Meaning in (Translated) Popular Fiction: An Analysis of Hyper-Literal Translation in Clive Barker’s Le Royaume des Devins

Gabrielle Kristjanson


Most translation theorists agree that source text fidelity results in a translation that aptly transmits the foreign cultural values and meaning embedded within the source language to a target culture. While the preservation of foreignness might be beneficial for the propagation of international artistic diversity, when translating works of popular fiction, domestication is key to a novel’s successful incorporation into the target literary system. In popular fiction translation, the goal is accessibility rather than artistic influence or cultural exchange, yet the necessary domestication can be problematic. This article examines the reception of the English-to-French translation of an epic fantasy novel by Clive Barker. Online reviews written by the French-speaking readership describe the translated text as aberrant of Barker’s oeuvre and incomprehensible. While it may be easy to dismiss this translation as yet another example of poor translation practices, knowing that the translator, Jean-Daniel Brèque, is an award-winning translator and that he has translated many works by other popular artists such as Stephen King and Dan Simmons points the blame elsewhere. An analysis of Jean-Daniel Brèque’s translation of Weaveworld reveals the detrimental effect that strict adherence to the source text can have on the reception of popular literature in translation and affirms that domestication is necessary to transform the source text into a version digestible and understandable by the target audience.


Domestication, Foreignization, Popular Literature, Genre, Profanity

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ISSN 1920-0323