Respectus Philologicus eISSN 2335-2388
2020, vol. 38(43), pp.202–213 DOI:

Lost in Translation: Narrative Perspective Silenced by the Voice of the Translator

Lindita Tahiri
University of Prishtina, Department of English Language and Literature
Mother Teresa str. Prishtina, Kosovo
Research interests: literary criticism, stylistics, translation, discourse analysis, media literacy

Sazana Çapriqi (corresponding author)
University of Prishtina, Department of English Language and Literature
Mother Teresa str. Prishtina, Kosovo
Research interests: comparative literature, gender studies, translation

Abstract. This study compares passages from four novels by the renowned Albanian author Ismail Kadare with their English translations: Prilli i thyer (Broken April, 1990 [1980]), Kronika në gur (Chronicle in Stone, 2007 [1971]), Vajza e Agamemnonit (The Daughter of Agamemnon, 2006 [2003]) and Pallati i ëndrrave (The Palace of Dreams, 2011 [1999]). It uses the linguistic analysis of style in the source and the target languages aiming to identify the modification of narrative perspectives during the translation process. The stylistic comparison of the original with translated versions demonstrates the shift from the internal perspective to the narratorial perspective of narration, which may be the result of the translator’s inclination to explain. In Kadare’s novels which have been translated from French, the tendency to make a clear borderline between narrative voices is evident. The translator’s lack of ability to pick out stylistic features indicating the internal perspective of the character impacts the mental representation produced by the reader of the translated text. The shift from the character’s to the narrator’s perspective influences not only the reader’s attitude towards the culture narrated in the text but also the way how the identity of the narrator is construted. Consequently, the imposed narratorial voice in the translated Kadare’s novels gives a different impression from the non-intrusive narration that the author managed to create in the communist regime.

Keywords: literary translation; narrative perspective; Ismail Kadare; stylistics.

Submitted 12 July 2020 / Accepted 28 August 2020
Įteikta 2020 07 12 / Priimta 2020 08 28
Copyright © 2020 Lindita Tahiri, Sazana Çapriqi. Published by Vilnius University Press. This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License CC BY-NC-ND 4.0, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium provided the original author and source are credited.

1. Introduction. Translation and literariness

The debate whether the translation is an art or science might sound like a cliché, however to a degree there is still the arguable issue of how objective the translation should be and at which linguistic level the equivalence should be preserved. In the case of literary translation, the skill of preserving the stylistic equivalence is of utmost importance, as it transmits the ‘literariness’ of the source language into the target language. To achieve this equivalence, the literary translator has to be capable of a systematic analysis of style in literature focusing on the relevance of language features and on their particular literary effect. The interdisciplinary approach between linguistics and literature enables the translator to avoid arbitrary personal evaluations and to read strategically combining two disciplines which share the common intellectual and cultural ancestry – philology. Using the stylistic approach in literary translation, this paper compares passages from four novels by the renowned Albanian author Ismail Kadare with their English translations, focusing on the preservation of the narrative perspective from the source to the target language.

The paper uses analytical tools for literature proposed by Fowler (1981, p. 40–44), such as transitivity, participants, actions and processes, vocabulary, syntax, modality, generics, personal pronouns, speech acts. Fowler’s linguistic criticism has its roots in the functional approach to language developed by M. A. K. Halliday (1971, 1973, 1978), known as functional systemic grammar. Halliday has initially applied the functional systemic model in literature in the analysis of Golding’s novel The Inheritors which Leech and Short (2007) use as an example to illustrate what they call ‘pluralist’ approach towards style. Halliday illustrates the usefulness of the notion of linguistic functions relating the foregrounded patterns to the meaning and avoiding the lack of “general criteria for determining whether any particular instance of linguistic prominence is likely to be stylistically relevant.” (1973, p. 103).

1.1. Narrative perspective in literature

Narrative perspective is one of the most discussed concepts in the study of literature. As perspectival narration has grown into a conventional trait of contemporary literature, it has become increasingly significant to differentiate between different points of view within the literary narrative. Writers do not give a full or neutral version of a story, but they emphasize the limited perspective of the personal point of view. As Matz puts it: “…we have to do the work an omniscient narrator would otherwise have done for us, and the participation gives objective knowledge the feel of subjective involvement” (2004, p. 52).

