Volume 13, No. 2 
April 2009

Irene Chen

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by Gabe Bokor

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by Holly Mikkelson

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The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
Ethics 101 for Translators
by Danilo Nogueira and Kelli Semolini

  Translators Around the World
Bringing the Best Western Classical Literature to Turkish Masses
by Arnold Reisman, Ph.D.

  Translation History
Japanese Technical Translation a Quarter of a Century Ago
by Steve Vlasta Vitek

  Science & Technology
Detección de problemas en traducción cientifica
Olga Torres-Hostench

  Medical Translation
The Sounds of Clinical Medicine
by Rafael A. Rivera, M.D., FACP

  Cultural Aspects of Translation
The Cultural Transfer in Anime Translation
by Mariko Hanada

  Arts & Entertainment
Translating Humor in Dubbing and Subtitling
by Anna Jankowska

  Advertising Translation
Motocicletas, Internet y estrategias de traducción publicitaria
by Junming Yao

  Literary Translation
Translating Rape
by Irene Chen

  Translator Education
The Effect of the Translator's Gender on Translation Evaluation
by Ebrahim Golavar
Professionalizing Literary Translation Education
by Rebecca Hyde Parker

  Translation Theory
Is Translation a Rewriting of an Original Text?
by Tomoko Inaba

  Translators' Tools
From Mechanics to Managers
by Jost Zetzsche
Uncontrolled Terminology and MT: The Importance of Making Good Comparisons
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by Vicente Victorica
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  Translation Journal

Literary Translation


Translating Rape

by Irene Chen
Lingnan University, Hong Kong


ape has been a pervasive social problem.1 It happens both in peacetime and in times of war. The pervasiveness of rape makes it an inevitable topic in academic works. Researchers have investigated such issues as the nature of rape, psychology of rapists, recovery of rape victims, trial of rape cases, and representation of rape. Rape was and continues to be discussed and analyzed within different theoretical frameworks, including criminology, biology, psychology, sociology, anthropology, linguistics, and politics. However, rape was mostly "a women's issue," since both the majority of the authors who address the topic and the majority of initiators to combat it have been and continue to be female (Griffin 1971: 27; Tomaselli 1986: 40).

There is a tendency on the part of the male translator to distort the feminist rape narrative.
Several scholars have mentioned how men feel about and think of sexual offences against women including rape. According to Susan Griffin (1971: 30), "[t]hat the basic elements of rape are involved in all heterosexual relationships may explain why men often identify with the offender in this crime." Similarly, J. Herman and L. Hirschman (1977: 753) have also mentioned that a male therapist (the-rapist) 2 of a father-daughter incest victim is believed to "have great difficulty in validating the victim's experience and responding empathetically to her suffering" and "will tend to identify with the father's position and therefore will tend to deny or excuse his behavior and project blame onto the victim." This view has been recently echoed by some scholars. Colleen A. Ward (1995: 45), for example, points out that "studies on social identity and social comparison have revealed that individuals tend to hold favorable attitudes toward members of their own group and unfavorable attitudes toward members of outgroups," and, as a result, "men should be more likely to identify with the perpetrators of sexual offences whereas women should be more likely to empathize with rape victims." The implication is that men are more likely to identify with perpetrators of sexual crimes (mostly male, such as the rapist) and less likely to understand victims (mostly female, such as the rape victim). It is also predictable that most men have a particular (read: patriarchal) understanding of rape.

How would it be then, if a male translator happens to deal with rape of women in a woman writer's text that is written from a feminist perspective? Would he possibly, consciously or not, distort the feminist rape narrative in various ways because of his male identity? Before I try a tentative answer to this question through a case study, I would briefly review what has been written on the tension between the male translator and the woman writer in recent feminist translation studies.

