Literary Translation and Cultural Challenges: JhumpaLahiri's The Namesake

Sura M. Khrais


This paper discusses how the nature of literary translation differs from other forms of translation by looking at practical difficulties and challenges notable in the Arabic translation of Lahiri's novel The Namesake (2003). The difficulties discussed are cultural differences which have created “untranslatable” cultural-bound words and phrases, as well as specialized vocabulary. The paper explores the conflict between the translator's duty to accuracy and his/her duty to literary translation as an art form. One problem faced by the prose-translator is finding terms in his or her own language that are faithful as much as possible to the meaning of certain words in S.L. For example, there are words which describe specific rituals or those related to typical architecture, fabrics, and cookery; these and many others represent the specific culture of the original text and the translator needs to be careful when translating them. The researcher finally suggests that there is a need to expand the perimeters of  translation studies specially those dealing with literary prose because the translators and researchers lay more emphasis on the translation of poetry.


Literary translation, cultural differences, untranslatability, source and target language, cultural anomaly

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