楊戴合譯的《邊城》

邊城翻譯是難事,文學尤其是的難關,信達之外,還要兼顧雅,要非兩文都優,如何能做到。

楊憲益與戴乃迭是夫妻檔,一為中國人,一為英國人,各有母語的先天優勢,加上楊也兼通英文,英譯中,本該相得益彰。我有他們二人合譯的好些作品,包括中國古典和現代文學,粗略看過的有《長生殿》,總覺得有些地方省而不譯有點那個,但到底那是中國戲劇作品,就算中國人一點即明的東西,對外國人來說,即使詳釋,也未必有用,省略不譯也無可厚非。但現代文學,尤其已有共通處,也出現這種情況,多少有點說不過去。可以沈從文的《邊城》(The Border Town,南京﹕譯林出版社,2011.3)為例。

談翻譯,單是中英兩文,我一直都說自己的英文程度太差,實在不宜多說,但抱著學習而非批評的態度,提出一些疑問,能有識者不吝賜教,固然有大收穫;見笑得咎,也無損失,何樂不為。試舉一例開始﹕

原文﹕有人心中不安,抓了一把錢擲到船板上時,管渡船的必為一一拾起,依然塞到那人手心裡去,儼然吵嘴時的認真神氣﹕「我有了口量〔糧〕,三斗米,七百錢,夠了,誰要這個!」(頁7、9)

英譯﹕If some well-meaning passenger tosses down a few coins, the ferryman picks them up one by one and thrusts them back into his hand, protesting almost truculently, “I’m paid for this job—three pecks of rice and seven hundred coins!  I don’t want your money!" (頁6、8)

先不說「錢擲到船板上」的「船板」沒譯,因為這個可以上文下理知道一定不會擲到水中去,但「有人心中不安」,一變而為 well-meaning passenger,不單由動(某些人自己心感不安)變為靜(某些會如何如何做的人),而且「心感不安」與 well-meaning 也有分別。當然,因為心感不安而做出付船費的舉動,大概也是 well-meaning 用心良好者,但到底不是原作者的本意。在網上找到一篇談《邊城》楊氏譯本翻譯策略研究的摘要,其中提到楊戴的翻譯,有如下的話,或可借作解答我的疑問﹕

楊氏將忠實原則置於翻譯的首要位置。他們認為沒有必要在譯文中加入太多的解釋。譯者應該忠實於原文所傳達的意象,不誇張,不增加不必要的內容。當然,不是任何時候都能夠保存原文意象的,因為在目標語中有時確實找不到對等的事物。(姜治文,1999:289)我們不難看出,楊氏的翻譯目的在於如實地傳達原文內容,並將賦有中國特色的文化如實地展現在譯文中。

問題是,跟著下來,譯文卻用了更貼近原文的對等用詞。試看﹕

原文﹕但不成,凡事求個心安理得,出氣力不受酬誰好意思,不管如何還是有人要把錢的。管船人卻情不過,也為了心安起見,……(頁9)

英譯﹕Some insist on paying, however, unable to look on with an easy conscience while hard work goes unrewarded.  This upsets the ferry man, who, to ease his own conscience …(頁8)

可見「心中不安」並非沒有貼近原文的對等用詞。再說,「卻情不過」只是情面上不能推卻(can hardly decline somebody’s kind offer),引致 upset,多少有點言過其實了。

再下載幾個段落的譯文,為免有以偏概全之譏。

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7 thoughts on “楊戴合譯的《邊城》

  1. Usually I don’t like to do translation of any kind. How about literature? I am very bad at it. I definitely cannot 兼顧雅. My 信 and 達 are already shaky.
    Well, I’ll do a little bit translation this time.

    有人心中不安–>some well-meaning passenger:
    I will let this go. Whatever lost in translation is made up later by “unable to look on with an easy conscience while hard work goes unrewarded." Of course, one can argue that why a better translation isn’t used there or why a more consistent way isn’t used. Could it be for variations? 兼顧雅? I can’t answer that. I ain’t a professional.

    管船人卻情不過–>This upsets the ferry man:
    I think this is upsettingly unacceptable.

    I am not sure if “protesting almost truculently" is good for 儼然吵嘴時的認真神氣. But I’ll let it go. Maybe it is for 雅. Truculently is a strong word. I think it is stronger than 吵嘴時的認真. Well, it depends on what kind of 吵嘴. But in the context of the original…

    “Shame and pity keep the girl at her father’s side."
    Huh? The pity is for whom? Here sounds like it’s for her father or herself. But from the context in Chinese, I’d guess it’s for the unborn. If one doesn’t want to translate the guessing, one should translate more literally and use, maybe, “pity for someone." (It’s not perfect, but…) If my guess above is right, then “and" is questionable and I’d use “but." The Chinese version suggests “but" also.
    Let me try (it’s not a literal translation): The girl felt shame about herself but pity for the unborn. She stayed with her father until her child was born. Then she killed herself by…

    “eyes resting on green hills"
    It’s not the first time I see the use of “resting on" for the “corresponding" Chinese term. But I think it is bad in this context. (It’s probably bad in most context.)

    “making her innocent, lively(,) and untamed as a small wild creature."
    I add the comma in (). It’s American mechanics. I don’t know about British mechanics much. Sorry.
    Untamed? Where does it come from?
    Keep it simple: She is** innocent and full of energy, like a young animal.
    Note:
    One can consider using “yearling" to replace “young animal." Yearling’s meaning is narrower, but “fawn" is mentioned later, so it may be a good choice.

    “finishes her task calmly"
    Huh? Task? Play–>task?? Calmly isn’t quite right here either. Leisurely is better.
    She goes** back to play by the water (river) leisurely.

    “Rain or fine"
    I am not an expert on idioms. We usually say “rain or shine." Is “rain or fine" also idiomatic too? I’m not sure.

    “proud of the part he is playing."
    Where does “proud of" come from?

    “The old man and ….are familiar figures…with them too."
    ??? Where does this come from?
    – – – –

    **Here I use present tense, like how it is used by the translator. It’s not my choice of tense. See below.

    Also, I wonder why the translator uses present tense but not past tense as the tense for narration. It messes the whole thing up. Most fictions in English use past tense to narrate. Using present tense is rare, though there are a few fictions doing that, because it is notoriously difficult to fix the timeline with present tense. English isn’t like Chinese. Chinese “tenses" don’t have much tension in it. English tenses do. The tension in the translation isn’t quite right to me. (What do I know? I’m no English major.)

  2. No problem. But don’t just buy every word I said there. Even though I tried to be careful, I was limited by my ability. When I said “I am no English major," I meant it. My background is in science. 真的是文學盲. (幸好还算學了点別的东东, 否則便成了文盲=文學盲-學.)

  3. “邊城” 原作風格十分溫柔敦厚,文字淺淡平實而細節和情境無比雋永,每次讀畢,每次都有揮之不去的悵惘。是我最愛的中篇小說之一。翠翠和他的爺爺,實在是惹人憐愛。

    我以為譯文細節倒是不必過於計較,最難就是譯出英文語境裡的沈氏風格:語淡而情深。

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