Библиографическое описание:

Куимова М. В. To the question of literary works translation // Молодой ученый. — 2010. — №3. — С. 277-281.

Language serves as a very important communicative means. With its help people exchange opinions, remarks and achieve mutual understanding. When we put anything into words, we translate our thoughts. We usually translate our feelings into actions. Every physical action is a translation from one state to another. Translating from one language into another is only the most obvious form of an activity which is perhaps the most common of all human activities.

Most translation theorists agree that translation is understood as a transfer process from a foreign language (or a second language) to the mother tongue. In the past few decades, translation has developed because of international trade growth, increased migration, globalization, the recognition of linguistic minorities, and the expansion of the mass media and technology. Undoubtedly, translation serves as a cross-cultural bilingual communication among people.

            Broadly speaking, the ideal translation should be:

·   accurate (reproducing as exactly as possible the meaning of the source text);

·   natural (using natural forms of the receptor language in a way that is appropriate to the kind of text being translated);

·   communicative (expressing all aspects of the meaning in a way that is readily understandable to the intended audience).

            Hence it follows that translation involves studying the vocabulary, grammatical structure, communication situation, and cultural context of the source language text, analyzing it in order to determine its meaning, and then reconstructing the same meaning using the vocabulary and grammatical structure which are appropriate in the receptor language and its cultural context [6].

            In this article we are going to investigate some problems that a translator might encounter while translating literary works. A literary translation is a device of art used to release the text from its “dependence on prior cultural knowledge” [1]. Dealing with literary translation, it is necessary to have a good knowledge of both the source and the target languages, creative endeavour, calling for literary sensitivity and cultural awareness. A good translator should have a sound knowledge of translation theory, ability to communicate ideas clearly, empathically and openly, ability to work out synthesis and interrelationship of ideas, accuracy and truthfulness; critical, self-critical and analytical capacity.

On the whole, literary translation is a figurative-emotional bang on the reader, which is attained through a great usage of different linguistic means, beginning from epithet and metaphor up to rhythmical-syntactic construction of phrases. The literary translator also faces the problem of style. Style is not an easy term to define, however, it can readily be said that style is how one says a thing. In other words, style is the way in which something is written or said, as distinct from its subject matter. Evidently, each language has its own problems of style, but the practical considerations that go into the making of translation do not seem to differ much from one translator to another.

            Moreover, literary translation has to do not only with translation in general but also with literature. In some way literary translators are authors rather than translators. Literary translation is basic to any intercultural dialogue/exchange, not only in literature but also in art, theatre, film etc. Therefore the quality of intercultural dialogue, creation and innovation depends on the quality of literary translation. In its turn, the quality of literary translation depends on the skills and competences of literary translators.

            There is perhaps no aspect of translation that is simultaneously more frustrating and potentially more rewarding than the pun.

            A pun, or paronomasia, is a form of word play that deliberately exploits ambiguity between similar-sounding words for humorous or rhetorical effect [2]. To translate a joke from one language to another calls on the ability “to think outside the box”.

            Although there are several varieties of puns, there are two main linguistic methods for creating them:

·   Homographic, in which the pun exploits a word with multiple meanings.

            For example:

-  "Being in politics is just like playing golf: you are trapped in one bad lie after another." [4].

·   Homophonic, in which the pun exploits different words (or word meanings) which are spelled the same way, but possess different meanings.

            For example:

-  "A chicken crossing the road is pure poultry [like poetry] in motion." [2].

          An example which uses both homophonic and homographic punning would be Douglas Adams’s line "You can tune a guitar, but you can’t tuna fish. Unless of course, you play bass." The phrase exploits the homophonic qualities of "tune a" and "tuna", as well as the homographic pun on "bass", in which ambiguity is reached through the identical spelling of /beɪs/ (low frequency), and /bæs/ (a kind of fish). Homographic puns using words with the same spelling but different pronunciations, like "bass" above, are said to be heteronymic [2].

            The compound pun is one in which multiple puns are collocated for additional and amplified effect. An example of this is the following story:

A woman had three sons who emigrated from Ireland to the USA. They prospered and soon became the owners of a large cattle ranch. They weren’t, however, sure what to call it, so they wrote back to their mother for advice. She sent a one-word reply on a postcard: Focus. Puzzled, they wrote back for an explanation. Her response was: "It’s where the sons raise meat" ["Sun’s rays meet"] [4].

            William Shakespeare was a master of enriching the language through the use of wordplays, including puns. Punning was used to show the expressiveness of the English language and to impress his readership. Shakespeare used many different meanings and connotations of a single word and a whole range of words appropriate for describing certain subjects to create puns and allusions on various issues. Not only has that made Shakespeare’s language difficult to understand, it made it very unique as well.

