Translating register with reference to English, French, German, and Italian versions of the Hong Lou Meng
Cao Xueqin’s Hong lou meng ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, generally considered to be the greatest Chinese novel, owes its success, in great measure, to the author’s superb skill in writing dialogue; the success of the novel’s dialogue is due, in equally great measure, to Cao’s masterly handling of almost all language varieties. This paper considers one of the language varieties found in the Hong lou meng ‘Dream of the Red Chamber’, namely, register, discusses the translation problems it can give rise to, and examines the novel’s English versions by David Hawkes, H. Bencraft Joly, Chi-chen Wang, and the Yangs, French version by Li and Alézas, German version by Franz Kuhn, and indirect English, French, and Italian versions through Kuhn’s German version respectively by Florence and Isabel McHugh, by Armel Guerne, and by Clara Bovero and Carla Pirrone Riccio. By pointing out the relative merits and demerits of the versions and the techniques used by the translators to tackle the various translation problems, it aims to throw light on an area of translation studies that deserves closer attention.
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