Following Uspensky (1973) the term ‘perspective’ has been used by Fowler (1983) who differentiates between internal – or the character’s perspective, and external – or the narrator’s perspective. The visual metaphor of ‘perspective’ is related to the metaphors of ‘focalization’ and ‘point of view’. According to Genette (1980) focalization is related to the centre of consciousness in fiction, where only narrators can focalize. Bal built up on this concept and introduced the ‘focalizer’ (2009) not only in the role of the narrator but in the role of characters as well. Similarly, Phelan (2001) accepts both narrators and characters as focalizers. The focalizer is called ‘reflector’ by James (1972) and Stanzel (1984), ‘filter’ by Chatman (1990), whereas in Anglo-American criticism the term ‘point of view’ prevails (Niederhoff, 2013, p. 1). Margolin discusses the “mental shift of deictic center” (2009, p. 52) during the narrative re-experiencing of the original act of focalization, drawing the act of focalization of past acts of focalization. There has been continuous scholarly discussion on this classification, and this debate also reflects “[n]ew perspectives and ways of thinking…on issues such as human subjectivity, power, responsibility, gender, class, race, sexuality mind, the construction of history, disciplinary boundaries, truth-effects, and the nature of the linguistic sign.” (Waugh, 2006, p. 4–5). The argument about subjectivity becomes particularly important when discussing the narrative perspective in literature, where subjectivity is constructed through the characters’ interior portrayal. For Cohn, who has classified techniques of interior monologue, the narrator’s power to transmit character’s intimate experiences and to possess knowledge about their inner life is one of the crucial signposts of fictionality (1999, p. 110).

1.2. Stylistics and literary translation

Regarding the importance of the narrative perspective in literature, it is necessary to prepare literary translators in the field of stylistics, as for them, language is not only a medium but also an object of translation (Klinger, 2015). Translators should be able to transmit linguistic markers of narrative perspectives, such as the stylistic features that indicate multiple points of view. According to Leech and Short (2007), one of the key stylistic indicators of the narrative perspective is the use of free indirect speech. As direct speech is the norm for speech presentation presenting the perspective of the character, free indirect speech shifts the narrative perspective towards the narrator; as the norm of thought presentation is indirect thought, representing narrator’s perspective, the usage of free indirect thought is a shift towards character’s internal perspective. If the literary translator is not aware of these stylistic traits, the narrative perspective of the original text could be misconstrued in translation.

However, stylistics is not often included in the curricula of literary translation programs or even in departments of literary studies. It has been more than twenty years since Fludernik, when discussing the need for interdisciplinary dialogue between linguistics and literary studies, humorously mentioned studies which have given linguistic methodology a bad reputation amongst literary critics, giving the impression that all that linguistics can do is “to define abstract style as having a higher ration of nouns over verbs” (1998, p. 133). It still seems that the situation has scarcely improved and the separation of linguistics and literary studies in universities is persisting – even in cases when stylistics is included in curricula, it is often distinguished as being either ‘literary’ or ‘linguistic’.

This tendency seems rather odd, considering the historical interrelation between linguistic analysis and literary style: the treatise Demetrius on Style, a manuscript probably dating from the first century A.D., regardless of its prescriptive and didactic mode, distinguishes four styles of speech based on linguistic traits, the most elevated one associated with literature. As Ducrot and Todorov (1987) say, although the most direct heir of rhetoric, stylistics, is a new notion, the style is not. Even though stylistics grew in the twentieth century, the notion of style is longstanding, often used synonymously with language. In literary translation, the concept of style is crucial in terms of choice in relation to form and content. If we consider Studer’s definition of style as ‘motivated choice’ (2008), the question arises about the motivation of the literary translator to choose particular style features to be transmitted in the translated text, such as indicators of the genre, of the theme, the form, etc.

