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Turning Heart of Darkness into a racist text: a comparison of two Polish translations.

Since 1975 when Chinua Achebe accused Conrad of racism, calling him "a bloody racist" and amending that later to "a thoroughgoing racist," the debate on whether Conrad or his character Marlow was racist has continued unabated (257). Critical opinions are as contradictory as the views evident in Heart of Darkness, as aptly presented by Cedric Watts with reference to civilization, imperialism, racial differences, and morality (47). This analysis looks at this issue from a different angle: turning Heart of Darkness into a racist text through its translation, and the influence of the translators' lexical choices and interpretations of the text on their perception of the novella as being imbued with racist overtones.

In Polish scholarship Conrad has been discussed more in terms of his nationalism than racial prejudice. In Poland his patriotism was the center of attention, with accusations that he "betrayed" his homeland by emigrating, and then writing in English without referring to Polish causes in his fiction (Zabierowski 101, 208). It seems that whatever one may say about Conrad, another will be ready to take the opposite tack. Aniela Zagorska, his cousin, defended him and claimed "I have no doubt that Conrad's 'double' patriotism, being torn between England and Poland--leaning toward England--was a continuous, painful dilemma for Conrad" ("Kilka wspomnien" 310; translation mine). Before the outbreak of World War II, when the specters of fascism and totalitarianism hovered over Europe, in Poland Conrad was predominately seen as "an admirer of all races, a humanist worshipping authentic values [... who] became an ally in opposing the horrific danger" (Zabierowski 29; translation and italics mine). During the war the heroism of his characters and their ethical values were underlined as guiding the efforts of Poles in their fight against the enemy. Later, critical attention focused on a social and political reading of his works, as well as emphasizing that Conrad was an excellent marine writer (Zabierowski 45). Racial issues, particularly anti-African interpretations, are largely absent in Polish criticism. Since Conrad is primarily seen in Poland as a moralist, one of the factors contributing to this lack of interest in racial interpretations may be the extent to which the vision of Conrad in Polish readers' minds was shaped by linguistic and cultural filters, that is, translators.

That great literature should be read in the original is undeniable, the more so since translators can manipulate literary texts in order to achieve personally desired effects. As Jose Ortega y Gasset famously stated, "a repetition of a work is impossible [...] translation is only an apparatus that carries us to it" (62). It is entirely up to the translator which dimension of a work they amplify, although ideally all levels of a literary text should be equally balanced. In translation, ideology may be analyzed from two perspectives: that of the original text and that of the translation, and these two do not need to be identical; they are dependent on the translator's choice both at the microstylistic and macrostylistic levels. Peter Fawcett says of the latter that "throughout the centuries, individuals and institutions applied their particular beliefs to the production of a certain effect in translation" (107). Translators may tinker with the work in order to create a text which exaggerates or diminishes the ideological perspective of the original. Strictly speaking, at the macrostylistic level, ideological manipulation may be understood as a purposeful activity which accounts for "any interference with the text, be it cultural, religious, political or otherwise, imposing modifications that are not textual constraints, for the purpose of indoctrination" (Ben-Ari 43). Yet, even without purposeful manipulation, "[t]ranslating is always ideological because it releases a domestic remainder, an inscription of values, beliefs, and representations linked to historical moments and social positions in the domestic culture" (Venuti, "Translation" 485). Thus translations may, and do, differ depending on the historical circumstances in which they appear.

At a microstylistic level, the ideological dimension of the text may be influenced by the translator's lexical choices, such as the deliberate selection or avoidance of certain words. Grammar choices may involve exploiting specific structures, i.e., substituting defining generic nouns for less specific pronouns, or avoidance of agency by using passive structures. The translator can transform the text because of two distinct, yet interconnected processes: initially as the source text reader who reconstructs its meaning; and as the target text producer. At times it is difficult to determine whether the ideological shift results from the translator's conscious decisions or his misunderstanding/misinterpretation of the original on the one hand, or an attempt to produce a natural-sounding, contemporary target text, on the other.

