Translation of Sri Lankan Literature into French A Case Study on Romesh Gunesekara's Reef

H. S. M. M. Jayawardena


In 1994, British Sri Lankan writer Romesh Gunesekara's debut novel Reef, wasshort listed for the Booker Prize. The novel was later translated into many languagesincluding French. Reef was translated into French as Récif (Serpent à plumes, Paris) byMarie-Odile Fortier Masek in 1995. The present paper examines the French translationand the strategies used by the translator.

Product-oriented Descriptive Translation Studies are an important area ofacademic research in Translation Studies. The translated text is the starting point for thiskind of a study. The text chosen for this research Récif is set in Sri Lanka. The influenceof the Sri Lankan culture, Buddhism and the Sinhala language is noteworthy. Sinhalaterms are often used by the author in the original: exclamations, swear words, terms ofaddress, food items, religious terms, species of flora and fauna and also terms such as„men‟ and 'no?' the popular question tag used in Sri Lankan English.

The object of this study will be whether the translator preserves the Sinhalaterms and/or the English terms typical of Sri Lankan people in the French translation.Récif, similar to the original, does not offer footnotes or a glossary to explain Sinhalaterms. Respecting the culture and the language represented by the source test, FortierMasek does not attempt to translate Sinhala words into French. However, it isinteresting to note that certain expressions in English are translated. The translation ofthe question tag „no?‟ by using different expressions raises concerns and is discussed indetail. This paper points out that such strategies, along with clarifications and addedinformation found in the translated work, could prevent the reader from „receiving theforeign as foreign‟.

Key words: Translation, French, Romesh Gunesekara

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