BL1: Youth Literature

Children’s books and YA fiction

a peek inside BL Vol. 1: “Between Text and Culture”

This peek into literature translated for children and teens takes us back to the first part of “Between Text and Culture,” in anticipation of the next voluminous part, soon to be published. Tom Sawyer, Winnie the Pooh, Shaggy Peter so well entrenched are those famous mischiefs in the global literary canon that we can hardly remember we actually owe them to translators.

Tom Sawyer – 8-cent 1972 U.S. stamp (National Postal Museum)

In the previous post we briefly discussed the meaning of white, mentioning whitewashing, among other phrases. This word, which nowadays is mainly associated with covering up and concealing things, started its spectacular career in the literary world thanks to a little cunning boy, Mark Twain’s creation. Here he is, duping his friend into refreshing Aunt Polly’s fence ― mischief to get out of a punishment for previous mischief. The scene entered the global cultural canon and became immediately recognizable all over the world, regardless of the language spoken by your littluns. That was possible due to the fantastic work of Mark Twain’s translators.

Needless to say, with texts originally meant for children, it’s not an easy task to transfer them into a different language and cultural reality. This extremely visual and imagery-evoking endeavor requires accounting for a whole dynamic set of factors, such as times a-changing, language evolving, and social conditioning that follows a constant state of fluctuation. In order to succeed, translators must then adapt and localize rather than, in fact, translate (Dybiec-Gajer). They need to cross over from the adult perspective to the world of children. And whatever manner they choose to do so, it is always the child itself who must be the most important variable in this equation (Brzózka, Dybiec-Gajer). A successful child-oriented transfer of a visual story, then, whether faithful or beautiful, may lead to unconditional love in the target culture, unassailable by any other attempt to put the story straight with the original source. Such was the case with Winnie-the-Pooh’s Polish sibling, adapted for and adopted by the Polish children’s audience (Misior-Mroczkowska). Children’s stories and picture books, these multi-stimuli means of entertainment, are also often compared to games and other audiovisual material. Indeed, games are localized rather than faithfully translated (Chojnowski), in order to account for all the multi-layer meanings encoded in both their textual and visual elements and, in effect, to predict the unpredictable. Whether whitewashing the original culture or adapting for the target, the articles ― in Vol. 1 will show.

Aleksander Brzózka takes us through a somewhat surprising aspect of literature for children: its colorable innocence. He proves the asymmetric relation in which the child, rather than being the focal player, is pushed to the sides by the adult participants of storytelling, who take over and speak in full voice. How do Tom and Huck, clearly shaken after their visit to the cemetery, speak in fourteen different translations? Is their foul language preserved in Polish? The article attempts to answer also that.

Mark Twain (1933) Przygody Tomka Sawyera [The Adventures of Tom Sawyer]. Trans. Marceli Tarnowski. Warszawa: Przeworski.

Translate Me a Book. A Few Words Regarding Translation of Children’s and Teenage Literature for Adults Only

This article focuses on ideology and power relations involved in the act of translating children’s literature. It is proposed that discussions be shifted away from questions of how to produce better translations by avoiding manipulation to focusing on how manipulation and ideology work in translated texts for children.
A series of fourteen Polish translations of Mark Twain’s Adventures of Tom Sawyer is used to show the influence that the translator’s ideosomatic and idiosomatic programming has on handling offensive and religious expressions. The extensive data collected allows for a detailed synchronic and diachronic analysis, which proves that, although vocabulary considered (age) inappropriate varies relative to both ideological and individual aspects, not a single translation avoids some degree of manipulation; reflecting both contemporary ideology and personal attitude.

Aleksander Brzózka, lecturer and translator, writes on literary studies and translation for children and adults.

The element of scare resurfaces in another BL1 article, which mainly discusses the 19th c. narrative of picture books, full of punishment and gore. Prof. Dybiec-Gajer draws a fascinating comprehensive picture of different approaches toward children’s literature in localization then and now ― a picture that includes both the textual and visual element against the cultural background of Germany, Poland, and Russia over time.

Staś Straszydło
Heinrich Hoffmann (1933) Staś Straszydło [Der Struwwelpeter]. Ill. Bogdan Nowakowski. Warszawa: Pionier.

Localization and Translation for Children. On How Texts Get Scarier and Smarter in the Polish Translations of German Texts Lesemaus and Der Struwwelpeter

In translation studies, the term localization is mostly associated with areas connected to new technologies, such as software, websites or computer games. The origins of localization in the form known currently is dated to the mid-1980s, with the dynamic development of computers available to the masses (Schäler 2010). The main aim of this article is to explore whether the concept of localization can be used in a meaningful way to analyze other types of texts in interlingual and intercultural transfer, including texts written before the modern form of localization appeared. The analysis will be illustrated by two case studies taken from the field of children’s literature. The first concerns the Polish rendition of the 19th century classic Der Struwwelpeter while the second one a Polish translation of a contemporary book from the Lesemaus series. Both texts are examples of multimodal texts, that is, picture books for children.