Thus, perspectives about the racial aspects of Heart of Darkness may be different if one reads the original story and its translated version. This analysis argues why for a long time Polish readers would not think of the novella as imbued with racist overtones, which potentially may change now. It will examine its two translations into Polish, focusing on some aspects of the two texts related to the problem of racial prejudice. Heart of Darkness has been translated into Polish four times thus far, which not only testifies to the importance of this work for the Polish readership, but also to the need for improving the existing renderings, or entering into a polemical dialogue with them. The first to appear was Aniela Zagorska's 1930 version. It still remains the canonical translation of the work, and stamped its image of Conrad on Polish readers for almost a century. In 1972 Zdzislaw Najder edited Conrad's collected works in which he included Zagorska's translation, yet introduced numerous changes as he considered certain areas quite flawed. Yet, the corrections did not concern lexis connected with the natives. Towards the end of the twentieth century, her version was followed by newer ones of Jedrzej Polak (1994), Barbara Koc (2000), and Ireneusz Socha (2004).

The present analysis considers the first and the last published translation (Zagorska 1930, and Socha 2004, respectively) not only because of the time distance between them, which may obviously influence a reading of Conrad, but also because the two versions clearly stand in opposition to each other with respect to the racial dimension of the work. Zagorska (1890-1943) was an expert translator of Conrad, and she provided Polish readership with almost half of all his works. Conrad was the only writer she ever translated. Her translations are not far removed from the originals, considering the diachronic perspective. Thus the vocabulary she uses with reference to Africans reflects that which was used at the end of the nineteenth and beginning of the twentieth century in Poland, and may also be seen as corresponding to that used by Conrad. Socha, the other translator chosen for the analysis, seems to view Heart of Darkness somewhat differently, and his rendering warrants attention as it may change the Polish reader's attitude toward Conrad, an icon in Poland.

In the novella there appears a variety of lexical items referring to native Africans, all of them presently considered offensive: nigger, Negro, black. On the basis of Achebe's wording, one might conclude that the author of Heart of Darkness was more than prejudiced: "Certainly Conrad had a problem with niggers. His inordinate love of that word itself should be of interest to psychoanalysts" (258). The "inordinate love" stands for ten cases in the entire work. By comparison, the apparently less abusive "black" describing Africans appears at least twenty times (the frequency of "black" is rather overpowering as it is used altogether forty-five times). Only on three occasions, however, is it used as a generic noun. Generally, "black" is exploited as an adjective and used metaphorically ("black shapes," "black shades," "black bones," "black frenzy"), as if Conrad was hesitant about using it generically, preferring the word indicating the Negroid race instead. Interestingly, the abusive word "savage" as a generic noun denoting Africans is applied the same number of times as "nigger," and it does not seem to raise such a heated debate as the n-word. "Savage" and its variation "savagery" is used in the text twenty-five times, becoming quite oppressive. Apart from these words unambiguously abusive from a modern perspective, other, rather neutral items appear in the text as well: "native" (six cases) and "Zanzibaris" (once). Often in various collocations (some positive and some negative), the adjective "wild" is also attached to black people. Undeniably the combination of the frequency of "nigger," "savage," and "black," as well as "wild" in comparison to the neutral "native" seems to be pointing to the underlying negative attitude towards the Africans.

