Original Research

Translating The Waste Land: Literal accuracy, poetic fidelity and cross-cultural communication

A. Wessels
Literator | Vol 22, No 2 | a360 | DOI: https://doi.org/10.4102/lit.v22i2.360 | © 2001 A. Wessels | This work is licensed under CC Attribution 4.0
Submitted: 07 August 2001 | Published: 07 August 2001

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A. Wessels, Department of English, University of Pretoria, South Africa

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The author of this article published an Afrikaans translation of T.S. Eliot’s The Waste Land in 1992. This article is a personal contemplation and evaluation of the process of literary translation as experienced in the particular case, referring to aspects of translation theory where relevant. It discusses the unremitting balancing act that literary translation requires, where the translator has to pose the need for as close a literal translation as possible against the need to render, again as faithfully as possible, the comprehensive poetic effect of the work, as regards, for example, stylistic features, emotive force and symbolic significance. Through all of this runs the thread of (a sometimes unconscious) transculturation of the work, partly the result of the desire on the part of the translator to communicate the impact of the poem as successfully as possible to a specific audience with a specific cultural identity and cultural presuppositions. Sometimes the inescapable interpretative nature of literary translation could be attributable to the cultural identity of the translator himself and sometimes it could be the result of the innate cultural dimensions or temper of the recipient language. The problems encountered, solutions arrived at and transcultural evolution effected are illustrated from the (original and translated) texts.


Literary Translation; The Waste Land; TS Eliot


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