Ponying the slovos: A parallel linguistic analysis of translations of A Clockwork Orange in English, French, and Spanish

Niall Curry, Jim Clarke, Benet Vincent

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Anthony Burgess’s novella A Clockwork Orange has been translated over fifty times into approximately thirty different languages. A unique feature of the novella is its anti-language, Nadsat. Nadsat poses stylistic and creative challenges for translators, being composed of different categories which draw on different word-formation principles. Building on our own work in the area, in this paper we unpack such challenges through a contrastive analysis of the English original and two of its more popular translations, the French L’Orange Mécanique and the Spanish La Naranja Mecánica,. We investigate Nadsat in each translation, offering a description of the construction of Nadsat across languages, an exploration of how the French and Spanish translators handle the multiplicity of words for ‘women’ in English-Nadsat, and a critical, comparative evaluation of Leal’s and Quijada Vargas’s idiosyncratic approaches to translating Nadsat and the impact their varied approaches have on the novella. Overall, our findings show that corpus approaches can offer data-driven insights into the translation of science fiction texts. Moreover, our formal categorisation of Nadsat items offers a bottom-up, language agnostic approach to categorising Nadsat across languages and our review of the language of women in Nadsat points to the importance of consistency in translation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationScience Fiction in Translation
EditorsIan Campbell
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-84208-6
ISBN (Print)978-3-030-84207-9
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2021

Publication series

NameStudies in Global Science Fiction
ISSN (Print)2569-8826


  • Translation
  • Anthony Burgess
  • A Clockwork Orange
  • Nadsat
  • Parallel corpora

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Language and Linguistics
  • Literature and Literary Theory


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