Tennessee Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire” - Principles of Contrastive Analysis of Translations Made by V. Nedelin, G. Jabashvili and L. Inasaridze

Every person represents a certain community. Naturally, this fact is revealed in a person’s speech culture and this must be envisaged in the process of translation. At the same time, every person is unique, with his/her own emotions and feelings. All this should be reflected in language strategies. A translator should, above all, realize the contextual framework of relationships. This will help to discuss the sociolinguistic markers of characters with respect to real communication and minimize the probability of errors in the evaluation.

The action in “Streetcar Named Desire” takes place in New Orleans, termed by the author as a cosmopolitan city. The ethnic diversity of the American society is interesting from the viewpoint of intracultural relations. The characters of the play are of diverse ethnic origin: black people, the Mexicans and Poles live side by side. Their origin does not represent an obstacle in relationships with the representatives other ethnicities. However, the ethnic factor plays a certain role and is revealed in various forms in the interpersonal relationships, for instance, as Pablo says in Spanish: “Maldita sea tu suerte!“, Stanley urges him to talk in English: “Put it in English, greaseball!”. In the Russian version -  „Говори  по-людски, гризер” – Nedelin offers the following explanation (Greaser – a pejorative nickname of the Mexicans in the USA). Interestingly enough, G. Jabashvili translates “greaser” using the Imeretian dialectal form „ობროდი“ /obrodi/ (“freak”),  („Say in a human way, you freak!” [Jabashvili, 1980 :113]).  L. Inasaridze explains the term “greaser” in the footnotes, saying that this is a pejorative nickname for the Mexicans in the USA. Naturally, the form offered by G. Jabashvili is devoid of an important semantic component – the origin of the addressee. This hampers the reader’s understanding of the situation.

   Although Blanche divides people into social groups, in her consciousness, people of the “second category” or, as she says, “public”, represent a homogeneous mass with no differences whatsoever. For Blanche, it makes no difference whether a person is Polish or Irish, Mexican or Scottish. She looks down on all of them. This is proved by her remark: “They're something like Irish, aren't they? Only not so _ highbrow?“ („Ах да. Они вроде ирландцев, кажется? ...Только не такие аристократы?”). 

   It should be noted that the word “highbrow” is translated by Nedelin and Inasaridze as “aristocratic”. This coincidence may point to borrowing (– „აჰა, რაღაც ირლანდიელების მაგვარი, ხომ?  მათსავით არისტოკრატი არაა, ხომ?“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 13]. In this regard, there is more precision in G. Jabashvili’s version. He takes into account the prejudice of the English concerning the Irish and uses the lexeme  „ქედმაღლები“ (highbrow) („კი, როგორ არა, მგონი ცოტა ირლანდიელებს ჰგვანან, არა? – მაგრამ მათებრ ქედმაღლები არ არიან, განა?“ [Jabashvili, 1980 :15]. 

  In order to fully understand the situation, apart from the ethnic factor, we should take into account the social factor, which plays an important role in the play. Stella finds herself between two different worlds. She tries to neutralize the socio-cultural antagonism. Therefore, she asks Blanche not to be so critical about Stanley and his circle:

  „STELLA:  You'll get along fine together, if you'll just try not to _ well _ compare him with men that we went out with at home“ („СТЕЛЛА: Вы  прекрасно поладите, постарайся только не  сравнивать  его с людьми нашего круга“).  „შესანიშნავად შეეწყობით ერთმანეთს, თუ მაინცდამაინც არ ეცდები იმ ხალხს შეადარო, ჩვენ რომ თავიდან გარს გვეხვია“ [Jabashvili, 1980 :16].  „ეცადე, ჩვენი წრის ხალხს არ შეადარო“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 13]).

Out of the principal oppositions described in the play, attention should be paid to the opposition between the dying aristocratic South and the industrial North. In Blanche’s interpretation, this is an opposition between civilization and savagery (jungles).

 Blanche (and, in certain cases, the author himself) – who represents the Southern aristocracy, often compares Stanley and his world with the jungle. The jungle theme is especially acute in Blanche’s monologue in which she calls Stanley and his entire circle inhabitants of the jungle:

   „BLANCHE: He acts like an animal, has an animal's habits! Eats like one, moves like one, talks like one! There's even something _ sub-human _ something not quite to the stage of humanity yet! Yes, something _ ape-like about him, like one of those pictures I've seen in-anthropological studies! Thousands and thousands of years have passed him right by, and there he is _Stanley Kowalski _ survivor of the stone age! Bearing the raw meat home from the kill in the jungle! And you _ you here _ waiting for him!“

   „БЛАНШ. Ведет себя  как скотина, а повадки _ зверя!  Ест  как  животное, ходит как животное, изъясняется  как  животное!  Есть в  нем даже что-то еще недочеловеческое _ существо, еще не достигшее той ступени, на которой стоит современный  человек. Да,  человек-обезьяна,  вроде тех,  что  я  видела  на картинках на лекциях по антропологии. Тысячи и  тысячи лет прошли мимо него, и  вот он, Стэнли  Ковальский _ живая реликвия  каменного  века! Приносящий домой  сырое  мясо  после того,  как  убивал  в  джунглях.  А ты  _  здесь, поджидаешь: прибьет?.. а вдруг _ хрюкнет и поцелует!“

 „ნამდვილი პირუტყვივით იქცევა, ჩვევებიც ნადირისა აქვს! ჭამს მხეცივით, დადის მხეცივით და სიტყვა-პასუხიც ნადირული აქვს, ისე იღრინება... მრავალმა საუკუნემ გვერდი აუარა მას და აგერ _ ინებეთ _ სტენლი კოვალსკი _ ქვის ხანის ნაშთი! შინ რომ უმი ხორცი მოაქვს უღრან ტყეში მოკლული ნადირისა!“ [Jabashvili, 1980 : 58].