1. The male translator and the woman writer

As we have seen, translation is never a neutral activity, and the translator, as an active subject, intervenes in the narrative, one way or another, consciously or not. As early as in 1977, Marian Ury made it clear that "[a] translator [wa]s first of all a reader, and every reader of a work of fiction s[ought] out in it those values most congenial to him" and might "embroider upon" what he wanted to see and cut away what he hated to see (1977: 183-184). As a result, there are "the inevitable echoes of the translator's voice in the translated text" (Arrojo 1994: 148). The idea of the translator's subjectivity has been universally echoed. Gender identity, as a component of the translator's subjectivity and an element of his or her identity (Spelman 1988: 114), inevitably exerts its influence upon the translation with or without the translator's awareness. Consequently, translation appears as a gendered activity since "[g]ender affects how the translator reads the source-language text, how she or he decodes/interprets and recodes/re-interprets into the target language," and "influences how the translator relates to the author, to the reader, what ideological stances and cultural values she or he will, consciously or not, want to foreground or mute" (Lotbinière-Harwood 1991: 101; Henitiuk 1999: 470). This has been discussed by feminist translation scholars who aim to "unveil the mask of gender from translations of women writers by male translators" and "begin to query whether the source text's images and ideas have been sensitively and accurately rendered" (Mezei 1986: 137). In fact, quite a few of them have found out that male translators do not do justice to women writers (Simons 1983; Mezei 1986; Lotbinière-Harwood 1991; Chance 1998; Henitiuk 1999; Flotow 2000; etc.).

Margaret A. Simons (1983) shows how Simone de Beauvoir's Le Deuxième Sexe is unfairly treated in Howard M. Parshley's English translation, where there are frequent and unindicated deletions. Parshley who "must have found women's history boring," for example, "deleted fully one-half of one chapter on [women's] history, one-fourth of another, and eliminated the names of 78 women," thus "distorting an important point in Beauvoir's analysis of women's historical oppression" and "obscuring Beauvoir's point that never in history have women been allowed the combination of independence and concrete opportunity that defines real freedom" (Simons 1983: 560). On the other hand, Parshley "was quite content to allow Beauvoir to go on at length about the superior advantages of man's situation and achievements" (Simons 1983: 562). Parshley's sexism is again proved when he "eliminated most of Beauvoir's quotations from the journals of Sophie Tolstoy, which provide her primary source of illustration for the 'annihilation' of woman in marriage" but "chose to include the entire quotation from an Edith Wharton novel about a young man's misgivings on the eve of his marriage" (Simons 1983: 562). The frequent deletions and mistranslations, as Simons sees it, "seriously undermine the integrity of de Beauvoir's analysis of such important topics as the American and European nineteenth century suffragette movements, and the development of socialist feminism in France" (1983: 559), etc.

Kathy Mezei (1986: 137), in a similar vein, points out that Alan Brown's translation of Denise Boucher's play Les fées ont soif is occasionally "jarring because [the translator is] insensitive to the feminité of the text [and] certain nuances" and therefore does not "capture Boucher's ironic comments on the feminine condition, or her colloquial and earthy tone." F. R. Scott, a translator of Anne Hébert's poems whose "persona, images, perspective and experience" are "undeniably feminine" is similarly "casual about the [female] gender of the speaker in Hébert's poems" who, for example, replaces "En quel songe/Cette enfant fut-elle liée par la cheville/Pareille à une esclave fascinée" with "In what dream/Was this child tied by the ankle/Like a fascinated slave" and thus disguises the "feminine sex" of the child which is important for the woman writer (Mezei 1986: 138-141). Mezei labels male translators' subversion, undermining and transformation of "women's writing, particularly references to women's subjectivity, bodies and bodily functions" as "translation as betrayal" (1988: 47) and decides "[w]omen's 'long-stifled tongue' should not be further stifled or betrayed by insensitive translations [by male translators]" (1986: 141).

