Translating a Narrative of Migration: reflections and strategies towards countering xenophobic discourse in the Italian version of Russell Banks' Continental Drift
Collective identities and power relations are the result of converging projections deriving from history, geography, language, religion, memories and customs that – informed by more or less acknowledged ideologies – contribute to shaping them. Translation too, as a language interface, plays a relevant role in both representing Self and the Other and confirming or challenging power relations through various operations that include discourse shifts and a questioning of accepted meanings and practices. This paper revolves around the main strategies adopted in the translation of Russell Bank's novel Continental Drift into Italian at a time (2009-10) when political discourse in the target culture mainly constructed immigrants asan undifferentiated category threatening citizens' jobs, health and safety. Although written in 1985 and set in America around that time, the novel focuses on economic crises and tragedies of migration which evoke images of contemporary Italy and require a highly connoted lexicon. In the context of fear and social conflict promoted in Italy by the then political forces in power to justify restrictive laws, the translator envisaged herself as an “agent of social change” (Tymoczko 2003) who did not want to be complicit with such discourse. Therefore, in translating the novel, a kind of “pre-emptive critical discourse analysis” was adopted, whereby lexical items, syntactic structures and the resulting pragmatic contexts were weighed in the light of how the target text would inscribe itself in the receiving culture so as to avoid – as far as possible – resonances and associations that might support prejudice. Some of the translator's considerations and solutions will be discussed as attempts (however ideologically connoted too) to avoid an a-critical use of language and find a balance between ethical issues and the “naturalness” usually required by the publishing sector.
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