RSS feed

Veljka Ruzicka Kenfel (ed.) (2008). Diálogos intertextuales: Pocahontas. Estudios de literatura infantil y juvenil alemana e inglesa: trasvases semióticos.

Frankfurt am Main: Peter Lang. 136 pp. 27.50 €      ISBN: 978-3-631-56924-5.

The study of the translation of children’s literature has cause to celebrate with the publication of this volume, coordinated by Dr. and specialist in the field, Veljka Ruzicka Kenfel. The book should be warmly welcomed as a serious, rigorous analysis of the results of the complex journey undertaken by literary texts in their adaptation to audiovisual medium for children and teenagers, and their subsequent transformation into new texts (pseudo-literary texts) following the film’s success. This contribution must also be welcomed as a confirmation of translating for children as deserving of a recognised position in the field of Translation Studies. Veljka R. Kenfel appears to challenge the preconceived notion that research in translation of children’s literature must necessarily play second fiddle, and calls for the recognition it so clearly merits.

The book presents the initial results of a research project carried out by scholars Carmen Becerra, Veljka R. Kenfel, Lourdes Lorenzo, Ana Pereira and Celia Vázquez, entitled “Transformación funcional de la literatura infantil y juvenil en la sociedad multimedia. Aplicación de un modelo teórico de crítica a las adaptaciones audiovisuales en español de las obras infantiles inglesas y alemanas,” undertaken by the “Literatura infantil y juvenil y su traducción” research group at the University of Vigo. The aim of this fascinating research project is to devise a methodological systematisation for the criticism of Spanish audiovisual adaptations of English and German children’s texts and the supposedly literary products that derive from them. This research project has two main aims: firstly, it examines the transformation of the literary text to the audiovisual text, and secondly, the transformation of the audiovisual adaptation to the (pseudo) literary products deriving from it.

In this project, the authors highlight the need to study both the audiovisual text arising from the literary text, and the (pseudo) literary text that is published following the success of the audiovisual product. They hold the view that we are currently witnessing a sea change in literary markets, resulting from what could be called the “audiovisual revolution”, and from the appearance in many homes of a wide range of audiovisual products that are gaining ground on the printed book format, such as DVD, Internet and video consoles. Faced with this reality, the traditional literary medium has recognised that it must adapt to these new formats. Today, a child’s enjoyment of literature comes mainly through a new channel, and as a result of this new platform, audiovisual adaptations lead to new products, some of which are of questionable quality. The growth of this type of literature evidences the need for literary criticism guidelines designed to defend the value of literature, and that will take a hard line on poor quality products in an “anything goes” marketplace. This explains the need for artistic quality control of audiovisual products and their offshoots .

The authors thus propose two objectives: first, to contribute to the qualitative improvement of audiovisual products for children and teenagers translated into Spanish; and second, to analyse the children’s books spawned from these audiovisual products. This volume presents their initial results.

The analysis is rigorous and well grounded throughout, and critically presents the transformations the original text has been subject to, both regarding the changes to the original text in its original culture (in transferring the novel to film), and related to the translation (of the Disney text) into Spanish. The analysis draws some interesting conclusions, many of them arising from the fact that Garnett’s historical novel was written for an adult readership, while the Disney film was aimed at a children’s audience. This difference in the recipient profile explains the numerous changes observed (changes in the physical appearance of the characters, in the time span, in wardrobe design, changes to the story —the most striking being the changed ending: unlike the novel, Pocahontas does not die in the film—, etc.).

The authors discuss key issues in the translation of children’s literature: the impact of translation norms, the choice between foreignising and domesticating translation strategies or the dual audience (children and adults), and examine the idea that the translator is not neutral, and nor is translation an innocent activity.

To conclude, I believe this study raises many interesting points; the rigour with which the issues covered are dealt with, the exhaustive analysis of the work studied, Pocahontas, which the authors examine from a variety of angles and, finally, the integration of literary criticism, film analysis and audiovisual translation studies, and translation for children. In this way, the study is useful on three fronts: it is valuable to those working on the study of literary text adaptations; to those studying the translations originating from them; and to scholars of audiovisual translation, particularly those of us working in translating for children. It will undoubtedly contribute to spreading awareness about a field that to date has received very little attention, the translation of children’s literature.

Cristina García de Toro, Universitat Jaume I (Spain)
garciat@trad.uji.es