Male translators' poor treatment of women writers is also addressed by Suzanne de Lotbinière-Harwood (1991), who takes issue with the English translation of Violette Leduc's La Bâtarde by Derek Coltman. As Lotbinière-Harwood sees it, in Coltman's translation, "woman-centered meaning becomes a casualty of the translator's gendered linguistic conditioning," and there are "fascinating examples of damage done to women's bodies and meaning(s) by 'androcentric posture' translations" (1991: 107-108). Lotbinière-Harwood implies that she agrees with what Evelyne Voldeng has observed that "men's translations of women's writing often betray an ignorance of the biophysiological reality of female bodies" (1991: 108). Jane Chance (1998: 167-169), on the other hand, mentions how the male translators of the woman writer Christine de Pizan masculinize the latter by "[castrating] the feminine," "add[ing] a male voice [and] hence male subjectivity" in the translation, and suppressing "[her] authority as a woman poet and scholar." Luise von Flotow (2000: 33) has also pointed out that some male translators "simply do not see or do not understand certain slight differences that are important to the women writers they translate, or for the women characters."

This list could be quite long. Either explicitly arguing or implicitly suggesting, these scholars seem to agree that the male identity of the translator does have an impact upon the translation of women writers, which on most occasions leads to inadequate translations or deletions of issues that are actually significant from the woman writer's point of view. As a result, the suspiciousness about men's handling of women's texts is well justified. There are outspoken articulations of this view. Annette Kolodny, for example, argues that "however inadvertently, [the male translator] is a different kind of reader [or translator] and, [...] where women are concerned, he is often an inadequate reader [or translator]" (cited in Henitiuk 1999: 473). Following this, Henitiuk (1999: 476) claims that "[w]hile translators by definition deal with a foreign text on levels of language, culture, and time, the male translator of a woman's text may well encounter a foreignness comprised of a sexual difference that he ends up compounding" and that "[t]ranslations produced by male readers may well silence parts of a woman author's message by being simply oblivious to the significance of, for example, metaphors of sexual power relationships." We can see, when it comes to women writers, there is truly a pervasive mistrust of male translators. To the extent that some male translators betray their prejudice when dealing with some relatively common issues as the gender of a female character or the women's history, how would they handle such provocative topics as rape (of women)?

At this point, we are clear about two things. One is, as I mentioned at the beginning of the paper, men are more likely to identify with perpetrators of sexual crimes (mostly males, such as the rapist), and less likely to understand victims (mostly females, such as the rape victim), and most of them have a particular (read: patriarchal) understanding of rape. The other is that most male translations of women writers turn out to be inadequate. We shall now investigate Howard Goldblatt's translation of rape in Ji'er de Nü'er by the woman writer Hong Ying.

2. The male translator and the translation of rape: a case study of Howard Goldblatt's translation of rape in Ji'er de Nü'er by the Chinese woman writer Hong Ying

2.1 Rape as a sensitive topic

Rape, which represents "the most extreme example of human aggression and violence aside from war" (Benedict 1992: 11) and whose perpetrators "are hated and despised more than almost any other offender" (Sampson 1994: x), is an emotionally charged subject, which is sometimes regarded as "horrific" (Horeck 2004: vi) or even a "closed topic, a taboo" (Quay 1995: 13). In general, however, rape is a sensitive topic. According to Raymond M. Lee and Claire M. Renzetti (1993: 5), a sensitive topic refers to a topic that "potentially poses for those involved a substantial threat, the emergence of which renders the collection, holding, and/or dissemination of research data problematic for the researcher and/or the researched." Understandably, a topic that "intrudes into the private sphere or delves into some deeply personal experience" could generally be more threatening in comparison with others, and the potential threat could be either psychic such as "guilt, shame, or embarrassment" or physical such as "personal security" (Lee and Renzetti 1993: 6; 4). It is self-evident that rape, "the most private and shameful of crimes" (Horeck 2004: 1) which inevitably triggers "controversy, stigma, or backlash" (Campbell 2002: 116), falls into this category.

