Russian Language Journal


retranslation, language, text, translation


The notion of audio remastering seems to inform the way literary “consumers” conceive of retranslations of classic works today. This is almost certainly because the two operations—remastering and retranslation—are such natural cousins. Retranslation seems to imply, at the very least, continuous improvement of the literary product in the target language, that is, the elimination of earlier translators’ errors in construing the source text and the ever more adequate recreation of the original author’s stylistics. How close this seems to the idea of “cleaning up” an audio signal, improving the “signal‐to‐noise ratio,” enhancing fidelity—this critical term, along with loss, is common to translation and audio engineering. Surely the literary source text is comparable to an original “master tape”; surely retranslations deliver a “reproduction” that has been restored to the closest possible conformity to that “master.” (I set aside for now the question of whether translations, however adequate semantically, simply age and require periodic refreshing or updating—a Homer, a Dante, a Proust “for our generation” and so on.) When shopping for a new copy of a familiar recording, how naturally we favor the most recent repackaging of that recording, which is inevitably labeled as “remastered.”