Taiwan Lit


Between Foreignization and Domestication: On the Four Translations of “The Last Hunter”

Taiwan Lit 1.2 (Fall 2020)


Beginning with an exploration of translation history, this paper aims first to discuss the translation and publication backgrounds of the four translations of Topas Tamapima’s short story “The Last Hunter” 最後的獵人, translated respectively by Carlos G. Tee (Topas, 1987/1996), Linda G. Wang (T’o-pa-ssu, 1987/1998), John Balcom (Tamapima, 1987/2005), and Hsu Pao-fang (Tamapima 1987/2015). Through comparative analysis, judgments can be made regarding whether the strategies of these four translations do justice to the political agenda of Topas as an Indigenous Taiwanese writer: using Mandarin texts that read “unnaturally” to subvert the hegemonic framework of the Chinese language in Taiwan. It should be emphasized, if a foreignizing translation strategy can be applied to represent works by Indigenous writers from Taiwan, viewed from the perspective of the “ethics of difference” of Lawrence Venuti (1998), on the one hand, the heterogeneity of the original texts can be preserved to achieve the aesthetic effect of “strangeness,” and on the other hand, the translated texts can also do their job tackling the complex relationships between language and politics. In contrast, John Balcom chose to “smooth out” the nonstandard Mandarin text of Topas and render it into standard, fluent English. Despite the fact that some cultural-linguistic particularities of the source text were sacrificed, the readability and fluency of his translation were highly enhanced. This, however, was the corollary of the translator’s decision to conform with expectancy norms, in order to make Indigenous literature from Taiwan better circulate in the system of world literature, creating all kinds of possibilities for dialogue.

Keywords: “The Last Hunter,” foreignizing/domesticating translation, expectancy norms, Venuti, ethics of difference, world literature

1. Introduction: The Canonization of “The Last Hunter”

The Indigenous Taiwanese Bunun author Topas Tamapima (Chinese name Tian Ya-ge) has been the focus of attention of Taiwanese literary circles ever since winning second prize at the Nan-hsing Literature Awards in 1981 (no first prize was awarded) with his short story “Topas Tamapima” 拓拔斯•塔瑪匹瑪, written while he was still enrolled at Kaohsiung Medical College (now Kaohsiung Medical University). In 1985 he published, in the Taiwan Times 台灣時報 supplement, another short story titled “The Last Hunter” 最後的獵人, which won the Wu Chuo-liu Literature Award the following year, a feat quite uncommon for an author with few works. After Topas had won these awards, the periodical Literary Taiwan 文學界, established by local Kaohsiung authors Yeh Shih-tao and Peng Rui-chin, organized a “Symposium on Tian Ya-ge’s Work ‘The Last Hunter’” 田雅各作品〈最後的獵人〉討論會 on March 3 of the same year, in honor of the prize-winning work. The participants included the chief editor of the Taiwan Times supplement, Wu Chin-fa, who has close relations with Topas Tamapima, and the elders of the literary circle, Li Chiao and Chung Chao-cheng. In 1987 Morning Star Press published a Topas Tamapima short story collection titled The Last Hunter 最後的獵人, which included “The Last Hunter,” “Topas Tamapima,” as well as his representative works “Sunset Cicadas” 夕陽蟬 and “The Pygmy Tribe” 侏儒族.1Regarding the early days of Topas’s career in Taiwan’s literary circles, in the 1980s, see Liu C. C. (2015).

During the aforementioned symposium, Chung Chao-cheng noticed that the way Topas expresses himself in writing is different from what Han Chinese authors are used to, and the reason for this, Chung assumed, was that Topas thinks in his mother tongue or that his thinking process is at least influenced by his mother tongue, while his proficiency in tribal language might not be sufficient to express literary content (Chung et al., 1986, p. 6). Chung believed Topas’s diction did not flow naturally at all, yet this did not influence the value of the work; on the contrary, this characteristic of Topas’s writing was in line with his intention and deserved praise.

Li Chiao also explained the literary value of “The Last Hunter” from the perspective of language, believing that Topas’s work demonstrated that the way languages of different ethnic groups are structured represents the order in which different people think. For writers who have been writing in Chinese since they were little, this gives them an opportunity to reflect on language and writing, something Li felt people writing in Chinese had been doing less and less (Chung et al., 1986, p. 7).

In the introduction to the short story collection The Last Hunter, titled “The Mountain Soul’s Singing Voice” 山靈的歌聲, Wu Chin-fa (2012) proposes “the hypothesis of brain translation” 「腦譯」說, a well-known theory about Topas’s creative works, which asserts that Topas translates something inside his head before writing it down. Wu states that upon careful analysis of the sentence patterns used, what at first seems to be Chinese turns out not to be in a standard Chinese style. Topas once revealed to Wu that, when writing novels, he first uses the Bunun language to compose the story in his mind, then he translates it inside his head into Chinese before writing it down. Wu finds the way Topas fuses the syntax of Austronesian and Sinitic languages wonderful, but he thinks it is a creative exercise that Taiwanese writers have probably never seen before (p. 6). If we consider this according to the standard proposed in the famed work of postcolonial theory, The Empire Writes Back, this writing method of “syntactic fusion” can be called an “interlanguage,” a “separate but genuine linguistic system” unrelated to the mother tongue and second language of a postcolonial writer, with a “separate linguistic logic” (Ashcroft et al., 2002, pp. 65–67).

In fact, owing to Taiwan’s very long history of colonization, there have already been numerous novelists before Topas who have employed this style of “syntactic fusion” or “interlanguage” when writing. For example, the nativist authors Wang Chen-ho and Huang Chun-ming liked to mix Mandarin, Hoklo, English, and Japanese, and the syntax of Chen Ying-chen, another nativist-realist novelist, often reads as though it has an English structure. What makes Topas unique is that he is an Indigenous author, so in addition to this writing strategy of mixing languages, Wu Chin-fa (2012) also mentions Topas’s works as having very strong “ethnic” and “living” qualities, and as containing a “deep cultural reflection” (pp. 6–11). “The Last Hunter,” for example, describes the four days and three nights when the Bunun hunter Biyari went out to hunt in the mountains and forests before returning home. The topics explored include hunting activities being suppressed by law in modern Taiwanese society, the exploitation and bullying of Indigenous peoples by Han people, ethnic relations of the Bunun people, Indigenous myths and systems of belief/superstition, as well as how the mountain and forest ecology is being ruined by the Forestry Bureau. Since the publication of “The Last Hunter,” aside from the symposium organized in 1986, there have been more than ten articles discussing the story, attesting to its importance.