Due to the sensitive nature of rape, it is simply predictable that at certain times and in certain contexts the author has problems with the topic and shows a reluctance to address it. Susan Brownwiller (1975: 40), for example, mentions that "serious historians have rarely bothered to document specific acts of rape in warfare, for reasons of their own scale of values and taste, as well as for lack of hard-and-fast surviving proof." She (1975: 57) also points out that "accounts of wanton murder and looting were gravely brought to the world's attention, but stories of rape were handled gingerly-almost reluctantly-by international reporters" when reporting Japanese invasion of Nanking in December of 1937. It is sometimes still the case since some modern writers are still troubled by the sensitive aspect of rape especially when it is incestuous and are faced with the problem of whether they should integrate it into their writing and, if so, in what way. Although there is a passage in The Color Purple which describes how the black girl Ceile is raped by her stepfather, the author Alice Walker remembers "trying to censor this passage in Celie's voice as [she] wrote it" (cited in Boesenberg 1996: 301). The rape victims who are involved, on the other hand, also intervene if they can. According to Leela Fernandes (1990: 128), the Indian legendary figure Phoolan Devi protests against the screening in India of the film Bandit Queen which is based on her life history, mostly because there are scenes where she appears as a rape victim and is therefore considered a "[a figure] of shame and dishonor" in India.

Rape, however, is addressed with reluctance only in a minority of cases. Rape, after all, "is very much a represented crime, whether it is represented in the testimony of a complainant or defendant, or in a 'literary' text" (Catty 1999: 11). How does the Chinese woman writer Hong Ying represent rape in her autobiography, a feminist piece?

2.2 Rape meant as an important topic in Ji'er de Nü'er

Hong Ying, who was born in China in the 1960s, is an internationally acclaimed writer and winner of numerous awards. Besides Ji'er de Nü'er, she has also written Nüzi Yuanxing, K, Kongque de Jiaohan, and other works. Some of her books have been translated into other languages and have a wide international readership. In general, Hong Ying is considered in China a feminist writer, which is evident from what has been written about her (Wang 2005; Li 2007; etc.) and from the introduction of her in interviews or on other occasions.

Set in an eventful period in China, from the Great Chinese Famine (1958-1961) through the Cultural Revolution (1966-1976) to the Tiananmen Square of Protests (1989), the autobiography which was published in 1997 records the woman writer's own life story "with raw intensity and fearless honesty" (Hong Ying 1998: back cover). It tells the reader how she finds out that she is an illegitimate child, how she has a crush on her married history teacher who turns out to be her seducer and impregnator, and how she has an abortion and leaves her poor family to strive for a new and more decent life. This autobiography clearly conveys feminist messages. On the one hand, it reports how Chinese women in the 1970s and 1980s suffer from patriarchy in different forms such as domestic violence (p.31; p.267; etc.), rape/sexual assault (p.2; p.79-80; ff.), powerlessness in the marriage (p.210; p.262; etc.), valorization of chastity which is regarded as "the cardinal female virtue" (Catty 1999: 3), and discrimination against women of "loose morality" who are usually humiliated if they seek an abortion (p.240; p.326; etc.). It also foregrounds the oppression of women through a metaphor of attempted matricide (p.144-145) which goes like this: the author's neighbor Bald Cheung prepares a coffin for his mother when she is still in good health; later on some naughty child puts a barren hen (which could be taken as Mother) inside and the author wonders whether it would asphyxiate to death. On the other, the author is set to subvert the patriarchal discourse either through breaking stereotypes of women in terms of attitudes, idea of marriage and sexuality (p.240; p.329; p.336; etc.), or through open defiance. The author, for example, writes how she hates the penis which is described as ugly, shameless, horrible, and disgusting. This hatred of men's penis culminates in a detailed description of the castration of a chick, which is a symbolic castration (p.133).

