One Hundred Years of Solitude: Analysis of Translation Work by Allison E. Fagan
Three facets of Fagan’s work that stood out to me were of the main topic of her piece- translation. First and foremost, there was a lot of analyses surrounding the literal translation of the novel from the original Spanish manuscript to an English text seemingly for access by a worldwide audience. It was shocking to me to read that one of the primary reasons for this translation into English was due to a strategic implication against the United States. The novel itself contains many anti-imperialist and anti-American sentiments and there is strong evidence that politics was a primary motivator for the development of the translation- although that has technically not been proven yet. However, the fact that there was definitely an underlyingmotive takes away from the sweet and innocent impression the novel had me believe.
Another important factor in Fagan’s work was the actual content of the English translation of the novel. As Fagan acknowledges throughout the excerpt, One Hundred Years of Solitude has some very high quality English translations. Specifically, aspects of the novel such as magical realism and metaphors translated beautifully from Spanish to English. Fagan even goes on to say, “this is not to denigrate Rabassa’s translation, which has been held up by Irene Rostagno in Searching for Recognition: The Promotion of Latin Ameri can Literature in the United States as ‘perhaps one of the most outstanding English renderings of a Latin American novel’. In fact, I think that Rabassa’s work magnifies the importance of translation. In this case, Rabassa’s incredibly complex conception and description of the art of translation highlights the
ways in which even a faithful translation of a novel functions as a fundamentally distinct work, related to but separate from the original. The translation alters the original not only in [regards] to its new audience.”
The third and possibly most important facet of translation addressed by Fagan is the translating done by the characters within the novel! This is manifested especially in the ending, where is is most symbolic. It is when the final Buendia descendent translates some old sets of prophecies and sees that the entire system of Macondo had been predicted to follow a particular pattern. That pattern was an elaborate system that taught that the village would prosper and then would fall to a doomed ending. Looking back at the story, this is a very plausible prophecy based on the experiences witnessed by the reader in Macondo. It is was interesting to note the steady times of prosperity at the beginning of the novel all to be met with sharp drops in quality as the generations went on until the eventual collapse of Macondo after the war. This is perhaps symbolic of human nature’s tendency to keep moving from one thing to another as the initial thing breaks. A quick look at history shows similar patterns with massive empires around the world. Additionally, the translation of human emotions was a big theme in One Hundred Years of Solitude. The most outstanding example of this is Jose Arcadio Buendia’s obsession with solitude and pursuing his own interests with as little contact with the outside world as possible. These tendencies are passed down from generation to generation in the Buendia family tree, which all leads up to the final descendent translating the prophecy that Macondo would end in the cycle that it did end in. Essentially, translation is much more than just converting between languages; symbolic translation such as the translation of the prophecy at the end of One
Hundred Years of Solitude conveys meaning that otherwise cannot be conveyed through means of simple text.
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