According to my observations, “The Last Hunter” has had at least four English translations in the 20 years between 1996 and 2015. This can to some extent be explained by the fact that this is not only a representative work of Indigenous literature but also already occupies a unique position within Taiwan’s postwar literary history. Not many postwar Taiwanese novels have been translated more than two times, one example being “Winter Night” 冬夜 from Pai Hsian-yung’s short story collection Taipei People 台北人, which has three translations: 1975’s “One Winter Evening” by National Taiwan University Department of Foreign Languages and Literatures professor Zhu Limin (in An Anthology of Contemporary Chinese Literature: Taiwan, 1949–1974, edited by Chi Pang-yuan and published by the National Institute for Compilation and Translation); 1976’s “Winter Nights” translated by John Kwan-Terry and Stephen Lacey (in Chinese Stories from Taiwan: 1960–1970, edited by Joseph S. M. Lau and published by Columbia University Press); and 1982’s “Winter Night” by the author Pai Hsian-yung and Patia Yasin (in an English translation of Taipei People titled Wandering in the Garden, Waking from a Dream, published by Indiana University Press).

This shows that the history of the English translations of short stories is part of the canonization process of these works, although the example of “Winter Night” also shows that through an analysis of the texts we can get an idea of the different strategies used in the translations, and to what extent the translators (or editors) of later versions thought earlier versions had room for improvement. Furthermore, because different strategies are used, looking at the translations from the perspective of translation studies may bring out different ethical problems, mainly because translators possibly have different translation norms in mind and make a variety of decisions based on them. What follows is a discussion from the perspectives of “translation history,” “translation strategies used in the various translations,” and “translation ethics,” to finally propose the idea of “gains and losses in foreignization and domestication” to explain that foreignizing translation strategies have attempted to reflect Topas Tamapima’s political demands as an Indigenous writer: using Chinese that reads “unnaturally” to subvert the existing framework of the hegemony of the Chinese language, as well as to maintain the “heterogeneity” of the original text and achieve an aesthetic effect of “strangeness,” thereby shedding light on the complicated entanglement of language and politics. However, the shortcoming of this kind of translation strategy is that it does not necessarily successfully convey to the reader the author’s and translator’s intent. On the other hand, the product of a domesticating translation strategy may be “depoliticized,” unable to evoke the complicated relationship between “language, politics, and translation;” nevertheless, being more readable and fluent, such a translation has its own merits.

2. “The Last Hunter” in the History of Taiwanese Indigenous Literature in English Translation

In December 1996, the quarterly The Chinese PEN1This quarterly was established in 1972 by the Taiwanese translator and scholar Nancy Ing, who also served as its first chief editor for a period of 20 years. Afterwards, in 2007, the periodical’s English name was changed to <em>The Taipei Chinese PEN</em>. The periodical’s Chinese name was changed from 當代台灣文學英譯 (Contemporary Taiwanese literature in English translation) to 台灣文譯 (Taiwan literature in translation) in June 2017. carried two English translations of Indigenous literary works. One was a poem by the Atayal author Walis Nokan, translated by the American sinologist John Balcom, titled “He Makes Another Survey” 伊能再踏查; the other was Topas Tamapima’s short story “The Last Hunter,” translated by Carlos Tee. I would like to assert that these two are the earliest works of Indigenous Taiwanese literature translated into English. 1996 was a crucial year in the history of Taiwanese literature translated into English: first, Columbia University Press launched the “Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan” series, headed by David Der-wei Wang (Wang was on the consultation committee for this publisher), also inviting Chi Pang-yuan and Nils Göran David Malmqvist, from Taiwan and Sweden, respectively, to be on the editorial committee (Chi, 2009, p. 522); second, the University of California, Santa Barbara’s “Forum for the Study of World Literatures in Chinese” launched the biannual Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series, with the director of the forum, Tu Kuo-ch’ing, in charge.

In reality, these two projects were the result of close cooperation between the Taiwanese government and American academia, and their predecessors can be traced back to 1990. According to the article “A Long Road of Boundless Loneliness—On the Past and Future of the Government’s Chinese Books in Foreign Translation” 長路漫漫多寂寞——談政府中書外譯之過去及未來, written by You Shu-ching (1998), section chief of the first section of the second department of the Council for Cultural Affairs (CCA, today’s Ministry of Culture), the CCA used the government’s power to promote the so-called “Chinese Books in Foreign Translation” project, a key initiative of the former head of the Council for Cultural Affairs, Kuo Wei-fan, and one of the projects of the six-year plan for national construction that began in 1990 (p. 19). Only later, when Helen Chen-chi Lin headed the CCA, did their persistence result in the two aforementioned, more systematic projects, one in the form of a series of mainly translated novels supplemented by topical anthologies (the book series led by David Der-wei Wang),1Jointly supported by the Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange. and the other a periodical (headed by Tu Kuo-ch’ing) carrying English translations of prose essays, poetry, short stories, and related academic studies of Taiwanese literature (pp. 19–22).

Consequently, Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series released a special issue in 1998 on “Aboriginal Literature in Taiwan” (volume 3). Besides eight works of poetry and prose, it also carried three short stories, two of which were by Indigenous authors: Topas Tamapima’s “The Last Hunter” (translated by Linda G. Wang) and Syaman Rapongan’s “The Call of the Flying Fish” 飛魚的呼喚 (translated by Cathy Chiu). This “Aboriginal Literature in Taiwan” special issue was the first anthology of Indigenous literature from Taiwan in the history of English translation, and as it was published as early as the third volume in the series, it showed how the editors valued Indigenous literature. Following this, the periodical had special issues on “Taiwan Literature, Nature, and Environment” (volume 8), “Taiwan Folk Literature” (volume 9), “Taiwan Literature and the Ocean” (volume 17), “Mountains, Forests, and Taiwan Literature” (volume 18), “Taiwan Literature and Childhood” (volume 22), and “The Mythology and Oral Literature of Taiwan's Indigenous Peoples” (volume 24), releasing works of many Indigenous authors in succession and covering everything regardless of gender, ethnicity, topic, or genre. It can be said this was the first project to systematically translate Indigenous literature from Taiwan.

The “Modern Chinese Literature from Taiwan” series only released one anthology of Indigenous literature in 2005, after many years of deliberation: Indigenous Writers of Taiwan: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems, compiled by John Balcom and Yingtsih Balcom and translated by John Balcom. However, John Balcom claims in the book’s introduction that it was the first anthology of Indigenous literary works translated into English, which is clearly not the case: volume 3 of Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series, the special issue on “Aboriginal Literature in Taiwan,” was the first. Similarly to this special issue, the two editors of the 2005 anthology balanced tribe and topic, choosing Indigenous works from the 1960s to the 1990s; short stories appear in the first part of the anthology, and the first work included was Topas Tamapima’s “The Last Hunter,” while the 1968 “Tears of a Fledgling” 雛鳥淚 by Topas’s senior, the Paiwan author Kowan Talall (Chinese name Chen Ying-hsiung), appeared alongside.

