The translation of original metaphors from Spanish to English in two novels by Carmen Laforet : Nada and La isla y los demonios

Matthews, Esther Margaret (2017) The translation of original metaphors from Spanish to English in two novels by Carmen Laforet : Nada and La isla y los demonios. Doctoral thesis, London Metropolitan University.


This thesis is about 'new' metaphor, conceived and created by authors, often called 'original metaphor' in the world of Translation Studies. It is the most extreme form of figurative language, ‘often dramatic and shocking in effect’ Newmark (1982, p.84). The translation of original metaphor can produce unexpected juxtapositions of language, suggesting as many different results as there are translators, Nevertheless, many theorists (e.g. Reiss, 1971; Newmark, 1988; Ribé, 1997) say this type of metaphor should be translated ‘literally’, or word for word as far as possible, suggesting there might be uniformity between translators’ solutions.

This study investigates how literary translators approach this challenge, focusing on Spanish-English translations of a novel containing plenty of original metaphors: Nada (1945), by Spanish author Carmen Laforet (1921-2004). Original metaphors from the text are compared to four published English translations by Inez Muñoz (1958), Charles Franklin Payne (1964), Glafyra Ennis (1993) and Edith Grossman (2007) in a corpus based study. It shows that they use a variety of methods to translate the metaphors, but translate 'literally' in well over half of them. In a two-part translation exercise and questionnaire, professional literary translators are asked to translate some of these metaphors. Again, many different strategies are employed, but over half of them are translated as literally as possible within the confines of English grammar and syntax.

Although this investigation is limited to one author and language pair, it gives a clear indication that although literary translators vary exceedingly in their solutions, on the whole they prefer to translate original metaphors as literally as possible. Given that the essence of original metaphor is that it reflects the author’s personality, this demonstrates literary translators’ seeming desire to reproduce an author’s distinctive character as exactly as possible for their readers.

The finding is applied to a new English translation of the first part of La isla y los demonios, Laforet’s second novel, which forms the practice part of this PhD. A literal strategy has been used to translate the original metaphors in the text, some of which have then been reviewed by an experienced editor of literary texts in English for a further insight into their acceptability.

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