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Transcultural Misunderstandings: The bilingual practice of Milan Kundera and the search for ‘The Joke’

Alhussein, Akkad; (2020) Transcultural Misunderstandings: The bilingual practice of Milan Kundera and the search for ‘The Joke’. mTm. Minor Translating Major-Major Translating Minor-Minor Translating Minor , 11 pp. 185-203. Green open access

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Abstract

Milan Kundera’s critical views and his difficult relationship to translation and translators has been frequently a subject of heated discussion and debate among translation scholars and experts. While some show understanding and sympathy for Kundera’s radical attitude and his uncompromising demand for fidelity, others see in him an author who desperately wants to assert his authority as sole owner of the text, referring to his interventions in the translation process as expression of an ‘essentialist’ desire or need to control meaning translingually. While demanding utmost loyalty from translators, Kundera himself takes full liberty when translating his own work, making significant editions and creating different versions of the same text in different languages. The history of his novel The Joke is symptomatic of the contradictions pertinent to Kundera’s bilingual practice. In this paper, I will discuss the problem of translation and the relationship between original and translation in Kundera’s work. Drawing on the themes of misunderstanding, remembrance and forgetting in The Joke, it will be argued that Kundera deliberately uses misunderstanding as a special mode of reading/writing. While apparently seeking to create a ‘definite’ version, Kundera’s rewriting practice rather erases boundaries and raise serious questions regarding what can be considered a translation and what is supposed to be an original.

Type: Article
Title: Transcultural Misunderstandings: The bilingual practice of Milan Kundera and the search for ‘The Joke’
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
Publisher version: http://www.mtmjournal.gr/
Language: English
Additional information: This is an open access article under the CC BY license (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
Keywords: Milan Kundera, The Joke, bilingualism and self-translation, remembrance and forgetting, original and translation
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH > Faculty of Arts and Humanities > SELCS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL SLASH
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10147165
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