Research Articles and Papers

The Translator’s Invisibility


In The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference, Venuti presents the domestication and foreignization strategies explaining that they deal with "the question of how much a translation assimilates a foreign text to the translating language and culture, and how much it rather signals the differences of that text".

Comparative literature scholar Susan Bassnett points out Venuti's emphasis on a translator-centered translation and his insistence that the translator should inscribe him/herself visibly into the text.

In his book, The Translator’s Invisibility, Venuti describes the translators situation and activity in British and American cultures and explains how translators are exploited and how they serve as agents of hegemonic designs and how the domestication or fluent strategy involves “an ethno centric reduction of the foreign text to receiving cultural values” – an ethical or non-ethical choice that translator faces daily.

 Venuti’s view on Translation

Translators themselves responsible for their own shadow existence

Translators are always hard at work, but not critically self –conscious writers who develop an acute awareness of the cultural and social conditions their work.

Translators themselves are among the agents of their shadow existence. To be a leading translator today, one has to produce translations that are highly accomplished, favorably reviewed, and award winning, but it also means sheer quantity, executing numerous projects, gaining an economic advantage over the other translators in the competition for foreign text to another, focusing on the delivery of the manuscript and therefore, devoting little time to sustained methodological reflection.

Authorship and Translation

Both American as well as British law define translator as second – order product, an adaptation, or derivative work, based on an original work of authorship, whose copyright, including the exclusive right to prepare derivative works or adaptations is vested in the author.  British law is willing to consider translator as an author because he originates the language used, but ends up giving much greater rights to the author.

US codes includes further provisions which is exploitative: Translation is a contractual job, where the employer or the person for whom the work was prepared is considered author and owns all the copyrights. This makes translation prone to exploitation by business houses and publishers.

“Translation is marginalized today by an essentially romantic conception of authorship”.

The original is a form of self- expression appropriate to the author, a copy true to his personality or intention, an image endowed with resemblance, whereas the translation can be no more than a copy of a copy, derivative, simulacra, false, an image without resemblance.

Casual discourse and degradation by academies

Most of the times translators end up engaging themselves in casual discourse, limited to sporadic prefaces, interviews and invited lectures etc. Even the American Literary Translators Association discourages formal presentation.  Similarly, translation academies get translations done from various languages not for preparing textbooks or for supporting curricula and canons but to enable faculty research and university press publishing. Further such academies inhibit development of transition theory, ranking it low on scale of scholarly value and degrading it during reviews for contract renewal, tenure and promotion.

Vanishing act

Translator remains subordinate to the author of the original work. This may be result of translators own perception or it may be because of the attitude of academic institutions, publishing companies and legal codes towards translators. The originality of translation rather lies in self-effacement, a vanishing act, and it is on this basis that translators prefer to be praised. A translated text is judged successful – by most editors, publishers, reviewers, readers, by translators themselves – when it reads fluently, when it gives an appearance that it is not translated, that it is original, transparently reflecting the foreign author’s personality or intention or the essential meaning of the foreign text.

Illusion of authorial presence and domestication

“A series of strategies are applied to maintain fluent translation. They take characteristics form such as: they pursue linear syntax, univocal meaning or controlled ambiguity, current usage, linguistic consistency, conversational rhythms; they eschew unidiomatic constructions, polysemy, archaism, jargon, abrupt shifts in tone or diction, pronounced rhythmic regularity or sound repetitions- any textual effects , any play of the signifier, which call attention to the materiality of language, to words as words, their opacity, their resistance to empathic response and interpretive mastery.

Fluency tries to check the drift of language away from the conceptual signified, away from communication and self-expression. When successfully deployed, it is the strategy that produces the effect of transparency, wherein the translation is identified with the foreign text and evokes the individualistic illusion of authorial presence” and thus invisibility of the translator.    

 Venuti strongly criticizes above strategy as the fluent strategy aims to efface the translator’s crucial intervention in the foreign text, a translator rewrites it in a different language to circulate in a different culture, but this very process results in a self-annihilation, and ultimately contributing to the cultural marginality and economic exploitation which translators suffer today. 

