On the untranslatability of translation: Considerations from Java, Indonesia

Ronit Ricci*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


As is now widely accepted, no single, universal meaning to the idea and practice we usually term translation exists: ideas about, and practices of, rewriting texts have varied greatly across time and place. Aiming to bring this multiplicity of translation practices and theories to light and to contextualize them culturally and historically, this paper explores what translation meant in the literary culture of Java, Indonesia, during the eighteenth through early twentieth centuries. Although Javanese literature contains many works coming from elsewhere, these texts typically do not elaborate on the translation act and often leave out information such as the translator's identity and motives, the source language, and the date and place of translation. I ask why this may have been the case and highlight how, despite this dearth of information, it is possible to begin reconstructing the meanings of translation in Javanese society through a close reading of local translation terminology.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)287-301
Number of pages15
JournalTranslation Studies
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 2010
Externally publishedYes


  • Islam
  • literary culture
  • manuscript
  • translation in Indonesia
  • translation in Java


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