The Rhetoric of Indirect Translation: Out from the Shadows




indirect translation, directness claims, Russian-English translation flows, modern translation practice


This article seeks to contribute to the growing literature on indirect translation by exploring the phenomenon in the context of twentieth and twenty-first-century Russian-English translation flows. In addition to reflecting transnational networks and the cultural (and linguistic) asymmetries embedded therein, indirect translation became a  defining other of "modern" translation practice, specifically, what Gideon Toury describes as the norm of directness. The first part of the paper investigates the cultural politics of relay translation in reference to two case studies: the one involving the first English translation of Dmitrii Merezhkovskii's Voskresshie bogi [Resurrected Gods], published in the early twentieth century, with Russian as the source language, and the other concerns the first English translation of Georgian dissident Levan Berzenishvili's Gulag memoir Sacred Darkness, with Russian as the intermediary language, published in the early twenty-first century. Both case studies raise the question of the relationship between relay translation and textual integrity while underscoring the persistence of the phenomenon. The second part of the paper explores the rhetoric of indirect translation in Soviet culture, as represented in theoretical works, intelligentsia discourse and works of trans-fiction, that is, fictional works featuring translators and translation. While directness claims in the pre-World War II period were used to define Soviet translation practice as superior to pre-Soviet practice, those claims were deployed in the post-War period to critique the Soviet literary bureaucracy and to expose the hypocrisy behind the official policy of "Friendship of Peoples."

Author Biography

Brian James Baer, Kent State University

Ph.D., Full Professor of Russian and Translation Studies at Kent State University, USA; founding editor of the scientific journal “Translation and Interpreting Studies”; co-editor of the Bloomsbury book series Literatures, Cultures, Translation and of the Routledge book series Translation Studies in Translation; current president of the American Translation and Interpreting Studies Association; member of the International Advisory Board of the Mona Baker Centre for Translation Studies at Shanghai International Studies University.


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How to Cite

Baer, B. J. (2024). The Rhetoric of Indirect Translation: Out from the Shadows. Translation Studies: Theory and Practice, 21–36.



Part I - Keynote Contributions