Salman Rushdie’s iconic syntax and its French translation

Abstract : Among the varied “stylistic liberties” (Harrison, 1992: 61) that characterize Salman Rushdie’s baroque writing style, two opposite syntactic eccentricities stand out, which I have named ‘the syntax of continual flow’ and ‘the syntax of restraint’. Both mark “exophoric” iconicity (Nöth, 2001: 22) for they mirror the diegetic level of the narrative. My first goal is to analyse how this iconicity is operationalised. As Rushdie’s style is difficult to translate (Pesso-Miquel, 2007), my second goal is to find out how this iconicity can be translated into French. My study focuses on a few paradigmatic examples of Rushdie’s iconic syntax, extracted from Midnight’s Children (1981). It consists in a comparative analysis of these selected extracts and their official French translation by Jean Guiloineau. It turns out that Rushdie’s iconic syntax is achieved through psychological sequencing and juxtaposition (Leech & Short, 1981), but also through a “paralinguistic code” which involves “expressive syntactic rule transgressions” (Fonagy, 1995: 285-286). ‘The syntax of continual flow’, formed by a very selective use of punctuation, thus mimics the protagonist’s inner state – the confusion inside his head and the anguish he experiences –, while ‘the syntax of restraint’, consisting of very short and elliptical constructions, reflects the tense atmosphere of the depicted scene – its unspoken dimension and its suspense. Iconicity is therefore an essential part of the “embodied literality” (“littéralité charnelle”, Berman, 1999 : 77-78) of the text, and as such, it has to be preserved in the French translation. Yet this can’t be done easily because the French language is limited by its own constraints. For instance, in written French, syntax relies much more on punctuation than it does in English (Guillemin-Flescher, 1981), whereas English is more fitted for ellipsis than French. This makes it impossible for the translator to simply mimic the mainly “diagrammatic iconicity” of the original text (Fischer & Nänny, 1999: xxii-xxiii) and it forces him to compensate for it, sometimes by resorting to “endophoric” iconicity (Nöth, 2001: 22). As a conclusion, Rushdie’s iconic syntax is crucial for it makes the reader experience both the protagonist’s mindscape and environment. Although its clever operationalisation is achieved through syntactic devices which can’t be identically reproduced in French, the translator has managed to preserve most of it.
Type de document :
Communication dans un congrès
11th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature, Apr 2017, Brighton, United Kingdom. 〈〉
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Contributeur : Mariane Utudji <>
Soumis le : dimanche 16 juillet 2017 - 18:38:05
Dernière modification le : dimanche 17 septembre 2017 - 14:37:28


  • HAL Id : hal-01562656, version 1



Mariane Utudji. Salman Rushdie’s iconic syntax and its French translation. 11th International Symposium on Iconicity in Language and Literature, Apr 2017, Brighton, United Kingdom. 〈〉. 〈hal-01562656〉



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