Target: international journal of translation studies vol:16 issue:2 pages:289-317
The present article discusses some basic concepts of Descriptive Translation Studies (Toury 1995) by focussing on literary translation in multilingual societies. In multilingual geopolitical contexts, geo-linguistic barriers between ‘source’ and ‘target’ cultures are indefinite so that translations, both as a process and as a product, also function in the source culture. The source culture co-determines e.g. the selection of the translated texts, the textual translation strategies, the reception of the translated novels and even the continuation or discontinuation of translation contacts. If the notion of ‘interculture’ (Pym 1998) thus becomes fundamental and if the roles of intercultural agents (authors, translators, critics) are to a certain extent interchangeable, ‘sources’ and ‘targets’ do survive in the perception of these actors. In the numerous past and present contexts in which the ideal Western nation-state’s one-to-one relationship between territory, language, literature, culture and people is blurred, ‘sources’, ‘targets’ and their relationships survive with all the more pertinence through the actors’ (inter)cultural habitus (Bourdieu 1992), in the heads of the intercultural agents, in their perceptions and attitudes, created through interaction with collective institutions and discourses. We therefore need to redefine the key concepts ‘source’ and ‘target’ cultures, texts, discourses… also as a matter of perception: it is a function of the internalisation of the institutional and discursive structures by the (inter)cultural agents through their variable and varying positions and position takings in both the ‘source’ and ‘target’ cultures. So we need very flexible definitions : which ‘sources’ and ‘targets’, for whom, when, where ? Definitions for which we have to integrate the concept of agency into Descriptive Translation Studies.