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Anna Gil-Bardaji, Pilar Orero and Sara Rovira-Esteva (eds) (2012). Translation Peripheries.

Bern: Peter Lang, pp. 196, 48.20 €. ISBN 978-3-0343-1038-3. 

Translation Peripheries gives an overview of the notion of paratext, an increasingly important consideration for many lines of research in Translation Studies. The term was coined by Gérard Genette in Seuils (1987), where he opened up a new way of thinking in Literary Studies. The text included not only the novel, essay or poetry anthology, but also the front and back covers, introductions, prefaces, indices and illustrations (peritexts), as well as reviews, interviews with the author, literary criticism, etc. (epitexts).

Despite their importance, paratexts have not been tried and tested in some disciplines such as translation, where there is an inexplicable shortage of studies. That was one of the reasons why the Department of Translation and Interpreting at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona decided to organize the 7th International Conference on Translation in 2010, under the title Paratextual Elements in Translation. This book is, in fact, a compendium of several of the ideas debated at that conference, and includes ten papers written by important researchers in this field.

The first chapter, by Neslihan Kansu-Yetkiner and Lütfiye Oktar, provides a paratextual analysis of the Hayri Potur book series, the Turkish version of Harry Potter. Based on this analysis, they show how translations are part of local realities in relation to the world of transnational cultures, as they can never be separated from power relations, social settings and socio-political context. Globalism is adapted to local reality to emphasise local culture and language through the rewriting of any culturally objectionable features to make them innocuous.

In her article, Mary Louise Wardle analyses the reciprocal relation between text and paratext using Alice in Wonderland as an example. The classic tale by Lewis Carroll had a variety of paratextual elements that had an influence on the reception of the story in Italy, as there have been several translations since 1872. All of them were localised with different goals and where even the translator could become a paratextual element himself. This is the case of Aldo Busi, the controversial translator of one of the most commercially successful and modified translations of Alice.

In the third chapter, Leah Gerber goes into the paratextual features in German translations of Australian children’s fiction. Using books published over almost fifty years, this article investigates the mediation of paratextual material and how it helps shape the perception and forging of a specific image of Australian culture in German speaking countries.

Ellen McRae provides an empirical study of a different type of paratext: the prefaces written by translators in contemporary literary translations, and their importance in describing their work and contributing to a better understanding of the cultures involved, but also in make readers aware of the translator’s input.

The sixth chapter of the book, written by Ulf Norberg, follows the same line. Norberg analyses the prefaces and afterwords of translators in contemporary Sweden. For Norberg, these paratextual spaces can provide relevant information about the prevailing translation norms in a given culture at a given moment in time, but it is not quite a frequent practice in present day Swedish book market.

The fifth chapter, by Elizabete Manterola, is an analysis of the works of the Basque novelist Bernardo Atxaga and their translations into seven languages. The use of epitexts lets a better understanding of the text thanks to the wealth of information provided, but Manterola’s study also shows how the minority language culture tends to remain in the background.

José Yuste Frías, in the seventh chapter of the book, presents the key concept of paratranslation and offers a detailed analysis of the typographical image of titles in children’s literature. He shows that, in order to ensure the success of a translation, translators must read and interpret each and every one of the textual and paratextual elements that conform the imagery of the work to be translated, so they can translate the text better. Yuste considers that, thanks to the concept of paratranslation, translators can vindicate their visible figure within the books’ physical and material space.

In the eight chapter, Rocío García analyses the translation of two Italian songs in 1960s Spain. She takes a look at the translation techniques used and then delves into the study of social and cultural features which provide its cultural background. The results show that the paratextual elements are able to exert influence on songs and modify them in order to better suit the national identity.

Madeleine Stratford compares the poetic spaces created by the Argentinean poet Alejandra Pizarnik in her El árbol de Diana with German translations, where translators dealt with the overall appearance of the poems from a rather functional point, editing and changing several aspects and, therefore, losing part of the original intention of the author.

In the final chapter, Miquel Edo talks about the reception of Carducci in Catalan and Spanish literature, and analyses examples where we can clearly see disparities between text and paratext. This discord found in these translations and their corresponding paratexts illustrates the difficulties in importing Carducci’s metrical model and are also a major departure from his poetry.

As can be seen, this book delivers many new concepts and analysis that gather the aforementioned concepts of paratexts and paratextuality. The different points of view are interesting and the examples used are highlight the importance of paratextual elements in every translation. They also emphasise the necessity of understanding these elements in order to carry out a proper translation. As can be seen from all the examples shown in this book, sometimes the use of paratexts in translation is necessary in order to improve the understanding of the original text in a new culture, and sometimes paratranslation goes further in order to completely change the original work with the goal of adapting it or making it more suitable for a different culture. Overall, this book proves the shortage of studies and the need for further research in this area in order to work towards the best possible translation of texts and paratexts, as they have been playing an important role since the beginning of Translation Studies.

To conclude, this book is a must-read for every translator, so they can better understand concepts and practices relating to paratexts, thanks to the examples which are both striking and perceptive.

Ramón Méndez
Universidade de Vigo, Spain
E-mail: ramonmendez83@gmail.com