Vol. 54 No. 1 (2016)

Synaesthetic metaphors in translation

Francesca Strik Lievers
Università di Milano-Bicocca

Published 2016-04-19


  • synaesthesia,
  • metaphor,
  • translation


Many studies have been devoted to the analysis of synaesthesia within individual languages, and to the description of properties shared by synaesthetic transfers in different languages. On the contrary, studies on the translation of synaesthesia from one language into another seem to be lacking. This article focuses precisely on this issue. The theoretical discussion is supported by the analysis of the translation of Süskind’s novel Das Parfum, which includes many occurrences of synaesthesia, into three languages.
Through the analysis of relevant examples, it is shown that the choices made by the translators – ranging from word-by-word reproduction of the synaesthesia to its deletion – correlate with the type of synaesthesia to be translated. While for creative synaesthesia (e.g., rundes Parfum) a word-by-word translation usually works, conventional synaesthesia (e.g., scharf ansehen) can be more challenging, and other strategies have to be found. The behaviour of synaesthesia in translation therefore seems to parallel that of other types of metaphors.