            Here we cite some examples of pun in Shakespeare’s works.

            Richard III:

            Gloucester. Now is the winter of our discontent

            Made glorious summer by this sun of York [14].

            The pun is based on the two meanings of the spoken word sun i.e. son and sun. Gloucester refers to Richard both as the son of the Duke of York and also a bright sun which would chase away their wintry blues.

            Romeo and Juliet:

Ø  Romeo

            I dream’d a dream to-night.


            And so did I.


            Well, what was yours?


That dreamers often lie.


In bed asleep, while they do dream things true [15].

Ø  At Capulet’s feast Romeo holds Juliet’s hand and wittily flirts with her. He calls her hand a "holy shrine" and offers to kiss it in order to smooth away the rough touch of his hand. Juliet, showing her own wit, tells him that there’s nothing wrong with his hand and that he’s showing proper devotion by just holding her hand. She adds, “For saints have hands that pilgrims’ hands do touch, / And palm to palm is holy palmers’ kiss," meaning that it’s allowed to touch the hand of a saint, and that the touch of pilgrims’ ("palmers") hands is holy kissing. They continue with this love-game until they have kissed twice. Then the party breaks up, and as Romeo is leaving, Juliet learns that he is a Montague, whereupon she exclaims, "My only love sprung from my only hate! / Too early seen unknown, and known too late! / Prodigious birth of love it is to me, / That I must love a loathed enemy." [15].

Ø  When Mercutio got stabbed and is dying he said "Tomorrow you will find me a grave man." Grave meaning "serious", but in this case, dead.

            A Midsummer Night’s Dream:

Helena says:

And therefore is Love said to be a child,

Because in choice he is so oft beguiled.

As waggish boys in game themselves forswear,

So the boy Love is perjured every where:

For ere Demetrius look’d on Hermia’s eyne,

He hail’d down oaths that he was only mine;

And when this hail some heat from Hermia felt,

So he dissolved, and showers of oaths did melt [8].

            The first use of the word hail means “to shower down, to pour,” but, since it sounds exactly like the verb hale, it also carries the sense of “pull down,” as if the oaths were being tugged down from the sky. The second use of the word hail, in the following line, is as a noun, and Demetrius’s oaths are given the characteristics of hail: they feel heat, dissolve, and melt. This shift from hail/hale as a verb to hail as a noun is an interestingly complex pun.

            Much Ado About Nothing:

            The word "nothing" and the word "noting" were pronounced alike in Shakespeare’s day. "Noting" or "observing" has a great deal to do with the play since much of the play is about appearances.

            In the beginning, Beatrice and Benedick appear to be enemies, but since they so easily fall in love with one another, it’s pretty clear they each really have deep feelings for the other that they cover up with their verbal gibes. Following that idea, it is with false information that Beatrice and Benedick both admit their affections for one another.

            Don John uses deception, or faulty noting, to weave his nastiness. He acts like he thinks Claudio is Benedick at the masquerade when he really knows who it is he is talking to. Then he has Borachio get Margaret to the window while he makes love to her so that Claudio and Don Pedro might confuse Margaret for Hero thus discrediting Hero. Even the masquerade party itself is an example of faulty noting. Beatrice talks with Benedick, acting like she doesn’t know it is him, when she really does. That the people are covering their identities with masks is another example of deceptive appearances. So, there really is a great deal of fuss made over perception, or "noting" in the play. And since most of the appearances are false, there is "nothing" really to get upset about. You have to give a lot of credit to that crafty Shakespeare who loved wordplay!

            Another pun example is when Benedick and Beatrice are exchanging insults, one example of a pun is: "What my dear Lady Disdain! Are you yet living?" spoken by Benedick to Beatrice [12]. He uses the word "disdain" both as a name for Beatrice and as a description of her attitude toward him. She shows him scorn, or disdain.

            Julius Caesar:

Ø  Marullus

            But what trade art thou? Answer me directly.

Second Commoner

            A trade, sir, that, I hope, I may use with a safe

            conscience; which is, indeed, sir, a mender of bad soles [10].

            The pun here is “bad soles”, it has a double meaning of bad souls.

Ø  "You all did love him once, not without cause; What cause withholds you then to mourn for him? O judgment, thou art fled to brutish beasts."

            This is an example of a pun, the last part that is. The use of “Brutish” is a pun on Brutus’ name.