„ნამდვილი საქონელივით იქცევა, ნადირისგან ვერ გაარჩევ! ცხოველივით თქვლეფს, ცხოველივით დაიარება, ცხოველივით ლაპარაკობს!...თითქოს ათასწლეულმა გვერდზე ჩაუქროლა, ის კი, სტენლი კოვალსკი, ქვის ხანაში დარჩა, როგორც ცოცხალი რელიკვია... ჯუნგლებში ნანადირევი უმი ხორცი რომ მიაქვს“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 53]. 

   The above-mentioned paragraph is rather complicated. Hence, there are certain inaccuracies in the translation. In one case, it is unclear what the author means under the “animal’s habits”. In the second case, it is unclear how “animals can talk”. The translators preserved the pleonasm of the original text concerning „the raw pray meat”, as if it was possible to bring boiled or roast meat back from hunting in the stone age.

  Blanche has her complexes, mostly related to the fear of getting old and ugly: „Especially when the girl is over _ thirty. They think a girl over thirty ought to--the vulgar term is _ "put out."... And I _ I'm not "putting out." Of course he _he doesn't know _I mean I haven't informed him _ of my real age!“ 

  „Особенно если  женщине  за  тридцать.  Они  считают, что женщина  за  тридцать,  вульгарно выражаясь,  _ "отпрыгалась". Ну,  а я еще не "отпрыгалась".  Конечно, он не знает... – не стану же я сама объявлять! ...сколько мне на самом деле“. 

„მაგათ ჰგონიათ, თუ ქალმა ოცდაათს გადააბიჯა, მაგათებურად რომ ვთქვათ, უკვე „ჩამოსაწერია’’. მე კი ჩამოსაწერობას ბევრი მაკლია“ [Jabashvili, 1980 : 66].

 „...მითუმეტეს, როცა ქალი ოცდაათს ზევითაა. მათი აზრით, ბალზაკის ასაკის ქალი, უხეშად რომ ვთქვათ, ცხრა ნაბადზეა გადამხტარი. მე ჯერაც არ დავღლილვარ „ხტუნაობით“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 61]. 

  When translating this episode, G. Jabashvili uses the lexeme „ჩამოსაწერია“ (depreciated). L. Inasaridze uses the vulgarism „ცხრა ნაბადზეა გადამხტარი“ (flea-bitten), adding the phrase „Balzac-aged woman“. This phrase is not found in the original text. Hence, it must be influenced by the Russian language.

   Among the male characters of the play, Stanley is dominant. Williams’ remark reveals Stanley’s androgenic nature: „He is of medium height, about five feet eight or nine, and strongly, compactly built. Animal joy in his being is implicit in all his movements and attitudes. Since earliest manhood the center of his life has been pleasure with women, the giving and taking of it, not with weak indulgence, dependency, but with the power and pride of a richly feathered male bird among hens“. 

   „Среднего  роста _ пять  футов и  восемь-девять дюймов, сильный, ладный.  Вся стать его и повадка говорят  о  переполняющем  все его существо животном упоении бытием. С ранней юности ему и жизнь не в жизнь без женщин, без сладости обладания ими, когда  тешишь их и ублажаешь себя  и  не рассиропливаешься, не даешь им потачки; неукротимый, горделивый _ пернатый султан среди несушек“.

  „მთელი მისი არსება, მისი ქცევები და მიხრა-მოხრა აღსავსეა ცხოველური აღტყინებით. დავაჟკაცებისთანვე იგი ქალებზე იყო გადაგებული. სიამოვნებას არც თვითონ იკლებს და არც მათ აკლებს. არავის არაფერს არ შეარჩენს, თავი დამოუკიდებლად, ისე გოროზად უჭირავს, როგორც აფხორილ მამალს დედლებში გარეულს...“  [Jabashvili, 1980 : 20-21]

„მანერები და გამოხედვა თავისთავად მიანიშნებს, რომ მასში ცხოველური ინსტინქტი ჭარბობს. სიყრმიდანვე მოსწონდა ქალების დევნა, მათი დაპყრობა და მათით ტკბობა... დაუცხრომელია და ამაყი, როგორც მამალი სულთანი დედლების გარემოცვაში“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 18]. 