What happens if the literary translator is not able to distinguish the linguistic indicators of the narrative perspective? According to the text-world theory, every change in perspective causes changes into the readers’ representation of the story enabling them to recognize “the precise nature of the text-world they are constructing in their minds in order to process and understand the language at hand” (Gavins, 2007, p. 20). If the translated version does not reconstruct the narrative perspective of the original literary text, it does not create the same reading experience compared to the original text. According to Ansgar Nünning (2001), literature is the only place where the construction of world models is thematized. If the literary translator shifts the narrating perspective of the original text, readers project different world models in the translated text which do not match up to the world models that were constructed for the reader of the original texts.

Perspectival narration is a departure from the traditional objective narration, and Matz argues that there are three main reasons for this stylistic novelty (2004, p. 53). There is the epistemological motive of the writer aiming to present how knowledge and understanding take place. Another motive is the aesthetic one, as this narrative strategy offers more variation compared to the uniform omniscient narration. The third motivation is the ethical one, making readers understand different perspectives and reflecting on their own. Consequently, shifting from the perspectival narration has an impact on the epistemological, aesthetic and ethical dimensions of the literary work.

Text-world theory argues that readers are inclined to trust the narrator more than characters. Gavins argues that “readers construct a re-creation of a face-to-face communicative situation at the text-world level” (2007, p. 129). Likewise, Margolin points out that “a basic literary convention endows the claims of an impersonal omniscient narrating voice with truth by fiat, while all claims from other sources are fallible” (2007, p. 76). Accordingly, literary translators may perceive the narrator as a more trustworthy and reliable source. Therefore, they may decide to leave out the stylistic indicators of the narrative perspective of the characters.

This tendency of literary translators has been confirmed by Rachel May (1994) who analysed literary translations of Russian texts finding out that the translated text usually makes a clear borderline between narrative voices. According to May, this is a consequence of the translator’s tendency to avoid ambiguity which could have been intentional in the original text. The predisposition of translators to explicate and to aim precision in cases of narrating perspective goes in favour of the narratorial perspective therefore in cases of a fluid narrating voice the translator replaces it with a more authoritative perspective. In these cases, translators fail to transmit the ‘dialogic’ and ‘hybrid’ structures of the multiple voices in the novel that Bakhtin (1981, p. 259–422) considers as the actual state of all utterances.

The shift in literary translation from the figural perspective of the character to the narrator’s perspective affects the reading experience and in particular the empathy for the characters. Internal perspectivism of the character in fiction has been associated with understanding and empathy. According to findings in cognitive narratology by Fletcher and Monterosso (2016) who changed the ratio between the free indirect thought and narrated thought in text samples, the increase of the usage of free indirect thought invites the emotional reaction of readers and makes them feel empathy for the characters. However, another scholar in the field of the reader empathy Suzanne Keen (2007, 2013) does not agree with the claim of Fletcher and Monterosso that this narratological component is uniquely capable of prompting readers’ empathy as the reactions of the readers depend also on their literary competence (2016).

2. Translations of Ismail Kadare’s novels in English

Aiming to draw attention to the importance of retaining the narrative perspective of the original narrative in literary translation, English translations of four novels by the renown Albanian writer and winner of the prestigious award The Man Booker International Prize (2005) Ismail Kadare will be discussed. One of the novels has been directly translated from Albanian, one of them has the perspective of the child narrator, and the other two were chosen due to their distinctive allegorical tone: Prilli i thyer (Broken April, 1990 [1980]), Kronika në gur (Chronicle in Stone, 2007 [1971]), Vajza e Agamemnonit (The Daughter of Agamemnon, 2006 [2003]) and Pallati i ëndrrave (The Palace of Dreams, 2011 [1999]).

Broken April, translated from Albanian by John Hodgson, is a novel about revenge in North Albanian highlands according to the provisions of the ancient Code. Gjorg, a young mountaineer has avenged the death of his elder brother and expects to be killed himself in accordance with the principles of the Code. Below are fragments of Broken April both in Albanian and in English:

A. Dita po thyhej. I trembur, gati me alarm, ai afroi syrin te pushka për të vështruar shënjestrën. (1980, p. 7) / Daylight was fading. Fearful or simply troubled, he brought the rifle’s stock to his cheek. (1990, p. 7)

