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Review: The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation

The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation
The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation by Lawrence Venuti

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I picked the book on the wrong time. This is supposed to be a very theoretical book on translation studies aimed for advocating for the paradigm of foreignization. I, barely understanding scholarly discussion about translation, was frequently lost inside Venuti’s dense prose and near-eternal paragraphs.

Venuti argued that translators have too long underestimated their own role in shaping history by rendering themselves “invisible” in the translation process. He challenged mainstream idea (or so he said) that a good translation is a translation that does not read like a translation. This acceptance about translation leads to a fluent translation: a translation that is readable but conceals differences between the author’s and the translator’s culture. As a result, readers of the translated work think that they are directly interacting with the author while in fact they are accessing the original work through the ideological lenses of the translator. Venuti condemns this phenomenon as a kind of cultural opression where the author’s deeply-held values are discarded and replaced with the target-language culture’s presuppositions. A notable example is when a Roman text telling intimate interactions between two males was interpreted as homosexual activities in English translation during the Victorian era.

His “call for action” emphasizes the need for translators to preserve some kind of “strangeness” in their translators so that readers realize that they are reading something from a different mind. In some cases, calls like this makes sense since there are many translations that act as though as they are the author’s words in another language rather than the near-original work of the translator, such as the famous Fitzgerald’s “translation” of Omar Khayam’s Rubaiyat. However, in other cases Venuti just seemed to be paranoid of threats of cultural opression and how translators seem to be neglected.

I might need to read this book sometime later after having some good grasp of the fundamental issues in translation studies in order to enjoy the full depth’s of Venuti’s argument.

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  1. THISSSS. Dulu sering kecewa baca buku versi terjemahan karena bahasanya bener2 nranslet tok, instead of mencoba ngasih ‘nyawa’ di terjemahan karya si penerjemah tsb. Ya tapi memang susah sih buat bisa nerjemahin sehebat itu

    • Yup. Ini bisa dibilang penyakitnya penerjemah di Indonesia sih, entah itu mau terjemahan ilmiah atau sastra. Rata-rata masih enggak bikin terjemahan yang luwes dan “bernyawa” kayak yang kamu bilang. Mungkin terpengaruh sama scholarship di bidang kajian terjemahan sini juga sih yang cenderung sakleg dan menuntut supaya hasilnya akurat.

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