An opportunity for an even bigger translation project presented itself in 2013 when the “Agreement between New Zealand and Taiwan on Economic Cooperation” (ANZTEC) was signed in June of that year. Chapter 19 of this agreement is a special chapter on Indigenous peoples, stipulating that Taiwan and New Zealand must both promote the exchange of research about, translation of, and publication of Indigenous literature. Under this premise, the international exchange section of the Council of Indigenous Peoples planned for authors to visit New Zealand to engage in exchange with Māori writers, in order to get an idea of how they write and publish, as well as to pave the way for future translations and publications of Indigenous literature from Taiwan (Zhong, 2013). Moreover, due to the 2015 Taipei International Book Exhibition’s theme being “Discovering New Zealand, Reading the New World,” there was an even greater need for anthologies of Indigenous literature from Taiwan translated into English in order to engage in literary exchange with New Zealand. After ANZTEC had gone into effect, the chairman of the Council of Indigenous Peoples at the time, the Indigenous Puyuma author and scholar Paelabang Danapan (Chinese name Sun Ta-chuan), commissioned National Chengchi University professor Chen Fang-ming to be editor-in-chief for The Anthology of Taiwan Indigenous Literature. When this was finally published in 2015, it comprised four volumes: two volumes of short stories, one volume of poetry and prose essays, and a Chronicle of Significant Events for Taiwan Indigenous Literature: 1951–2014. On the basis of considerations of tribe, age, gender, and geographic distribution, 31 short stories, 39 poems, and 29 prose essays by 49 authors were selected for translation into English. Topas Tamapima’s “The Last Hunter” and “The Last Day of a Sorceress” 巫師的末日 (the latter translated by C. J. Anderson-Wu) were, respectively, picked to be the third and fourth stories of the first volume of short stories.

Looking back at the short 23-year history of Indigenous literature from Taiwan in English translation, the first thing we see is the importance of government patronage. This is of course a common characteristic of all kinds of Taiwanese literary works in English translation, owing to the marginalized position of Taiwan literature within the system of world literature and to its having few readers in the English-speaking world. This makes it difficult to promote Taiwan literature through a regular commercial press. The government has therefore sponsored The Chinese PEN1In addition to support from the CCA, <em>The Chinese PEN</em> had even earlier support from the Hao Ran Foundation, in which Glyn T. H. Ing, husband of <em>The Chinese PEN</em> chief editor and publisher Nancy Chang Ing, participated. The Hao Ran Foundation was established in 1978. and foreign university presses to publish English translations, although only the Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series has had substantive success, while the Council of Indigenous Peoples published the three volumes of The Anthology of Taiwan Indigenous Literature by themselves. Second, as mentioned before, Topas Tamapima’s “The Last Hunter” has already appeared in English translation four times, in 1996, 1998, 2005, and 2015. This, on the one hand, shows the work has been canonized, having become a classic of Indigenous Taiwanese literature in Chinese and thus appearing in every translation project of Indigenous literature. On the other hand, however, it possibly also shows that because the methods of expression in Chinese-language, Indigenous literature are not pure Mandarin, but rather the aforementioned “interlanguage,” translating it is anything but easy, and there is thus always room for improvement.

3. Translation Strategies of the English Translations of “The Last Hunter”

The most important characteristics of Topas Tamapima’s language can be summarized in three points. First, when describing mountain and forest scenery, he often uses metaphors that rarely appear in works by ethnic Han authors, as shown below:1Emphasis added by the author.

早晨,雲霧漸漸逃離山谷,向四周擴散,好像害怕人們知道是它們造成冰凍的夜晚似的 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 52)

The early morning, the clouds and mist gradually escaped the valley, as though afraid of people knowing it was them who had caused the frozen night [my translation]

公雞叫聲此起彼落,男人劈柴的聲音與獵狗吠聲,也趁太陽未出來同時奏起 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 52)

The rooster’s crowing rose here and fell there, the sound of men chopping firewood and the barking of the hunting dogs also took advantage of the sun having not yet come out to start performing [my translation]

一路上,人煙無跡除了站得直直的扁柏 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 57)

The whole journey there were no signs of human habitation except for the cypresses standing erect [my translation]

天氣漸漸轉熱,陽光像筆直的杉樹幹直直插入大地 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 73)

The weather got gradually hotter, the sunlight penetrated the earth like the trunks of firs [my translation]

太陽很快地越過大樹,從他的脚底緩緩輾到他臉上 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 74)

The sun slowly transcended the large trees, from the soles of his feet slowly rolling over his face [my translation]

Following common Han Chinese habits of language and thought, mist is rarely described as misbehaving, so it does not have to “逃離” (escape); this reflects how Topas Tamapima and many other Indigenous authors have the habit of personifying various natural phenomena as well as flora and fauna. The crowing of chickens, the sound of firewood being chopped, and the barking of dogs are not pleasant sounds, so in standard Mandarin, unlike music, they are not “奏起” (performed); cypresses are not people or animals, so they do not “站得直直” (stand erect); sunlight is not sharp, so it does not “直直插入” (penetrate) the earth; the sun is not a tire and thus will not “輾到” (roll over) a person’s face. Yet, Topas uses his unique “interlanguage” experience to create these impressions that may feel unfamiliar and novel to readers.

Second, Topas changes the established usage of certain words, or disregards existing Chinese proverbs, changing them to describe things in different ways. For example:

如果滑倒,就不需要繼續上山打獵,即使在森林周旋幾天也不會有收穫 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 59)

If he slipped, he wouldn’t have to continue going up the mountain to hunt, even if he were to contend for several days in the forest he would not gain anything [my translation]

罵一罵那些棕色皮膚的公務員,他們的脊椎真變化多端 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 65)

Cursing those brown-skinned functionaries, their spines really are full of changes [my translation]

警察先生約六十來歲,白髮已在耳邊漫延 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 78)

Mr. Cop was around 60 years old, white hair already stretching out around his ears [my translation]

In modern Chinese, “周旋” (to contend) usually refers to resisting or coping, yet here it means “to linger;” instead of swearing someone’s spine is “變化多端” (full of changes), proverbs like “前倨後恭” (going from arrogance to deference) or “見風轉舵” (steering according to the wind) would normally be used; as for “漫延” ([of water] to stretch out), this originally referred to water flooding some place, so a more prosaic way of writing it would be “蔓延” ([of vegetation] to stretch out), referring to white hair stretching out like overgrown vegetation.

Lastly, there is the use of vocabulary related to human anatomy. Hung San-hui and Lee Ching-wen have pointed this out in their discussions of “The Last Hunter.” Hung (2001) states that she does not know whether it’s because Topas is a doctor or because of Indigenous peoples’ innate familiarity with the body, but when Topas uses a phrase like “恰巧水淹到第六個頸椎骨” (the water happened to submerse him up to the sixth cervical vertebra) to describe how deeply a body was submersed in water, his description of the image is more precise than that of ordinary authors, who would use a description like “半身泡在水裡” (half the body submersed in water) (p. 220).

