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Review of Theatrical Translation and Film Adaptation
Date: Tue, 21 Feb 2006 19:35:44 +0800 From: Ka-Wai Yeung Subject: Theatrical Translation and Film Adaptation
AUTHOR: Zatlin, Phyllis TITLE: Theatrical Translation and Film Adaptation SUBTITLE: A Practitioner's View SERIES: Topics in Translation 29 PUBLISHER: Multilingual Matters YEAR: 2005
Ka-Wai Yeung, Department of Chinese, The University of Hong Kong
This book belongs to the Topics in Translation series published by Multilingual Matters. Even though it is not the first in the series on drama/ theatre translation, the practical suggestions to theatre translators and the in-depth realistic illustrations the book provides are informative and unprecedented. The book subtitle correctly depicts the focus of the author's analysis and this book has to be on the shelf of anybody who has an aspiration to become a theatrical translator or playwright. The observations and suggestions are based on the author's years of experiences as a theatrical translator, as well as the responses to questionnaires from veteran translators and theatrical professionals in several countries. The book also presents discussions of bilingual theatres and subtitling and dubbing practices for stage plays, which have received little attention in previous studies. Another neglected area the book explores is the application of film adaptation theories and strategies in translating stage plays to films.
The book is divided into eight chapters with a preface and an appendix. The major focus of the first five chapters is in theatrical translation. The sixth chapter discusses cases applicable to both theatre and film. The last two chapters are devoted to the theories and strategies in film adaptations from stage plays. The appendix is the questionnaire for veteran theatrical translators, from which responses are adopted in the book.
Chapter 1 ''In Theatrical Translation, There is No Lack of Conflict'' serves as the introductory chapter of the book that identifies the possible difficulties encountered by a theatrical translator. It discusses the role of a translator from a perspective of practicality and relates the confrontations (and sometimes collaborations) between translators and other stage personnel, including playwrights, actors, directors, editors, as well as audiences. All problems are revealed from real experiences encountered by the author, as well as by other theatrical translators, and they range from academic ones, like the discussion of ''performability'', to practical ones, like the possible judicial confrontation between a playwright and a translator in play adaptation. Also included is a discussion of political and economic censorship, which poses the greatest difficulties for a translator who adapts a play from one place to another.
Chapter 2 ''Out of the Shadows: The Translators Speak for Themselves'' reports and evaluates the responses to a questionnaire from 36 veteran theatrical translators working in Western Europe and the States, sometimes complemented with author's own experiences and personal communications with other translators. The questionnaire explores some of the greatly concerned presumptions regarding theatrical translation. For instance, the responses have revealed that in reality, theatrical translators take dramatic skills and the knowledge of the source language very seriously and they object strongly to adaptations based on ''literal translations'', but consulting other' translations as references is legitimate. The responses also give some sound advices for aspiring theatrical translators on how to get into the field and share some of their own experiences with regard to practical issues, including the meager incomes generated by play translation, how to get a play translation staged or published, the marginal role of agents and the helpfulness of membership in playwrights/play translators societies.
Chapter 3 ''Networking: Collaborative Ventures'' is devoted to introducing several projects and associations that foster and network for theatrical translation. The chapter narrates the missions, history, and functions of various collaborative ventures in France, Germany, Spain, the United Kingdom and the States. Some cases in which translators acquired help from these ventures are also described.
Chapter 4 ''Practical Approaches to Translating Theatre'' shifts the discussion from practical issues to approaches to translating. The author illustrates the common problems encountered in theatrical translation with realistic examples. Examined problems include the setting of a translated play, translating character names and forms of address, the rhythmic and syntactic differences between original and translated texts, recreating characters' ''voices'', the creative adaptations in translation, translating dialect, slang and idioms, representing literary references within the text, translating or substituting song lyrics in text, tackling wordplay or puns, and deciding play titles.
Chapter 5 ''Variations on the Bilingual Play Text'' elevates the discussion of translating dialect and explores the paradoxical situation confronted by theatrical translators when the source text is bilingual or multilingual. It examines the possible extent and impact of the use of a second (or third) language in a play and presents the varying strategies adopted by translators in different cases.
Chapter 6 ''Titling and Dubbing for Stage and Screen'' discusses issues more than the practical approaches of subtitling and dubbing for theatre and films. It reports a small-scale research about the acceptance and popularity of subtitling vs. dubbing in theatres and movies in various countries. Some technical considerations of subtitling and dubbing, such as formatting rules of subtitling, teletext technology, subtitling and dubbing technology in theatres, are provided. Also included is the various strategies of dubbing and ''simultaneous translation'' for theatres.
Chapter 7 ''On and Off the Screen: The Many Faces of Adaptation'' reviews the theories of film adaptations and pinpoints the negative criticisms and neglect on the studies of film adaptations from stage plays. It reasserts the importance of adaptation of plays in film history by providing concrete examples of film adaptation from plays.
Chapter 8 ''From Stage to Screen: Strategies for Film Adaptation'' presents a general study on film adaptations from stage plays based on Wagner's (1975) and Andrew's (2000) film adaptation theories. Realistic illustrations of film adaptations from stage plays are analyzed according to the three film adaptation strategies, namely ''transposition'' (''intersecting''), ''analogy'' (''borrowing''), and ''commentary'' (''transformation'').