B. Te bёrryli i udhёs, pёr tё njёqindtёn herё gjatё asaj pasditeje, u shfaq njeriu qё duhej tё vdiste.(p. 8) At the bend of the road, for perhaps the twentieth time that day, he thought he saw the man he had been waiting for. (p. 8)

C. Nё tё vёrtetё ajo ndihej e lumtur. (p. 55) And in fact she was happy. (p. 63)

D. …ishte ai vetё e askush tjetёr, qё po vraponte kёshtu, duke lёnё pas, tё shtrirё midis rrugёs, trupin e vet, qё porsa e kishte vrarё (p. 185) …it was himself and no one else who was running now, leaving behind, sprawled on the road, his own body that he had just struck down. (p. 216)

E. Lёvizi ngadalё tytёn duke e kaluar shёnjestrёn mbi ca copëra… (p. 7) Slowly the gun barrel swept over some patches… (p. 7)

In text A the metaphor “The day was smashing” (Dita po thyhej) is translated with the conventional metaphor “Daylight was fading”. The metaphor in the original text is unconventional and inventive, generating the key image of the novel expressed in the title of the book with the adjective “broken”. Likewise, the syntax imitates the semantics due to the shortness of the sentence, which suggests a breakage compared to the longer phrase. The metaphoric expression builds up semantically with the modifier “fearful” associating the emotional reaction of the character to the act of “smashing”. The adjective “troubled” in the translated text minimizes the connotations of “alarmed” in the original text (me alarm) and the original adverb of degree “almost” (gati) is translated as “simply”. The explanatory tone of the adverb “simply” compared to the approximate “almost” in the original text, the semantically reduced “alarm” and the conventionalized metaphor of “faded daylight” in the translated text produce the shift of the narrative perspective from the character to the narrator. The explicatory intervention is even stronger in text B, where the free indirect thought of the original version (literal translation: ‘the person who should die showed up’) is translated as reported thought, using the verb “thought” (he thought he saw the man he had been waiting for). In addition, the translation omits the verb ‘die’ which in the original text is intensified with the modality of obligation (should), thus causing divergence from character’s figural perspective of narration. In both examples, linguistic markers which indicate the internal focalization of the character are not fully reproduced in the translated version.

Unlike texts A and B where the translation modifies the narrative perspective shifting it away from the character towards the narrator, in passages C, D and E the character’s perspective is not only retained but intensified. The translation in example C has added the coordinating conjunction “and” at the beginning of the sentence, which is not in the original text, emphasising the entry into the character’s interior world. The translation, in example D, preserves the double role of the character both as subject and object of his verbs portraying his split individuality and his effort to define his identity, which ends with self-destruction. To foreground, the internal perspective of the character the adverb “now” is added in translation strengthening the character’s deictic orientation which in the original text is referred with the demonstrative “this way” (kёshtu). In the last example, there is an interesting change of transitivity compared to the original text where the character is the subject of the verb (he slowly moved the gun barrel). In the translated text the gun takes the role of the actor away from the character: “the gun swept over”. This change of agency transmits the passive role of the character, which is crucial for this literary narrative where the internal perspectivism portrays the character as a victim of the alienation caused by the omnipotent code. The Albanian scholar Sinani (2016) argues that although the discourse and the context in Broken April are ethnographical, the novel does not glorify the ancient code. However, on the contrary, it displays the totalitarian oppression of the code. Kadare had foregrounded the experiencing self of the character and has suppressed the voice of the addressing self of the narrator, avoiding the moralizing and didactic tone of the doctrine of socialist realism which prevailed at the time when he wrote the novel.

Broken April is one of the rare cases when Kadare’s novels have been directly translated from Albanian, and the translation has largely maintained the stylistic traits of the original text. The translator of this novel Hodgson has cautiously preserved some words in Albanian such as “besa”, “kulla”, “gjaks”, therefore producing not only linguistic but also cultural hybridity (Klinger, 2015). In these cases he has intervened with explanatory footnotes which are descriptive and non-judgmental, such as: “Bessa: the pledged word, faith, truce” (1990, p. 13); “Kulla: a stone dwelling in the form of a tower, peculiar to the mountain regions of Albania” (p. 11); “Gjaks: From the Albanian gjak (blood), killer, but with no pejorative connotation, since the gjaks is fulfilling his duty under the provision of the Kanun” (p. 15).

