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Translation as a Form of Representation

Translation, according to Tymoczko (2007, p. 114), is not only “one of the oldest and most continually practiced forms of representation in human culture” but also “a principal form of intercultural representation.” Bassnett (1998) states that translation plays a crucial role in aiding understanding of an increasingly fragmented world. As an act of communication, translation is an attempt “to relay, across cultural and linguistic boundaries, another act of communication (which may have been intended for different purposes and different readers/hearers)” (Hatim and Mason 1997, p. 1) and as a form of representation, translation represents the foreign culture in a target culture.

Pym (2010, p. 108) considers that texts belong to a specific place, time and context where they have “full textual meaning.” Hence when a text is translated from one language into another, there will be changes of “values” in those culturally-bound elements in order to make the target audience engage with the text in a similar way to its original readers. The viewpoint of Pym about translated texts is similar to that of Lefevere who introduced the notion of rewriting, which he defined as “the adaptation of a work of literature to a different audience, with the intention of influencing the way in which that audience reads the work” (1982, p. 4). It is a complex process and is related to numerous variable factors including language, social policy and culture. In other words, translation as human behaviour is historically, socially and culturally determined, or in short, “norm-governed” (Toury 1995, p. 56). And norms can be defined as “general values or ideas by a community- as to what is right or wrong, adequate and inadequate- into performance instructions appropriate and applicable to particular situations” (ibid, p. 55).

Gender representation in Irish contemporary female popular fiction, in the context of this chapter, can be seen as the “norm-governed” synthesis of conventions coming from the existing cultural facts, the author’s personal viewpoints and her experiences in the terms of an original novel. And when it is translated into Vietnamese, the original representation is recreated based on a translator’s understanding of the source texts and culture, as well as the norms that predominate in the target culture. Generally, such an approach to representation in this chapter differs from what is traditionally viewed as representation in a novel because a certain level of translational mediation is taken into consideration. It is, therefore, an attempt at elaborating a consistent approach to reconstructing representation that lies behind the characters of a fictional work.

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