David Bellos’ Indirect Translation of Ismail Kadare’s The File on H: A Contextual Analysis


  • Silvia Kadiu University College London




Indirect Translation, Literary Translation, English Translation, French Translation, Albanian Literature


This article is a linguistic study of David Bellos’ indirect translation of Ismail Kadare’s The File on H (1997), a novel first published in 1980-1981 in the Albanian literary review Nëntori, and translated into English on the basis of Jusuf Vrioni’s French version, Le Dossier H (1989). Also called “double”, “mediated” or “second-hand”, indirect translation is an understudied phenomenon, often criticised by scholars because of its greater distance to the original. Cay Dollerup (2000: 23), for example, argues that the grammatical structure of the mediating language (ML) obscures the distinctions made in the source language (SL), and that possible “mistakes” in the ML may be repeated in the target language (TL). Do fidelity and loyalty to the author become weakened in Bellos’ indirect translation? To what extent is such weakening discernible linguistically? And does this particular case of indirect translation reveal notable patterns or recurring types of linguistic shifts between ST and TT? Showing that some of the  features specific to Kadare’s Albanian writing are tempered in the doubly-translated English text, yet highlighting that similar shifts occur in the three language directions involved, this article demonstrates that changes between ST and TT may occur in indirect translation regardless of the strategies adopted by MT – thus challenging the hypothesis that linguistic shifts in indirect translation follow a single or consistent pattern.