Marta Pacheco Pinto
University of Lisbon
ORCID 0000-0002-2043-619X
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When the Translator Ends Up in the Water: A Case Study of Three Fictional Finales
Dedalus 26 (2022), pp. 245-268. Download PDF


This article addresses three fictional stories that cast translators in a similar finale, that of relief in the water. The water as these translators’ final destination is examined in relation to Yōko Tawada’s short story “Saint George and the Translator” (2007 [1993]), Yōko Ogawa’s novel Hotel Iris (2010 [1996]), and João Reis’s novella The Translator’s Bride (2019 [2015]). The question to be discussed from a comparative perspective and close reading approach is why these fictionalized translators end up throwing themselves into the water and what is entailed in this choice of liquidity. Contrary to translators who got into history, the translators around which these storylines revolve are nameless (anonymous) translators going through dysfunctional romantic relationships and struggling with the uncertainties and lack of recognition that pervade the translation profession. The different nuances in meaning of the water motif (symbolizing either purification or redemption, inspiration or destruction) is interrogated on two levels: the fictional translators’ self-perception and will to self-assertion; and their professed ethics and the violence that is to a certain extent inherent to them. The narrative figurations of these issues, which inform translator agency, show that these translators are or feel excluded in/from society, which entails their exclusion in/from history. Attention is given particularly to translators’ inability to cope with the responsibility of translation, and how – paradoxical as it might be – they assert their individual agency by denying their own translational agency. Ultimately, the analysis substantiates Rosemary Arrojo’s claim of “the impossibility of being in[/]visible” (Fictional Representations, 32).
Keywords: fictional translators; agency; in/visibility; water motif; liquidity