Lee (2010, p. 255) has made an appendix with a table showing more than ten cases of Tamapima’s using vocabulary related to the human body. Some examples:

眼球抹上一層淚水 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 68)

A layer of tears spread over the eyeballs [my translation]

比雅日走到水深之處,恰巧水淹到第六個頸椎骨 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 69)

Biyari walked to where the water was deep, the water happened to submerse him up to the sixth cervical vertebra [my translation]

此刻如有隻狗熊來襲,將他吃進食道 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 74)

If a bear struck at this moment, eating him and having him end up in its esophagus [my translation]

A more natural way of writing the first sentence would be by using “眼眶 (or 眼睛) 泛淚” (the eyes welled up with tears), whereas “眼球” (eyeball) is generally a medical term. Unlike Topas Tamapima, ordinary people are not doctors, so they may not know or have no way to intuit where the “第六個頸椎骨” (sixth cervical vertebra) is located in the body; consequently, this kind of wording has a defamiliarizing effect. “食道” (esophagus) is, like “眼球” (eyeball), usually a medical or anatomical term, while a more common way to say this would be “吃進肚子” (lit. “eat and have it go into your stomach”) or “吞食” (swallow).

Because of the foregoing, of the four translations of “The Last Hunter,” three translators (or editors) have noted that its “language and pragmatics” is the biggest problem facing the translator. In the foreword of the same title to the “Aboriginal Literature in Taiwan” special issue of Taiwan Literature: English Translation Series (volume 3), Tu Kuo-ch’ing (1998) states:

The aboriginal peoples are different from the Han Chinese in their way of thinking and feeling, and have made the vocabulary and syntactical rhythm of Chinese more varied. The Chinese works by aboriginal writers often show usages different from those characteristic of the Han Chinese, such as different word order, specialized words describing and differentiating fauna and flora or natural phenomena, as well as different conceptions of plot and narration. The differences reflect different natural landscapes and ways of thinking and infuse new vitality into the Chinese language, which some people believe is in danger of becoming ossified. (p. xviii)

Tu particularly emphasizes that “The Last Hunter” is Topas’s

award winning masterpiece and the most representative work to date, which no anthology of aboriginal literature can afford to miss. Even though this story has been translated into English by Carlos G. Tee (Chinese Pen, Winter 1996), we believe that our version, under the joint effort of the translator and the editors, offers additional merits in translation. (p. xix)

During preceding discussions with Robert Backus, another editor of the “Aboriginal Literature in Taiwan” special issue, Tu and Backus decided the translation strategy would have to differ from Carlos G. Tee’s translation.1In a response to this author’s email, Tu expressed that “as English editors, me and professor Backus have carefully discussed the draft of this novel’s translation. The different characteristics or merits of the English translation should be attributed to his prowess as a translator” (personal correspondence, October 11, 2019).

Furthermore, Chen Fang-ming (2015), editor-in-chief of The Anthology of Taiwan Indigenous Literature, published by the Council of Indigenous Peoples, points out in the introduction to the anthology that it is a major challenge to translate Indigenous literature into English, and that it is a process of double translation: “From indigenous tribal languages to Mandarin Chinese, from Mandarin Chinese to English, there is no denying that, with every single transference, some essences of the mother tongues will go missing” (p. vi).

Paelabang Danapan (Sun Ta-chuan) (2015) states in his introduction that Indigenous writers always use different language to challenge Mandarin and develop a unique literature:

Diverse languages of various tribes, grammar, symbols, and tones, coupled with Romanized spelling, Mandarin spelling of tribal languages, and juxtaposition of Japanese and English – all these practices challenge the boundary and conventions of using Mandarin Chinese, trying to develop a distinctive literary language with the special features of indigenous literature. (p. 5)

When translating Indigenous Writers of Taiwan: An Anthology of Stories, Essays, and Poems, John Balcom (2006) noted that Indigenous authors only start studying Mandarin when they are six or seven years old and are thus influenced by their tribal language. This means the way they express themselves in their Mandarin writing is possibly “not standard,” although Balcom also believes that Indigenous Taiwanese authors sometimes distort or change the syntax of standard Mandarin on purpose. As a translator who tries to stay loyal to the style of the original text, Balcom found himself caught in a dilemma: if he translated the nonstandard Mandarin into nonstandard English, what impression would English readers have of the translation? His translation strategy in this case required him to smooth out the syntax in question and translate it into standard US English (p. 128). Besides making the translated text fluent and readable, Balcom’s reasoning was that “if nonstandard Mandarin were translated into nonstandard English, the translator, and not the author, would be blamed” (2005, p. xxii). Therefore, the reader can only see what is said in the work, not how it is said by the author, a choice Balcom is willing to shoulder the full responsibility for (p. xxii). If we consider this choice using the concept of “translation norms,” as proposed by Andrew Chesterman (1997, pp. 64–65) in his work Memes of Translation, we could say Balcom was restricted by so-called “expectancy norms,” in which the translator believes that the reader has certain expectations of the translated text, maintaining that only a specific range of translations is “correct,” such that even though there still exist many possibilities for “correct” translations, only translations within a certain scope will be considered “adequate” or “acceptable.”

Aside from the expectations of the reader, every society will have some members acting as the so-called “norm-authority,” for example, teachers, examiners, critics reviewing translations, or reviewers invited by publishers. Society at large (which includes readers) believes that these people have the ability to verify which translation norms are valid (Chesterman, 1997, p. 66). Two examples of “norm-authorities” can be mentioned here and to some extent explain why Balcom decided to omit the linguistic style of the source work in order to have a fluent and readable translation. The first example is the authority on Chinese literature translation, Howard Goldblatt. During an interview, he has stated that the Chinese literature that has passed through his hands is no longer Chinese literature, as he has had to turn all the best Chinese literature into another literature; Goldblatt believes that although the spirit remains, the text is different. He also believes that what authors from China (including sinologists) care about are not linguistic issues, but rather the feelings, contents, and psychological qualities expressed in the works (Ying, 1993, pp. 47–48).

The second example is the British sinologist W. J. F. Jenner, translator for the Beijing Foreign Language Press for three years in the 1960s, who later translated Journey to the West 西遊記, Lu Xun’s poems, and a collection of Ding Ling’s short stories. Jenner (1990) once wrote that literature from China generally lacks readers in the Western world, the main reason being inferior translations full of errors and, worst of all, “the tyranny of literalism.” Jenner asserted that ending this malpractice would require encouraging translators to try even harder to experience the mood and implicit charm of the original, rather than principally cling to a word-for-word translation (p. 193). Jenner thought especially highly of the contributions to the field of modern Chinese literature translation made by his former colleagues at the Foreign Language Press, husband and wife Yang Xianyi and Gladys T. Yang, pointing out that the English translations of Lu Xun that were discussed most often at the time were those of the Yangs, something that could not have been a coincidence (p. 188). It is clear that Jenner believed this was because the Yangs’ translations were sufficiently fluent. He even asserted that the main role of English translation of Chinese literature is to be “unobtrusive.” In other words, he sees “invisibility” as the highest principle, making the translations appear as though they are Chinese works written in English; only if the translator has fluent command of tense, rhythm, and structure in English can the sentences and paragraphs be made fluent, and unnatural and stiff English translations be avoided (p. 193).

