DOI: 10.18413/2313-8912-2023-9-4-0-4

Strategies of Russian-Spanish translation of gastronomy-related cultural referents in M. Bulgakov's novel The Master and Margarita


The translation of cultural referents has been one of the key topics throughout the history of translation science many traductologists have offered different systematisations of cultural referents, and they have analysed the difficulties that arise from the translation of these referents. Literary translation requires a detailed knowledge and understanding of both languages and cultures involved in order to evaluate the differences that exist and to define elements that will be treated as cultural referents. Later, these lexical units will be translated using specific techniques selected according to a previously established strategy (foreignisation or domestication). In this paper we will study the gastronomy-related cultural referents from “The Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov and offer up proposals for their translation into Spanish. We will also analyse the translations offered up by Amaya Lacasa and Marta Rebón. We believe that the following factors must be considered when translating a cultural referent: the meaning of the cultural referent (preparation, ingredients); its function within the context where it appears (i.e. pragmatic load); how the cultural referent is perceived by readers of the original; the existence or non-existence of a similar cultural referent in the target language and culture. The translation proposals are aimed at a non-specialist reader in the target language. The hypothesis we start out from is that, in most cases, gastronomy-related cultural referents should be domesticated, while a detailed analysis of the parameters related to their usage provides translators with all the necessary resources to understand the author’s intention, enabling them to create a translation that mirrors this intention.

1. Introduction

The translation of words designating elements related to ecology, history, social structure, cultural institutions, the social universe, material culture, linguistic aspects, and humor (Igareda, 2011) that are specific to the culture of the source language of a text and that do not exist in the culture of the target language is one of the key issues in translation studies. This matter has attracted the attention of many traductologists. Since these lexical units are determined by geographic and historical factors, defining important cultural and linguistic peculiarities of different nations, they have always presented a challenge in literary translation (Marcelo, 2003). Unknown or misunderstood elements break the continuity of the narration and affect how a text is perceived (Baker, 1992). Moreover, the translation of cultural referents referring to lifestyle, customs, politics, food, art, etc. is an essential tool for establishing cultural identities which may facilitate or hinder intercultural communication.

A large number of different terms have been used within the different scientific currents to refer to these units, such as realia (Vlakhov and Florin, 1980), culturemes (Vermeer, 1983; Nord, 1997; Oksaar, 1988; Molina, 2001, 2006; Luque, 2009), cultural referents//referente cultural (Cartajena, 1998; Santamaría, 2000, 2001), cultural reference//referencia cultural (Mayoral, 1999-2000; Granada school), culture-specific items (Franco, 1996), cultural elements//elementos culturales (Agost, 1999), national realia//национальная реалия (Tarasenko and Quero, 2021), cultural terms (Calvi, 2006), culture-loaded words (Newmark, 1988), culture specific concepts (Baker, 1992), culturally marked segments (Mayoral and Muñoz, 1997). While substantial conceptual differences regarding these terms exist among authors, linguistic schools, and currents (functionalism, cognitivism, pragmatics, structuralism), the uniqueness of each object, its close relation to the original language and the difficulties involved in its rendering its specific meaning into target languages is agreed on by all.

Some authors differentiate between each object and its naming word using the technique established by Cartagena (1998), who distinguished between specific cultural referents (objects) and specific cultural names (words), Nord (1997) separated culturema (subject) from the culture-marker (word), and Alesina and Vinogradov differentiated between two meanings of the word realia: the objects of material and spiritual culture that are typical of certain national communities (ethnic groups) and the words that name these objects, which can be referred to with the term "lexical unit without equivalent" (Alesina and Vinogradov, 1993: 43).

Mayoral and Muñoz (1997) introduced two key parameters: the focus (the information system of the culture of the original or the culture of the term) and the emphasis (the expectations of a potential reader of the translated text which the translation needs to satisfy). Calvi used the concept of cultural terms to refer to both linguistic units without referents in other cultures and culturally loaded concepts expressed with common words (Calvi, 2006: 67). In spite of the fact that globalisation has brought different cultures closer to each other, this closeness is not uniform. Thus, while English-speaking culture has penetrated Spanish and Italian cultures (Mayoral, 1985: 2-3), Russian culture, though not totally alien, is much less present in Spanish society, meaning that a special approach is required when information is provided to non-specialist readers. “The fact that for any case and for any moment, translation mixes two or more cultures (we should not forget the phenomenon, which is far from unusual, of mediated second-hand translations. i.e. translations of translations) implies an unstable balance of power, a balance which will depend to a great extent on the relative weight of the exporting culture as it is felt in the receiving culture” (Franco, 1996: 52). In some cases, it may be difficult to determine whether, and to what extent, a certain cultural referent represents only one culture, so the concept of cultural referents should be studied within the framework of the existing relationship between the cultures involved in the translation process and the standardised knowledge of the culture of the original text that readers of the target language may possess (Tarasenko and Quero, 2021).

