Translatable style


  • Inger Ruin


This article presents a study of literary translation from Swedish into English. The purpose is first to find out if certain stylistic choices made in the source text are transferred into the target text and secondly to discuss the consequences when they are not. The material consists of about 30-page-long extracts from translations into English of 18 specimens of Swedish 20th century fiction. Nine authors and 13 translators are represented. Style in fiction is a wide research area but here the stylistic analysis is focused on formal features of the text. Source and target texts are compared and deviations from a literal translation which are not obviously due to grammar or vocabulary restrictions in English are noted. The result of the investigation shows that sequence and segmentation are frequently subject to change. Clauses and clause elements are moved from initial to final position and the opposite. Short graphic sentences are linked together and long sentences are broken up into short sentence units. The consequences of these changes are discussed. They have an impact on the reader's perception of the text, as for example on salience, i.e. what is made prominent or not, on point of view and on the rhythm and flow of the narrative. It is argued that these deviations detract from the stylistic value inherent in the source text and that they could have been avoided.