Most of Kadare’s novels have been translated in English from French, as in the case of Vajza e Agamemnonit (2003) translated by David Bellos (2006). Let us see passages from the translation of this novel, where the first-person narrator displays opposing views and criticism towards the totalitarian regime:

F. Unё prisja Suzanёn. Megjithatё, ajo çka mё zgavronte gjoksin, nuk ngjante aspak me ankthin e zakonshёm tё pritjes sё njё vajze... Madje nganjёherё mё dukej se ndonjё nga ata portretet do tё ngjitej aq lart mbi mbajtёsit, sa tё mbёrrinte nivelin e dritares sime, tё vёshtronte brenda apartamentit me ata sytё e pikturuar ngrirshёm: Ç’po pret kёtu? Hm, hm, e ke lёnё vendin bosh atje nё tribunё, pёr njё farё vajze, hё?

Nёqoftёse nuk vij gjer nё tetё e gjysmё, mos mё prit mё, mё kishte thёnё Suzana. (2003, p. 15)

I was waiting for Suzana. However, the feeling that had burrowed into my chest was not remotely like the anxiety customarily associated with waiting for a woman… I almost thought that one of the portraits would end up detaching itself from its bearer, then float up to my window, and look inside with its painted frozen stare, and say:” And what are you doing up here? Aha! So that’s the reason! You’ve relinquished your place down there on the reviewing stand to wait for a woman, haven’t you?”

“If I’m not there by half past eight, don’t wait for me,” Suzana had said. (2006, p. 5–6)

G. Do tё shqyhesha gazit, sikur tё mos isha i brengosur.

“Trekёndёshi revolucionar: mёsim, punё prodhuese, stёrvitje ushtarake”. Po trekёndёshi i zi i seksit, ç’do tё bёhej? E plasaritur delta e tharё, e mjerё, me ca fije bari tё rralla stepe sipёr.

I verbёr, i thirra vetes. Ti e kishe tё vёrtetёn pёrpara syve dhe i kёrkoje sinjalet tri mijё vjet larg. (p. 112)

I would have burst out laughing if I hadn’t felt so dismayed.

The revolutionary triad: learning, productive labour, and military training… And what would become of the dark delta of a woman’s sex? A parched, desiccated estuary dotted about with puny blades of desert grass.

“You blind fool!” I said to myself. “The truth was right there, in front of your eyes, but you tried to find clues by going back three thousand years!” (p. 108)

The translation of text F has additional quotation marks to distinguish the voice of the character from other fictive voices, the voices of the portraits and the girl. It is precisely the lack of quotation marks in the original text that generates free direct speech and transmits the sensory experience of the character from his internal perspective. The graphological intrusion in the translated version produces an interference of the voice of the narrator into the direct transmission of the character’s point of view. In addition, the character’s deictic orientation in the second sentence of text F which is signified with demonstrative in the original text (that thing that had burrowed into my chest) is lost in translation with the explanatory noun “feeling” (the feeling that had burrowed into my chest). The deictic orientation of the character in the original is indicated with demonstratives (those portraits, those painted frozen eyes) which are omitted in the translated text (the portraits, its painted frozen stare). The tendency of the translator for explanation is overemphasised to the degree that a sentence which does not exist in original is added in exclamatory tone: “So that’s the reason!”

In the translation of text G, the quotation marks are deleted from the sentences where they are used in the original passage and are inserted in the sentences where they do not exist in the original text. The quotation marks in the original text highlight the authoritarian voice of the state in the slogan: “The revolutionary triad: learning, productive labour, and military training” which roars harshly within the stream of thoughts of the character. By omitting the quotation marks the translation fails to convey the forceful intrusion of the slogan in the interior monologue of the character and refers to it as one of the random memories of the character. On the other hand, the translated text adds quotation marks in the inner monologue of the character abolishing the effect of direct transmission of the interior world of the character. The original metaphor “triangle” is translated as “triad”. It loses the figurative effect as well as the intertextual relation with the “black triangle of sex” which is translated as “dark delta of a woman’s sex”. The tendency to clarify the figurative language and to reduce the internal perspective of the character gives more power to the narratorial perspective. It raises the didactic and moralizing tone of the narration, which contradicts the allusive criticism of the novel.