            In the play As You Like It Shakespeare uses pun to help to convey the idea of identity and also to create humour:

And one man in his time plays many parts,

His acts being seven ages [9].

            In this part it is said about the seven ages of a man’s life. These are: the infant, school boy, lover, soldier, magistrate, silly old man and the second childhood, the old helpless man without everything. Jaques speech links to the idea in the play that people can, and do change, and it celebrates their ability to change for the better.

            The Tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark:

Ø  “Not so, my lord, I am too much in the sun.” This is Hamlet’s response to the King’s question, “How is it that the clouds still hang on you?” He means that the King has called Hamlet “son” once too often.

Ø  In the graveyard, Hamlet speculates that a skull might have been that of a lawyer:

Hum! This fellow might be

in’s time a great buyer of land, with his statutes,

his recognizances, his fines, his double vouchers,

his recoveries: is this the fine of his fines, and

the recovery of his recoveries, to have his fine

pate full of fine dirt? will his vouchers vouch him

no more of his purchases, and double ones too, than

the length and breadth of a pair of indentures? The

very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in

this box; and must the inheritor himself have no more, ha? [16].

            The second part of Hamlet’s quadruple pun on “fine”, “fine pate full of fine dirt”, is easy enough, but “fine of fines” needs a little explanation. “Fine” can also mean “outcome”, and it can mean “legal action”, so Hamlet is asking if the outcome of all of the lawyer’s legal actions is only to have his skull full of dirt.

            Hamlet seems to reach a long way for his next pun. “A pair of indentures” are two legal documents that belong together, and are written on the same piece of paper, which is then separated with a serrated cut, so that they can be fitted back together, to prove that they belong together. The Latin root word in “indenture” is “dent”, meaning “tooth”. Apparently someone, sometime, thought that the serrated cut in an indenture looked like toothmarks. Hamlet’s joke is that now the lawyer’s only indentures are his own teeth. The last joke in this passage is easy, but a bit puzzling. “Conveyances” are legal documents relating to the transfer of real estate. Lawyers are famous for creating many documents, so it makes sarcastic sense to say that “the very conveyances of his lands will hardly lie in this box”, that is, the conveyances will hardly fit into the lawyer’s coffin. The puzzling part is that there doesn’t seem to be a coffin in this grave, only skulls.

            After all of this, Hamlet seems to make his major point with a comment on parchment, which would be used for legal documents that were intended to last forever. He asks Horatio if it isn’t true that parchment is made of sheep-skin. Horatio says, yes it is, and of calf-skin, too. Hamlet then says, “They are sheep and calves which seek out assurance in that.” Of course, he means what we already know, that no legal document can assure us of anything after death. More interestingly, his punning way of putting it shows he thinks that the whole situation is not tragic, but humorous. If we act as if our lives will never end, it’s not tragic; it only shows that we are silly sheep.


            In the first scene of the play, Roderigo, Iago, and Brabantio all emphasize Othello’s difference by referring to him only as "the Moor." The first occurrence is in Iago’s speech about how Othello denied him promotion to lieutenant. At the end of the speech, Iago sarcastically comments that the undeserving Cassio got the job, while he has to remain as:

And I, of whom his eyes had seen the proof

At Rhodes, at Cyprus and on other grounds

Christian and heathen, must be be-lee’d and calm’d

By debitor and creditor: this counter-caster,

He, in good time, must his lieutenant be,

And I – God bless the mark! – his Moorship’s ancient [13].

            "His worship," is a term of respect, so Iago’s pun, "Moorship," mocks both Othello’s race and his character.

            Puns are used less frequently in King Lear than in other plays. However, when they are used, it is often to express courtly wit or a double entendre. For example, when Kent tells Gloucester, "I cannot conceive you" (in which "cannot conceive" means "do not understand"), Gloucester replies, "This young fellow’s mother could," pretending to understand conceive to mean "conceive a child." [11].

            In Macbeth, when Lady Macbeth plans to incriminate King Duncan’s attendants in his murder, she says:

Infirm of purpose!

Give me the daggers: the sleeping and the dead

Are but as pictures: ‘tis the eye of childhood

That fears a painted devil. If he do bleed,

I’ll gild the faces of the grooms withal,

For it must seem their guilt (guild) [17].

            Basically she is telling her husband that he is foolish to be afraid of the dead body – to think of it as a picture, not real. She then takes the daggers and smears the king’s blood on the sleeping guards to make them seem like the murderers and leaves the daggers with them. Ironically, it is she who later has difficulty dealing with the blood on her hands.

            Here there are some other great examples of pun in literature.

