When thinking about the most difficult translations he/she had to make, any graduate of the Faculty of Letters remembers the literary works of Ion Creangă, the great Romanian classic author.
The successful translation of this classic author’s literary works is a great feat for any specialist in the field due to the convoluted phrases, with multiple explanations and sprinkled with vulgar tone and regionalisms. In fact, Creangă’s vocality is truly difficult to translate.
Nevertheless, Creangă was one of the favourite authors of foreign publishers, as he began to be published in foreign languages in 1910, with an anthology translated by Gustav Weigand. Afterwards, his literary works were translated into French, English, Russian, Czech, Serbian, Vietnamese, Italian, Bengali, Hindu, Sinhalese, Spanish, Greek, Slovakian, Albanian, Polish, Estonian and Chinese. These include Old Nichifor Coţcariul (1921), Recollections (1930), Souvenirs d’enfance (1947), Die Ziegen der Irinuca (1964), Auh chang DA-NI-LA (1962), Recordaceos d’enfancia (1947).
Despite numerous translations of the writer’s works, any translator feels the inability to render the full cheerfulness and humour of Creangă’s literary works into a foreign language as somewhat of a handicap. For example, the phrase used by Creangă in Recollections, Vorba ceea: Au tunat și i-au adunat, was translated into English as As the saying goes: They were like the two halves of an apple by Ana Cartianu and R. C. Johnson. In another edition, the same phrase is translated as follows: As the saying goes: They are both of a hair. One can see that, in both versions, the translation loses a great deal of its linguistic charm and preserves only the basic meaning of the expression: that of belonging.
Although literary translations have their limits, they open new cultural horizons that we can only reach through the translators’ work.