Kadare’s novel Chronicle in Stone (2007) has also been translated from French by David Bellos. This is a story about World War II and the occupation of Albania, told by two narrating perspectives: one belongs to the child narrator, and the other one to the chronicler of the city. Let us see a fragment from the child narration, due to its peculiar style of naturalness and sincerity.

H. Gjumi s’po më zinte. Libri ishte aty pranë. I heshtur. Mbi nim. Diçka e hollë. Fare e hollë. E çuditshme. Brenda dy kapakëve prej kartoni të hollë rrinë zhurma, porta, ulërima, kuaj, njerëz. Pranë e pranë. Të shtypur me njëri-tjetrin. Të zbërthyer nëpër shenja të vogla, të zeza. (1971, p. 57).

I couldn’t get to sleep. The book lay nearby. Silent. A thin object on the divan. It was so strange... Between two cardboard covers were noises, doors, howls, horses, people. All side by side, pressed tightly against one another. Decomposed into little black marks.” (2007, p. 65)

In the Albanian version of text H, the child’s perception of the world is reflected through syntactic patterns. The sequence of short sentences suggests the linear progression of his experience transmitted directly to the reader. In the translated text, this linguistic feature of short and elliptic sentences is not fully retained. The third, fourth, fifth and the sixth sentences in the original text (Silent. On the divan. Something thin. Really thin.) are fused in two sentences in the translated text (Silent. A thin object on the divan.) The translated version does not reproduce the pace of the progression of the boy’s perception, which is suggested with the syntactic pattern.

Furthermore, the translator chooses to leave out one sentence containing the adverb of degree, which in the original text (Really thin) is attuned with the intensity of the boy’s trail of thought. The translated sentence “All side by side, pressed tightly against one another” is the fusion of two shorter sentences, where the shortness in the original text (Side by side. Pressed against each other.) imitates the semantics, suggesting the image of tightness. These linguistic markers in the syntactic level of the original text indicate the internal perspective of the child narration, also suggested with the child-like figurative language and animism. In contrast, the shift from the typical register of the child narrator with the use of the word “decomposed” in the last sentence of the translated text produces a formal effect and alters the narrative perspective of the original text.

The last fragments for analysis belong to one of the most appraised novels of Kadare, The Palace of Dreams (2011) translated from French by Barbara Bray. This novel is a political allegory, elaborating the bizarre bureaucracy of the Palace of Dreams set in the 19th century Ottoman Empire, where workers classify and interpret the dreams of the citizens. The main character endures the heavy burden of identifying the Master-dream that will turn out decisive for the future of the empire. The internal perspective of narration is essential to transmit the allegoric tone of this novel written in the period of the communist regime in Albania.

I. Mirëpo ëndërrparësit nuk dinin asgjë nga këto. Herë pas herë ata thërrisnin që nga jashtë: E, Haxhi, erdhi ndonjë përgjigje për atë ëndrrën time? Jo ende asgjë, përgjigjej Haxhiu. Po ti je tepër i padurueshëm, Abdyl Kadir. [...] Eh ke të drejtë, përgjigjej tjetri[...]Të gjitha këto ia kishte treguar Mark-Alemit një ditë më parë një mbikqyrës i Tabirit, me të cilin kishin qëlluar të pinin bashkë kafenë e mengjesit. (1999, p. 40).

Naturally the dreamers themselves knew nothing of all this. Every so often they would come to the door and ask, “Well, Hadji, any answer about my dream?” “No, not yet,” replied Hadji. “Patience, Abdul Kader!” [...] “Yes, of course. You’re right” [...]Mark-Alem had learned all this the morning before from an inspector at the Tabir with whom he’d had coffee. (2011, p. 46)

J. Një zë i ngjirur tërhoqi vëmendjen e Mark-Alemit. Pa kthyer kokën të shikonte, ai u përpoq të dallonte fjalët. Kuajt s’më ecnin që s’më ecnin, tregonte njeriu. Ingëllinin në vend e shkumëzonin, po s’bënin cap përpara. (p. 104)