Based on this idea, we define the term cultural referent as an element typical of the culture of the original language of the text that possesses a cultural load and transfers information that is generally known to the speakers of the original language and unknown to a non-specialist reader of the target language. These can be typical elements of the original culture, as well as elements adopted from other cultures that may or may not reflect the original standardised concept (see Tarasenko and Quero, 2021: 115).

Using the initial analysis of a cultural referent, a translator creates a strategy for transferring these units into the target language, i.e. foreignisation (which preserves the unique features of the original text, and which usually requires additional effort from the readers), or domestication (which replaces the foreign elements with others that are better known in the receiving culture so that the text is easier to understand) (Venuti, 1994). The choice of a translation strategy also means the choice of a translation technique. Translation theory presents different classifications of translation techniques Newmark (1988), Franco (1996), Agost (1999), Molina and Hurtado (2002), Molina (2006). Hurtado defines translation technique as a “procedure and a visible translation result used to achieve translation equivalence in textual microunits that is applied in both functional and dynamic modes, and which can be classified by comparing the translation with the discursive, contextual and functional nature of the original” (Hurtado, 2001: 308).

While establishing a strategy for rendering cultural elements into another language is fundamental for ensuring the correct understanding of a literary text, the decision about which strategy can be used should be carried out using two principles: a non-specialist reader's knowledge of the culture of the source language and the function of the cultural referents analysed in a text. In our study, we start out from the premise that the target audience are non-specialist readers without any special knowledge of the Russian language, culture, or history. Our objective is to analyse the renderings of the gastronomy-related cultural referents in The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov from Russian into Spanish suggested by Amaya Lacasa (1967) and Marta Rebón (2014) and establish a relation between translators’ strategies and translation techniques that were applied (see Wotjak, 1981; Hurtado, 2001; Franco, 1996). We also offer alternative translation strategies and techniques that we believe are the most appropriate for the cultural referents under study, and we provide explanations to back up our choices.

Without disputing the predominant and even peremptory nature of the strategy of foreignisation in the field of literary translation, we propose the use of the strategy of domestication whenever possible to promote understanding of a text, minimising any chance that the spirit of the original will be lost.

2. Methodology

The main objective of this paper is to analyse strategies and techniques for transferring cultural referents from The Master and Margarita from Russian into Spanish. To this end, we have created a parallel corpus that contains all the gastronomy-related elements from the novel under study, the translations suggested by Amaya Lacasa (1967) and Marta Rebón (2014), and our own translations. For each translation, we describe the applied translation strategy and technique applied and analyse the advantages and disadvantages of their use. The analysis performed allows a classification of different cultural referents to be created, and it offers up the most viable translations based on type and function.

The corpus uses the following structure: first we define the type and meaning of each cultural referent, then we address the function of each referent within the text and how they are perceived by readers in the original language; after that we analyse previous translations into Spanish, and finally we suggest our own solutions, with our primary objective being to convey the spirit of the original and facilitate the correct interpretation of each referent. We start out from the premise that literary texts have a triple function: information, esthetics, and entertainment, and this drives translators to look for a balance that allows readers of the target text to perceive it in the same way as it is perceived by the readers of the original text.

3. The Master and Margarita by M. Bulgakov

Bulgakov’s The Master and Margarita is a unique masterpiece that addresses a number of different issues ranging from politics and psychology to religion and romance (Kuraev, 2019). Despite its linear organisation, the novel offers three apparently separate storylines: the dramatic life of the “master” and his lover Margarita; the life of the fifth governor of the Roman province Pontius Pilate, which is also the plot of the master’s novel; and the Devil’s visit to 1930s Moscow. Although the storylines are separated by time, space, and stylistic and thematic patterns (while Master’s novel about Pontius Pilate is written in a depersonalised narration, the Moscow chapters contain many comments and digressions made by the author), the unity of its literary genre is visible in analogies made at the  macro compositional level of the plot, the characters, and the narrative collisions (Lesskis, 1979). Yanovskaia (2013) mentioned that certain symbols, such as storms, moonlight, poison, roses, etc. are present in both the Moscow chapters and the evangelical ones. Different storylines and characters are intertwined, and they have a deep underlying connection that complement each other. For example, the extravagance of the Moscow chapters functions as a background to the evangelical chapters, allowing an appreciation of their melodiousness to be enjoyed.