Next, we can examine the different expressions in the four translations. The first is a particular metaphor: “雲霧漸漸逃離山谷” (the clouds and mist gradually escaped the valley). The translations of Carlos Tee and John Balcom substituted “逃離,” respectively, with “vanished” (Topas, 1996, p. 23) and “withdrew” (Tamapima, 2005, p. 5), but Linda G. Wang and Hsu Pao-fang translated it literally as “escaped” (T’o-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 15) and “got away” (Tamapima, 2015, p. 32), respectively. We can categorize these translations according to the two methods proposed by Friedrich Schleiermacher (1992, p. 42) in an 1813 lecture in Berlin titled “On the Different Methods of Translating:” Balcom and Tee are like translating a Roman author by making him seem capable of speaking German to Germans, thus directly moving the author into the world of German readers and transforming the author into one of them; Wang and Hsu, on the other hand, try to use their knowledge of the original language to communicate the images and impressions they have acquired to the readers, and they must therefore make the reader see what they themselves see and let them feel everything that is foreign. The former is a so-called “domesticating translation” strategy, whereas the latter is a “foreignizing translation” strategy.

It is my contention that the main reason this kind of difference among translations occurs is that, as mentioned by Susan Bassnett (2014), it is not just that the source and target are different languages; the way language is used is also different. These are linguistic and cultural differences that require being selective, making the role of the translator extremely complicated (p. 9). The former two translators substituted vocabulary to eliminate these differences, while the latter two have chosen to preserve the differences. Similarly, for the sentence “公雞叫聲此起彼落,男人劈柴的聲音與獵狗吠聲,也趁太陽未出來同時奏起” (the rooster’s crowing rose here and fell there, the sound of men chopping firewood and the barking of the hunting dogs also took advantage of the sun having not yet come out to start performing), Tee and Balcom used “were already heard from all corners” (Topas, 1996, p. 23) and “be heard” (Tamapima, 2005, p. 5), respectively, to replace “奏起,” but Wang and Hsu translated it literally as “harmonized” (T’o-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 15) and “rang” (Tamapima, 2015, p. 32), respectively. As for “站得直直的扁柏” (cypresses standing erect), only Wang translated it as “tall standing cypress trees” (T’o-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 18), preserving the “standing.” There are also two places where only Hsu has used a foreignizing translation strategy: “直直插入大地” (penetrated the earth) and “輾到他臉上” (rolling over his face) are translated by Hsu as “penetrated the earth” and “running over [...] his face” (Tamapima, 2015, pp. 46, 47).

As another clear example of Topas Tamapima’s unique writing technique, consider the following: “流產之後,她的豐滿也併隨被沖走,而且她沒有再吃到山上的佳餚 …” (After the miscarriage, her voluptuousness was also subsequently flushed away, and she hasn’t eaten the delicacies from up the mountain again) (Tamapima, 2012, p. 46). Tee and Balcom translate this as “Her miscarriage had visibly reduced the plumpness of her once well-endowed body. She hadn’t had any mountain delicacy since the miscarriage.” (Topas, 1996, p. 46) and “Since her miscarriage, she had lost a lot of weight and hadn’t had any good food from the mountains.” (Tamapima, 2005, p. 17). Hsu is closer to these two, translating it in an even simpler manner: “[...] her loss after the miscarriage. She didn’t taste the delicious mountain dish.” (Tamapima, 2015, p. 49). Among the four translations, Wang’s version can be said to be closest to “literal:” “After the miscarriage, her vitality had been drained, and she had not had the chance to eat any of the fine meats of the wild.” (T’o-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 31). What makes this sentence distinctive is that Topas creates an association between “流產” (miscarriage) and “沖走” (drain) through the image of the Chinese water radical (氵). Even though there are no English words related to water to express “流產,” meaning that Wang, like the other three, can only translate it as “miscarriage,” she clearly wanted to preserve the particular wording of “沖走.” According to how it’s generally expressed in Chinese, the loss of a full figure could be described using “流失” (erode) or “消失” (disappear) instead of “沖走;” therefore, the choice of “drained” (having connotations of water being drained off or flowing away) reflects what Tu Kuo-ch’ing has called “additional merits,” preserving something the other three versions have not.

Furthermore, for vocabulary that Topas has used in a different way, like “在森林周旋幾天” (contend for several days in the forest), only Wang has shown some originality, translating it as “circled through the woods for days” (T’o-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 20); the other three translators have translated it as “stays” (Topas, 1996, p. 30), “spent” (Tamapima, 2005, p. 8) and “lingering” (Tamapima, 2015, p. 37), three verbs that read more naturally. For the vocabulary related to the human body and organs, only Wang literally translated “眼球” as “eyeballs” (To-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 25) and only Hsu translated “食道” as “esophagus” (Tamapima, 2015, p. 47). As for “第六個頸椎骨” (the sixth cervical vertebra), Wang and Hsu both used a literal translation strategy, respectively translating it as “sixth neck vertebra” (T’o-pa-ssu, 1998, p. 26) and “sixth cervical vertebra” (Tamapima, 2015, p. 43), Tee translated it as “sixth vertebra” (Topas, 1987/1996, p. 39), and Balcom as “halfway up his back” (Tamapima, 2005, p. 13). In summary, looking at the translations, Balcom’s domesticating translation strategy is done most thoroughly, exactly as he himself has stated: as soon as something appears “not standard” (unnatural) he will translate it according to standard American English usage. What follows is an investigation of how we should see the completely different translation strategies of foreignization and domestication from the perspective of translation ethics.

4. The English Translations of “The Last Hunter” and Translation Ethics

The Italian-American scholar Lawrence Venuti, in his representative 1995 work The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation, harshly criticizes the translation strategy of domestication that has long been the guiding principle for English and American translators. Domestication stresses fluency and demands that the translated text appears “transparent” (Gentzler, 2001, pp. 39–40). For Venuti, this “invisibility” has two consequences, namely, that the text’s “otherness” (its foreign cultural characteristics) disappears, and that the “textual invisibility” of the translation leads to the social invisibility of the translator (Hermans, 2009, p. 99). Venuti not only advocates for a “foreignizing translation” strategy, he also puts it into practice: in the chapter “Heterogeneity” of his The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, he describes in detail how he translated the little-known 19th century Italian author Iginio Ugo Tarchetti.

Tarchetti challenged the literary institutions of his day by writing novels in the dialect of Tuscany. Venuti (1998), despite knowing the readers of his translation would mostly be American, intentionally used British English spellings in order to preserve the “heterogeneity” of the original (this included pronunciation, for instance, writing the American English “an herb” as British English “a herb,” leading to questions from disconcerted editors) and changed 20th century sentence structures, such as “it was enough for me,” to the 19th century “suffice it for me;” for “it was useless” he would borrow directly from the 19th century Irish writer Bram Stoker’s vampire novel Dracula: “my efforts were unavailing.” Occasionally, Venuti mixed American English and archaic British English vocabulary together in one sentence, for example, using “scapegrace” (an archaic British English word meaning “rascal”) and the American vernacular word “con artist” (a swindler) in the same sentence (pp. 16–17).