Due to the fact that "[t]he idea of rape is native to a broad segment of feminist thought" since rape "represents and explains [much] of women's oppression"as "a violation and negation of female sexual autonomy"and has been central to "the portrayal of gender relations"(Warner 1983: 13; Catty 1999: 4; 227), and that rape has everything to do with women even when we talk about "male-on-male rape" since "the victim of rape is always symbolically female" (Monique Plaza, cited in Catty 1990: 21), rape seems to be an unavoidable topic in most feminist literature. It has been pointed out that "writing about rape cannot be a neutral activity" (Catty 1999: 22). The subjective aspects involved in writing about rape are as follows: First, rape narratives are put to different "cultural uses," either to disclose women's wretched condition, to explore "cultural, spiritual and political implications of the act of rape in [the] society" (Horeck 2004: 8; 122), or as "[a] reaction against the loss of patriarchal control and changing social mores" (Shaw 2007: 10. Second, rape might be portrayed differently because of the writer's gender which, according to Caroline Lucas (1989:56), might play a role in shaping the particular rape narrative in that a woman writer might "view [rape] in a personal, more direct way, rather than from the standpoint of a detached (male) observer." In short, rape is represented in a particular way because of the author's particular purpose or agenda, which is somewhat related to gender. In general, feminist rape narratives dispute patriarchal rape myths, while others might copy these myths and "present the woman character as enjoying her own sexual humiliation" (Tong 1998: 67), sometimes in such lurid details that they almost function as erotica.

As early as in 1979, A. Nicholas Groth and H. Jean Birnbaum (1979: 1) pointed out that rape "is a topic that abounds with myths and misconceptions." Here are some of them. First, women are believed to "provoke rape" as they entice "their assailants by their looks and sexuality" and to "deserve rape" since they have "knowingly or carelessly taken a risk" such as walking alone at night (Benedict 1992: 16). Second, "[a]ll women want to be raped," when they say no they mean yes, and they might enjoy rape (Sheffield 1995: 14; Shugart 1994: 14). The assumption behind this myth is that "women are by nature licentious" (Yusuf 1998: 39) and this is supported by English as "a language of rape" where there are "220 words for a sexually promiscuous woman and only 20 for an equally promiscuous man" (Dale Spender, cited in Benedict 2005: 125). Third, "[n]o woman can be raped if she doesn't want it (You-can't-thread-a-moving-needle argument)" or "no one man can rape a woman" and they are "willing rape victims" (Sheffield 1995: 14; Flotow 1997). In other words,"rape is physically impossible" and the victim herself is to be blamed (Catty 1999: 33). Fourth, women are believed to lie about rape, using "accusations of rape as a tactic for revenge, or simply to get attention" (Benedict 1992: 18; 17). Rape is even regarded as"a figment of a frigid woman's imagination, or, more accurately, as something that doesn't exist" (Benedict 2005: 125).It is worth noting that men are believed to be more likely to identify with these patriarchal rape myths.

As I see it, the author weaves rape into the autobiography with a feminist consciousness, and the rape narrative in it disputes and subverts the pervasive rape myths. First, the autobiography shows how women, including most ordinary teenage girls, are terrified of being raped by indicating that rape is something so horrible that "one dare not think of." Second, the author mentions how rape happens frequently in reality no matter how women do not want it. I will come back to this in greater detail with examples.

The autobiography was translated into English by Howard Goldblatt, "the leading American translator of Chinese fiction into English," in 1998, who believes that "[the] first responsibility of the translator is to the reader, not to the author." He also identifies himself with the view of translation as rewriting (Goldblatt 2002: 41) and implies that the translator could "improve" the original when there is a need to, with the approval of the author and the publisher (Berry 2002).

How does the intended subversion of the patriarchal discourse of rape in the autobiography get through in the English translation?3

2.3 Translating rape

Based on a contrastive analysis of Ji'er de Nü'er and its English translation, a tendency to mitigate rape references4 and hence to disrupt the feminist rape narrative in the former could be easily observed in the latter.

(1) Suppressing the reality of rape by avoiding mention of rape in the translation and by translating what is meant as real rape into something less serious

Here are three examples.