Major parallels between the main characters of different storylines also exist. For example, both Master and Pontius Pilate sympathise with Yeshua Ha-Nozri, however, for different reasons, they do hardly anything to defend him and his cause. Both of them end up paying a high price for their cowardice: Pontius Pilate is forced to abandon his brilliant political career and Master lives out his days in an asylum. At the same time, a vivid description of the “white cloak with a blood-red lining” suggests a certain connection between Pontius Pilate and Woland. Symbols such as the moon, poison, roses, storms, etc. are present in both the Moscow and evangelical chapters.

Due to the phantasmagoric nature of The Master and Margarita, many literary critics consider Bulgakov to be the founder of magic realism (see Mychko-Megrin, 2007). However, universal questions of love, fate, truth, and faith are deeply connected with the Soviet reality and Moscow of the 1930s. Not only do the detailed, almost encyclopedic descriptions of the city and its lifestyle give credibility to the narration, they also provide a necessary contrast to the surrealistic events related to the appearance of the Devil.

Food, as well as clothing and household items form the framework of everyday life in every society. In Bulgakov’s novel, the most picturesque scenes of the consumption of food appear in Chapters 5 (at Griboyedov’s restaurant) and Chapter 7 (the spontaneous banquet at Styopa’s apartment), but we can also find mentions of various dishes and foodstuffs in other parts of the novel (pelmeni in Chapter IX, brynza in Chapter XVIII, etc.).

4. Gastronomy-related cultural referents in The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov and their translation into Spanish

Although cultural referents define concepts with precise characteristics that could be considered as units of terminology, when rendered into other languages considerable variations can appear, and this requires meticulous analysis. The following parameters are taken into consideration when translating the gastronomy-related cultural referents from The Master and Margarita:

  • the meaning of the cultural equivalent (preparation, ingredients);
  • its function within the context where it appears, i.e. pragmatic load;
  • the perception of the cultural referent by readers of the original text;
  • the existence or non-existence of a similar cultural referent in the target language and culture.

Searching for an optimal solution, we have divided all the possible translation techniques into two groups: those that tend to maintain the unique linguistic and cultural features of the original to enrich the target text (foreignising techniques), and those that are used to make the text more comprehensible and appealing to readers by minimising linguistic and cultural conflicts (domesticating techniques) (Carr, 2013; Shananina, 2021; Tarasenko and Quero, 2021).

Тhe translation techniques suggested by Franco (1996) and Hurtado (2001) that are used in this paper are defined below.

Foreignising techniques:

  1. orthographic adaptation: change of graphic and/or phonetic form of a word in conformity with the rules of the target language (Franco, 1996: 61);
  2. linguistic borrowing: use of a word or expression from another language as is (without modification). Linguistic borrowings can be pure (with no changes) or naturalised using transliteration (Hurtado, 2001: 271);
  3. linguistic (non-cultural) translation: word-for-word translation of a syntagm or expression (Franco, 1996: 61);
  4. сalque: word-by-word translation of foreign syntagms or expressions on lexical or structural levels (Hurtado, 2001: 270);
  5. intratextual gloss: explanation within the body of the text that is not perceived by readers as an additional fragment that did not exist in the original text. The main function of in-text notes is to provide clarification in case there could be any ambiguity (Franco, 1996: 62);
  6. extratextual gloss: explanations, descriptions, or comments added by the translator to solve potential misinterpretation problems. Extratextual notes can appear as footnotes, in parentheses, or in brackets (Franco, 1996: 62);

Domesticating techniques:

  1. adaptation: substitution of a cultural referent with a similar well-known concept in the target culture (Hurtado, 2001: 269);
  2. linguistic extension: use of additional lexical elements (Hurtado, 2001: 269);
  3. linguistic compression: the opposite of linguistic extension (Hurtado, 2001: 270);
  4. amplification: introduction of elements that make the meanings formulated in the original more precise (Hurtado, 2001: 269);
  5. deletion: the opposite of amplification (Hurtado, 2001: 270);
  6. description: substitution of a term or expression with the description of its form or function (Hurtado, 2001: 270);
  7. coined equivalent: use of a term or expression that is considered (in dictionaries or through common use) as an equivalent of the original term in the target language (Hurtado, 2001: 270);
  8. generalisation: use of terms that are more generic or neutral than the original one (Hurtado, 2001: 270);
  9. particularisation: the opposite of generalisation (Hurtado, 2001: 271).

