Pilk ingliskeelse kirjanduse tõlgetele 18. sajandi lõpust 20. sajandi algusveerandini / A Look at Estonian Translations of English Literature from the late 18th Century to the Early 20th Century


  • Krista Mits




The aim of this article is to provide an overview of translations of English literature into Estonian between 1779 and 1917. There is an attempt to analyse the texts by describing them on the basis of, or in their departure from, a text or texts that chronologically and logically precede them. The discussion includes the nature of the transfer and the changes that have been made to the text, either because they existed in the source or mediating text or because of the expectations or requirements in the receptor, i.e. Estonian culture. The translated texts are seen in their historical-cultural context. For the analysis, a corpus of translated texts – religious, fiction, drama and non-fiction (published in a book form) was compiled. The general orientation of Estonia until the 1880s was to the German cultural sphere. So the first translations of English literature were made via a mediating language, which was German. English Puritan writers were introduced by the Pietist missionaries with the aim of spreading their teachings in the second half of the 18th century. At about the same time the narrative element was introduced into stories with religious content. Some internationally popular stories, e.g. the Inkle and Yarico story, later robinsonades, stories of slavery and plant at ion life, as well as Amer ican Indian st or ies wer e also t r anslat ed fr om Ger man. However, until  1875  ver  y  few  translations  of  English  literature  into  E stonian were  published.  The  last quarter of the 19th century saw an explosion in literary production: there was a substantial increase  both  in  the  number  of  translations  of  English  literature  into  E stonian  as  well  as diversification of genres. This continued into the first decade of the 20th  centur y,  when  the sociopolitical situation in Estonia changed. In addition, books came to be translated directly from  English,  although  many  translations  of  English  literature  were  still  made  via  German and, to a lesser extent, via Russian, Swedish or Finnish. Thus, English literature often reached the Estonian audiences in a mediated form. The selection of authors and books, the structure of the texts and the overall meaning and tone of the texts often depended on the mediating text or culture. However, many changes were made by the translator: explanations of new words and phrases, pronunciations, references to the Estonian reader, etc. Here paratexts are quite important: the titles often explained the content or the purpose of the book and referred to the language from which the book was translated. In the prefaces, translators or publishers explained their aims or connected the book to discussions in society (e.g. the translator of Uncle Tom’s Cabin connected it to anabolitionist argument of slavery as a moral evil; on the other hand, the editor connected it to the Estonian fight for freedom; the translation of The Pathfinder was related to the polemics in the Estonian newspapers over migration). However, in very many cases it was difficult to positively identify the mediating or source language or text and to establish whether it was a translation of English literature.


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