Retranslacja jako krytyka przekładu, czyli Benito Cereno ponowiony

Krzysztof Majer


Retranslation as criticism, or the new Benito Cereno

The article focuses on my translation of Herman Melville’s novella Benito Cereno, published recently in a volume entitled Nowele i opowiadania (PIW, 2020), the work of eight translators into Polish. The volume contains new attempts at texts translated forty years earlier by Krystyna Korwin-Mikke; also featured is her own, newly revised translation of Melville’s classic – Bartleby, the Scrivener. Finding myself authoring a retranslation for the first time, I became intrigued by the affect accompanying such a ‘belated’ arrival at the text – not within a long, eminent ‘series’ (in Edward Balcerzan’s understanding of the term), but where only one previous, more or less canonical translation exists. Taking as my starting point Balcerzan’s terminology as well as Anna Legeżyńska’s notion of the ‘shared word’ (“słowo wspólne”), I employ the concept of the translators’ agon, developed from Harold Bloom’s ideas by Kaisa Koskinen and Outi Paloposki (2015). On the basis of several examples from the field of Polish translations, and concentrating on the rhetorics of paratextual material, I briefly examine the positions that a second translator – fated to participate in an agonistic relation – may take with regard to his precursor; my examples here are three renowned practitioners: Michał Kłobukowski, Krystyna Rodowska and Maciej Świerkocki. Because my own experience is bound up with translation practice to a considerably larger degree than with its theoretical aspects, the heart of the article is an analysis of particular strategies in both of the Polish translations of Benito Cereno. I focus on issues such as nomenclature, narrative perspective, grammatical gender, as well as conventional and idiosyncratic metaphors. Exploring my own agonistic relation with Krystyna Korwin-Mikke, I attempt to determine the extent to which I have managed to avoid getting caught up in the affect produced by the uncomfortable yet inspiring consciousness of the first translator’s voice.

The article is an extension of the critical gesture which I consider my retranslation, in itself, to be. Emphasizing the differences in our approach, I also try to embrace what is shared, and to acknowledge my indebtedness to the precursor.
Słowa kluczowe: translation series, retranslation, agon, Herman Melville, American literature, Krystyna Korwin-Mikke