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Ideology and Translation: The Case of Pepetela

Dr Tom Stennett (University of Exeter)

Ideology and Translation: The Case of Pepetela

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In Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Fame (1992), André Lefevere argues that the translator’s ideology and the dominant poetics of the target culture are the two most important factors in the fashioning of the image of translated works, their authors and the literary and cultural tradition from which they hail. Lefevere’s analysis centres on the ideologies of ‘rewriters’ — the translators, editors, anthologizers and publishers responsible for making literary texts available to ‘non-professional’ readers. Studies (Asscher, 2016; Brisset, 2012; Casanova, 2005) that have analysed the relationship between ideology and translation have tended to follow Lefevere's model, in that they centre squarely on the translators’ and/or target culture’s ideology. They frame translation as a process of ideological interference, whereby the text, once surrendered to foreign editors, is vulnerable to manipulation. The subject of this paper, the English-language translation of Angolan writer Pepetela’s As Aventuras de Ngunga (1972), exposes the limits of such a model given the similarities between the ideologies of the translator, education activist Chris Searle, and the author, and the fact that the translation was part of a propaganda initiative for Angola’s ruling party, the MLPA. My comparison of the original Portuguese and Searle’s rendering reveals significant points of divergence: the areas of discomfort where the ideologies of author and translator cannot be reconciled. Using the translation of Pepetela’s text as a case study, I explore questions concerning the function of translation as a vehicle for political propaganda and discuss wider issuing related to the translation of texts from Portuguese-speaking Africa into English.


Queens Building LT1