This paper presents a contextual analysis of metaphor translation in literary discourse, with reference to William Gass’s Cartesian Sonata & Other Novellas (New York: Knopf, 1998). Due to its deep formal investigation of language and vivid imagery, this work of fiction raises several interesting issues in its translation. My focus is on the way linguistic metaphors reinforce each other throughout the text and on how they relate–and contribute–to the theme and tone of the whole collection, thus imposing further constraints on their translatability. The Cartesian dualism between mind and matter is exposed and revitalized in metaphorical language. The dense layering of information within innovative metaphors, strategies of foregrounding and the strong musical quality of Gass’s prose require a willingness on the part of the translator to negotiate their cognitive and stylistic significance in the face of the natural asymmetry of languages. In order to articulate this point, some examples have been drawn from my unpublished Italian translation of these novellas.