Example 1

"我真希望那个跟在我身后的陌生男人不要离开,他该凶恶一点,该对我做点出格的事,"强暴"之类叫人发抖哆嗦的事"5 (p.49) [I really hoped the stranger man who had been following me would not walk away. He should do something to me like rape that one dare not think of].6 Here is the background information. The author recalls a man stalking her when she is a girl at the very beginning of the book. At that time, the author is ignored and not at all taken seriously by her parents and everybody else including her classmates. What the line--"He should do something to me like rape that one dare not think of"--shows is not the so-called "female rape fantasy" where "woman secretly fantasize about being sexually violated by men" (Horeck 2004: 4), but the fact that the author is so upset with being ignored that she even secretly wishes something extremely nasty and humiliating such as rape happened to her so that her family could feel her existence and pay the price for being so careless about her. In this example, the author agrees with the feminist view that a fear of rape is shared by all women, contrary to the popular rape myths. The physical pain and life-threatening danger are certainly important reasons for this visceral fear. More importantly, however, there are also cultural aspects involved: women's fear of rape relates to what the culture requires of women and how the culture thinks of rape victims. Unfortunately, we live in a culture that "demands sexual purity of women, but not of men; a culture that disregards circumstances and blames the victim for her violation, assuming her to be of 'easy nature' and prone to prostitute herself" (Sielke 2002: 20). In such a culture, female rape victims are usually stigmatized, and for most women rape is "a fate worse than, or tantamount to, death" (Marcus 1992: 387). Seen in such a light, it is no wonder that the author depicts rape as something so horrible that "one dare not think of." It is simply ridiculous to assume, therefore, that women want to be raped and may even enjoy it, as suggested by the rape myths.

Now let's take a look at how the male translator transfers this politically correct message into English. Here is the published English version: "Sometimes I didn't even want that stranger, the man who was always following me, to go away; in fact, I longed for him to be more menacing, to do something so heinously violent that people would shudder at the mere thought of it" (p.41). We can see that the translator avoids mention of rape by transforming what is meant as "something like rape that one dare not think of" into "something so heinously violent that people would shudder at the mere thought of it." The word "rape" is simply gone in the translation. Remembering Marian Ury's argument that "[a] translator is first of all a reader, and every reader of a work of fiction seeks out in it those values most congenial to him" and he will "embroider upon" what he wants to see and cut away what he doesn't want to see or he thinks is incorrect (1977: 183-184), it could be speculated that the male translator here identifies with the patriarchal discourse of rape which holds "women want to be raped" and they enjoy it. He thus believes "rape" is not "something so heinously violent that people would shudder at the mere thought of it" and therefore chooses to correct the original by omitting it.

Example 2

The autobiography, contains the sentence: "这一带的女孩,听得最多的是吓人的强奸案,我却一点没害怕那人要强奸我" (p.2) [What the girls who lived in the region heard most was horrific rape cases, but I was not at all afraid that the man wanted to rape me]. As I have mentioned in the first example, a man had been stalking the author. As this example shows, the author feels that the reason why the man follows her on her way to or from school, who turns out to be her biological father, is not because he intends to rape her but for some other reason. The important point that I find in the example is that rape does happen often in the author's town and holds every girl in fear as we could see from "frightening rape cases," which again refutes the popular rape myths.

It is interesting to see that again the translator appears to distort the feminist concern by translating it into "we heard all sorts of frightening rumors about rapes, but I was never afraid that was what the man had in mind" (p.2). We can see, what is meant as "horrific rape cases" in the original is transformed into "frightening rumors about rapes" in the translation, and the author's message thus fails to be "sensitively and accurately rendered" (Mezei 1986: 137). That is to say, the actual reality of rape in the original becomes something unverified in the translation since "rumor" generally means "a piece of unverified information of uncertain origin usually spread by word of mouth."7 How to understand this subtle "manipulation" here? It is very much possible that the male translator's choice here is shaped by the patriarchal discourse of rape which assumes women are believed to "lie about rape" and rape is just"a figment of a frigid woman's imagination, or, more accurately, as something that doesn't exist." With this identification and believing there are more rumors and lies about rapes than real rape cases, the male translator therefore transforms what is meant as "horrific rape cases" into "frightening rumors about rapes."