From Venuti’s discussion of the “ethics of difference” in The Scandals of Translation, it becomes clear that a “foreignizing” translation strategy implies ethical questions: when writing, reading, and evaluating a translation, one should have greater respect for linguistic and cultural differences (p. 6). Venuti is fully aware that when a work has been translated into a different language (especially when translated into English), there is the issue of “asymmetrical relations,” because the act of translation basically has an ethnocentric character: after a work has appeared in translation, it is easily used to serve the culture of the language it has been translated into, and especially once various institutional forces have become involved, translators may become complicit in the exploitation of the translated text (p. 4).

What Venuti criticizes is the “domesticating” fluent translation strategy pursued by 20th century British and American translators, but the tradition of translation theory he draws from is that of German circles in the 18th and 19th centuries. For example, Schleiermacher was also a supporter of a “foreignizing” translation strategy, believing that “foreignization” allows readers of the target language culture to respect elements of foreign cultures while also enriching the target language (Bassnett, 2014, p. 47). Another example is the criticism of the philosopher and literary critic Johann Gottfried Herder, which illustrates even more clearly what Venuti considers to be the issue of ethnocentrism in “domesticating” translation. Herder (2003) was of the opinion that “[t]he real translator should [...] adapt words, manners of speaking, and combinations from a more developed language to his mother tongue, preferably from Greek and Latin but also from younger languages.” Compared to languages that are relatively closer to one’s own, Herder thought that more can be learned from other, more distant languages (p. 74). Herder expressed his views using the following example:

The French, who are much too proud of their own taste, adapt all things to it, rather than try to adapt themselves to the taste of another time. Homer must enter France a captive and dress according to their fashion, so as not to offend their eyes. He has let them take his venerable beard and his old simple clothes away from him. He has to conform to French customs, and where his peasant coarseness still shows he is treated as a barbarian. But we poor Germans, who are still almost an audience without a fatherland, who are still without tyrants to dictate our taste, want to see him the way he is. (p. 74)

Like Schleiermacher and Herder’s critiques of 18th and 19th century French translation culture, Venuti in the 20th century also ceaselessly attacks British and American cultural hegemony. The “foreignization/domestication” dispute is, then, not purely a dispute about the poetics of translation but is instead even more a problem of cultural politics that goes beyond the text. It is because of this that Venuti does not want to essentialize the “foreign,” but rather oppose ethnocentrism, racism, cultural narcissism, and imperialism, and through this promote the democratization of geopolitical relations. The current situation in the English and American world overemphasizes homogeneity; Venuti wants to eliminate this and focus on difference, to reveal the violence of “domesticating” translation (Venuti, 1993/2010, p. 78).

If we use the above discursive framework to examine Balcom’s “domesticating” translation strategy, we find that his translated text ignores the complicated relations between “language, politics, and translation,” and he occasionally even inserts western values. For example, one sentence in “The Last Hunter” reads:

他們會理悟這謎般的森林,然後像獄裡將判刑的犯人一樣,懊悔當初為何不把眼光放亮一點。如果那些人看重的不單單是原木的粗細……。 (Tamapima, 2012, p. 73)

They will understand this riddle-like forest, then like criminals convicted to prison, regret why they had not seen the light at first. If what those people cared about wasn’t just the thickness of the logs... [my translation]

Balcom translates this as “They would unravel the enigma of the forest and, like sinners condemned to hell [emphasis added], they would regret their previous lack of understanding in seeing the forest as nothing but a source of timber” (Tamapima, 2005, p. 16).

“犯人” (criminal) is here changed to “[religious] sinners condemned to hell.” This kind of rewriting does not appear only in “The Last Hunter.” For example, in his translation of Syaman Rapongan’s “A Large Stingray” 大魟魚, Balcom translated the sentence “畢竟,魚類牠們也有為了保住性命的防禦智慧” (after all, fish they also have knowledge of defense in order to preserve life [my translation]) (2014, p. 177) as “After all, fish too have an instinct for self-preservation [emphasis added]” (Rapongan, 1997/2005, p. 140). Replacing “防禦智慧” (knowledge of defense) with “instinct for self-preservation” not only reduces the agency of the large stingray, it is also unable to reflect the special position, similar to humans, that fish have in Tao culture. It also erases the complicated, intimate, yet mutually threatening relation between the Tao people and fish. (Tao divide fish into old people’s fish, women’s fish, and men’s fish.)1See Terrence Russell’s translator’s notes in the English translation of Syaman Rapongan’s “Cold Sea, Deep Feeling” 冷海情深 (Rapongan, 1997/2008, p. 22).

As for the writings of Topas Tamapima, Fu Da-wei (2003) believes the reason Topas writes this unnatural and nonstandard Mandarin is that he selects some notions and feelings of the Bunun people, and, by camouflaging them in Mandarin, lets these intervene and live as parasites in the writing culture of Han people. According to Fu, the goal of dressing the writing up in (a suspect) Chinese is to break and subvert the conventions of Chinese language (p. 226). Wei Yi-chun (2007), who has for many years immersed himself in Indigenous literature research, has outlined the history of this mixed-language writing style. He points out that when the authoritarian system in Taiwan started to relax in the 1970s and Indigenous rights movements were on the rise, people started to think the hegemony of Chinese as an “orthodox language” was no longer sufficiently politically correct. This created a social environment where Indigenous Taiwanese peoples of various tribes would use their native tongues or mixed languages to write. After the 1990s, social movements that called for tribal autonomy and a return to native lands took off and people re-immersed themselves in and studied the living grammars of Indigenous native languages, thus creating the internal conditions for Indigenous authors to be able to write mixed-language literature (p. 347).

Seen in this way, Indigenous peoples’ mixed-language writing does not just have aesthetic value, it also expresses a political demand, and Topas Tamapima is of course no exception. In the author’s preface to his first short story collection, The Last Hunter, titled “The Ultimate Goal for Writing” 寫作的最終目的, Topas thanked several ethnic Han authors for tolerating his “stiff Mandarin” writing, through which he expresses the different experience of Indigenous peoples, firstly so that people in a society of different ethnicities and cultures can get to know each other, and secondly to urge even more of those “who lived in Taiwan first” to write literary works (Tamapima, 2012, p. 15). In the afterword of his second short story collection, Lovers and Prostitutes 情人與妓女, he expresses that only when literature is paired with efforts in culture and art will it be possible to raise the position of an ethnic group and to recover life’s original dignity (Tamapima, 1992, p. 193). This shows that, for Topas, his “stiff Mandarin” is indeed a literary technique along the lines of John Balcom’s description of the deliberate distortion of standard Mandarin,1However, when Topas was interviewed by Okazaki Ikuko (2003), he stated that he almost completely uses a possibly nonstandard “Beijing dialect” to think and write. What gives Topas most trouble are the conversations: in order to write conversations in a lively way, it takes a lot of exhausting fumbling around to express what the people from the tribe, especially older people, are saying in the unique Bunun language, which is in the process of disappearing, and to write it in Beijing dialect [Mandarin] (p. 315). This shows that the so-called nonstandard Beijing dialect is possibly Topas thinking that his own use of Mandarin is not sufficiently standard. While this idea to some extent also repudiates Wu Chin-fa’s claim that Topas first translates something in his head before writing it down, looking at Topas’s writing process, he is unmistakably a mixed-language author. although this is absolutely not just a technique created with style in mind: mixed-language writing is a textual mediation used by Indigenous authors to mark their identity and express their political demands. Therefore, as far as the conveying of information from the original work is concerned, a translator has no reason whatsoever to “smooth out” this kind of nonstandard language, using a domesticating translation strategy and sometimes even adding footnotes when needed to explain why something is translated in a particular way.

