art-poetry by Colin Campbell Robinson

Image

the dogen variations are inspired by Dogen’s Eihei Koroku

dogen 1dogen 2dogen 3

dogen 4dogen 5dogen 6

dogen 7

dogen 8

dogen 9dogen 10dogen 11dogen 12dogen 13

dogen 14

Colin Campbell Robinson is an Australian writer and photographer currently living and working in the Celtic extremity of Kernow. Recently his work has appeared in Otoliths, BlazeVox 15, Ink, Sweat and Tears, Futures Trading, E-ratio, and Molly Bloom 11 among others. Knives Forks and Spoons Press will be publishing his collection Blue Solitude – a self-portrait in six scenarios in January 2017.

Imaginations of Translation

Guest book review by Paschalis Nikolaou

Transfiction: Research into the Realities of Translation FictionEdited by Klaus Kaindl and Karlheinz Spitzl.

Early on in this exciting collection of essays originating from the 1st International Conference on Fictional Translators in Literature and Film, held in September 2011 at the University of Vienna, one of the editors, Klaus Kaindl, registers why we now see so much evidence of the age-old relationship between translation and writing creatively: a ‘transposition from the textual to the social sphere turned translation into a key concept for describing social processes, particularly of today’s globalization’ (p. 2); before agreeing with Dirk Delabatista that we are now dealing with a ‘master metaphor’. This volume is a thorough investigation into the use of ‘translation-related phenomena’ in fiction, and at the same time draws on an impressive range of theoretical work in translation studies and beyond – including Susan Bassnett, Sherry Simon, Michael Cronin and not least previous publications, such as the 2005 special issue of Linguistica Antverpiensa on ‘Fictionalizing Translation and Multilingualism’. What becomes very clear, very soon, is that a lot has been written since Cervantes and Borges, and that through books published just in the past decade by authors like Leila Aboulela, Jacques Gélat, Jean Paul Fosset, Hans-Ulrich Möhring, Olivier Balazuc and Jean Kwok, a ‘translational identity’ is not merely poignantly understood, but intensified in reflection.

The volume itself playfully contributes to the contexts it engages, from the motto (All characters appearing in this work are fictitious. Any resemblance to real persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental) to the four sections being called ‘episodes’ (‘Entering theoretical territories’, ‘Travelling through sociocultural space’, ‘Experiencing agency and action’, ‘Carrying function into effect’). Given the nature of the thing investigated, a dizzying choice of methodological approaches and perspectives naturally transcends the editors’ attempts at orienting the reader: in fact, Transfiction can be best savoured at the level of individual chapter titles: Brian James Baer considers ‘Interpreting Daniel Stein: Or what happens when fictional translators get translated’ (pp. 157-175); Marija Todorova looks into both novelistic and autobiographical accounts in ‘Interpreting conflict: Memories of an interpreter’ (pp. 221-231); Alice Cesarini observes a ‘Magical mediation: The role of translation and interpreting in the narrative world of Harry Potter’ (pp. 329-344). 

And the other nineteen essays contribute to the extensive use of those ‘frames of reference’ (extratextual and intratextual levels, and no less than five different ‘narrative functional categories’) that Kaindl’s ‘Introduction’ anticipates. In her contribution to the first ‘episode’, Fotini Apostolou locates traces of the philosophical past and openings into literary creation in a short story (Todd Hasak-Lowy’s ‘The Task of This Translator’, 2005), which transplants Walter Benjamin’s well known essay of nearly the same title into present reality while questioning boundaries between genres, between originals and translations. In one of two essays discussing Jonathan Safran Foer’s Everything is Illuminated (2002), Sabine Strümper-Krobb examines the way different narrative strands are connected by a translator figure, Alex Perchov, one of the novel’s two protagonists. As a key element of the plot, translation encounters writing (and writer, since Perchov proceeds to compose letters to an equally fictitious Jonathan Safran Foer) in a quest for ‘mediation, remembering, witnessing’ (see pp. 254-58). Michelle Woods’s essay considers the case of Willa Muir’s unpublished 1930s novel Mrs Muttoe and the Top Storey, in fact an ‘autobiographical fictionalization, or factionalization, of her experiences translating Feuchtwanger and Kafka’ (p. 289); and all the more important because it offers a ‘portrait of female identity, threatened by the bind of patriarchy, that is strengthened via the act of translation’ (ibid.). One of the most interesting pieces is arguably saved for last, with Monika Wozniak surveying images of translation and translators in science fiction novels and films. She emerges with substantial detail, both considering the limited space one is assigned in an edited volume and the enormity of material available to her, from H. G. Wells to Star Trek: The Next Generation. Thus it would be exciting to eventually see such a discussion extend to include soon-to-be-released features like Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival.