   Scholar N. Gorgishvili notes: ,,This final sentence is completely absurd, as a female Sultan does not exist“. This opinion can be argued, as, in the Ottoman tradition, “Sultan” was also used with reference to female representatives of the royal dynasty. Despite the Islamic tradition of polygamy, we consider Nedelin’s term “feathered Sultan” as a substitute for “richly feathered male bird” as inaccurate. The phrase “male Sultan” used by L. Inasaridze points to the influence of the Russian translation.

Naturally, a high quality translation is impossible without grasping the symbolic layer of the literary work. A translator’s strategy is directly linked not only to the verbal manifestation of the text, but also to its symbolic layer, which is encoded in the lexical-semantic units as well as other semiotic features: music, plasticity of movement, colour and light effects, etc.

 The title of the play represents an enigma which must be solved by a translator. Blanche makes a seemingly humorous comment about her route: „They told me to take a street car named Desire, and then transfer to one called Cemeteries and ride six blocks and get off at _ Elysian Fields!“( Сказали, сядете  сперва  в один  трамвай _ по-здешнему  "Желание",  потом в другой _  "Кладбище",  проедете  шесть кварталов _  сойдете  на Елисейских полях!“). As it is proved in the following sections of the play, this comment represents a certain metaphor and points to the journey of the main character. The starting point of the tram „route“ is the Desire of the main character to free herself from the sinful existence and start life anew. The next stop – Cemeteries or, to be more precise, the  cemetery of “dreams and desires” _ directly points to the failure of Blanche’s attempts. The third stop - „Elysian Fields“ – is of symbolic content. It is well known that this Greek term denoted the eternal residence of God-chosen heroes. By using this term, Williams implies that the end of Blanche’s sufferings is related to the forgiveness of her sins. As the term is widespread also in Russian („Елисейские поля“), Nedelin freely uses it in his translation. However, Georgian translators offer different versions  _ „ელიზეუმის მინდვრები“ [Jabashvili, 1980 : 8] and ელისეს მინდვრები“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 6]. Despite the tradition of translating this toponym into Georgian, I debate N. Gorgisheli’s opinion who supports the latter version. For the majority of readers, this toponym is associated with one of the sights of Paris. Hence, this toponym does not reveal the author’s implication regarding the residence of Greek heroes. Thus, it is more reasonable to use the different form „ელიზეუმის მინდვრები“ (Jabashvili), as the latter is free of the traditional semantic content.

  One of the key problems of the text is the theme of light, which is found throughout the entire text. According to William’s remark, aspiration towards light makes Blanche similar to a moth. This very aspiration leads a moth to death: „There is something about her uncertain manner, as well as her white clothes, that suggests a moth“  („В робости  Бланш и в белом ее наряде есть  что-то, напрашивающееся на сравнение с мотыльком“). At the same time, the fear of light is the fear of both the truth and the nearing old age. The author directly notes: „Her delicate beauty must avoid a strong light“  („Блекнущая красота ее  не терпит  яркого света“).  „მისი გახუნებული სილამაზე დღის სინათლეს ვეღარ უძლებს“ [Inasaridze, 2013 : 6].  „...მის დახვეწილ გარეგნობას არ უხდება ძლიერი შუქი...“ [Jabashvili, 1980 : 7].

In the first case, L. Inasaridze refers to Blanche’s beauty as a thing of the past, calling it pale. In the second case, Jabashvili does not doubt Blanche’s beauty, although he notes that this beauty is less striking in a strong light.

   Comparison of the Russian translation of T. Williams’ “Streetcar Named Desire” with the Georgian versions proved that they reveal a unified strategic approach characteristic of the verbocentric version. There are certain differences, caused by the differences in the corresponding recipient cultures (Russian and Georgian) as well as the diverse styles of translators. 

  Comparison of the Russian and Georgian translations of “Streetcar Named Desire”  revealed the tendency of the chronological adaptation, reflected in the linguistic taste of the epoch as well as various degrees of freedom from the ideological pressure. Comparison of translations made by G. Jabashvili and L. Inasaridze in different periods proved that frequently  differences are due to the change of the political paradigm as well as internal linguistic factors. This proves L. Inasaridze’s attempt to offer a translation targeted at the new generation of readers.

Comparison with the Russian translation  revealed the ethno-specific and universal ways of expressing the realia of the original text. It should also be noted that differences in the criteria of evaluation caused by the cultural diversity are revealed in the linguistic markers of characters and reflected in the translation in specific ways. Like Jabashvili and Inasaridze, Nedelin prefers to use transcription and transliteration to denote onomastic terms. As for phraseological units, Nedelin mostly uses traditional methods, taking practical decisions based on the language material and textual situations.


Williams T.
,,Street Car Named Desire “ (translated by L. Inasaridze). “Palitra” Publishing House. Tbilisi.
Williams T.
A Streetcar Named Desire. The University of South. http://www.theatre-library.ru/files/u/williams/williams_18.html


Gorgisheli N.
The Linguistic Portrait of the Character in a Dramaturgical Text and the Specifics of its Translation (Based on G. Jabashvili’s and L. Inasaridze’s translations of Tennessee William’s “Street Car Named Desire”). PhD Thesis in Philology. Telavi.
Williams T.
,,Street Car Named Desire “ (translated by G. Jabashvili). „Sabchota Khelovneba” Publishing House. Tbilisi.