As mentioned previously, however, we cannot categorically deny the translation ethics implicit in Balcom’s domesticating translation strategy: “expectancy norms.” He clearly believes that what the reader expects is a fluent translation, and a translator serving the reader has no choice but to use a domesticating strategy to translate. Andrea Bachner (2016), professor of comparative literature at Cornell University, defines Indigenous Taiwanese literature as a kind of “bigraphism” or “diglossia” in her article “Cultural Margins, Hybrid Scripts: Bigraphism and Translation in Taiwanese Indigenous Writing.” An Indigenous writer’s particular language records a clash, dispute, or friction of languages, the two opposing sides being the dominant Chinese on one side, and, on the other, the recently developed Indigenous written languages based on romanization. Bachner argues that while Balcom’s translation is elegant and readable, it too quickly erases the clash of languages in Indigenous writing. She raises the English translation of Badai’s novel Sorceress Diguwan 笛鸛 as an example, from which all of the Puyuma-language content (mostly conversations) has been omitted, as well as the pictures and notes, thereby completely extinguishing the anthropological spirit of the original work. However, Bachner also points out that Balcom’s domesticating translation is not entirely without merit, as it can at least let Indigenous literature from Taiwan enter into the system of world literature, facilitating exchange between various kinds of Indigenous literatures and cultures (pp. 241–242).

A similar perspective is shared by Lin Pei-yin, a Taiwanese scholar teaching at the University of Hong Kong (2019). Her article, “Positioning ‘Taiwanese Literature’ to the World: Taiwan as Represented and Perceived in English Translation,” discusses the problems Taiwanese literature may face when it enters into the system of world literature through translation. She states that Balcom’s domesticating translation strategy is not difficult to understand, which clearly serves to improve the translation’s readability and make it more acceptable for the target reader. Even so, she says, this way of translating also makes us wonder, which elements are made to stand out and which ones are played down, which things are abridged and which ones omitted, and, finally, a matter needing further discussion, what kind of image of Taiwan should be exported to the world through translation (p. 16). What Lin discusses in her article, however, is not Indigenous literature but Balcom’s English translation of Li Qiao’s novel Wintry Night 寒夜三部曲. She concludes that Balcom’s translation, on the one hand, simplifies some of the original work’s details concerning Taiwanese history and geography, while the cultural elements of various ethnic groups and the linguistic hybridity (the alternating use of Hakka, Taiwanese, and Atayal) are “smoothed out” even more. On the other hand, however, the advantage of this kind of strategy is that it helps attract international readers, and Lin also agrees with the claim of the chief editor of the translation series, Chi Pang-yuan, that this translation is sufficient to serve as a guide to the descendants of overseas Taiwanese who don’t understand Chinese but want to get to know Taiwan (p. 26).

In summary, from the perspective of translation ethics, foreignizing and domesticating translation strategies are informed by two different ethical considerations: the former strives to avoid ethnocentrism and preserve the style of the original, but the disadvantage is that the reader may not necessarily be able to apprehend the original flavor that foreignizing translation wants to express. For example, the American scholar Douglas Robinson (1997) once raised the critique in his book Translation and Empire that foreignizing translation—such as literally translating the Spanish “el mundo es pañuelo” as “the world is a handkerchief” and not the domesticating translation “it’s a small world”—may make the author and his or her language and culture appear childish, backward, or primitive. It does not have to be the case, therefore, that domesticating translation leads to ethnocentrism. Or, to put it differently, foreignizing translation may not necessarily help readers break away from ethnocentrism (p. 111). As for domesticating translation, as represented by Balcom’s, it adheres to “expectancy norms;” just as Bachner and Lin propose, despite smoothing out and omitting some special linguistic, cultural, and ethnic elements, it undoubtedly helps expand the group of international readers of Taiwan literature.

5. Conclusion: from “gains and losses of foreignization and domestication” to “untranslatability”

Generally speaking, foreignizing translation is closer to literal translation, while domesticating translation amounts to a translation of the meaning. Does that mean one can always use a foreignizing, literal translation strategy when translating works written in the mixed languages of Indigenous people from Taiwan, like Linda G. Wang and Hsu Pao-fang did when translating “The Last Hunter?” The answer is clearly negative, for the reason that a lot of works written in a mixed language are themselves the result of a kind of translation, and with homonymic elements and wordplay, they are very difficult to translate other than by translating the meaning. For example, the Amis author Adaw Palaf (Chinese name Chiang Hsien-tao) in 1993 published the poem “Gangmen shuo: women cai shi Aibilijun a! – gei Yamei yongshimen, zai Lifa Yuan” 肛門說:我們才是愛幣力君啊!——給雅美勇士們,在立法院 (2003, pp. 33–39), which can be literally translated as “The Anus Said: We Are True Mr. Dollar Lovers!—For the Amis Warriors at the Legislative Yuan.” However, since gangmen 肛門 (anus) is also a transliteration of the English word “government” into Mandarin, the poem expresses a disdain for the government; Aibilijun (Mr. Dollar Lovers) is also a transliteration, for “Aborigine,” on a deeper level implying a critique of the government’s stigmatization of Indigenous people as money-grubbing.1For years, the nuclear waste storage facility on Orchid Island has been the major source of dispute between the ROC government and the Tao (formerly Yamei) tribe. While some Han government officials comment disdainfully that the tribespeople protest only to demand compensation from the government, the Orchid Island Tao natives actually plead only for the removal of nuclear waste from their home island, which as of now has still not been done. This is a poem the title of which cannot be translated, let alone its content. Seen in this way, “translation of a translation” appears to be the limit of a foreignizing translation strategy. Perhaps this is the “untranslatability” of mixed-language writing.