Let us first analyze the translation of the most negative of these items, i.e., "nigger." The mere appearance of it does not automatically point to the narrator's racist attitude. For the translator, the context in which the word is used is important as guiding the choice of the potential equivalent. Also the diachronic perspective, that is the possibility of any semantic changes that the lexical item may have undergone over the years, is vital. Presently the n-word is explicitly negative; it is considered highly abusive and its presence in the text may easily provoke accusations of racism. Sources are not unanimous as to the time when it acquired derogatory connotations (originally it was a neutral term derived from Latin for the color black). The dilemma: the racist ambiguity of the n-word must be solved alone by the translator, and in the case of the two analyzed versions, the translators interpreted the word in divergent ways. Zagorska was at pains to avoid any explicitly derogatory terms, using a neutral Polish generic term "Murzyn" describing a person of Negroid race in eight cases, and on one occasion of foreign origin, i.e., "Negro." "The fool-nigger" she translates as "czarny duren" [a black fool], thus substituting the color adjective for the noun (Heart 111; Zagorska 143). Her translation is neutral in all cases when the n-word appears in Conrad's text, and since the time gap between the original publication of the work and its translation is not significant, one may assume that Zagorska had some perception as to the "value" of the word as used by her cousin. Conversely, knowing Conrad personally and greatly admiring him, she either did not believe he might have been racist or she did not want to leave such an image of him with Polish readers. Irrespective of the motivation, the 1930 Polish version cannot be labeled racist at the lexical level, unlike the 2004 one in which the unambiguously insulting word, the most direct modern Polish equivalent of "nigger," i.e., "czarnuch," is used. Interestingly, Socha does not translate all ten cases consistently. The abusive "czarnuch" is used four times, whereas the neutral "Murzyn" is used six times. The derogatory word appears when the translator decides subjectively that "nigger" is used disparagingly, as in "[a] quarrelsome band of footsore sulky niggers," "the fool-nigger," and "these niggers do bury the tusks sometimes" (Heart 87, 111, 116). Yet, it is also used when referring to the chief of the village hammered by Captain Fresleven, which is contradictory to the above instances. It is difficult to explain the translator's motivation in this case, and his overall choices, due to the lack of regularity of usage. Had Socha translated "nigger" unchangingly as "czarnuch," it could be claimed that he used the contemporary equivalent and interprets the text as racist. Yet that is not the case. From a slightly different perspective one may notice that the derogatory Polish word is used when describing the behavior of Fresleven, whose psyche was greatly influenced by his African experience turning him into a racist in the Polish text. Marlow uses it more freely as he comes to the center of Africa; that is, the longer he is on the Black Continent, the more linguistically racist he becomes. It is difficult to say what the translator's aim was; yet this is the effect that the latest Polish version of Heart of Darkness achieves. Although the slur word appears in the Polish text on four occasions only, its negative connotations are so strongly sensed that the reader's attention is immediately caught, and a racist interpretation is elicited.

The racist status of another lexical item potentially abusive for black people, i.e., "savage," is perhaps less explicit, still the twenty-first century translation is more negative than the earlier one. In Polish "savage" as a noun pertaining to uncivilized people may be translated either as a noun "dziki" [primitive, uncivilized or savage, depending on the context] or "dzikus" [savage], with the latter being much more offensive. Zagorska uses the more abusive word three times (twice about the helmsman and once when Marlow compares the Russian's behavior towards Kurtz to that of the natives). By comparison, in the modern version "dzikus" appears in ten cases. It is the same number as "savage" used in the original; yet the translator does not exactly copy the manner of Conrad's usage of this lexeme since sometimes he adds the word when the author did not use it. The most striking example is the description of the black woman depicted by Conrad as a "barbarous and superb woman" (Heart 146). In Socha's wording, she is "wspaniala dzikuska" [a superb savage] (76). Not only is the savagery added but also the noun "woman" disappears, thus partially eliminating this feature through focusing on the former characteristics. Naturally, the inflection of the Polish noun indicates the gender, yet the fact remains that her femininity is much less apparent.

With reference to "savage(ry)," Conrad's cousin tends to use the less insulting equivalent, and so her translation seems less negative in its attitude towards the natives. Additionally, she often exploits two grammatical categories of the word "dziki" which can function in Polish both as a noun and as an adjective and adds "humanizing nouns," thus diminishing the racist overtones, as in "dzicy ludzie" [primitive/ savage people] (Zagorska 70).

