied(i.e., required)reading-competence,


variability
which we have already seen to operate withina single typeof translational
mimesis,applieswithat leastequal forceto therelationsbetweendifferent
types.
Conceptual reflection,when implementedon the scale of science fictionor
James's internationalnovels, certainlyimpliesa higherstandardof bicultural
competence on the reader's part than the transpositionor reproductionof
interspersedclich6 or allusion. And while minimalbilingualcompetencemay
inthelightoftransposed
sufficeto followa reproducedspeech,itsreconstruction
clues mayrequirea fuller,because moreactive,commandoftheimpliedsource
language.
More generally,since literarystudies,notablyincludingthe studyof the
artisticrepresentation
of reality,seriouslysufferfromthe failureto distinguish
formalmode and functionalsystem,I want to emphasize that this scale is
gradatedin purelyformalterms.What such a scale can reasonablybe expected
to do is to arrangea set of mimeticdevicesaccordingto theirdistancefromthe
concreteverbaltextureof theheterolingual
discoursetakingplace (or supposed
to have taken place) withinthe representedreality- or, in termsof narrative
pointof view,accordingto theirpositionbetween"showing"and "telling."As
such,itmayafforda fairlyusefuldescriptiveand typologicaltool,enablingus to
establishtheinventory
of representational
devicesavailable to a givenwriteror
period or style or tradition,to compare different
corpora in selectionaland
combinatoryrange (e.g., formulaicnarrativevs. modernnovel,journalisticvs.
verbalartvs. thesyncreticmediumof thecinema),or to trace
scholarlywriting,
historicaldevelopmentsin termsof shiftsin translationalrepertoire.The point
is, however,thattheabsolute locationof a device (or forthatmatterthe text's
whole gamutof devices) can in itselftellus verylittleabout its actual mimetic
effector forceor function,whichcan neverbe determineda prioribut turnsin
- generaland specific,
each case on a largecomplexofvariablesand constraints
historicaland poetic, sociolinguisticand generic,textualand contextual.In
formmayservedifferent
and
functions
contexts,thesame translational
different
thesame functionmaybe servedbydifferent
forms.
of
Accordingly,when we pass from the typologyto the functionality
translationalmimesis,we pass fromitscharacterization
as a setoflocal reporting
devices placed in a staticand autotelichierarchyto itsintegrationas a textual
relations.In literary
art,
componentand in termsofa fluidsystemofintratextual
thisinterdependenceof elementsindicatesabove all the recognitionthatthe
realismofpolylingualdiscourse- like therealismofdiscourseingeneraland of
all nonverbal objects within the represented framework- cannot be
understoodapartfromthetext'soverallreferential
ofwhichitisbotha
strategy,
miniatureand a partor means.
Translationalmimesisbeinga miniaturemeansthat,just likethefictive
world
as a whole,itsrealismmustbe judgednotbysome absolutenormof"reality"but
in close referenceto the reality-modelssuggestedby the generico-historical
contextand built into the work itself.One of the manyimplicationsof this
parallel is that to classify(or even worse,condemn)a work as unrealisticfor

