What are the Obstacles of a Literary Translation?

Without a doubt, and more so in a world that is increasingly globalized, the translator’s principal objective is not only conveying a message in one language to another, but his or her task is composed of an arduous amount of intercultural comprehension, analysis, perception and development. And, as it is well known in our field, literary translation is not an exception to this.

The translator must not only count with the tools and abilities necessary to understand the complexity and meaning of the original literary work, but also must be capable of carrying on the message from one culture to the other. As so, the translator’s main goal will be to eliminate all language barriers and insert that text into another cultural context.

There is no doubt that as translators we often come across the difficulty of expressing something in one language that is easily said in another. For example, how do we translate culinary terms that are a direct reflection of a culture? Or, how do we translate titles of literary works, proper names of characters and idioms? This is where having in-depth knowledge of the source language in which the content is originally developed comes handy. The translator should reference back to proper procedures like adaptations and point out cultural differences while at the same time finding solutions that result in a coherent, natural and high quality translation.

It is clear therefore that in a literary text, culture and languages are closely linked. If there is lack of knowledge of one and not the other, this will result in an unnatural translation, hardly pleasing for a reader.

Translation then becomes an integral part of cultures playing an important role in the transmission of thoughts and ideas from one language to the other.