Towards a Translator Criticism: (Mis)translating connections in Alice Munro’s “Too Much Happiness”


  • Anna Antonova MLCS, University of Alberta



Alice Munro, translation, Russian, translators’ agency, translating position


In Towards a Translation Criticism: John Donne, Antoine Berman centers translation analysis on the translator’s personality itself, suggesting the concepts of individual “position,” “project,” and “horizon” as the cornerstones of translation critique. This article will apply Berman’s model to Alice Munro’s short story “Too Much Happiness” and its Russian translation “Слишком много счастья” by Andrey Stepanov. The resulting comparative analysis framework will highlight how a translation project enforcing its inherent biases on the target text may produce a textual product misrepresenting the original and serving imperialist, rather than purely cultural, goals.

Although Munro’s story, based on the life of the Russian mathematician Sophia Kovalevsky, does invite connections between the source and target cultures, the translator’s consistent self-positioning towards the heroine’s gender and nationality leads to profound shifts in meaning. Stepanov’s translation project focuses on asserting his country’s cultural and literary superiority, while revealing his condescending attitude to the female protagonist.

As a result, the Russian translation of “Too Much Happiness” plays up non-essential cultural connections and undermines the author’s critical perspective on the Russian reality. At the same time, the translator’s approach discredits the story’s complex main character and effectively erases the feminist undertones of Munro’s narrative. A careful examination of this case study building on Berman’s critical model problematizes the widely-discussed concept of translator’s agency and emphasizes the importance of comprehensive translator-centered analysis which combines textual and extratextual aspects.