Example 3

Original text: "我记起初中时一个女同学的父亲被抓走的情景,她和她的妹妹们哭啼啼跟过几条街。'没有堂客,又没妓院!叫我啷个办?'那个丧妻的男装卸工吼叫着,像头咆哮的狮子。说是他把邻居的黄花闺女给诱奸" (p.79-80) [I remember the father of one of my female classmates in the middle school was arrested by the police. She and her younger sisters followed him, crying along several streets. "I have no wife and there are no brothels. What else can I do?" the widowed dock worker roared like a lion. It was said he raped his neighbor's virgin daughter]. The above-mentioned is what occurs when I a girl walks alone and is afraid of being raped by some man. The author suggests that rape is everywhere, which not only happens on deserted places such as hills but also in neighborhoods. The key term in the Chinese original is "诱奸" which literally consists of two Chinese characters (verbs) "诱" (coax) and "奸" (rape), where "诱" (coax) acts as a modifier and a way of doing something while "奸" (rape) turns out to be the core word according to Chinese grammar. Obviously, the term "诱奸" (coax+rape) means some kind of rape after all, some violent crime in itself. In addition, I learned that the "unmarried virgin girl" was around twelve or thirteen.8. In China, "[s]exual relations with children under the age of fourteen were categorized as rape" (Evans 1997: 182), which is actually "statutory rape." Therefore, the Chinese term "诱奸" (coax+rape) can be simply replaced with either "rape" or "statutory rape."

As I see it, in translating "诱奸" (coax+rape), the core word rape is not to be missed. The translator nevertheless renders the original as "Once when the father of a girl in my class was arrested, she and her kid sister followed him for blocks, weeping the whole way. 'No wife, and no brothels, so what am I supposed to do?' the widowed dock worker roared. They said he'd seduced his neighbor's virgin daughter" (p.66). What the original means as rape which is a crime in itself, however, is translated into "seduce" which means "to induce to engage in sex"9 which is not unlawful in itself. It is reasonable to say that the male translator may not know that the rape victim here is under the age of fourteen and there is such a law in China that "[s]exual relations with children under the age of fourteen are categorized as rape." However, it should be clear to him that the authorities do not necessarily arrest a man for seduction alone, but would definitely arrest him for rape. By replacing "诱奸" (coax+rape) with "seduce" instead of "rape" or "statutory rape," the translator in this example seems to humanize "the male perpetrator" since "rape is the overpowering of the female body by male force while seduction is its overpowering by desire" (Catty 1999: 19), which indicates seduction is more understandable and acceptable than rape. This again echoes with the patriarchal discourse of rape which tries to make the male perpetrator less nasty and more justified.

(2) Omitting the rape agent by employing agentless passive in the translation

Here is one example.

Example 4

"我索性把门关严,我内心怕得要命,费了好大劲才稳住自己。然后,直撞进题目中去:'你女儿即使被人划了脸盘子、镪水泼毁了容、强奸杀死了,你也不会哭第二声。''啥子意思?'母亲厉声问。'有个男的总跟着我'" (p.86) [I shut the door tight, tremendously terrified. I made great efforts to calm myself down and went ahead. "You wouldn't shed a tear if your daughter had her face cut or thrown acid on, or even raped and murdered by some one/man." "What do you mean?" My mother asked sternly. "A man has been following me."] This is what the author tells her mother when she finds out that a man has been stalking her. We can see that all of the four verbs (cut, throw, rape and murder) are used in the Chinese original in a passive voice with an agent. The paragraph in question appears in English as "I quickly closed it, trying to control the anxiety inside me. Then I plunged ahead. 'You wouldn't shed a tear if somebody cut up my face or threw acid on it, even if I was raped and murdered.' 'What's supposed to mean?' 'A man's been following me'" (p.70). While a passive voice with an agent is equally used for the four verbs (cut, throw, rape and murder) in the Chinese original, an active voice is preferred for "cut" and "throw" and an agentless passive is used for "rape" and "murder" in the English translation. I find the sudden shift from the active voice with an agent to agentless passive voice very interesting. The male translator seems to feel about "rape-murder" differently from other behaviors.