Another problem with a foreignizing translation strategy is one that Venuti himself has acknowledged. Foreignizing translation can remain critical and leave room for choice, as well as constantly assess the relationship between the target language culture and foreign elements from the source language, and through this assessment change the method of foreignizing translation. However, the risk of foreignizing translation is that if the ideology of the target language culture is reduced to a marginal position, the problem of unintelligibility could emerge, leaving the reader unable to understand the translation (Venuti, 1994, pp. 201–217). For instance, Linda G. Wang and Hsu Pao-fang already use a foreignizing translation strategy as much as possible, but would the reader really see this without being reminded of it? This is of course doubtful. The problem can be illustrated by an example raised by the American literary scholar bell hooks when talking about the political character of language: hooks often incorporates African American vernacular expressions in her own academic writing, even though this usually leads to editors of academic periodicals demanding she change them to standard English so that more readers will be able to understand. Nevertheless, in a classroom setting she still encourages African American students to use all sorts of different ways of expressing themselves in English during class discussion. Although this always leads to white students protesting that they do not understand, hooks’s response is to “[encourage] them to think of the moment of not understanding what someone says as a space to learn” (hooks, 1995, p. 299). This is also why Schleiermacher believes a foreignizing translation strategy can enrich the culture of the target language, because this translation strategy can maintain an openness to all sorts of elements from foreign cultures. Or, to use Herder’s metaphor, let people see Homer “the way he is.”

Foreignizing translation also has its political demands and critical spirit. Venuti (2012) states that the standard for evaluating a translation is whether or not it has real (or potential) impact on “the styles, genres, and discourses that have gained institutional authority” (p. 185). This is why Anthony Pym (1996), a famous theorist of translation, despite writing a critique of the concept of “(Venuti’s) visibility,” in the end still affirms Venuti’s view of “translators as real people in political situations,” and also acknowledges the different ethical standards relevant for translators (p. 176). Theo Hermans (2009) believes Venuti is spot-on in his use of the word “domestication,” because it also carries the meaning of “forcible taming,” having all sorts of harmful consequences (p. 98). Hermans moreover thinks that it remains an open question whether or not the reader can distinguish the peculiarities of the original through a translator’s foreignizing translation strategy (including various ingenious and special uses of language), but the point is that the ultimate goal of a foreignizing translation strategy is “to challenge linguistic and ideological hegemonies and to contribute to a change in mentality” (p. 99).

However, one fact that cannot be overlooked is that when translating various languages full of hybridity, the current trend is still inclined towards domesticating translation. The scholars Georgina Collins and María López Ponz (2018) state in their article, “Translation, Hybridity and Borderlands: Translating Non-standard Language,” that despite there being many options for translating nonstandard language, there is a clear tendency to standardize it, which is usually done so that translated works can better break into the market (p. 408). From this perspective, it is not difficult to understand why John Balcom would “smooth out” all “nonstandard Mandarin” when translating.

To sum up, foreignizing and domesticating translations each have their gains and losses. The translations of Linda G. Wang and Hsu Pao-fang do indeed maintain foreignizing elements to some (even a large) extent, which so happens to be Topas Tamapima’s particular linguistic style. However, this strategy is not without risks: on the one hand, the translated text could be impossible to understand for the reader, or it could be unable to preserve the sense of strangeness of the original (nonstandard Mandarin) text. (For example, even though “周旋” is literally translated or translated using foreignization as “circle through,” the unique linguistic sense of “周旋” created by Topas Tamapima is gone after it is translated anyhow.) On the other hand, it is clearly impossible to follow this strategy all the way through. As for the domesticating strategy chosen by Carlos Tee and John Balcom, even though some of the distinctive flavor and character of the original text is lost, it allows the author’s work to get closer to the reader, raising its visibility and transmissibility within the system of world literature; or, as the scholar Andrea Bachner said, it could even promote dialogue between Indigenous people from Taiwan and other Indigenous cultures throughout the world—transforming English from a hegemonic tool for domination into a means of subverting hegemony. Whatever the case may be, from the perspective of translation ethics, foreignization and domestication bear different norms in mind: for the former it is Venuti’s “ethics of difference,” for the latter it is “expectancy norms.”

Finally, in the context of research on world literature, as addressed by the two scholars Lin Pei-yin and Andrea Bachner, this article wants to guide the research on English translations of Indigenous literature from Taiwan in the direction of world literature. It is generally known that the discussion of world literature originated with the German literary giant Goethe. According to the important scholar of contemporary world literature David Damrosch (2003), Goethe once claimed he no longer liked reading the German original of his own work, Faust, for he had found out that there was a new French translation which was very lively, original, and full of energy. In line with this view, Damrosch makes a very important point in the conclusion of the book What Is World Literature?: world literature is not a simple reflection of national literatures, but an elliptical refraction; that is, after national literatures have entered the system of world literature through translation, a relation is produced with other national literatures, resulting in new gains. Furthermore, world literature can also be said to be a mode of reading literature because it is read through translation without submersing oneself in the original. This allows the reader to take up a reading attitude of detached engagement (p. 281). The English scholar Nicholas Harrison (2014), when discussing the gains and losses of translation in his article “World Literature: What Gets Lost in Translation,” addresses the gains emphasized by Damrosch, stressing instead that the study of world literature should actually focus on the notion of “untranslatability,” that is, it should carefully inspect those literary elements lost in translation (p. 412). In other words, Damrosch’s view is a bit too optimistic, whereas Harrison’s view leans towards the pessimistic, claiming that translation will inevitably lead to losses of the original. For that reason, Harrison even alienates himself from the position of the teaching of literature research, believing one should do more to encourage students to study (non-English) foreign languages and directly read the original texts.

Harrison’s view to some extent echoes that of André Lefevere, an expert on translation studies, in his 1982 “Mother Courage’s Cucumbers: Text, System and Refraction in a Theory of Literature.” However, Lefevere’s view is not at all pessimistic, as he believes it goes without saying that translation is just like that—an author’s work will always be “refracted” through a certain spectrum. Lefevere was already using the word “refraction” 21 years before the publication of Damrosch’s What Is World Literature?; Damrosch merely borrowed the concept. Lefevere believes that although an author’s work crosses linguistic borders after having been translated, “refraction” is hard to avoid in this process. That is, only through “misunderstandings and misconceptions” can a work have exposure or influence in the target language’s cultural sphere (Lefevere, 2004, p. 234).

Looking again at the so-called “foreignization and domestication debate” within this context, we seem to be able to help the translator out of the conundrum presented by these two strategies, and not just by concluding that both have their good and bad points, that both produce gains and losses. Here I want to invoke Rebecca L. Walkowitz’s Born Translated: The Contemporary Novel in an Age of World Literature (2015), to renew our understanding of the concept of “untranslatability” or “loss of translation.” Walkowitz believes the so-called “untranslatable” should be “un-translated-able.” This way, it cannot be said that those literary works full of linguistic hybridity cannot be translated but are instead “unable to be finished being translated” (pp. 33–34). As a literature full of hybrid linguistic styles, Indigenous literature from Taiwan is also like this. Only if we look for other translation strategies besides foreignization and domestication can we make more attempts, because these translation activities are inevitably impossible to complete perfectly. Every translation has room for improvement. “The Last Hunter” would not have had four translations if it were any other way.


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