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234

MEIR STERNBERG

formsthatare in facthistorically
inaccessibleor
failingto resortto translational
not
irrelevant
it
to
would
as
be
absurd as the
(if
functionally
detrimental)
commonpracticeofraisingthestickof"realism"againsta workwhosewholesin
actuallyconsistsin leavingout certainareas ofrealitythatare beneathitsnotice,
outside its existentialken or beyondits artisticbounds. On the otherhand,it
would be just as absurdto praisea workas realisticforemployingtranslational
devices that are in fact automaticwithinits traditionor forcedon it by the
mimeticand expressiveinadequacies of its targetlanguage.Each workinherits
and establishesa certainrange of heterolingualor heterodialectalrepresentation; and it is theinterplayof possible and actual,conventionaland innovative
ofthoseformsalong
notthedistribution
formsthatdeterminesitsrealisticeffect,
some externaland eternalscale.
In extremecases, especially that of works adheringto the homogenizing
convention,theremaybe no more thana singledevice at work.But even then,
one mustnotlose sightof
despite theseeminglycommonrepertoriallimitation,
in effectbetween representational
the markeddifferences
restrictedness
(where
is not conceived of as a constitutive
or distinctive
dimensionof
polylingualism
reality, as in many ancient and medieval narratives), communicative
restrictedness
(as when the two languages are far removed in structureor
and
restriction
resources),
self-imposed
(poetic constraints,genericconsideratactics
or
individual
rhetorical
tions,
preference,as in journalisticwritingor
children'sliterature).The same is essentiallytrueof workswithan enlargedor
more densely populated scale. Biblical narrative,for example, though
quantitativelyless developed than modern literatureboth in range of
translationaldevices and in the frequencyof their implementation,often
produces in this respect a sharpersense of realismwhen its performanceis
properlyviewed againstthe backgroundof the homogenizeddiscoursein the
Canaanite tradition.And whencoupled withthefactorsthathave alreadybeen
discussed,like the impliedstandardof bilingualcompetence,thevariabilityof
literaryand communicativecontextsforcefullyestablishes that there is no
necessarycorrespondencebetweenmimeticformand mimeticfunction.
This conclusion is furtherreinforcedby a second parallel between the
microcosmof translationalmimesisand the macrocosmof overall referential
of the elements
strategy,namely,the significanceof the internalstructuring
composingeach system.Thus, in order to determinethe functionor forceor
of
of translationalmimesisit is as importantto tracethe distribution
centrality
their
to
analyze
heterolingual elements along the textual sequence as
representationalforms or their overall statisticaldistributionamong the
differentformal modes. The latter procedures may by themselvesprove
misleading,since thereis oftena notable similaritybetween the tendencyto
evocationof fictivereality,witha view to
open the workwitha circumstantial
of
first
a
impression realism,and thetendencytointroduceat an early
producing
a
and
particularizedconcentrationof translationaldevices (see
stage heavy
1978:
217ff.).Moreover, the importanceof tracingthe internal
Sternberg,
of thesedevices showsitselfin the treatmentof local
orderingand distribution

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POLYLINGUALISM

AND TRANSLATION

AS MIMESIS

235

instancesas well as thework'swholeheterolingualcorpus.In Book III, Chapter


11 of TristramShandy, for example, Tristramquotes and translates,in a
formulaofexcommunidual-languagetext,Bishop Ernulphus'stwelfth-century
cation,containingsuchhorribleand preposterouscursesas:
sitvivendo,moriendo...manducando,
Maledictus
bibendo,esuriendo,
sitiendo,
dormiendo,vigilando,ambulando,stando,sedendo,
jejunando,dormitando,
cacando,flebotomando.
jacendo,operando,
quiescendo,
mingendo,
indying...in eatinganddrinking,
inbeinghungry,
in
Mayhe be cursedin living,
infasting,
insleeping,
inslumbering,
inwalking,
instanding,
insitting,
beingthirsty,
inlying,
inworking,
inresting,
inpissing,
inshitting,
andinblood-letting.
The sceptical reader may convince himselfof the literalauthenticity
of this
fantastic-lookingdocument through independent research, while the less
scepticalwillbe satisfiedwithSterne'scunningnotethat"As thegenuinenessof
theconsultationof the Sorbonneupon thequestionofbaptism,was doubtedby
some, and denied by others,- 'twasthoughtproperto printtheoriginalof this
excommunication:for the copy of which Mr. Shandy returnsthanksto the
chapterclerk of the dean and chapterof Rochester."But once convinced,it
becomes mucheasier in thesequel to trickthereaderintobelieving(or at least
suspending disbelief) in the genuineness of the equally preposterousand
"Tale of theNose" bySlawkenbergius,
whichis
similarlyquoted-and-translated
in factentirelyapocryphal.The moralpointedbysuchtemporalmanipulations
consists,then,in the extentto whichmimesismay be a matterof distributive
statistics,of rhetoricalstructureratherthan
patternratherthandistributional
materialreproduction,
ofcontrivedeffectratherthanauthenticatedfact.
Mimesisas structured
effectand impressionbringsus to a thirdaspectof the
The
realistic
of polylingualrepresentation,
force
like thatof thetext's
parallel.
simulacrumof realityas a whole, is relativelyindependentof the objective
(verbal and extraverbal)factsas viewed and establishedby scientific
inquiry.
What is artisticallymore crucial than linguisticrealityis the model(s) of that
reality as internallypatterned or invoked by the individual work and/oiconventionallyfashionedby the literarytraditionand/orconceivedof by the
reader within the given cultural framework.The most extreme case of
subordinationofexternalfactuality
to internalmodeling,oftena concomitantof
a fictiveworldregulatedby a logic thatsharplydeviatesfromthatofeveryday
life,is the fabricationof languages thathave never been knownto man: the
languagesof Lilliput,Brobdingnagor Houyhnhnmlandin Gulliver'sTravelsor
fromstandardEnglish
George Orwell'sNewspeakare elaboratelydifferentiated
("Oldspeak") byitsthreeregistersand itsphonetic,phonological,grammatical,
lexical and semanticstructure.However fantastic,these fictivelanguagesare
investedwithsuchexistentialrightness
and internalcoherenceas cannotbutgive
their various modes of "translation" an eerie mimeticpower withinthe
framework of the "polylingual" reality-model.Much more often, the
internalizedorientationof literarymimesisassumes the less extremeformof
manipulatingthe actual ratherthan postulatingthe nonexistent.A typical