Transfiction is edited with a passion and close understanding of the issues involved, as well as the possibilities beyond; it will not be the final word in a growing field of study, but we may already count it among the key publications on the manifold ways in which, as Patricia Godbout puts it somewhere in the second ‘episode’ of this volume, the reader’s attention now shifts ‘from the translator as character to translation itself as a fictional motif’ (p. 186). It is a fine recent addition to John Benjamins ever-reliable Translation Library (BTL), and one that should be consulted by Translation Studies scholars, by translators of literature and, not least, by creative writers: the book is a host of novel ideas (pun intended).

Paschalis Nikolaou

Transfiction: Research into the Realities of Translation Fiction. Edited by Klaus Kaindl and Karlheinz Spitzl. 2014, Amsterdam/Philadelphia: John Benjamins Publishing Company [Benjamins Translation Library 110], ISBN 978-90-272-5850-2, pp. 373.

To see a list of books where translators and translation are fictionalised click here.

A poem for our times

the train of migrants

The train of migrants

 

The migrant’s luggage

is neither big nor heavy…

 

A bit of earth from my village

makes me feel less lonely.

 

One frock, one loaf, one fruit,

that’s all I put in it.

 

But my heart, no, I didn’t bring it.

In the luggage it wouldn’t fit.

 

My heart was too sad to leave,

beyond the sea it wouldn’t dare.

 

In the land where I can’t eat,

as a loyal dog, it chose to remain:

 

in that  field, just over there…

no more I see it, too fast goes the train.

 

‘Il treno degli emigranti’, di Gianni Rodari, taken from Filastrocche in cielo e in terra (1960).

Translated by Manuela Perteghella, 2016, with thanks to Eugenia Loffredo for her suggestions.

Translation and Commentary: Yoko Tawada’s Portrait of a Tongue: an experimental translation by Chantal Wright

It doesn’t happen often to see an experimental translation published in print. Yet, a work such as Translation and Commentary: Yoko Tawada’s Portrait of a Tongue: an Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright is an intriguing example of a translator making herself visible in her own translation.

To read more go to our ‘Book Reviews’ page.

Some thoughts on multivocality in translation

Literary translation, as we understand it, occupies both a ‘space’ and a ‘time’ of possibilities, of different readings and their subsequent rewritings.  What we have been seeking, to some extent, and for some time now, is to pinpoint the liminal place where the translator positions herself or himself, this exhilarating ‘in-betweeness’ of the existing text and the soon-to-happen text. But not only. We have also tried to reflect on the translator’s privileged – paradoxical – status, as standing on both sides of the ‘threshold’, between the ritual reading and the fertile writing, but above all between the translator’s own literary and cultural identities and those of the ‘other’ author.

A translator’s reading, in its uniqueness – to read in order to write – will of course generate new embodiments of the text. This translational reading already incorporates the tension between the translator’s ‘experience’ of the text and the expectations of the target readership, a tension which eventually becomes verbalized, drafted, created into another language. But this language is not just one’s own  mother tongue, it also includes one’s own particular literary idiolect and, most importantly, one’s own voice – intended here not only as the uniqueness of the writing style (the lexical and stylistic preferences), but also equipped with sonority and materiality (as in Barthes) and (almost in an ethnographic way) the translator’s subjectivity, attitudes, gender, culture, education, ethnicity, identities: her or his personae.

2016-04-22 17.33.32

So that in the act of translation, the translator’s voice emerges from the interstices and strata of the text, to become more audible, and, therefore, necessarily (inter)acts with the vocal dimensions of the text (narrative, poetic, dramatic), and especially with the distinctive voices of their authors. This conversation, engendered by the translational reading, can be defined as multivocality, which we intend as the multi-voicedness  present in the text of departure, in the translation process and, finally, in the translated text. Further, something multivocal can be expressed in different words, and therefore is layered with pluralism, with ambiguity, change, transiency. ‘Voice’, therefore, is sonorous, oral/aural, individual, embodied or disembodied, but also unfixed, changeable, and context-bound.

Furthermore, the uniqueness of the translational reading does not necessarily entail privacy or isolation. On the contrary the richness of a particular reading opens onto echoes of other work the translator has written or translated before, and these memories feed into the new rewriting (more vocal layers to take into account). Some may still consider the reading phase as a private affair, yet, living in an intertextual, dialogical dimension means that every reading from its inception entails and contains another reading, a previous conversations with other texts.

