Translating Style: a literary Approach to Translation Approach to Literature


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Translating Style A Literary Approach to Translation - A Translation Approach to Literature ( PDFDrive )
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7
Tim Parks
Quick and Delicious. 
Una cucina rapida e squisita – a cuisine/type of cooking [that is] quick 
and delicious
The concept ‘cucina’ (type of cooking) is absent (or only implicit) in the Eng-
lish. The presence of the word raises the register in the Italian. If translating 
from the Italian, would an English translator have had any reasons for omitting 
the word? Perhaps yes, in the sense that the only word available in English 
here is ‘cuisine’, which seems too noble a concept for this kind of piece. But 
equally we can see why an Italian translator of an English original might 
have wished to introduce the word. If he did not, he would have had to give 
masculine plural endings to the two adjectives ‘rapido’ and ‘squisito’ (quick, 
delicious) in order to have them agree with ‘piatti’ (dishes), and this would 
seem extremely primitive, stylistically, in Italian. Since both texts in this case 
might easily be the result of translation from the other, this difference tells us 
very little about which text is the original. 
The time-saver’s cookbook. 
Il libro di cucina che vi farà risparmiare tempo – the book of cooking 
that] will save you time 
Here one can merely note that while it would take an inventive English trans-
lator to arrive at the compression of ‘time-saver’s’, an Italian translator of the 
English expression has no alternative but to offer this entirely standard formula. 
Italian does not share with English the resource either of the compound noun 
or the Anglo-Saxon genitive and is thus forced to introduce a ‘that’ clause, 
‘the book that will save you time.’
If you love good food but hate spending time preparing it 
Se apprezzate la buona cucina ma non avete il tempo per dedicarvi 
alla preparazione dei cibi 
(If you appreciate good cooking but don’t have the time to give to 
preparing foods)
As with the title, the English, with its concept ‘hate’, seems more radical than 
the Italian ‘ma non avete tempo’ (but don’t have time). Again while it is hard to 
imagine an English translator introducing such a strong notion while working 
from the blander Italian, we can see every reason for an Italian translator to 


8
Identifying an Original
eliminate it. For one cannot reasonably assume, in Italy, that a large number 
of people ‘hate’ cooking, or, even assuming they do, that they are willing to 
admit as much. 
The next divergence between the texts, ‘the cookbook you’ve been wait-
ing for’ and ‘il libro che fa per voi’ (the book that makes/is for you) hardly 
helps us with the task of identification, since, as with ‘in un minuto’ and ‘in 
minutes’, both expressions have the same register and work well here in their 
respective languages, despite the evident difference in meaning. However, on 
reaching the last sentence, our growing suspicions that this must be an English 
original are amply confirmed. 
GREAT MEALS IN MINUTES makes it possible for you to get in 
and out of the kitchen in a snap – without resorting to those expensive 
and all-too-familiar entrées.
PIATTI PRONTI IN UN MINUTO vi consentirà di entrare e uscire 
dalla cucina in un momento, senza dover ricorrere alle pietanze sur-
gelate, tanto costose quanto ormai sin troppo comuni. 
(DISHES READY IN A MINUTE will allow you to go in and out of 
the kitchen in a moment, without resorting to deep-frozen meals, as 
expensive by now as they are all too common)
Here the very colloquial, unusual and appropriate, ‘in a snap’ is hardly 
matched, nor could have been inspired, by ‘in un momento’ (in a moment), 
while the last line shows the English referring to a cultural context (the use 
of recognizable deep-frozen entrées) which has to be explained in the Italian, 
whose readers are perhaps not familiar with such practices at all.
What conclusions can be drawn from all this? First that the text has been 
translated with a strong sense of purpose, or function. The translator strives 
to domesticate its content in order to arrive at the text’s desired end (to sell 
the book). In this sense one might object that from a certain point of view
with the elimination of ‘great’ and ‘hate’, the text has not been ‘translated’ at 
all. For example, were this piece to appear in an American novel satirizing 
incongruous American attitudes to cooking, then an Italian translator with the 
task of communicating that incongruity in his own language would have been 
wise to maintain ‘great’ and ‘hate’. No longer obliged to be faithful to the 
text’s commercial function he would be eager to draw attention to its culture 
specific content. 
Similarly, had our first piece about the attractions of Mantua appeared in 
an Italian novel ridiculing the kind of rhetoric to be found in Italian tourist 



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