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236

MEIR STERNBERG

exampleis Ian Fleming'srepresentationof


NegrodialectintheJamesBond saga.
To dismisshis renderingas grosslyinaccurateis to missthewholepoint,and not
simplybecause we have to do here with a genre of popular literature.To
Fleming,such foreignspeech is not a dialectologicalproblembut a rhetorical
tool - a possible source of local color and picturesqueeffect.As in all other
cases wherehe scandalizedhiscriticsbydragginginbitsand pieces ofrealiawith
a show of expertise,Flemingenvisagesa reader who cannotpick holes in this
and even ifhe could,wouldknowbetterthanto makea
facade of vraisemblance,
fussabout themas longas he gothismoney'sworthin otherways.
As textualcomponent,however,translationalmimesisstandsto thetextand
particularlythe text's overall referentialstrategynot only as microcosmto
macrocosmbut also as part to whole or as means to end. And thisfurther
diversifies and complicates its functional variability. The interplay of
translationaland extraverbal mimesis may yield a variety of means-end
combinations,all of them indeed bidirectionalin principlebut with widely
cases
different
goals and dominants.Here I can onlymentiontwotypicallimiting
and some intermediatepossibilities.Polylingualrepresentationis sometimes
more or less strictlysubordinatedto the dramaticand rhetoricalneeds of the
overall fictiveaction: it may then serve, forinstance,to lay the groundfora
comedyoferrors,to characterizeor just label a personor a milieu,to sharpenor
on the contraryattenuate the reader's sense of existentialotherness or
etc. And the need to implementa certain
foreignnessor multifariousness,
functionin a certaincontextfrequently
explainseven therecourseto a particular
The
available
of
the
formout
oppositeextreme,thesubordinationof
repertoire.
of
to
the
extraverbalreality
development polylingualplay,is notso commonon a
not
scale
certainly in drama and the novel, forfairlyobvious generic
large
reasons. Still,speakingof his Lord of theRings,J. R. R. Tolkien revealed that
"he long ago inventedsome languagesout of pure philologicalenthusiasm;as
to inventpeople who
theyseemed to work,he thoughtit would be interesting
of
world
was
the
whole
result
dwarves,elves and
The
them.
thrilling
spoke
hobbits" (quoted by Forster,1970: 88). And thereis no doubt thatthe same
a milieuis invoked,a
principlehas a wealthof local and sporadicmanifestations:
situationis staged,a speech is developed beyondtherequirementsof theaction
or fullyquoted ratherthansummarized,a characteris introducedor invested
inorderto motivatethe
withcertainverbaland psychologicalfeatures,primarily
tensions.
playofinterlingual
In between these poles, we have a spectrumof more activelybidirectional
relationships,where each dimensionof mimesisoperates (simultaneouslyor
successively)as means and end, in the serviceof the text'soverall referential
strategy.For example,Homer's practiceof homogenizingthe language of his
dramatispersonaecorrelateswithhispracticeofhomogenizingtheirculture:the
Greeksand theTrojans have thesame gods,arms,customs,codes ofhonor.And
thesetwodimensionsofhispoeticmodelingofrealitycomplementand reinforce
each other with considerable thematicgain - yieldinga world-pictureof
universalvalidity,projectingthe common aspirationsof humansagainst the

