Machine Translated Atwood: Utopia or Dystopia?

  • Tjaša Mohar University of Maribor
  • Sara Orthaber University of Maribor
  • Tomaž Onič University of Maribor
Keywords: literary machine translation, literary translation, neural machine translation (NMT), Margaret Atwood, short fiction


Margaret Atwood’s masterful linguistic creativity exceeds the limits of ordinary discourse. Her elliptical language contributes to interpretative gaps, while the ambiguity and openness of her texts intentionally deceive the reader. The translator of Atwood’s texts therefore faces the challenge of identifying the rich interpretative potential of the original, as well as of preserving it in the target language. Witnessing the rise of artificial intelligence, a natural question arises whether a human translator could ever be replaced by a machine in translating such challenging texts. This article aims to contribute to the ongoing debate on literary machine translation by examining the translations of Atwood’s “Life Stories” generated by two neural machine translation (NMT) systems and comparing them to those produced by translation students. We deliberately chose a literary text where the aesthetic value depends mostly on the author’s personal style, and which we had presumed would be problematic to translate.


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How to Cite
MoharT., OrthaberS., & OničT. (2020). Machine Translated Atwood: Utopia or Dystopia?. ELOPE: English Language Overseas Perspectives and Enquiries, 17(1), 125-141.