Original Research

Translating culture: Matthee’s Kringe in ’n bos as a case in point

W. Cloete, M. Wenzel
Literator | Vol 28, No 3 | a166 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v28i3.166 | © 2007 W. Cloete, M. Wenzel | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 30 July 2007 | Published: 30 July 2007

About the author(s)

W. Cloete, Language Affairs Directorate, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa
M. Wenzel, School of Languages, North-West University, Potchefstroom Campus, South Africa

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The translation of “cultural identity” in a novel such as “Kringe in ’n bos” contributes towards the definition of a uniquely South African representation of time and space in the global context. When translation is studied as a product of its socio-historical context, the translator is faced with problems of translating ideology and cultural identity in literature. Realia constitute a particular challenge to the translator because, according to the definition, precise equivalents of these words do not exist in other languages, which could cause shifts in the target language text. This article considers the concept of translatability and concludes that, despite the problems encountered, an adequate and satisfactory German translation from the Afrikaans original should be possible.

The question of translatability assumes an interesting dimension as the Afrikaans novel was translated into English by the author herself. The privileged position of author-translator granted Matthee a near-perfect understanding of the different layers of meaning and intention of the source text and eliminated the gap between the author and translator. However, one gains the impression that the German translator (Stege) resorted to transference as a strategy to avoid translation and it emerges that most instances of definite mistranslations are, indeed, attributable to Stege’s unfamiliarity with the South African context.


Cultural Translation; Cultural Void; Environmental Void; Literary Translation; Dalene Matthee; Kringe In N Bos; Realia; Referential Void; Translatability


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