METM09 presentation Thread: Original research

The Voyage from Italy to China: Translators’ Manipulation of Cuore

Hung-Shu Chen – Taiwan

Translation is often regarded as a reflection of the original, but in fact translation is often pervaded either obviously or invisibly by extra ideological presuppositions. This study provides some interesting examples from the translated versions of Cuore, an Italian Bildungsroman, to emphasize that a translator will in all likelihood attempt to foster in the readers some political or moral values shared by his society, especially when translating for children.

Cuore was written by Edmondo de Amicis in 1886. It was translated into English by Isabel F. Hapgood in 1887. The English version was translated into Japanese in 1902, whence the first Chinese translation of Cuore was derived. The voyage from Italy to China constitutes a complicated translation process and the differences among these versions place the translator's role in the spotlight.

This study compares the four texts, observing how these translators manipulated the texts, suggesting that a translator can be a rewriter with an ideological agenda. While the English translator was more faithful to the Italian original, the Japanese translator tried to arouse his readers' patriotism and provoke their hostility against America, and the Chinese translator encouraged the chastity and faithfulness of traditional Chinese girls. These examples remind us that we might still manipulate our translation as those translators did one hundred years ago, albeit in different ways. However, when, as translators, we become aware of this possibility, we can be self-analytical enough to avoid blind complicity with a particular ideological agenda in our future translation practice.


Hung-Shu Chen is a Ph.D. Student of the Graduate Institute of Translation and Interpretation of National Taiwan Normal University. A freelance translator for more than ten years, she has a special interest in the translation of children's literature. She is also working as a part-time lecturer for two universities in Taiwan.