Zagorska's humanizing attitude and Socha's dehumanizing approach are discernible considering other vocabulary describing the natives. When Kurtz is carried to the pilothouse and his black lover shouts at other natives, the expression used by Conrad is "wild mob" (Heart 146). "Mob" refers to a great number of people, sometimes things, and only in Australian English is it used to denote a herd of birds or animals. Conrad unambiguously employs it to stand for a great mass of people, and their ferocious behavior is in the focus rather than their inhumanity. Socha, however, uses the word "sfora," whose primary meaning is "a pack of hunting dogs," and only in its secondary meaning does it refer to people, always in derogatory terms, as "pack" or "horde" (75). The "animal interpretation" is further strengthened, since the noise of the mob--"a roaring chorus"--is translated as "jazgotliwy chor," whereas the adjective used is a pejorative word for a mixture of sounds but especially dogs' yapping (Heart 146; Socha 75). Consequently, the expression is dehumanized as the reader instinctively would associate "the wild pack/horde" with beasts/animals, which carries negative connotations. Zagorska uses "tluszcza" [rabble/mob/riffraff] (185). The noun is old-fashioned and can be sensed as evoking negative feelings; yet it may also be seen as simply referring to a loud or tumultuous crowd, thus depicting the situation as envisaged by Conrad. Even if there exists a pejorative element in the word, the insult is directed at behavioral rather than overtly racist characteristics, and this lexical item definitely does not equate people with animals. Similarly, a neutral lexeme used when describing the natives in the bush as having "glaring eyes" evokes clearly animal-like associations in the modern version because it is translated as "slepia"--primarily denoting animals' eyes and only colloquially referring to the human organ (Heart 110; Socha 51). Zagorska uses the most direct, neutral equivalent of eyes--"oczy" (142).

Moreover, noise produced by the natives is often changed from neutral into negative in the 2004 translation. For instance, Marlow in the original states: "[b]ut what made the idea of attack inconceivable to me was the nature of the noise--of the cries we had heard" (Heart 107). Socha simply omits "noise," and as a result the only lexeme used is "wrzaski" [screams] standing for "the cries" (Heart 49, 107). When "the beaten nigger moaned," the modern Marlow concludes that he "grumbled," as the Polish verb is "kwekac," which refers to complaining of ill health and is used as a negatively laden, irritating expression (Heart 80; Socha 30). In respective fragments, Zagorska uses "wrzawa" and "jeczec" (138, 107). The former stands for "din," "noise," or "uproar" and is quite literary in usage, whereas the latter is overtly indicative of crying in pain and thus much more sympathetic toward the beaten native.

Racism in translation manifests itself also in numerous amplification, that either exaggerate the images or substitute generic nouns for pronouns. The first case may be exemplified by translating "weapons" in the sentence "mysterious niggers armed with all kinds of fearful weapons" as "narzedzia smierci," that is, "tools of death" (Heart 70; Socha 23). The original noun denotes a tool used either to attack or to defend, yet the modern version reads its meaning solely with the view of the first activity directed at whites, thus strengthening the feeling of hatred that they should naturally feel towards blacks. Zagorska chooses a military vocabulary item, "orez," a direct equivalent of "weapon" or "arms," nowadays rather old-fashioned, but still in usage in 1930 (95). The adjective "unhappy" referring to "savages" is changed into "zgnebiony" by Socha, and simply rendered as "nieszczesliwi" by Zagorska (Heart 64; 18; 88). Although the passage refers to the repression suffered by natives treated as criminals by whites, the modern translation amplifies the natives' toil, since the employed adjective means "oppressed" or "tormented;" whereas Zagorska translates literally. This seems to contradict the modern racist reading as the word may be indicative of sympathy towards the blacks. Yet it can also be viewed in the perspective of labeling Fresleven "oprawca," i.e., "executioner" or "tormentor," when he beats the chief of the village (Socha 11). Conrad writes simply "the white man," so the translation amplifies the white man's cruelty clearly resulting from attitudes formed in Africa since "Fresleven was the gentlest, quietest creature that ever walked on two legs. No doubt he was; but he had been a couple of years already out there engaged in the noble cause, you know, and he probably felt the need at last of asserting his self-respect in some way" (Heart 54). The 2004 Polish translation, instead of focusing on the mental breakdown, provides the axis of the oppressor-the oppressed.