2016-04-22 16.23.58And, translation, by engaging with more than one vocal subjectivity, becomes a sort of collaborative project, or communal space, where intimacy and solo-writing give way to cooperation and partnership.  Cooperation between two writers is thus present in the translation process, in which the conflation of their voices creates new meanings. Each translation then can be seen as a collaborative project which manifests itself in the voice of, one, the source text author, two, the translator,  and three, the possible, some may say ‘unavoidable’, intertextuality in which both  the source text and  its translation are dipping.  In our past study of translation as a creative form of writing, rather than lamenting the death of the author, we celebrated the birth of the translator essentially as co-author. This idea of co-authoring can be intended as nothing other than the perceptible quality of multivocality, of conflation of distinct, relative voices (the translator’s and authors’ styles, idiolects, sonority and personae) within the target text, even of different vocal narratives and perspectives within the text. Of course, this idea of translation as a collaborative project, and the translator as co-author, is from an ethical point of view problematic insofar as it can generate a dialogue full of tension, with the translator seeking control of meaning over the author, and that meaning needing to be continuously negotiated among all the subjectivities involved.

Finally, and most importantly, each translation despite being a fairly intimate and personal dialogue with the source text does not exclude, but rather calls for, the ‘other’ reader to lend her or his voice to the text and to continue this conversation, to add to the ambiguity, cacophony and renewal in this multivocality. The reader then is invited to explore further the new textual, temporal spaces opened by the translations, and enticed to step onto theses space (and time), to create new meanings.

References

Barthes, R. (1977) ‘The Grain of the Voice’, in Image, Music, Text, translated by Stephen Heath, (London: Fontana Press).

Perteghella, M. and E. Loffredo (eds)(2006) Translation and Creativity. Perspectives on Creative Writing and Translation Studies, (London and New York: Continuum 2006).

Reflections and Refractions in Cavafy’s Panorama

12 Greek Poems after Cavafy. Translated by Paschalis Nikolaou and Richard Berengarten 

12 Greek Poems after Cavafy is a beautiful bilingual collection of poems published in the exciting and welcome chapbook series by Shearsman.  This anthology spans just over a century  (from 1916 to 2015), and brings together Greek language poems written in the manner of, or as homage to Cavafy. These are inspired by the Alexandrian poet’s particular style, which Paschalis Nikolaou, editor and co-translator, defines as “recognizable enough across cultural space”, therefore “entirely suited for adaptation or recycling at the hands of a wide range of international artists” (p.5). Indeed, reading through this brilliant collection,  ideas of adaptation, as well as those of rewriting and versioning, conflate and give us, its readers, different layers to ‘peel’ and poetic forms to engage with. The most distinctive trait about this poetry book, and what I have enjoyed the most, is the desirable conflation of many voices and personae. First, there’s the relationship of these poems to Cavafy’s particular poetic output, the temporal and geographical contexts of his production, the specific material and settings used in his own poems,  a relationship which creates both literary and stylistic reflections and refractions; second, the styles and voices of these Greek poets (including Malanos, Ritsos, Seferis, as well as contemporary poets such as Kapsalis and Kosmopoulos) merge with that of Cavafy by way of a dialogue with the poet and his own, distinct language; lastly, there is yet another relationship, that of these Greek poems to their English language translations by Nikolaou and Richard Berengarten, further voices conversing together and offering a multivocality of poetic languages and idiolects.

The intertextual and the metatextual surface in the rewriting of a Cavafy’s poem from another perspective, in a poem-dedication, in a poem-compilation collage-like of Cavafy’s lines, in the description of Cavafy’s own writing desk, the ‘imagining’ of a conversation, in the re-imagining of past events and myths, in poems which recall other poems. Of course, the breadth of old and new poetic voices anthologised here also point to the enduring, creative effect that Cavafy’s poetry has had on Greek (and international) literary production.

12 poems

Structurally, the chapbook offers a succinct and engaging introduction to the contexts of these poems (and of Cavafy’s style and voice), followed by the source language poems and their translations presented side by side, mirroring each other, but also part of the overarching narrative of the collection. Notes on the poems, poets and the translations, positioned discreetly at the end of the collection provides us with further information on these literary and personal dialogues and relationships.

A final thought. Except for ‘The Poet’s Space’, all of the English poems here are collaborative translations between Nikolaou and Berengarten. Collaboration in translation entails a meeting of subjectivities, skills, expertise, languages and cultures. Underpinning collaboration and surfacing within the translated texts is the democratic notion of a ‘shared’ translational process, where the different subjectivities enrich and complement each other. This collaborative work is, I believe, one of the best translation practices around, precisely because of the multiple perspectives and creativities  which  feed into the reading and subsequent rewriting of the poems. It is a practice to be fostered and encouraged, and I am delighted to see such tremendous poet-translators collaborate here.

Manuela Perteghella

12 Greek Poems after Cavafy. Edited by Paschalis Nikolaou. Translated by Paschalis Nikolaou & Richard Berengarten. 2015, Shearsman Chapbooks, ISBN 978-1-84861-449-9, pp.36.

