Grice in Translation: The Case of Hrabal
Published Online: Jan 01, 2017
This paper analyzes Gricean conversational principles and their relevance to translation. The central claim is that the Gricean framework illuminates some of the most frustrating challenges in literary translation, and is especially useful with regard to translating finely nuanced constructions and semantically richly layered and complex expressions that constitute essential elements of the narrative. Specific examples of English translations of literary works of Bohumil Hrabal, a Czech author known for his highly idiosyncratic style and innovative expressive methods, are analyzed in accordance with Gricean principles. Recognition of implicatures in the text is shown to be absolutely essential for an effective translation. The detailed examination undertaken in the paper highlights both the great challenge to translators presented by the underlying complexity and semantic richness of Hrabal’s writing, and the possibility of gleaning more of the nuances of the author’s intention through understanding, in light of Grice’s communicative principles, how he achieves his ends. A comparison of translations also demonstrates that failing to recognize and identify implicatures in the original may lead to ineffective, one-dimensional translations that lack the richness and expressiveness of the source text.