“Artisticity” as the Object of Translation

The main tendency of modern translation studies and practice—that of naturalisation of the text into the target culture—is one of the main obstacles to adequacy understood as similar artistic effect of the original and translation. In fact when naturalisation in the target culture is the object, adequacy becomes a redundant notion, for when the interest is shifted to the target text there is no need and motivation to check the translation against the original, provided the translation is correct, natural, stylistically well done and easy to read. The fact that the translation might differ in its artistic value from the original will never catch the eye, if the aim is the target culture only. The notions of literal or free translation frequently used in papers on the subject do not contribute to real description of the translation value as they do not take into consideration the original text either. Meanwhile many of the existing translations, including those from Russian, giving the general notion of the text deprive it of its artistic value.

By artisticity is meant such organization of the original text that provides reflectivity on the part of the reader. The artistic text is “the machine for thinking” (Richards). It always contains understanding difficulties. These difficulties are not always seen by the reader who is prepared to grasp only the content of the text as the succession of its propositions. To see the understanding difficulty beyond the mere content of the text, beyond its propositions, elliptical constructions, presuppositions, and implications is a difficulty in itself. “The Lady with the Dog” by Čexov starts “Govorili, čto na naberežnoj pojavilos′ novoe lico: dama s sobačkoj.” This is the first appearance of the main artistic idea, which stretches through the text—“the enigma of love.” Although there are no marked stylistic devices, this idea is objectivized by the impersonal syntactic structure and by the neutralization of gender. Everything about the Lady is uncertain and enigmatic, even her description that doesn’t describe. The idea of the text starts as the meaning the “enigma of the lady” contrasted to the “banality of Gurov.” This meaning presents no difficulty for a translator who realizes the artistic value of the text structure. There are translations that demonstrate complete misunderstanding of this idea: “People were telling one another that a new person had appeared on the embankment: a lady with a little dog.” Lexical and syntactic redundancy and absence of laconicism deprive the text of its artistic idea.

Not every text characterized by an abundance of stylistic devices can be considered artistic, for stylistic devices fall into artistically valid and merely expressive, used for the purpose of “beautifying.” All these matters should be taken into consideration by the translator, since the translation, if it is to be appropriately artistic, must contain the same degree of understanding difficulty regarded in this case as constructive understanding difficulty.