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Clichés and self-translation at Vladimir Nabokov and Samuel Beckett





Self-translation cannot be considered as a marginal aspect of Nabokov’s or Beckett’s works. It is an essential part, notably in relation to an author’s latitude when translating himself. No wonder that Nabokov and Beckett chose to expand the writing process through translation. Clichés, which are an integral part of their style, often undenwent a wealth of creative transformations, as when Beckett translated : “je n’ai rien contre les cimetières” by “I have no bone to pick with graveyards”, thus showing how a novel phrase can be coined when several clichés are fused together.We should not jump rashly to the conclusion that translation proper is, by contrast, doomed to be deficient. The opposite is true, since it is enough to see how felicitously cliché are made to mirror their counterparts from one language to the other in the translation of James Joyce’s Ulysses to realize that both translation and self-translation fall within the province of poetics.

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