1984 Frankfurt am Main "Operation Overgoat"


Circumstantial Evidence that the Proof of the Translation Lies in the Overtoning.

By C. George SANDULESCU, Monaco.

(Paper given at the Ninth James Joyce Symposium, which took place in Frankfurt-am-Main in mid-June 1984, as part of the Panel The Linguistic Analysis of Finnegans Wake, under the topic Equivalence & Translation.)



(Finnegans Wake 094.29)    So help her goat and kiss the bouc.

                                            Cosi aiuta il suo capro e bacia il bouc.

                                            Que Dieu l'assiste et elle pose ses lèvres sur le livre.

(Ulysses    026.32)                Redheaded women buck like goats. 

1.       From the plethora of listings, syntagmatic or paradigmatic, of FW expressions, ranging from Boldereff (1959), passing through O Hehir (1967; 1977), Christiani (1965), and Bonheim (1967), and ending up with the recent McHugh (1980), what I find most fascinating, though utterly neglected, is Clive Hart's (1963/1974) detailed listing of Overtones.

            As this is not the place to assess the theoretical merits of the actual concept, I prefer to take it in the crude sense of lord/overlord, tone/overtone, and goat . . .

2.        Overtone research is profitable for two reasons: (a) it seems not to have so far (since 1963 !) been at all exploited; (b) it provides circumstantial LINGUISTIC evidence that FW is NOT written in English ! No rigorously comparable counterpart of such listing is conceivable for either The Portrait or Ulysses !  Nor would it be feasible for Homer, Hamlet, or the Bible.  Within the modern novel, overtone detection would be equally inconceivable in Henry James, D. H. Lawrence or Faulkner . . .

            All this for the simple reason that -- in Clive Hart's very definition of it -- there are no overtones anywhere else except in Joyce's last mammoth work.

3.        TRANSLATION. What then is the correlation between the ontological status of these overtones of the FW text, and the actual, infinitely intricate process,  of 'translating' it / them ?

            Further, what minimal percentage of overtones, once identified, should the outcome of such a process contain ? For it is on account of these very overtones that translating FW stands, to a large extent, quite apart from translating anything else. That is not a statement of opinion: it is a statement of fact.

            The only real alternative to it is for the translator to throw Hart's elaborate overtone listing (12 per cent of the Concordance !) overboard altogether ! (Exactly the way the French translator of FW seems to have done . . . )

4.        A priori, such overtones should necessarily be carried into the translation -- be it French, Italian, or Japanese -- adequately and uniformly (to the extent Hart's listing itself may indeed be called exhaustive !). But have the translators done so ? And will they do so in the near and more distant future ? Or rather, CAN they do so ?

5.        A discussion of these three questions forms the crux of my present contribution: I contend that translators so far have not done so at all for (a) objective, and (b) subjective reasons.

            The main objective reason is that Hart's listing is paradigmatic (i. e. alphabetic item-by-item) instead of syntagmatic (i. e. line-by-FW line), as it should necessarily be for practical translation purposes.

            The subjective reason has to do with the translator's own awareness of the practical and theoretical implications of all overtone phenomena. Last but not least, there is the question -- partly objective, partly subjective -- of what is technically labelled 'linguistic distance' between the target and the source (i. e. 'relatedness' between the two languages involved).

6.        Let us call, quite arbitrarily, Operation Overgoat -- perhaps in overrespectful rememberance of the Normandy landing -- that part of the translation process concerned with carrying the Clive Hart overtones over into any translation: and let the epigraph to this brief paper function as its most pregnant illustration.

            I leave it to the reader to check whether 'Hart-homologated' overtones -- THE ONES ON THE OPPOSITE PAGE TO BEGIN WITH -- have found their right expression in  the right place in the right translation.

         I for one merely adopted the Fragestellung role in the present (mini)discussion.