(Un)(sub)conscious manipulation: Antjie Krog’s translation of Nelson Mandela’s ‘Long walk to freedom’

Honey, Marisa Freya (2006-03)

Thesis (MPhil (Afrikaans and Dutch))--University of Stellenbosch, 2006).


Nelson Mandela’s autobiography, ‘Long walk to freedom’, can be viewed as a milestone in South African history. Although it is not necessarily significant in a literary sense, it played an important role in making many South Africans aware of another side to their country’s history, and introduced them to a man who, besides being the world’s most famous political prisoner and a respected statesman, is also an ordinary human being. The Afrikaans translation of the autobiography, Lang pad na vryheid, formed part of a project to translate the original document into all the languages of South Africa (three other translations have been completed thus far). This project is discussed in relation to the ideological motive for it, and also in relation to the ideological position of Afrikaans in South Africa and the ideology and poetics of the translator. The study is based on a descriptive approach, specifically as manifested in the manipulation theory of André Lefevere. It attempts to place the translation of autobiography as a genre within translation theory, and suggests that the translator of autobiography has little ‘leeway’ with regard to the application of translation strategies, specifically those that change the original narrator’s ‘voice’. The various ways in which the text has been ‘manipulated’ in the production of its translation, both to make it function as a text in the target language and in ways that cannot always be justified on that basis, lead to the conclusion that it is very difficult to translate autobiography without interfering with the very personal telling of a person’s life story by that person, and without modulating the narration in a way that cannot always be reconciled with the autobiographer’s ideology. The modulation of the autobiographer’s voice, whether this takes place consciously, subconsciously or unconsciously, is finally argued to produce a translation that can no longer be viewed as the autobiography of Nelson Mandela in the strict sense.

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