Since translation techniques can overlap, and some words can have several viable translations, our objective is to analyse the advantages and disadvantages of using different strategies and options. We aim to make the readers of the translation respond in the same way as those who read the original text. In order to achieve this goal, we need to seek a balance between the use of foreignising and domesticating techniques while also ensuring that the novel can be comprehensively understood.

The translations offered up by Amaya Lacasa and Marta Rebón and some of our own solutions for rendering the same referents into Spanish are presented below. The strategy and technique used for each solution is defined according to the translation techniques described above.

The gastronomy-related cultural referents can be divided into three major groups:

  1. Elements that belong to the culture of the original and possess cultural loads that could be known or unknown by the contemporary speakers of the original language, and in most cases unknown to non-specialist readers of the target language.

A1. Referents that are rarely known, even by native speakers of the original language, and most certainly unknown to foreign readers;

A2. Referents that are known to native speakers and mostly unknown to non-specialist readers, but whose correct interpretation is not required in order to follow the storyline;

A3. Referents that are known to native speakers and unknown to non-specialist readers. The particular characteristics (well-known in the Russian-speaking community) of these referents and their pragmatic loads in the text, are important for a certain scene or dialogue to be correctly interpreted, and, therefore, they need to be explained to foreign readers;

  1. Referents that have been adapted/borrowed from other cultures and maintain the forms of the original language (in many cases French), and may or may not correspond to an initial standardised perception.
  2. Referents, which do not possess any recognisable cultural load that could be significant when translated, but which are used much more widely in the source language than in the target language. These elements may not be perceived as cultural referents; however, it is important to consider the differences in their use and perception in the original and target languages.

We now turn to the translation of the types described above:

  1. Elements that belong to the culture of the original and possess cultural loads that could be known or unknown by the contemporary speakers of the original language, and in most cases unknown to non-specialist readers of the target language.

A1. Referents that are rarely known, even to native speakers of the original language and most certainly unknown to foreign readers.

The examples of such referents are карский, a shahlik or shish-kebab made of big slabs of meat which is typical in the Kara sea region, and фляки господарские, a dense Polish soup served in soup plates or bowls that contains bible tripe, meat bone broth, roots, and spices:

Карский раз! Зубрик два! Фляки господарские!”

“Uno de Karski, dos de Zubrik, Fliaki gospodárskiye” (Lacasa, 1967: 77)

“¡Un shashlik del mar de Kara, dos zubrovkas, un estofado fliaczki!” (Rebón, 2014: 90)

This shows that when rendering the terms into Spanish, the translators have chosen different solutions. Lacasa has opted for linguistic borrowings (“karski” and “fliaki gospodárskiye”) in both cases to reflect the exoticism of the dishes. However, it is possible that this was not the author’s objective; moreover, since the terms constitute more than 50% of the sentence, their exotic touch negatively interferes with the flow of the text. Meanwhile, Rebón has opted for a description (which also includes the use of a borrowed foreign term “shashlik”) in one case and a somewhat reduced linguistic borrowing “fliaczki” accompanied by an explanation (“estofado”) in the other. This decision raises two interesting issues: whether detailed explanations actually provide readers with more information than that held by contemporary Russian-speaking readers of the original text, and whether it is acceptable to introduce additional lexical units into a scene that is supposed to be very dynamic.

Our suggestions are:

To render the concept карский into Spanish, we opt for a domesticating strategy applied on two levels: the use of word brocheta to indicate the mode of preparation with the addition of either an in-text note to makes an allusion to the origin of the dish “Brochetas de carne típicas de la region de Kara” (brochettes of meat typical of the Kara region) or a generalization “brochetas de carne” (skewer of meat). To render фляки господарские into Spanish, we use a domesticating technique with the description “estofado de tripas de vaca” (beef tripe stew) that can be accompanied by the translation of the adjective господарские, “al estilo señorial” (majestic style).

