Ziling Bai is a second-year PhD student in Translation and Intercultural Studies at the University of Manchester. She studies the (re)translation of Virginia Woolf’s novels into Chinese, with a focus on the translation of vivid, imaginal depictions of memories. She wants to find out what the re-renditions of these memories may reveal about retranslation. Ziling is the co-translator of a 2018 retranslated version of Virginia Woolf’s The Waves into Chinese.
Can the ghost be resurrected? (Re)translating the spectral memory of Mrs Ramsay in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse
Personal memories and the act of recalling fill in the blank left by the loss of the past by inviting past scenes to reappear in the present moment. This transmission across time and space can sound familiar in Translation Studies. While Memory Studies and Translation Studies have started to converse with one another in recent years, little attention has been directed to the translation of memory depiction in literary texts. This study explores the (re)translation of modernist representation of memory in Virginia Woolf’s To the Lighthouse, which is inextricably imbricated with a sense of loss and mourning. The study focuses on the (re)translation of the late Mrs Ramsay, who reappears in the form of a visible ghost after her death. The concept of ‘translation’ here takes up a twofold meaning – interlingual rendition, and the travel across time of a ghostly memory scene.
Drawing from memory theories and Derrida’s concept of spectrality, this study examines three Chinese versions of To the Lighthouse that came out in 1988, 2003 and 2015. The study presents how the ghostliness in the remembrance of Mrs Ramsay in the earliest version has been exorcised to a greater extent, while two later versions embrace the ghost of Mrs Ramsay to a certain extent. It aims to propose a spectralised view of retranslation. That is, there could be a circulatory haunting relationship between past and future (re)translations.