Hermeneutics as a Route to Translating Auditory Aspects of Emotion in Silvina Ocampo’s Fictional Worlds: An Analysis of “Okno, el esclavo”


  • Silvina Katz
  • Séverine Hubscher-Davidson




Ocampo, Atmosphere, Soundscapes, Emotion, Translation


Hermeneutical translation studies is increasingly interested in how interpretation works (Robinson 2020), and interpretation in the context of translation is inextricably linked to issues of understanding. As Hermans (2015) notes, the hermeneutic endeavour springs from a desire to understand, but the practice of gaining that understanding is an art. In fact, he remarks that translation occupies the most challenging end of the hermeneutic spectrum, in part due to the complexity inherent in voicing an understanding across languages. In addition to verbalisation, however, understanding in this context can also refer to hearing, and to having heard a text in its fullest sense. Indeed, Toolan (2016/2018: 250) suggests that written stories are “incompletely appreciated if the sounds and rhythms of their language are not registered, along with any implied meanings those sounds prompt readers to derive.” The auditory dimension of written texts thus seems an essential component of literary translation, whereby the translator must be able to hear, feel, and identify emotional aspects elicited from reading. As Bernofsky (2013: 229) highlights, a translator should hear a text’s heartbeat in the cadences of its phrases. Drawing on the affective literature in Translation Studies (e.g. Hubscher-Davidson 2017; Koskinen 2020; Robinson 1991), this chapter will explore the emotion-eliciting auditory aspects in Argentinian writer Silvina Ocampo’s haunting short story “Okno, el esclavo” (1988/2014). Combining close reading and computer-aided qualitative data analysis, salient characteristics will be discussed that provoke sound sensations (noise, music, silences) contributing to the story’s emotional impact and reader experience. In this way, it becomes possible to understand the translator’s daunting cognitive and affective task when (re)interpreting the soundscape of Ocampo’s atmospheric worlds.