A2. Referents that are known to native speakers and mostly unknown to foreign readers, but whose correct interpretation is not required in order to follow the storyline.

This group is represented by the referents борщ, a soup made of fresh beets, beef shank, onions, carrots, potatoes, cabbage, and dill, topped with sour cream, and балык (balyk), cured parts of oily fish (usually sturgeon or salmon) that are very well-known in Russia, but not necessary in Spain.

… в ней, в гуще огненного борща, находится то, чего вкуснее нет в мире – мозговая кость.

… en el medio del “borsh” en llamas había algo de lo más apetitoso, un hueso con tuétano. (Lacasa, 1967: 126)

… en medio del ardiente y espeso borsch, se encontraba algo de lo más suculento del mundo: un hueso con tuétano. (Rebón, 2014: 143)

In this fragment the narrator describes a meal that is typically served served at a Soviet feast.  Both translators have decided to foreignise the concept борщ by employing linguistic borrowing via orthographic adaptation. However, in our opinion this dish is not commonly known by speakers of the target language, so we have suggested foreignising it, and we leave  it as borsch (since this is a reference that could be a part of the knowledge held by a non-specialist reader). The concept could also be domesticated with the description, “sopa de remolacha” (beetroot soup).

вынул <> два увесистых балыка

… sacó <…> dos pesados lomos de esturión (Lacasa, 1967: 437)

… sacó <…> dos pesados lomos de esturión (Rebón, 2014: 457)

Чембудупотчевать? Балычокимеюособенный...

– ¿A qué les invito? Tengo un lomo de esturión especial… (Lacasa, 1967: 435)

– ¿Qué puedo servirles? Tengo un lomo de esturión curado muy especial… (Rebón, 2014: 455).

This referent is used by one of the secondary characters (Archibald Archibaldovich) who boasts of having procured a special treat for his guests. Both translators have opted for the domesticating technique, and the only difference between their solutions is that Marta Rebón has added a linguistic extension by adding a characteristic with the referent “curado”. Similarly, we have translated it as “lomo de esturión” (sturgeon loin) or “filete de esturión” (sturgeon fillet).

A3. Referents that are known to native speakers and unknown to non-specialist readers. The particular characteristics (well-known in the Russian-speaking community) and their pragmatic load in the text, are important for a certain scene or dialogue to be correctly interpreted, and, therefore, they need to be explained to foreign readers.

Finally, the referents with important connotations that are relevant for the storyline are паюсная икра (pressed caviar), black sturgeon caviar pickled in warm brine and pressed into a dense mass. It has a full-bodied flavour and is considered a delicacy; брынза (brynza), a kind of soft pickled cheese made of sheep’s or goat’s milk, which is  bright white and has a salty flavour, and, unlike hard cheeses that are matured, it should be eaten fresh; пельмени (pelmeni), a traditional Russian dish, which  is comprised of a thin flatbread wrapped around a minced meat filling.

… на коем имеется нарезанный белый хлеб, паюсная икра в вазочке, белые маринованные грибы на тарелочке…

… con pan blanco cortado en trozos, caviar negro en un plato, setas blancas en vinagre… (Lacasa, 1967: 99)

… había pan blanco cortado en rebanadas, caviar prensado en un recipiente de cristal, un platito de setas blancas marinadas… (Rebón, 2014: 112)

The dish паюсная икра also forms part of the feast mentioned above and it is believed to be well-known, at least among Russian-speaking readers. One of its components, икра (caviar), is universally popular and does not require any additional explanation, while another, паюсная (pressed), references how it is presented. Amaya Lacasa has used a generalisation, “caviar negro” (black caviar), while Marta Rebón has opted for a linguistic translation, “caviar prensado”. Considering that this dish is much less typical in Spain, “caviar negro” seems to be more suitable for readers of the translation.

However, pressed caviar is of a lower quality, since it is made of a raw material that is considered unsuitable for the production of black caviar. This means that the author could have been making a subtle reference to the scarcity of high-quality products on the Soviet food-market. If this were true, using the functional analogue, “sucedáneo de caviar” (caviar substitute) would reflect this intention.