Often in the 2004 translation, pronouns "he" or "them" referring to black people are substituted with generic nouns, usually "Murzyn." These amplifications emphasize the race of the described people. Once, even an additional pronoun is added--"them" becomes "naszym Murzynom" [our blacks] when Marlow discusses the black members of his crew (Socha 46). The personal pronoun is meant to differentiate the cannibals on deck from others in the jungle, yet it overtly indicates the ownership. Besides, such amplifications appear as "really fine chap," referring to the helmsman rendered as "dzikus" [savage]; "the others" about the black members of the crew as "czarni" [blacks]; or "the people" as "tubylcy" [the natives] (Heart 97, Socha 42; Heart 103, Socha 46; Heart 104, Socha 46). Once, however, a complete reversal occurs. The Polish version of the sentence "the blade had gone in out of sight, after making a frightful gash" reads in the back translation as "[t]he blade had gone so deep that it became invisible, opening a frightful wound in the body of the poor chap" (Heart 112; Socha 52; translation and italics mine). Thus the contemporary translator seems to be rather schizophrenic in his treatment of the helmsman, naming him a savage instead of a chap, turning him into the poor chap when Conrad did not, and shortly before that calling him a nigger.

The first translation also frequently substitutes nouns for pronouns since in Polish personal pronouns are not exploited to such an extent as in English (often they are omitted, as the verb indicates gender, or nouns are used for the sake of clarity). Changes usually concern introducing a particular person's name or position instead of the pronoun. As much as possible Zagorska translates literally Conrad's wording, occasionally trying to tone down potential racist overtones, and her modulations point to a different attitude towards black people than in the later translation. In the sentence "The fingers closed slowly on it [biscuit]," she emphasizes the pathos in the description of the dying young man by inserting the word "biedak" [a poor chap] so the reading is "the poor chap's fingers," which agrees with Conrad's intention (Heart 67; Zagorska 91). With reference to this paragraph, Achebe states: "Marlow is able to toss out such bleeding-heart sentiments" (256). Socha prefers a more indifferent "Murzyn" (20). Rendering Marlow's words "'Steer her straight,' I said to the helmsman," Zagorska follows Conrad, trying not to overuse words referring to race (and so indicating the post of the man rather than the color of his skin), whereas the 2004 version focuses entirely on the latter aspect, substituting "Murzyn" for the helmsman (Heart 110; Socha 51). Additionally, Zagorska provides the closest possible equivalent of "said," unlike Socha who by replacing the neutral verb with a marked one, "rozkazalem" [ordered], not only introduces verbal aggression, but also underlines the superiority of one interlocutor (white Marlow) over the other (black helmsman), thereby amplifying the emotional distance between them (Socha 51). One may argue that Socha simply uses vocabulary consistent with the captain/helmsman position axis; yet, as Ford Madox Ford remembers Conrad had a certain idiosyncrasy concerning the way to recount conversations. He apparently hated the forms "he/she said," and spent long hours eradicating them, substituting them with their synonyms (Ford 748). It may be claimed that when Conrad uses the neutral "said" in this context, he does it purposefully. Thus, Socha's aggressive "order" seems to contradict the original writer's intention, simultaneously magnifying the negative attitude of Marlow towards the black man.

Finally, one more comment should be made concerning the lexical level. In the most explicitly racist sentence of the entire work, both Marlow and the reader face Kurtz's note, "Exterminate all the brutes!" (Heart 118). The two translators deal with the noun differently. Zagorska chooses the word "bestje," that is "beasts," whilst Socha uses "bydlo," which may be back translated literally as "cattle" (152, 56). Pejoratively it is used about people when referring to them as "animals." Although both versions are clearly negative, as that was the intention of the original, the modern version appears to again equate the natives with animals, whereas the former emphasizes their primitive and wild ways. The first translation seems to be operating along the civilized/uncivilized axis, the other along the human/nonhuman one, thus being more negative.