Joanna Dybiec-Gajer is an expert in translation studies, its theory, applications and education, currently at the Pedagogical University of Kraków, where she specializes in translations of Mark Twain’s books and other children’s literature. A sworn translator of English and German, she also teaches future translators and researches on the profession.

Winnie the Pooh was first translated into Polish in 1938 by poetess Irena Tuwim and it has been loved dearly ever since. Tuwim’s translation entered the Polish literary canon and grew roots into the Polish culture so deep, that a half a century later when another translator, Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, made an attempt at it, having found the canonical text beautiful but not necessarily faithful, it shook the whole of Poland to its foundation. In this particular article, Aleksandra Misior-Mroczkowska focuses her analysis on proper names ― that sore point that hurt so many Poles.

Fredzia Phi-Phi
A. A. Milne (1990) Fredzia Phi-Phi [Winnie the Pooh]. Trans. by Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska, Ill. Andrzej L. Włoszczyński. Lublin: Wyd. Lubelskie.

The Thing about Kubuś and Fredzia, or a Few Words on Proper Names in Two Polish Translations of Alan Alexander Milne’s Texts

Winnie­ the ­Pooh, a literary work published by Alan Alexander Milne in 1926, has been appreciated by readers worldwide for nearly a century. The story about a little bear and his companions was first bellowed in book version, then became one of Disney’s best and unforgettable adaptations. The text proves rather difficult to translate, for Milne demonstrated great creativity, particularly in naming his characters and various places. It is rife with many ambiguous expressions, neologisms, onomatopoeias, and intentional language errors. The name of the eponymous bear, for instance, Winnie ­the ­Pooh, well illustrates the difficulty in translation, for Winnie, a reportedly diminutive form of Winifred, is allegedly a female name, whereas the bear is referred to as male. The Pooh part has also proven problematic in translation. The article is an attempt at analyzing selected proper names in two Polish translations of the story. In 1938, Irena Tuwim published a translation entitled Kubuś Puchatek, which Polish readers immediately fell in love with. In 1986, Monika Adamczyk-Garbowska published her translation, Fredzia Phi­-Phi. It attracted a deluge of negative comments and contemptuous reactions with many readers expressing dislike for Fredzia Phi­-Phi, viewing it as a crime against the lauded first translation – which, as it happens, contains many mistakes and strays far from the original text.

Aleksandra Misior-Mroczkowska is a doctoral candidate in the Institute of English Studies, University of Wrocław. She wrote on translations of A. A. Milne into Polish; currently she deals with WWII propaganda, with focus on the Nazi, British and American publications of those times.

All this, and more, in Vol. 1, “Między tekstem a kulturą” of the BL series.
The full Book of Abstracts is free to download here from our site.

Further reading:

Aleksander Brzózka (2018) “Przetłumacz mi książeczkę. Kilka słów o przekładzie literatury dziecięcej i młodzieżowej tylko dla dorosłych | Translate Me a Book. A Few Words Regarding Translation of Children’s and Teenage Literature for Adults Only.” [In:] Aleksandra R. Knapik, Piotr P. Chruszczewski (eds) Między tekstem a kulturą: Z zagadnień przekładoznawstwa (Beyond Language 1). San Diego, CA: Æ Academic; 300‒322.

Joanna Dybiec-Gajer (2018) “Lokalizacja a przekład dla dzieci. Jak utwory strasznieją i mądrzeją w tłumaczeniu na przykładzie Stasia Straszydło i Mądrej Myszy | Localization and Translation for Children. On How Texts Get Scarier and Smarter in the Polish Translations of German Texts Lesemaus and Der Struwwelpeter.” [In:] Aleksandra R. Knapik, Piotr P. Chruszczewski (eds) Między tekstem a kulturą: Z zagadnień przekładoznawstwa (Beyond Language 1). San Diego, CA: Æ Academic; 323‒345.

Aleksandra Misior-Mroczkowska (2108) “Rzecz o Kubusiu i Fredzi, czyli o nazwach własnych w dwóch polskich przekładach tekstów Alana Alexandra Milne’a | The Thing about Kubuś and Fredzia, or a Few Words on Proper Names in Two Polish Translations of Alan Alexandre Milne’s Text.” [In:] Aleksandra R. Knapik, Piotr P. Chruszczewski (eds) Między tekstem a kulturą: Z zagadnień przekładoznawstwa (Beyond Language 1). San Diego, CA: Æ Academic; 346‒355.