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The Translator as Actor

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Part of the Artificial Intelligence and Society book series (HCS)


Is the literary translation an independent creation or, at best, a faithful reproduction? Is the translator an artist or a craftsman? This chapter compares the translator to other interpretative artists, such as the classical musician or actor. Both the actor and the translator break down structures into smaller units and then re-assemble them, using building blocks from other languages. In the process, the personality of the translator/ actor is explored and restructured by the original text. A key concept to be considered in both an actor’s and a translator’s work, is the subtext. The subtext is all that is not explicitly said in the dialogue: the underlying motivations (the situation, psychology, story) for the words, the web of significance to be found between the lines. The translator’s presence in the text - unlike the actor’s double presence (physical and fictional) on the stage - is in effect theoretical and almost invisible; a successful rendition of another text means that the translation itself appears completely transparent. The chapter speculates on the motivations behind the desire to become a translator or an actor. It is said, for example, that Diderot, forever vacillating between submission and rebellion finally “became himself” by hiding behind other people’s speech. In order to extend the limits of culture, the translator/actor begins by exploring his/her own limitations. The resulting sense of freedom is at once the motor of creativity as well as its goal.


  • Faithful Reproduction
  • Translator Break
  • Creative Intellect
  • Literary Translation
  • Successful Rendition

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  • DOI: 10.1007/978-1-4471-1983-8_20
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© 1992 Springer-Verlag London Limited

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Kleberg, L. (1992). The Translator as Actor. In: Göranzon, B., Florin, M. (eds) Skill and Education: Reflection and Experience. Artificial Intelligence and Society. Springer, London.

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  • Publisher Name: Springer, London

  • Print ISBN: 978-3-540-19758-4

  • Online ISBN: 978-1-4471-1983-8

  • eBook Packages: Springer Book Archive