Marta Sillaotsa eksplitsiitne ja implitsiitne tõlkepoeetika / Marta Sillaots: The Implicit and Explicit Poetics of Translation

Katiliina Gielen


The present article looks at a section of Estonian translation history, through the criticism and practice of translation of an extremely prolific and well-known Estonian translator and reviewer of translations Marta Sillaots (1887–1969). Touching upon the issue of the aging of translational texts as well as the norms of translational behavior in the Estonia of the first half of the 20th century, the article makes use of Peeter Torop’s concepts of the explicit poetics of translation (theoretical ideas about translation expressed in paratexts) and implicit poetics of translation (translational choices inside translations) in an attempt to map the translational thought of Marta Sillaots. Firstly, the explicit poetics of translation of Marta Sillaots is analyzed by focusing on the recurring topics and keywords in Sillaots’ translation reviews, published in a monthly literary journal Eesti Kirjandus during the 1920s and 1930s. Secondly, the implicit poetics of Marta Sillaots’ translations is analyzed based on a comparative corpus of two novels translated by Sillaots and their later editions: Romain Rolland’s Jean-Christophe 1936 and 1958 (edited by Henno Rajandi) and Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield 1937 and 1991 (edited by Lia Rajandi). Although the originals are held close at hand, the translations are approached as facts in Estonian cultural space, and thus the focus is on the translation rather than on the original. In comparison with the first edition, the changes made by the editors reveal a pattern of movement towards greater fluency by standardizing the word order, adding linking devices and making the constructions confirm to the rules of target language.The comparison of the explicit and implicit poetics of Sillaots reveals certain conformities as well as inconsistencies. In reviewing translations by other translators, Sillaots traditionally balances between the terms good and bad translation. Firstly, for her, a precondition for a good translation is the connection between the translator and the original that can be expressed by a theoretical interest of the translator in the original author or in a similarity of their literary styles. Secondly, Sillaots emphasizes the need to lead the reader to the translational text by a comprehensive foreword, something that she, as a translator, always tried to do. But most importantly, Sillaots finds it necessary for the translators to educate the Estonian readers, first by the choice of authors to translate and second by the language of translation, which has to be in accordance with the norms of grammar and style of the target language.However, the comparative analysis of her translations to their later editions shows that, although never adding any lexical items, Sillaots often used sentence structure, word order as well as minimal collocation in order to convey what, according to her, was the style of the original author. This practice distanced her translations somewhat from what is regarded as adherence to the rules of Estonian text formation. Sillaots remains an important part of Estonian translation history because of the number of her translations as well as for her poetics of translation.

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