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POLYLINGUALISM AND TRANSLATION AS MIMESIS

237

backgroundof mortalfateand immortalfun,and markingoppositionsin terms


of the essentialsof characterratherthantheaccidentalsof race. The worldsof
Swift'sGulliver'sTravelsand Orwell's1984,on theotherhand,arecharacterized
and it is on thisbasis that
not by sociolinguistichomogeneitybut by diversity,
in
of the overall,
and
culture
interact
the
interests
language
variously
of
of
the
invention
life.
Here
special
languagesand
normatively-charged
picture
thedifferent
modesoftranslational
mimesisserveto bringout thepolyvalenceof
and unfoldingof the (equally
culture,while at the same time the structuring
of
invented)extraverbalrealityare influencedbythedesiretoenhancetheeffect
ofdiscourse.
thepolylingualism
Both the formaland the functionalvariabilityof translationalmimesisthus
underlinethe need fora carefulhandlingof thenotionof mimesis,whichafter
twothousandyearsofcurrencyis now morethaneversurroundedbyconfusion.
The troubleis that,unlikethe proverbialold dog, mimesishas been taughtso
manytricksand has suchan aptitudeforlearningnewones,thatitsperformance
can hardlybe reducedto a singleunivocalbark.However,it is stillpossibleto
turnthisterminological
burdento theoreticalaccount.ForwhatI have shownby
on
one
multiform
focusing
aspect of mimesisin relationto overall referential
in
strategyapplies principleto all otheraspects and to mimesisas a whole in
relationto thework'shierarchyof means and ends. We mayretainmimesisas
the most comprehensiveterm for the relationshipbetween realityand its
modeled representation,insistingpreciselyon the flexibility,
mobilityand
in
it
exhibits
its
down
across
a
movement
and
set ofclosely
proteanchanges
up,
interrelatedscales, whichforconvenienceI shallsummarizeas oppositions:(1)
vs. reproduction;(2) referential
or fictionalpatterning
vs. verisimilar
selectivity
vs.
effect;(3) artfulimpressionvs. authenticatedfactuality;(4) (imn)possibility
internal
vs.
coherence
external
vs.
(im)probability;(5)
validity;(6) implied
imported,(7) artisticvs. pragmatic,and (8) conventionalvs. unique modeling;
formvs. terminalfunction.
(9) instrumental
III
for
Finally,I wantto outlinesome of theimplicationsof theforegoingargument
some issues related to mimesis. To start with, there is a widespread
misconceptionin poetics (and a numberof other disciplinesconcernedwith
languageand communication)thatconsistsin whatI wouldcall thereproductive
fallacy:the beliefthatdirectspeechpresentsan exact replicationoftheoriginal
message. What the argumentreveals is the stylizedand subordinatestatusof
seeminglyintactand autonomousliteraryquotation,showingitselfparticularly
in the extentof authorialor narratorialinterference
withthe so-calleddirect
discourse of the characters- or in other words, the range and varietyof
intrusive"telling"evenwithintheframework
ofwhatis traditionally
regardedas
in
the
of
pure"showing"
theory narrativepointofview.
To proceed to the relationshipbetweenpoeticsand translation,
translational
mimesisreveals still anotheraspect or dimensionof thisfascinatingsubject.
Generallyspeaking,then,thisrelationshipmayassumefourbasic forms:

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238

MEIR STERNBERG

1) the inquiryinto the role played by translationand translationsin some


- say,theviewofthetranslation
literarygenre,trend,periodorenvironment
of the classics throughoutthe Renaissance as a sourceof verbal plunder,
thematic inspiration and formal discipline for the new developing
corpus
poetics- withitsfocuson thepart-wholerelationsbetweentranslated
and theliterarysystem;
2) in a related but distinctsense: the explanationof the choices made in a
or explicit)conception
translationin termsof thetranslator's(reconstructed
of literature,withits focuson the part-wholerelationsbetween translated
textand translating
logic;
intermsofthepoetic
the
3)
studyofthevalidityor acceptabilityofa translation
with
its
on
the
focus
the
principlesinforming original
part-wholerelations
between translated units and overall poetic structureor functional
or in otherwords,on thecomparisonof thepart-wholerelations
constraints,
in thetranslatedand theoriginaltext;and finally,
I wouldsuggest,
of
with
focus
on the intratextual
the
translational
its
mimesis,
4)
study
the
relations
between
part-whole
(variably,selectivelyand tendentiously)
them.
translatedunitsand thepoeticsof theworkincorporating
I have deliberatelypresentedthefourtypesof relationshipin a mannerthat
will both indicate the position of translationalmimesisas a legitimateand
theoryoftranslationand bringout
necessaryconcernofanypoetically-oriented
concerns.When
some revealingpointsofcontactwiththeother,complementary
thefieldof translationstudiesis viewedin thisbroad perspective,itemergesfor
instance that judging translationalpracticeprimarilyby the "external" and
absolute standardof the source corpus ratherthan by the internalaims and
variableneeds of thetargetis farfrombeingtherule: itactuallydominatesinno
more than one (No. 3) of the four frameworks.And this suggeststhat any
monisticconceptionof translationaladequacy and translationalcompetenceis
simplyunacceptable,since even thebasic criteriamustvaryfromframeworkto
frameworkin nature,cogencyand certainlyhierarchicalstructure.What is in
ofinquirya perfectly
one framework
adequate renderingmaybe condemnedin
oreven plainignorance.Hence,
tendentious
anotheras grossinfidelity,
tailoring,
for
a
broad
the
need
conceptor conception,comparableto
amongotherthings,
mimesis as presented above, that will accommodate the whole range of
correspondence between translationand source - e.g., from formal to
contextualreplicationor fromminimalto maximalanalogy - and will then
enable us to relatein morespecifictermsthevariationsin translationalpractice
to thevariationsin translationalends.
Withinsucha conception,standardor approximativeliterarytranslation
(No.
3) and translationalmimesis(No. 4) will evidentlybe found to be widely
separatedin more thanone respect.In one, the relationsbetweensource and
renderingare in principleintertextual;in the other,intratextual.In one, the
sourcealone is initiallypresentand thetranslationattemptsto re-construct
it;in
the other, the translationalone is initially present and the source is
reconstructible
only throughits mediation.And of course, the Seven Deadly

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POLYLINGUALISM

AND TRANSLATION

AS MIMESIS

239

Sins ofone - whetherclich6,literalism


or anachronism- are cardinalvirtuesin
thedecalogue of theother.Still,theirjuxtapositionis notuninstructive.
First,it
draws attentionto a highlyintricateproblem: what happens to translational
mimesisin translation,especiallywhen the new targetlanguageis none other
thantheheterolingualsourceimitatedby theoriginaltext?Second, itraisesthe
equally complex problemof the correspondenceand interactionbetweenthe
translationalpracticeof thetwowithinthecontextofa certainperiod,or genre,
or writer.To give a singleexample: to whatextentshould translation(and by
whatmeans do translations)reflectas well as replace theactualverbalfeatures
and distinctions
of the original?Third,theverydisparityofthetwothrowsinto
special reliefthecommondenominatorofpart-wholerelationsas theregulative
all translationalactivities.To insistthat,withintheconstrained
logicinforming
scope of standardtranslationas well as withinthe apparentlyhappy-go-lucky
performanceof translationalmimesis,the materialand formalanalogyof the
demandsofthewhole,is notofcourseto
partsmaybe sacrificedto thefunctional
make lifeeasier foranybody.My purposehas been to demonstratethe power
and rangeof translation,
notto legitimatethevagariesof translators.

REFERENCES
inLiterature
FORSTER, L., 1970. The Poet's Tongues:Multilingualism
(London).
STERNBERG, M., 1976. "Bound and ProductiveForms in Language and LiteraryLanguage,"
22, 78-141 (Hebrew).
Ha-sifrut
1978 ExpositionalModes and Temporal Orderingin Fiction(Baltimore and London).

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