The lexical level, however, only strengthens the ideology buried within the text. Racism shown in the modern version is even more obvious in the attitude towards black people expressed by various characters. The best example is the translation of the sentence uttered by the accountant: "I've been teaching one of the native women about the station. It was difficult. She had a distaste about the work" (Heart 68). The original refers to the particular job and just one representative of the black people (as, although stylistically obsolete, is the case with Zagorska's translation, which renders the sentiment literally), whereas Socha's interpretation generalizes the issue and makes laziness the generic feature of Africans. The back translation of his version reveals that the woman "has had laziness in her blood" as if she was already born with this quality just as all the previous generations of Africans (Socha 21). This sentence seems to reflect the modern stereotype of an African American as lazy and good-for-nothing. Although interpreting the original fragment is not straightforward since Conrad does not use typical wording, it seems that he means a singular case rather than generalization. Perhaps it would have been more correct to formulate the idea as "she found the work distasteful," and the original version bears marks of linguistic corruption; nevertheless, on the conceptual plane it is hard to label the remark as racist, whereas the 2004 reading is clearly laden with racism.

Similarly, when describing his black crew Marlow states that they "[h]ad no inherited experience to teach them" (Heart 103). He underlines the lack of enlightening, that is, civilizing experience from which Africans might draw wisdom since "they still belonged to the beginnings of time" (Heart 103). This smacks of imperialist/colonizing attitudes, yet not offensively explicit. Zagorska follows this train of thought, while Socha completely changes the meaning, implying that Africans are "slow-learners," pointing to their stupidity since his version in back translation is "[t]hey seemed not to learn from gained experience" (46). Likewise, continuing the description of the starving cannibals Marlow concludes that "They were big powerful men, with not much capacity to weigh the consequences," which does not exclude all cognitive skills (Heart 104). In Socha's interpretation they "lack any awareness of the consequences," which more profoundly focuses the reader's attention on their inability of judgment (47). Zagorska's version is less dogmatic, as according to her they "were not really able to consider the consequences" (135-36). As a result, the latest translation paints a picture of the natives as lazy, stupid, and actually unable to think by nature, thus creating the negative image of them.

Finally, it is inevitable to ponder upon the "grove of death" and modifications of its description (Heart 70). Two fragments will be examined closely as they seem to be quite controversial in the latest Polish version. When Marlow depicts the place, he exclaims, quite shocked: "The work was going on. The work! And this was the place where some of the helpers had withdrawn to die" (Heart 66). The entire fragment is ghastly and focuses on the cruel and senseless exploitation of the natives, yet in this excerpt there is no indication of them being forced to work. The next paragraph emphasizes that they were "[b]rought from all the recesses of the coast in all the legality of time contracts" (Heart 66). The first translation, as generally is the case, is faithful to Conrad. The modern translation clearly changes the perspective. In the back translation, the second part of the fragment reads: "[t]he grove was the place where the exhausted workers were left to die" (Socha 19). In the original the natives act as the agents--they withdraw on their own. Obviously it is implied that the whites do not provide them with any support, yet it is not overtly stated. In the translation, the agency is omitted by using the passive voice, yet it is strongly hinted that the supervisors leave the blacks to die. Similarly, in the next paragraph, once they became inefficient, they were "allowed to crawl away and rest" (Heart 66). Zagorska provides the reader with almost a word-for-word version, whereas Socha radically modifies the original. According to his interpretation "they became inefficient and as a result were directed/led to the grove [actually the phrase "little forest" is used] 'for a rest'" (Socha 20). Two major changes are discernible: the ironic verb "to allow" becomes "to direct/lead," and the euphemism "to rest" is additionally marked through the use of added inverted commas. These changes powerfully point to the weak (the blacks) versus the strong (the whites) opposition as well as introduce the element of force absent in the original.