«В числе прочего было потрясающее по своей художественной силе описание похищения пельменей, уложенных непосредственно в карман пиджака, в квартире №31…»

“Había también una descripción, impresionante por su fuerza plástica, del robo de unos raviolis, expresamente colocados en el bolsillo de una chaqueta; esto había sucedido en el apartamento número 31…” (Lacasa, 1967: 19)

“Había también una descripción – sorprendente por su fuerza artística – del robo de unos pelmeni, metidos directamente en el bolsillo de una chaqueta, en el apartamento No 31” (Rebón, 2014: 136)

In this example, two important characteristics of the product пельмени, should be mentioned which might be unknown even to the target readers of the translation who can easily relate these characteristics to Russian cuisine. Firstly, pelmeni contain raw meat, which means that they need to be kept in a refrigerator; secondly, they are very simple, cheap processed products. However, the character chose to “safeguard” them in a pocket of his jacket, which creates a comic effect, since pelmeni are supposed to have very little monetary value, and, in addition, they would most probably go off after a day a day without refrigeration.

Amaya Lacasa has opted for the domestication technique for this concept by using an analogue with similar functions via adaptation “raviolis”, and Marta Rebón has chosen a foreignising solution, namely, linguistic borrowing “pelmeni”. Although we agree, in general terms, with the choice suggested by Amaya Lacasa, we consider that a dish from Italian cuisine might not fit the context. Thus, we prefer to use the adaptation “albóndigas”, as we believe that the translation should reflect the fact that this dish is made out of meat in order to preserve the comicality of the original scene.

Брынза не бывает зеленого цвета, это вас кто-то обманул. Eй полагаетсябытьбелой.

El queso de oveja nunca es verde, alguien le ha engañado. Suele ser blanco. (Lacasa, 1967: 254)

El brynza nunca es verde, alguien le ha estafado. Ese queso de oveja debe ser blanco. (Rebón, 2014: 274)

To understand this dialogue, readers need to know that брынза is a perishable product and if its color is anything other than white, it is a sign that it is no longer fresh. Basically, this means that the “green” брынза at the canteen had pretty much gone off and was and definitely not edible. However, as we can see, neither of the solutions suggested highlights this connotation, which is needed to understand the humorous side of the situation. In order to compensate for this lack of background knowledge, we suggest translating it as “queso blanco fresco”, which would provide many options for recreating the comic effect of the original scene: something green is offered as “white cheese”, which obviously doesn’t fit.

  1.  Referents that have been adapted/borrowed from other cultures and maintain the forms of the original language (in many cases French) and may or may not correspond to an initial standardized perception.

There are examples of dishes from European cuisine (mostly, French) that modern Europeans are expected to be as familiar with, as Russian-speaking readers of the original text One of these dishes is суп-претаньер (also весенний суп), a French “spring” soup made of vegetables and beef broth which is known as soupe printanière in French cuisine; another is котлеты де-воляй (also known in Russia as котлеты по-киевски), сutlets made from chicken fillet wrapped around cold butter and coated with breadcrumbs; and яйцo-кокотт, an egg baked in a special way on a bed of vegetables, mushrooms, cheese, chicken, bacon, etc.

Since potential Spanish readers probably have the same background knowledge of French cuisine as Russian-speaking readers, the most obvious solution seems to be a reconstruction of the French words in their original orthography (since Spanish and French share the Latin alphabet), or an adaptation of the French word in examples when the dish in question is known in Spanish culture under a certain name.

… на чистейшей скатерти тарелочка супа-прентаньер?

… un platito de soup printempnière. (Lacasa, 1967: 73)

… un plato de soup printanière. (Rebón, 2014: 87)

Both translators have opted for the French version of the referent via a kind of orthographic adaptation, although the graphic expressions do not comply with the rules of French orthography. We consider that both foreignising and domesticating solutions are viable here: soupe printanière, which maintains the original French orthography, or a description “una sopa fría de verdura” (chilled vegetable soup) or “una sopa francesa fría de verdura” (Chilled French vegetable soup).

В самом деле, не пропадать же куриным котлетам де-воляй?

Realmente, ¿se iban a desperdiciar los filetes volaille de pollo? (Lacasa, 1967: 78)

En realidad, ¿qué sentido tenía echar a perder esos filetes de volaille? (Rebón, 2014: 91)

Here, both translators have used a mixed technique that combines the domestication of the first part, котлета (translated as “filete”), and the foreignisation of the second part, volaille using the French graphic expression that is related to how it is prepared. The only difference is that Amaya Lacasa has clearly indicated the type of meat used, while Marta Rebón has not included this detail. We suggest two possible options: an example of foreignising linguistic borrowing cotelettes de volaille, which maintains a graphic connection with the original French referent, or a domesticating description “filetes de pollo empanados rellenos de finas hierbas” (breaded chicken fillets with a herb filling).

