Translation wields enormous powers: the case of the translation of Kawabata Yasunari’s novel

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“Translation wields enormous powers: the case of the translation of Kawabata Yasunari’s novel Koto (古都, 1962) through German into Swedish”

Lawrence Venuti, in his influential work The Translator’s Invisibility, states that "translation wields enormous power in the construction of national identities for foreign cultures" (Venuti, 1995: 19). It can be argued that the concept of a certain culture or literature abroad is created through translations, starting with the selection of source texts and including both the way they are translated (strategies like foreignization and domestication, as well as the circumstances surrounding the translation) and how the translated texts are presented and commented upon in the target culture. This presentation discusses Venuti’s ideas in the context of translations of Japanese literature into Swedish, using examples from Kawabata Yasunari’s novel Koto (古都, 1962) and its Swedish version Kyoto eller de unga älskande i den gamla kejsarstaden from 1968. As was common practice at that time, it was not translated directly from the Japanese, but through the German version from 1965: Kyoto oder Die jungen Liebenden in den alten Kaiserstadt. Comparisions will also be made with the later English translation, The Old Capital, from 1986.

Lisa Pääjärvi is a second year PhD student in Japanese. Her research project is about translations of modern Japanese literature into Swedish. 

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