From a modern, post-World War II perspective, the modified translation may evoke quite unexpected associations in the Polish reader. The idea of continuous, senseless work coupled with being left to die or led to "rest" evokes the memory of Nazi concentration camps in which the representatives of some races were exploited by another "race" and "rest" equaled death. It is the change of perspective in the narration and the addition of the inverted commas which strengthen the irony of the euphemism and provoke such associations. However, the notion of being led to the forest to "rest" is clearly indicative of Stalinist practices when the Poles were forced to the Katyn Forest, for instance, where they were "put to rest" with a bullet in their heads. These possible associations prompt the idea of planned extermination absent in the original and the first translation, which both focus on exploitation.

To conclude the foregoing analysis, the truism that translation is never identical with the original, or one translation with another, must be again recalled. What the Polish reader receives does not necessarily have to be identical with what Conrad intended since every translation is an interpretation of the work. The interpretations may vary depending on many factors such as the translator's body of knowledge, including genre conventions, the writer's style and literary output, and the literary and linguistic conventions of a given epoch. Personal aspects may also influence the translator's choices. A close look at the two offered translations reveals that they treat the source text differently. Zagorska as much as possible tries to render the original wording faithfully, which sometimes results in unusual structures from the point of view of Polish syntax and usage. Socha exercises much more freedom both with respect to syntax and lexis. This freedom often results in modifying the original text's intention, changing it by motivating associations absent in the novella or amplifying the existing ideas. Although the modern translator does not overuse derogatory lexical items referring to the natives, their very presence in the text is felt quite strongly by the Polish reader unused to interpreting Conrad's text as racist, and thus may be quite shocking. The latest version reads Conrad with modern aesthetics, presenting Marlow as biased both linguistically and intellectually. The Marlow of the beginning of the century is decidedly less verbally aggressive and mentally superior to the Africans.

The 2004 reprint of Heart of Darkness translated by Zagorska, labeled as "school text" and provided with notes, informs the reader that the main issues of the novella focus on the political and social situations: that is, "conditions in the colonies, senseless destruction of the culture and customs of the natives, exploitation of the black people, revealing the real motivation behind 'the civilizing mission' of the whites, that is desire for profit and wealth" (unnumbered page; translation mine). Noticeably, as a text designed for schools, the old translation is chosen rather than the new one published in the same year. Had the Polish students read the version in which the natives are called "czarnuchy" [niggers] or pejoratively "dzikusy" [savages], have animal-like eyes, produce animal-like noise, and additionally "have laziness in their blood" and "are unable to learn from experience," it would be quite difficult to discuss the work in the above-described terms. Perhaps the nation which treats Conrad as national treasure is not quite ready for the racist version of the story. Yet it did appear and potentially may revise the vision of Conrad in Poland. It is hard to evaluate whether the "racial reading" was a conscious strategy of the latest translator since he is not consistent in his choices. Additionally both translations are not error-free, and perhaps occasionally the rendering stems from misinterpreting the original. Nevertheless, the fact remains that the achieved effect is quite different in the two Polish texts. The first one allows for the quoted interpretation; the last one opens the door to discussing Conrad along different lines, far from being equal to Achebe's evaluation, yet potentially questioning Marlow's attitudes towards Africans.

Discussing racist attitudes in Heart of Darkness depends largely on interpretations, and these are often subjective and may border on speculation. Analyzing Conrad's works in vernaculars other than English with respect to racial bias may be potentially unfair to the writer since much of it may be introduced by the translator. The objective evaluation of Conrad in Polish can only be achieved if the translation is seen against the original because what a reader gets is nothing but the personal vision of a particular translator. In the case of Heart of Darkness the two Polish translators went their separate ways. Zagorska evidently did not feel that her cousin, when writing the novella, wanted to exhibit his racial prejudices. Socha turned Conrad into a racist through his treatment of various aspects of the text.


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Author:Kujawska-Lis, Ewa
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Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jun 22, 2008
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