This example shows that the translator prefers agentless passive structures for rape. It can be suggested that the translator, again shaped by the patriarchal discourse of rape which holds it is not the man but the woman who is "the mighty controller of male sexuality" (Bordo 1999: 315), not the perpetrator but the victim, who should be responsible for the rape. This view could be expressed by using passive structures which "serve to focus on the person or thing undergoing an action, while putting the agent or causer into the background" (Maiden & Robustelli, as cited in Leonardi 2007: 100), especially agentless passive structures which remove "[the perpetrator] from the representation of the event" (Ehrlich 2001: 39) and hide the male agency altogether.

Besides suppressing the reality of rape or turning to passive structures when the text refers to rape, the translator also seems to try to avoid the word "rape." Let us take a look at another example (5). The author writes: "大都先后杀,尸体腐烂无人能辨认,或是奸污后推进江里" (p.79) [On most occasions, (the man) first raped then murdered (the girl) whose body would rot beyond recognition, or threw (her) into the river after the rape]. This appears in English as "Most of the time the victim was murdered and left to rot or was thrown into the river" (p.66). The word rape, which appears twice in the original, simply disappears in the translation.

3. Conclusion

Based on the above analysis, it can be confirmed that there is a tendency on the part of the translator to distort the feminist rape narrative in the autobiography which attempts to subvert the patriarchal discourse of rape. The translator either suppresses the reality of rape by simply omitting it or replacing it with other terms which are inadequate or transforming what is meant as real rape into some kind of rumor. At other times, the male translator resorts to agentless passives to remove the male perpetrators from the narrative and hide the male agency. The translation inevitably undermines the role the rape narrative plays in the autobiography, that is, to refute the popular rape myths which discursively disadvantage and exploit women, since it in effect restores some of those myths. It can be suggested this tendency observed in the translation has something to do with the translator's male gender. It is because of his being male that he is more likely to identify with the ingrained patriarchal rape myths and with the male perpetrators.

This confirms what I have stated at the very beginning about the tension between the male translator and the woman writer, and the feminists' qualified distrust of the former. The conclusion is that the male reader/translator is an inadequate reader/translator of the woman writer (Annette Kolodny), and male translators tend to subvert or undermine women's texts (Kathy Mezei). It should be pointed out that I am not suggesting that no male translators can be an adequate translator of rape-related content. What I am indicating, instead, is that male translators should be more aware and on guard when dealing with such sensitive topics such as rape, domestic violence etc., especially when these are portrayed from a feminist perspective; otherwise, they can consciously or unconsciously distort the original text in their translations.



1 Rape happens to both women and men; however, the majority of rape victims are women; in other words, "rape is a crime disproportionately committed against women" (Cahill 2001: 21). The article focuses on rape of women.

2 Mary Daly (1978) invents "the-rapist" from "therapist."

3 Taking into account the fact that Howard Goldblatt is the leading and most acclaimed translator of Chinese texts in the United States and is believed to have an authoritative voice among the target audience, and that he identifies himself with the view of translation as rewriting, I believe he, rather than the editor or others, is responsible for the subtle changes made to the rape references in the text.

4 According to Campbell (2002: 19), it has been demonstrated that "if researchers are not careful, [they] can find exactly what [they]'re looking for, but for all the wrong reasons and by all the wrong methods." This could also happen to translation scholars who are likely to only focus on examples that support their points of view, while deliberately ignoring other non-confirming examples. Readers, therefore, might suspect that I have listed only those particular examples proving my point while failing to include those where the translator does not mitigate the rape references. The fact is that the references to rape I have listed here are all that I could find in the text.

5 The Chinese parts in black bold italics are those that undergo changes in the translation.

6 The English version provided in brackets is meant as a literal translation for non-Chinese speakers' reference.

7 The meaning is taken from The New Oxford American Dictionary published in 2001 by Oxford University Press.

8 About the girl's age, I was told by the author Hong Ying.

9 The meaning is taken from The New Oxford American Dictionary published in 2001 by Oxford University Press. It is worth noting that almost all Chinese-English dictionaries equate "诱奸" (coax+rape) with "seduce," which I think is not appropriate. It has already been stated by feminists that dictionaries are hopelessly sexist.



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