Reviews 2013

Ironian kääntäminen lasten- ja nuortenromaaneissa. Esimerkkinä Christine Nöstlingerin teokset Ein Mann für Mama ja Luki-live [Translating irony in children’s and youth books: Christine Nöstlinger’s books Ein Mann für Mama and Luki-live as an example

Ironian kääntäminen lasten- ja nuortenromaaneissa. Esimerkkinä Christine Nöstlingerin teokset Ein Mann für Mama ja Luki-live. [Translating irony in children’s and youth books: Christine Nöstlinger’s books Ein Mann für Mama and Luki-live as an example. Seija Haapakoski. Tampere: Tampere University Press, 2011. 252 pages. An electronic version is freely available at TamPub Institutional Repository, University of Tampere:

Seija Haapakoski’s doctoral dissertation Ironian kääntäminen lasten- ja nuortenromaaneissa [Translating Irony in Children’s and Youth Books] investigates how irony is translated in children’s and young adults’ books. The ambiguous, indirect, and implicit nature of irony challenges any reader’s abilities of inference. Remarkably in the context of children’s literature, irony constitutes an even more serious concern for writers over the ability of their readership to first and foremost detect the ironic aspects of the literary work, and then to fully appreciate them. Analogously, in their role of ‘writers’ for a different readership, translators, who have to cope with the transfer of ironic elements both on a linguistic and on a cultural level, share these concerns with original authors. The transfer of multiple elements from one system to another is one of the greatest challenges for translators, and can explain why irony is generally considered to be virtually untranslatable.

Irony is a product of the source culture which is explicitly meant for, and addressed to, the members of the source community. When the translators produce texts for a new audience, they have to take cultural as well as linguistic knowledge into account. This process is further complicated by the fact that the target readers – children – are unlikely to be acquainted with the original language and culture’s means of expressing irony. Such linguistic and, in particular, cultural shifts have to be taken seriously by translators whose key role as ‘mediators’ is to create a text which enables readers to access the ironic message. According to Haapakoski, irony should not be considered exclusively as a literary device but more as a multidimensional message whose interpretation is activated by specific elements referred to as irony signals or irony markers. When it comes to a translation, multidimensional messages can be successfully interpreted only if the translator is able to provide target readers with signals producing similar ironic effects in the target culture.

Previous studies on the translation of irony have focused their attention on whether the intensity of irony results to be greater or lesser in the target texts compared to the respective original works. On the other hand, Haapakoski’s study distinguishes itself because it specifically addresses the examination of irony markers and, consequently, how literary irony is transferred from the source to the target system. The study is based on two books Ein Mann für Mama (1972) and Luki-live (1978) by the Austrian author Christine Nöstlinger, and their translations into English, Finnish and Swedish. The comparative analysis between irony elements in the source texts and in the respective translations has brought to light the different approaches used by the translators of the three languages. Such strategies have then been subdivided into four main categories by Haapakoski: 1) the transfer of irony signals from the source to the target text, 2) the omission of source irony signals in the target text, 3) the modification of source irony signals, and 4) the addition of irony signals in the target text.

The examples include instances of direct transfer of the irony signals from the source to the target text, as well as of their modification to become more acceptable in the target system. The latter applies to passages which are so entangled with cultural elements that translators have had to use a compensation strategy. Furthermore, Haapakoski has identified more ‘radical’ cases such as the addition of more signals and the omission of certain markers. According to this Finnish scholar, by adding more markers, and thereby further information, younger readers may perceive more the irony elements easily and effectively as the inclusion of more markers intensifies the effect. Haapakoski’s analysis reveals that the Finnish and Swedish translators have chosen to follow the source models more closely than the English translator who has taken more liberties. Haapakoski points out that the strategies used by the Finnish and the Swedish translators might not have been the best choices as they fail to transfer certain irony elements into the target texts. The different approaches used by the three translators may be influenced by how the translation process is conceived in their communities. Indeed, in countries such as Great Britain and the United States, where translation is much less common than it is in Finland and Sweden, translators tend to modify and, even adapt, the target text more easily.

In Haapakoski’s doctoral study, the investigation of irony is carried out from the perspective of translators which emphasises the often undervalued and neglected role of translators of children’s literature. However, Ironian kääntäminen lasten- ja nuortenromaaneissa seems not to be exclusively addressed to an audience of translators or of scholars of translation studies because Haapakoski does not hesitate to provide readers with explanations of specific terms. Thus, she renders her work accessible to a more general reader who is interested in children’s literature. In conclusion, Seija Haapakoski has produced such a valuable and detailed comparative analysis of irony markers in the translation of children’s and young adults’ books that the study would be worth being translated into English. In this way, Haapakoski’s contribution could cross Finnish boundaries and reach an even broader audience who may consider it a profitable starting point for further – also empirical – studies on irony markers.

Melissa Garavini
The University of Turku, Finland