This paper is intended to provide an analysis of Gyõzõ Határ's Hungarian translation of The Life and Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gentleman. While the Hungarian version was produced two centuries after the original, it is nevertheless capable, by virtue of its being the first ever complete Hungarian translation, of offering a unique interpretation of Sterne's famous novel. Through close readings of selected excerpts from the novel, I aim to situate the age-old commonplace: “a translation can never replace the original.” My comparative reading is intended to demonstrate that neither are processes of signification in a translated work reducible to those in the original. This way, a logic of mutual dependency and supplementarity comes into play, overshadowing the commonsensical approach to translation which is based on patterns of prioritizing and an urge to distinguish with absolute clearness between correct and incorrect translations. A key concept is that of tautology, which seems inevitable when speaking of translations, as a certain degree of overdetermination and repetitiousness is required to produce effects which may supplement the usually more compact and idiomatic tropes of the original. However, I try to show that, in some rare but fascinating cases, the reverse can be equally true.
Lawrence Venuti, The Translator's Invisibility. A History of Translation, London-New York: Routledge, 306.
Wolfgang Iser, Sterne: Tristram Shandy, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, especially 20-24.
Jonathan Lamb, Sterne's Fiction and the Double Principle, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989, 28, 64-65.
Laurence Sterne, The Life & Opinions of Tristram Shandy, Gent., New York: The Heritage Press, 1935, 255. Emphasis added. Further references to this edition are in the text.
Sigurd Burckhardt, "Tristram Shandy's Law of Gravity," English Literary History, 28 (1961), 70-88; about the pun 'bear/bare' see p. 84. What follows on the next few pages draws heavily on the argument put forward by Burckhardt, to which I am deeply indebted.
Theodore Baird ("The Time-Scheme of Tristram Shandy and a Source", PMLA 51 (1936), 803-820 demonstrated long ago that a chronological sequence of events can indeed be reconstructed from Tristram Shandy.
Benjamin, "The Task of the Translator," trans. Harry Zohn, in Selected Writings, Vol. 1 (1913-26), ed. M. Bullock and M. W. Jennings, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996, 261.
For a rather simple but effective critique of dialogism in the novel, see Corinne Fourny, "Dialogues in 'Tristram Shandy': Openness or Control?" The Shandean 9 (1997), 70-82.
Cf. Flavio Gregori, Il 'wit' nel Tristram Shandy. Totalità e dialogo, Roma: Edizione dell'Ateneo, 1987, 86.
The examples are from Lamb, 123; 50.
Peter de Voogd suggested that the name might be a pun on "ne amour" or "no more". Quoted in Werner, 146.
See Győző Határ, Életút [A Journey through Life], ed. Lóránt Kabdebó, Szombathely, 1993-1995, Vol. 2, 396.
Cf. Gregori, 70-91.
Gabriella Hartvig, Laurence Sterne Magyarországon 1790-1860 [Laurence Sterne in Hungary 1790-1860], Budapest: Argumentum, 2000.
Adam Smith, Lectures on Rhetoric and Belles Lettres, ed. J. C. Bryce, Indianapolis: Liberty Classics, 1985, 7.
Gabriella Hartvig speaks of Határ's "great translation that even matches the original in terms of wit". Hartvig, 8.
"Good morning, kicsi káposta (sic)" - that is how the character Zsuzsi Szabó greets her friend in Chapter 54 of Pynchon's Mason & Dixon (New York: Henry Holt and Co., 1997, 540). Incidentally (?) Zsuzsi first appears in the novel wearing the uniform of the Nádasdy-hussars, a famous regiment fighting in various wars of succession in the 18th century.
Michael Riffaterre, "Transposing Presuppositions: on the Semantics of Literary Translation," in Rainer Schulte - John Biguenet, eds, Theories of Translation. An Anthology of Essays from Dryden to Derrida, Chicago-London: The University of Chicago Press, 1992, 205, 217.
Hans C. Werner, Literary Texts as Nonlinear Patterns. A Chaotics Reading of Rainforest, Transparent Things, Travesty, and Tristram Shandy, Gothenburg: Acta Universitatis Gothoburgensis, 1999, 156.
The reference is especially to Paul de Man's lecture on Walter Benjamin and the ensuing discussion in The Resistance to Theory, Minneapolis-London: University of Minnesota Press, 1986, 73-105.
Some argue, from a Freudian perspective, that translation is inevitably a sin committed against the author (and not only the text) of the original. See Andrew Benjamin, Translation and the Nature of Philosophy. A New Theory of Words, New York-London: Routledge, 1989, 137.
This logic is, needless to say, that of Derrida's Of Grammatology, albeit in a necessarily simplified form. It is noteworthy that the English translator of Derrida's book applies Derrida's interpretation of the supplement to her own translation. Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, "Translator's Preface" to Jacques Derrida, Of Grammatology, Baltimore-London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1976, Ixxxvii. "It is now time to acknowledge that this theory would likewise admit - as it denies - translation, by questioning the absolute privilege of the original."
. Cf. Richard A. Lanham, Tristram Shandy's Games of Pleasure, Los Angeles: The University of California Press, 1973, 53-76. Lanham characterizes Walter as a belated Sophist.
Ernő Kulcsár Szabó, "A saját idegensége" ["The Alterity of What is One's Own"] in A megértés alakzatai [Figures of Understanding], Debrecen: Csokonai, 1999, 79-80.
Laurence Sterne, Tristram Shandy úr élete és gondolatai, trans. Határ Győző, Budapest: Európa, 19892, 392. Emphasis added. Further references to this edition are in the text, separated from references to the English edition by a slash.
The word megyeget can be used if one says that her work is 'coming along okay,' for instance, while mendegél refers to unhurried strolling. What the two have in common is an impression of comfort, tranquility and slowness.
The distinction between "models of" and "models for" reality is from Clifford Geertz, The Interpretation of Cultures: Selected Essays, New York: Basic, 1973, 93.
Interesting "parallels" can be found in Ugo Foscolo's footnotes to his Italian translation of A Sentimental Journey. (The translation was made under the pseudonym Didimo Cherico, as if to mirror Sterne's games with the names of Tristram and Yorick.) Foscolo comments on translating a translation. In a note made to the chapter called "The Translation. Paris" he explains why he had replaced, in the second edition, the phrase "traduzione salviniana" with "traduzione plebea" (standing for "vile translation" in Sterne). Foscolo explains that the first version, of course unbeknownst to the speaker, Yorick, is derived from the name of the author of a failed Italian translation from Terence. In another footnote, he gives reasons for translating into archaic Italian a fragmented old French text, which Yorick quotes in contemporary English. Foscolo, somewhat comically and yet astutely, insists that a translation must give a sense of the historicity of language - that is its main didactic function. Foscolo, Viaggio sentimentale di Yorick lungo la Francia e l'Italia (1813), in Opere, ed. Mario Puppo, Milano: U. Mursia & C., 1966, 465 n74., 507 n119.
See Határ, 397.
See for instance. Giovanna Capone, Spazi della scena comica nella narrativa inglese, Pisa: Editrice Libreria Goliardica, 1973, 98.
Robert Siegle, The Politics of Reflexivity. Narrative and the Constitutive Poetics of Culture, Baltimore-London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1986, especially 224-247.
Jacques Berthoud, Shandeism and Sexuality, in Valerie Grosvenor Myer, ed., Laurence Sterne: Riddles and Mysteries, London-Totowa, NJ: Vision - Barnes & Noble, 1984, 36.
Rodolphe Gasché, Of Minimal Things. Studies on the Notion of Relation, Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1999, 73. Further references to this edition are in the text.