… а яйца-кокотт с шампиньоновым пюре в чашечках?

¿… y los huevos-cocotte con puré de champiñón en tacitas? (Lacasa, 1967: 73)

¿… y los huevos al plato con puré de champiñones en tacitas? (Rebón, 2014: 86)

This dish is another adaptation of French cuisine that can either be domesticated as “huevos al plato” (as suggested by Marta Rebón) or kept in French as oeuf cocotte. Since it is occasionally called “huevos en cocotte” in Spanish, we could also consider using this term.

… будут порционные судачки а натюрель.

… van a tener sudak a la carta au naturel. (Lacasa, 1967: 72)

… habrá lubinaau naturel. (Rebón, 2014: 86)

Судачки а натюрель are fillets of pike perch cooked with vegetables in a ceramic pot that seals in their natural flavour. The sanderlucioperca” is quite popular in Russian cuisine, which includes lots of dishes prepared with freshwater fish, but it is not very commonly eaten in Spain. Amaya Lacasa has opted for a foreignising technique that uses linguistic borrowing accompanied by a linguistic extension “a la carta” (à la carte) while Marta Rebón has used a mixed technique: an adaptation, “lubina” for sudak, based on the similarities between the two fish combined with the French element “au naturel” which is supposed to highlight the luxury and exclusivity of the dish. We suggest two domesticating options: one is to use a functional analogue “lucio al natural” and the other is to domesticate it by using a description accompanied by a linguistic extension “lucio en su jugo con menestra de verduras”.

However, if we allude to the fact that the dishes served at the Soviet restaurant are quite different from the original ones, we can use a strategy that disfigures the original French words (which is the technique used by the author of the original), and add “a la” to emphasise that it is merely a local version: “una sopa a la printanier”, “filetes de pollo empanados a la volaile”; “huevos a la cocote”, “lucio al natural”. This decision can be justified by the fact that Bulgakov also used disfigured French expressions in other contexts (for example, “Герлэн, шанель номер пять, мицуко, нарсис нуар, вечерние платья, платья коктейль...”).

  1. Referents, which do not possess any recognisable cultural loads that can be significant when translated, but which are used much more widely in the source language than in the target language. These elements may not be perceived as cultural referents; however, it is important to consider the differences in their use and perception in the original and target languages.

Finally, there are certain dishes that do not possess any significant recognisable cultural loads, but which are used much more widely in the source language than in the target language. Examples of these dishes are перепела по-генуэзски (pan-roasted quail served with a cayenne pepper sauce); филейчики из дроздов с трюфелями (fillets of thrush with truffles); дупеля (great snipes), гаршнепы (jack snipe), бекасы (common snipe вальдшнепы (woodcock), кулики (snipes), сижки (small white fish), судачки (pike perch; устрица (oysters), горчица (mustard); сосиски в томате (sausages in tomato sauce), etc.

А филейчики из дроздов вам не нравились? С трюфелями? Перепела по-генуэзски?
¿Y no le gustan los filetitos de mirlo con trufas? ¿Y las codornices a la genovesa? (Lacasa, 1967: 81)

¿Y los filetitos de mirlo, ¿no le gustan? ¿Con trufas? ¿Y las codornices a la genovesa? (Rebón, 2014: 86)

Both translators have opted for the domestication strategy for the original dishes. However, the original dish is not quail (mirlo), but rather a song thrush (zorzal) that belongs to the Turdidae family, and it is widely known in Russia and Spain as a game dish. Consequently, we have suggested a foreignising solution that can be achieved with a linguistic translation “filetitos de zorzal” (quail fillets). For перепела по-генуэзски we have suggested two options: a foreignising calque “codornices a la genovesa” and a domesticating description with a linguistic extension “codornices a la sartén con salsa de cayena”, which alludes to the Spanish tradition of quail consumption.

Что ваши сижки, судачки! А дупеля, гаршнепы, бекасы, вальдшнепы по сезону, перепела, кулики?   

