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This review is taken from PN Review 157, Volume 30 Number 5, May - June 2004.

A CICERONIAN UP AGAINST IT! UMBERTO ECO, Mouse or Rat? Translation as Negotiation (Weidenfeld and Nicholson) £12.99

It is perhaps not surprising that Umberto Eco, the celebrated semiotician and much translated novelist, has not written more on or around the subject of translation, and yet it has ambivalently been suggested that he has written more than was to be expected. True that, as well as the present work, there is a kind of dry run for it, Experiences in Translation, the three Emilio Goggio lectures delivered at the University of Toronto in 1998, and there is also the author's historical account, The Search for the Perfect Language, 1995. And, as he tells us, he has held seminars at the University of Bologna, where he is Professor of Semiotics, on the concept of intersemiotic translation, with especial reference to the transformation of novels into films (of which, of course, he has personal experience, with The Name of the Rose).

Intersemiotic translation was identified as such by Roman Jakobsen in his brief but influential essay, `On Linguistic Aspects of Translation' (R.A Brower, ed., On Translation, 1959), which posited three types of translation: intersemiotic being the third. The second is interlinguistic, or translation as commonly understood, i.e. between languages, the first being intralinguistic translation, a somewhat more problematical notion. Eco adopts an apparently `conservative' approach, narrowing rather than broadening the concept of translation, unlike George Steiner, for instance, who advances the proposition that all communication between human beings involves translation. In his Goggio Lectures, Eco, for his part, warns `against the exaggeratedly indulgent idea of translation that ...


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