Bassnett (2002:119) has correctly stated that in literary translation studies, ''theatre is one of the most neglected areas''. Most analyses on literary translation have been focused on narratives and poetry. In light of this, this book successfully achieved its objective by providing a unified account on special problems of translating theatrical texts. As Zatlin (2005: viii) observes, ''there is a growing bibliography on theatre'', such as edited anthologies by Johnston (1996) and Upton (2000); or the theoretical work by Aaltonen (2000), another book published in the same series by Multilingual Matters. Contrasting a descriptive theoretical approach to theatrical translation like Aaltonen (2000), the book is distinctive of focusing its concerns over the practical problems encountered by theatrical practitioners. For instance, previous studies have suggested that a translator has to collaborate with other members of the theatre (e.g. Bassnett,1998:106). This book applies a practitioner's approach on the issue and provides practical suggestions on HOW to collaborate with playwrights, authors and editors. These advices are based on the author's years of immersion in theatres, as well as realistic experiences confronted by veteran theatrical translators and they make the book an outstanding mine of information for theatrical translators.
The surveys and interviews conducted with seasoned translators and theatre professionals in different countries in Chapter 2 have contributed to the richness and depths of discussions on practical approaches to aspiring theatrical translators. The responses to the questionnaire, together with the author's expertise as a theatrical translator and professor, have presented a realistic portrayal of the theatrical translation industry. Another excellent instance of the informative nature of the book is the chapter on various networking ventures in Western Europe and the States (Chapter 3). The discussions presented in the first three chapters have provided crucial prerequisite understandings of theatrical translation practice in addition to the practical approaches to theatre translating, which is also included in a separate chapter (Chapter 4).
Practical approaches to theatre translating have been introduced in Chapter 4. It deals with most of the commonly encountered problems in theatrical translation, such as adaptation of settings, translation of names, wordplays, slang, dialects, recreating characters' voices, etc. The problems examined are specific to theatrical translation and are illustrated with appropriate examples mostly drawn from contemporary theatres. The diversified array of problems explored in the chapter resembles the approach taken in Lander (2001) and results in a reader-friendly practical guide to theatrical translation. Due to its limited length, the condensed discussion in this chapter does not aim at, as Zatlin (2005:ix) confesses, providing an ''all-inclusive study''; hence, some issues are left unexplored, such as translation of verse drama, opera libretti, musical comedies, etc. Still, the illustrations have adequately highlighted some important strategies adopted by theatrical translators during the translating process.
Unique to the book are the analyses presented in the later chapters (Chapter 5, 6 & 8). Even though many translators have identified the most difficult task in theatrical translation is to deal with the dialectal variations within the play text, the examination of bilingual or multilingual play texts in relation to theatrical translation has been missing in the literature. Chapter 5 has been the first published work that provides a general analysis of the subject. The research on the practices of subtitling and dubbing for films in Chapter 6 has refreshed the general beliefs on the subject in previous studies. In addition, the examination of the practices for theatres has been a rarely explored area and the investigation presented here is unparalleled. Although the author does not propose any new theories on film adaptation, the application of Wagner's (1975) and Andrew's (2000) film adaptation theories to the translation of stage plays to films in Chapter 8 is unprecedented. Practical approaches to the adaptations of movies from plays based on concrete illustrative examples of adapted films are also exceptional in the literature, which has tended to concentrate on narrative into film. All these analyses contribute to the current studies on literary translation, subtitling and dubbing, and film adaptation that have overlooked the theatres.
Being an experienced theatrical practitioner, the author puts theatre under the spotlight and all the discussions in the book center around theatre. The later part of the book is distinguished in probing into various unexplored areas regarding theatrical translation, while the earlier part excels in providing sound practical advices to theatrical practitioners. Both directions are potential areas for further pursuit and the effort in addressing these neglected areas in this book is highly appreciated.
Aaltonen, Sirkku (2000) Time-sharing on stage: drama translation and society. Clevedon, Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.
Andrew, Dudley (2000) Adaptation. In Naremore (2000), 28-37.
Bassnett, Susan (1998) Still Trapped in the Labyrinth: Further Reflections on Translation and Theatre. In Bassnett & Lefevere (1998), 90-108.
Bassnett, Susan (2002) Translation studies. London: Routledge.
Bassnett, Susan & A. Lefevere (1998) Constructing cultures: essays on literary translation. Clevedon, Philadelphia: Multilingual Matters.
Lander, Clifford E. (2001) Literary Translation: a practical guide. Clevedon, Buffalo: Multilingual Matters.
Naremore, James, ed. (2000) Film Adaptation. London: Athlone Press.
Upton, Carole-Anne, ed. (2000) Moving target: theatre translation and cultural relocation. Manchester, Northampton: St. Jerome.
Wagner, Geoffrey (1975) The novel and the cinema. Rutherford, N.J.: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.
Zatlin, Phyllis (2005) Theatrical Translation and Film Adaptation: A Practitioner's View. Clevedon, Buffalo, Toronto: Multilingual Matters.
ABOUT THE REVIEWER:
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Ka-Wai Yeung is a doctoral candidate in the University of Hong Kong. Her doctoral research attempts to apply linguistic theories into translation practices with specific reference to Chinese-English and English-Chinese translation. Her master thesis is a comparative linguistic study between Chinese and English to the problems of syntactic categories. Her major research interests include syntactic categories, pragmatics, comparative linguistics and translation theories.