¡Me río yo de sus tímalos y de su sudak! ¿Y Los chorlitos de la época, las chochas, las perdices, las estarnas y las pitorros? (Lacasa, 1967: 73)

¡Me río yo de sus tímalos y de sus lubinas! ¿Y las becadas, las chochas, las perdices, las becacinas de la temporada, las codornices y los chorlitos? (Rebón, 2014: 87)

This example contains a sequence of various types of birds and fish that happen to be much better known in the original culture than in the target one. Some of them are recognisable to Spanish readers (перепела, судачки), while others are not (сижки, дупеля, гаршнепы, бекасы, вальдшнепы, кулики). Marta Rebón has used a mixed technique that involves the domestication of some concepts (for example, “lubina” for судак) and the foreignisation of others using calque. Amaya Lacasa has foreignised the term sudak using orthographic adaptation, and she has linguistic translations for the rest. Our suggestion is to use a mixed technique, that is, to domesticate сиг by using the adaptation “salmón” and to foreignise the rest of the terms: ¡Y qué hay de los sus salmones y lucios! Agachadizas reales y chicas, gallinagos y gallinuelas de temporada, codornices y chorlitos.

In this example, our aim is to use the names of the birds that are most recognisable to Spanish readers, while adapting those that are less well known by using the names of the birds of the same species that function as hypernyms and produce a similar effect.

Finally, in some cases, linguistic translation is the most natural option, as the dish or its ingredients are universally known and identifiable by the readers of the target text:

… и в то же время смотрела, как Бегемот намазывает горчицейустрицу.

… mirar a Popotá, que untaba de mostaza una ostra (Lacasa, 1967: 343)

… observaba a Behemot untar una ostra con mostaza (Rebón, 2014: 366)

Открыликастрюлювней оказалисьсосискивтомате.

Destaparon la cacerola, que resultó contener salchichas con salsa de tomate. (Lacasa, 1967: 99)

Destaparon la cazuelita, que resultó contener salchichas con tomate. (Rebón, 2014: 112)

5. Conclusions

In this paper we have analysed the translations of the gastronomy-related cultural referents from The Master and Margarita by Bulgakov. The cultural referents have been divided into the following groups: referents that possess  cultural loads (that may be known or unknown outside the original culture); referents borrowed from other cultures; referents whose cultural loads are  derived from how much speakers of the language of origin use and know them, which is very different from that of readers of the target language.

We have defined the concept of cultural referents based on the existing relation between the cultures of the original texts and the translated ones, the standardised knowledge of the original culture and the nature of the elements possessed by a non-specialist reader of the target text. Based on this approach we have analysed the cultural referents and established parameters that need to be considered when translating them, that is, the strategy (domestication or foreignisation) and the translation technique applied once each cultural referent has been analysed. We have shown that a detailed study of the cultural referents and the parameters associated with their usage provide translators with a better understanding of the concept and intentionality of the original text, as well as offering resources for the creation of a target text that will be perceived in the same manner as the original. In our opinion, in general, gastronomy-related referents within the text being analysed require domesticating solutions (adaptation, extension, description, or generalisation) that allow a smooth style to be maintained and a better understanding to be provided. However, it is also possible to use foreignising solutions (calque, linguistic translation) accompanied by in-text explanation notes in certain examples when the referents have been borrowed from a third culture. This domestication is particularly important when dealing with the gastronomy-related cultural referents analysed here. We consider that correctly domesticating these referents that are unfamiliar to a non-specialised reader of the target language makes the text easier to understand and easier to read. This can be achieved in a way that ensures that none of the text’s original essence being lost.


Corpus Materials

Bulgákov, M. A. (1967). El maestro y Margarita, Transl. by  Amaya Lacasa, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, Spain. (In Spanish)

Bulgákov, M. A. (2014). El maestro y Margarita, Transl. by Marta Rebón, Nevski prospekt, Madrid, Spain. (In Spanish)

Bulgakov, М. A. (2018). Master i Margarita [Master and Margarita], Azbuka, Azbuka-Attikus, Saint Petersburg, Russia. (In Russian)



Bulgakov M. A. El maestro y Margarita, Transl. by  Amaya Lacasa, Alianza Editorial, Madrid, 1967. 528 p.

Bulgakov M. A. El maestro y Margarita, Transl. by  Marta Rebón, Nevsky prospects, Madrid, 2014. 576 p.

Булгаков М. A. Мастер и Маргарита. СПб.: Азбука, Азбука-Аттикус, 2018. 480 с.

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