In addition, fluent strategy effaces the linguistic and cultural difference of the foreign text by being re-written in the transparent discourse dominating the target language culture and is inevitably coded with other target-language values, beliefs, and social representations, implicating the translation in ideologies that figure social differences and may well arrange them in hierarchical relations according to class, gender, sexual orientation, race, nation etc.

Translator becomes agent of acculturation and hegemony

While translating or as Venuti says it rewriting,   a fluent strategy performs a labor of acculturation which domesticates the foreign text, making it intelligible  and even familiar to the target –language reader, providing him or her with the narcissistic experience of recognizing his or her own culture in a cultural other, this enacting an imperialism that extends the dominion of transparency with other ideological discourses over a different culture. This fluency helps increase consumption of books in the publishing market; it assists in their accommodation and contributes to the cultural and economic hegemony of target language publishers.

Calls of Visibility of the translator

To create visibility of the translator, Venuti finds a solution in Schleiermacher’s preferred choice (On the Different Methods of Translating – an essay published in 1813) where translator leaves the writer in peace, as much as possible and moves the reader toward the writer, he calls it foreignization. Venuti considers foreignization  practice to be a ‘highly desirable … strategic cultural intervention’ which seek to ‘send the reader abroad’ by making the receiving culture aware of the linguistic and cultural difference inherent in the foreign text. This is to be achieved by a non-fluent, estranging or heterogeneous translation style designed to make visible the presence of the translator and to highlight the foreign identity of the source text.

In The Scandals of Translation, Venuti links foreignization to ‘Minoritizing’ translation and proposes to follow it to counter the unequal and violently domesticating cultural values of the English- language world.

In addition, Venuti suggests translation must be subjected to the same rigorous interrogation that other cultural forms and practice have recently undergone. The solution lies in developing a theoretical discourse to study the conditions of the translator’s work, the discursive strategies and institutional structures which determine the production, circulation and reception of translated text.


Venuti (1998), proposes “remedies” for this apparently scandalous situation, but his arguments rely on fundamentally binary oppositions that allow him to talk about “good” and “bad” translations in terms of hegemonic vs. minority culture, standard vs. non-standard language, critical studies vs. linguistics, and so on. This means his most powerful arguments do not really concern translation but are simply ideas about what cultures should be and how language should be used.

Pym is very critical of Venuti’s ideas which are very similar to the ideas proposed by Schleiermacher on foreignization. Pym questions Venuti’s idea of foreignization with reference to balancing role of translation in altering social divisions in the hegemonic English-language word. Pym appreciates Venuti’s idea of rejecting romantic conception(elitism) of authorship as well as his anti-commercial stands, but he fails to understand as how Venuti complains about translators being underpaid and marginalized. Pym criticizes Venuti that despite his political support of translators as members of a receiving society, he fails to see that the study of living intercultural subjects (Blendlinge) might be the most fruitful exit from Schleiermacher. 

Short profile of Venuti

Lawrence Venuti (born 1953) Temple University is an American translation theorist, translation historian, and a translator. Venuti is currently professor of English at Temple University. He has also taught as a visiting professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Princeton University, Columbia University, University of Trento, University of Mainz, Barnard College, and Queen's University Belfast.

He is a member of the editorial or advisory boards of Reformation: The Journal of the Tyndale Society, The Translator: Studies in Intercultural Communication, TTR: Traduction, Terminologie, Redaction, Translation Studies, Target: An International Journal of Translation Studies, and Palimpsestes.  He has edited special journal issues devoted to translation and minority (The Translator in 1998) and poetry and translation (Translation Studies in 2011). His translation projects have won awards and grants from the PEN American Center (1980), the Italian government (1983), the National Endowment for the Arts (1983, 1999), and the National Endowment for the Humanities (1989). In 1999 he held a Fulbright Senior Lectureship in translation studies at the University of Vic (Spain).

Tags: Hindi Translation, Hindi Translators, Indian Translators, Indian Translator, Hindi Center, Global Hindi Center




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