A Comparative Study on Two Translations of a Mad Man’s Diary

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A Comparative Study on Two Translations of A Mad Man’s Diary(《狂人日記》)

As a heavy-weight in literature, Lu Xun’s works have been widely translated ever since 1926, when George Kin Leung first translated The Real Story of Ah Q into English. More notably, even for the same texts, several English translations have been made by different translators, among which prominent ones are Wang Chichen, the couple of Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang, and William A. Lyell. In light of this, with the aim of exploring proper strategies and approaches in future translation of similar texts, this paper will make a comparative study of two English translations of Lu Xun’s representative work-- A Mad Man’s Diary ( translated by Yang Xianyi and Gladys Yang, 2002) andThe Diary of a Mad Man (translated by William A, Lyell, 1990), mainly according to Eugene Nida’s theory of equivalence and equivalent effect.

This paper will unfold in 4 steps. First, it will offer a brief introduction to ST. And then, in the second step, a recapitulation of the equivalence theory will be presented. The third step is a general analysis of the two TTs, which is followed by Step Four----a tentative evaluation of how equivalence is achieved or not achieved in the two TTs. Due to the limitation of space, Step Four will restricted itself to three specific aspects, which are titled as following: Classical Chinese(文言) and Vernacular Chinese(白話), Idioms and Names, Strong Emotion in Calm Language(寓熱於冷).

Introduction to ST: features and significance
A Mad Man’s Story, first published on May 5th, 1919, is the first work written in vernacular Chinese and the first influential work in Chinese modern literature. This short story, from the perspective of a so called “mad man”, “intends to scourge the ruinous impact of traditional Chinese clan system and morals.” (Lu Xun, 2010, p. 7) This novel is considered a break up from traditional Chinese literature, because it is innovative in form and language. Traditionally, Chinese novels are in either note style (筆記體)or chapter style(章回體), adopting a third person perspective. However, A Mad Man’s Story is presented in the form of a diary, which makes an in-depth first person narration possible. However, the most striking feature of this novel may be its vernacular Chinese language. Colloquial language is skillfully used in depicting the characters’ motion, conversation and mentality. Therefore, these important features should be taken into account in a competent translation.

Recapitulation of Equivalence and Equivalent Effect:
In the hot discussion of equivalence in the 1950s and 1960s, Eugene Nida is perhaps the most cited theorist. Eugene Nida started his “Principles of Correspondence” by sorting out three factors responsible for the difference in translations. The three factors are: “ (1) the nature of the message, (2) the purpose or purposes of the author and, by proxy, of the translator, and (3) the type of audience.”(Venuti, 2000, p. 127) Based on these three factors, he pointed out there aere basically two orientations in translation---- formal equivalence and dynamic equivalence, which were defined as following:

Formal equivalence: “ Formal equivalence focuses attention on the message itself, in both form and content... One is concerned that the message in the receptor language should match as closely as possible the different elements in the source language.” (Venuti, 2000, p. 129)

Dynamic Equivalence: Dynamic equivalence is based upon “ the principle of equivalent effect” . In such a translation, one is concerned with “the dynamic relationship, that the relationship receptor and message should be substantially the same as that which existed between the original receptors and the message. A translation of dynamic equivalence aims at complete naturalness of expression...” (Venuti, 2000, p. 129) In order to achieve naturalness, adaptations of grammer, lexicon and cultural references are essential.

At last,,...
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