            Lewis Carroll loved word-play and puns, and Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland has many examples.

            A Caucus-Race and a Long Tale. After the race, the mouse tells Alice about his long and sad tale. Alice thinks he means his tail, and agrees it is long, but doesn’t understand why he calls it sad.

Ø  “Mine is a long and a sad tale!” said the Mouse, turning to Alice, and sighing.

            “It is a long tail, certainly,” said Alice, looking down with wonder at the Mouse’s tail; “but why do you call it sad?”

            When everybody gets wet, the mouse tries to get them all dry by telling them a history lesson, the driest (here, boring, uninteresting) thing he knows [3].

Ø  Mock Turtle is a fictional character devised by Lewis Carroll from his popular book Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Its name is taken from a dish that was popular in the Victorian period, mock turtle soup.

Then the Queen left off, quite out of breath, and said to Alice, "Have you seen the Mock Turtle yet?"

"No," said Alice. "I don’t even know what a Mock Turtle is."

"It’s the thing Mock Turtle Soup is made from," said the Queen.

Ø  “When we were little,” the Mock Turtle went on at last, more calmly, though still sobbing a little now and then, “we went to school in the sea. The master was an old Turtle – we used to call him Tortoise”

            “Why did you call him Tortoise, if he wasn’t one?” Alice asked.

            “We called him Tortoise because he taught us,” said the Mock Turtle angrily: “really you are very dull!”

Ø  Alice asks a question:

            “And how many hours a day did you do lessons?” asked Alice, in a hurry to change the subject.

            “Ten hours the first day,” said the Mock Turtle: “nine the next, and so on.”

            “What a curious plan!” exclaimed Alice.

            “That’s the reason they’re called lessons,” the Gryphon remarked: “because they lessen from day to day.” [5].

            Vladimir Nabokov in his novel Lolita also used pun. For example, the meaning of Lolita and Humbert Humbert’s names.

            Dolores means "pain" in Latin, and her nickname Dolly is symbolic of objectification.

            Humbert’s name is a pun in two languages. In French it means "shadow" and it’s the Spanish word for "man." [7].

            Another example is the title of one of Oscar Wilde’s plays The Importance of Being Earnest. It has a pun in it, inasmuch as the name of the hero and the adjective meaning «seriously-minded» are both present in our mind [18].

            Thus it can be said that a lot of authors use pun not only to add pizzazz and comic effect to their works but also as equivocal (deliberately ambiguous) language to heighten the mood of a scene. There is no doubt that the translator is expected to exploit creatively the altered cultural, linguistic and literary context in order to realize the different potentials of the target language in an act or literary creation since translation is an intercultural activity. That is why the main task of a translator is to remember and take into account all the translation peculiarities and render the author’s thought as carefully as possible using different literal devices originally employed by the author. Translating a literary work, a translator should give a vast treasury of one language to another, taking into consideration structures, content and culture.



1)Herzfeld, Michael The unspeakable in pursuit of the ineffable: Representations of untranslability in ethnographic discourse. In Paula G. Rubel and Abraham RosmanTranslating culture: Perspectives on translation and anthropology. Berg: Oxford. New York, 2003. – P. 110


3)      http://www.cleavebooks.co.uk/grol/alice/won03.htm



6)Larson, Mildred L. Meaning-based translation: A guide to cross-language equivalence. Lanham, MD: University Press of America and Summer Institute of Linguistics, 1998. – 586 p.

7)Nabokov, Vladimir Lolita. Olympia Press, 1955. – 368 p.

8)Shakespeare, William A Midsummer Night’s Dream. CreateSpace, 2009. – 114 p.

9)Shakespeare, William As You Like It. Simon & Schuster, 2004. – 320 p.

10)  Shakespeare, William Julius Caesar. Digireads.com, 2005. – 104 p.

11)  Shakespeare, William King Lear. Cambridge University Press, 2009. – 376 p.

12)  Shakespeare, William Much Ado About Nothing. Washington Square Press, 2004. – 304 p.

13)  Shakespeare, William Othello. Yale University Press, 2005. – 320 p.

14)  Shakespeare, William Richard III. Washington Square Press, 1996. – 432 p.

15)  Shakespeare, William Romeo and Juliet. Digireads.com, 2005. – 92 p.

16)  Shakespeare, William The tragedy of Hamlet, Prince of Denmark. Cambridge University Press, 2005 – 276 p.

17)  Shakespeare, William Macbeth. Yale University Press, 2005. – 256 p.

18)  Wilde, Oscar The Importance of Being Earnest, Dover Publications, 1990. – 64 p.


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