A hoarse voice attracted Mark-Alem’s attention. Without turning to look at its owner, he tried to make out what he was saying. “My horses refused to go on,” said the man. “They whinnied and snorted, but they wouldn’t budge an inch.” (p. 109)

In text I inverted commas have been added in translation to introduce the speech of the others in the character’s interior monologue. The inverted commas do not exist in the original text in order to convey the inserted speech of the other in the form of free direct speech. The speech of the other is transmitted as an impression within the memory of the character, which is signified with the last sentence of the passage “Mark-Alem had learned all this the morning before from an inspector”. The usage of inverted commas in the translated version achieves a different effect and makes the speech of the other objectively detached from the character, instead of presenting it as character’s internal perspective. Similarly, in text J, inverted commas are added to differentiate between the speech of the others and the character’s interior monologue. In the original text, the lack of inverted commas refers to the sensory, emotional and mental perceptions, which are directly conveyed via free direct speech. However, due to the intrusion of the literary translator, the translated text loses the effect of listening and seeing directly from the eyes of the character and gives power to the narratorial perspective.


The comparison of passages from Ismail Kadare’s novels with their translated versions brings to light the shift from the internal perspective to the narratorial perspective. This shift may be the result of the predisposition of translators to explain, similarly to the cases when the metaphor of a literary text is translated as a simile. Although the samples analysed in this study are limited, they demonstrate that literary translators are not always sufficiently aware of the narrative perspective, and consequently, they modify it. Literary translators demonstrate the tendency to indicate clear borderlines between narrative perspectives, particularly when the translation is not done directly from Albanian but through the French version. The direct translation from Albanian has largely maintained the stylistic features of the original text and in some cases has intensified these features.

The translator’s clarification of narrating voices is carried out with linguistic devices of different language levels. At the graphological level, inverted commas are inserted in the translated version in cases when the author has intentionally omitted them using the stylistic strategy of free direct and indirect speech or thought. In the morphological level, linguistic markers such as demonstratives which indicate the character’s deictic orientation are not fully reproduced in the translated version. In the syntactic level, the sentence patterns which transmit the perceptual experience of the character are not fully retained. In the semantic level, there is the tendency to modify and clarify figurative language losing its originality as well as a tendency to add or omit words or larger units leading towards an explanatory narratorial tone.

The analysis shows that the translated literary text acquires an additional narrative voice, the voice of the translator. The translator reformulates the narrative perspective of the literary work by removing and modifying particular linguistic markers, such as indicators of character’s interior perspective, or indicators of the non-intrusive narrator. The choices of the literary translator influence the reader’s mental construction of the narrated world and the attitude of the narrator about that world. Ismail Kadare’s non-intrusive style of narration (Tahiri, 2009) offers the reader direct access into the character’s intimate world while keeping the distance of the narrator. As a result of the internal perspective of narration, the reader’s free interpretation was made possible even in a repressive dictatorial regime. Therefore, it is crucial to translate this stylistic distinctiveness of the Albanian writer. The interference of the voice of the translator into the direct transmission of the character’s point of view reduces the internal perspective of the character. It foregrounds the narratorial perspective empowering the didactic and moralizing tone of the narration, which is very different from the stylistics of Kadare’s prose.

As a result, if the literary translator shifts the narrating perspective of the original text, readers project different world models from the translated text which do not match up to the world models that were constructed for the reader of the original texts. Furthermore, shifts of the narrative perspective in the translated text influence changes within values and ideas of the readers as compared to the values stimulated by the narrative perspective of the original text. Alternations of narrative perspectives during the translation of literary texts influence the way how readers perceive the relation between the narrator, characters and narrated events, highlighting the ideological point of view of the narration.


Kadare, I., 1971. Kronikë në gur. Tiranë: Naim Frashëri.

Kadare, I., 1980. Prilli i thyer, Prishtinë: Rilindja.

Kadare, I., 1990. Broken April. Translated by John Hodgson. New York: New Amsterdam Books.

Kadare, I., 1999. Pallati i ëndërrave. Tiranë: Onufri.

Kadare, I., 2003. Vajza e Agamemnonit, Tiranë: Shtëpia botuese “55”.

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