When confronted with excesses in the source text (repetitions, disproportionately long sentences, pleonasm, a plethora of details, etc.), the translator strives to bring the text back to a happy medium. This is an appropriate reaction, provided that the overabundance stems from a lack of skill on the author’s part.
Sometimes, however, excess should not be removed, because it is an essential, constituent feature of the text. In such cases, the translator must first notice the phenomenon, then identify its nature and reproduce the desired effect. Excess can take different forms and have various effects. It can arouse laughter, irritation, boredom or a feeling of harmony. It can express rapture, anxiety, anger or confusion.
Reproducing the effect of excess in the target text often requires creativity and sensitivity. Because a similar degree of excess may be perceived as more or less so in different languages, recreating the effect of excess may require recalibration, adaptation or transposition.
This presentation will be based on specific examples illustrating various functions of excess, such as parody, expressiveness or aesthetics, including:
– Syntactic excess, produced by profusion of punctuation marks (Franz Kafka)
– Parodic excess, produced by overabundance of details (Henry Fielding)
– Lexical excess, produced by repetition of single words (Shakespeare)
– Illustrative excess, produced by accumulation of visual information (Henry Roth)
Mathilde Fontanet is a Swiss translator and reviser of French, her mother tongue. She worked in the CERN Translation Service for more than twenty years (1991-2013) and was head of its French section for ten years (2003-2013). She has been teaching translation at the Faculty of Translation and Interpretation (ETI) of the University of Geneva since 2000, where she now works full time. She has published several papers on translation and wrote her Ph.D. thesis on contrastive rhetoric.