 

Guest Post: A Report from the Creative Translation Class: Reconceiving Andreas Embirikos

by Paschalis Nikolaou 

There is good reason for deploying creative writing exercises within the teaching of literary translation, even more so at postgraduate level and once those (often contradictory) conventions, contracts between reader, author and language mediator have been established with some clarity in students’ minds. This is not so much an innovative didactic approach but simple confirmation of text generation within literary history: from ‘poetic translation’ to interpreters and translators featuring as characters within fiction (Borges always comes to mind first) or film (from Star Wars’ C-3PO to The Interpreter), the meeting points of writing creatively and rendering literary expression in another language have proven fruitful across the centuries. Even though fables like that of a well-known Menard to Michael Marshall Smith’s The Gist (2013) may at first appear as curia, infrequent events and hybrids inside a gray zone, they can arguably be traced to the core of literary production; to essential psychologies and imperatives bringing together both creative writers and literary translators. Recognizing the part varied textual practices or frames, from Cervantes’ legendary pseudotranslation to the meaningful self-translations of Samuel Beckett or Vassilis Alexakis play within shared environments of literature demands workshop enactments of what takes place in the mind of poet and translator. Certain common spaces in the teaching of literary translation, as well as creative writing, are necessary: practitioners of both stand only to gain from awareness of what their other, does.

At the Department of Foreign Languages, Translation and Interpreting of the Ionian University a concerted effort started from the 2014-2015 academic year, to bring creative writing closer to the experience of students of (literary) translation. A more detailed report on this development and on adjustments to course programmes in Corfu should occur after a few of years, with all components firmly in place; yet a brief description may be given here, followed by discussion of just one exercise at postgraduate level. In the coming academic year then, there will be an optional creative writing workshop in the Spring semester for students also following literary translation courses at undergraduate level (typically during the final two years of the degree offered at the Ionian University), in one or two small groups between 7-12 participants, around twice a month. The idea is for this to also extend to guest seminars and regular invitations to writers (and certainly, poet-translators). Especially at MA level, the meeting of worlds, regularly hinted at undergraduate classes, is more confidently simulated. One of the non-compulsory modules taught in the autumn semester is now titled Λογοτεχνική Μετάφραση και Δημιουργική Γραφή (‘Literary Translation and Creative Writing’). Again, a more detailed description of the unfolding syllabus, the progression of examples and exercises is not a matter for the present. Suffice to say, in these classes we attempt to explore the range of creative possibilities between original and translation, and in ways that indeed confirm limitations as well as freedoms, too; the real-world necessity of ‘translation proper’ is also part of this picture, just as categories and emphases of translation activity are better understood at the moment boundaries are transgressed. Meanwhile – fictional translators, poetic occurrences, the value of imitation, the manifold regions of originality as well as evolving ideas about them across time; the effort is to relay to postgraduate students a picture as complete as possible while searching, in the course of ten 2-hour classes, for voices from the field, closely attending to the ever-shifting dialogue and dynamic between authors and translators as they influence each other.

In this particular context, practical engagement produces better understanding of the conditions engendering such texts. How to open a discussion of the creative potentialities in literary translation, the range of possible movements or actions beyond fidelity? Among the approaches adopted is a direct request to ‘translate creatively’ following class discussion – and the choice of text here again is key: Αι Λέξεις (‘The Words’) is a prose poem by Andreas Embirikos (1901-1975), a key proponent of surrealism and psychoanalysis in Greece:

 

ΑΝΔΡΕΑΣ ΕΜΠΕΙΡΙΚΟΣ

ΑΙ ΛΕΞΕΙΣ

        στον Νάνο Βαλαωρίτη

Όταν καμιά φορά επιστρέφομεν από τους Παρισίους και αναπνέομεν την αύραν του Σαρωνικού, υπό το φίλιον φως και μέσα στα αρώματα της πεύκης, εν τη λιτότητι των μ,ύθων – των σημερινών και των προκατακλυσμιαίων – ως σάλπισμα πνευστών, ή ως ήχος παλμικός, κρουστός, τυμπάνων, υψώνονται πίδακες στιλπνοί, ωρισμέναι λέξεις, λέξεις-χρησμοί, λέξεις ενώσεως αψιδωτής και κορυφαίας, λέξεις με σημασίαν απροσμέτρητον δια το παρόν και δια το μέλλον, αι λέξεις «Eλελεύ», «Σε αγαπώ», και «Δόξα εν υψίστοις», και, αιφνιδίως, ως ξίφη που διασταυρούμενα ενούνται, ή ως κλαγγή αφίξεως ορμητικού μετρό εις υπογείους σήραγγας των Παρισίων, και αι λέξεις: «Chardon-Lagache», «Denfert-Rochereau», «Danton», «Odeon», «Vauban», και «Gloria, gloria in excelsis».

 

And here is a translation into English by Maria Margaronis:

 

WORDS

Sometimes when we return from Paris and breathe in the breeze of the Saronic Gulf, under the friendly light and in the scent of pines, in the simplicity of myths – both modern and antediluvian – then, like a peal of trumpets or the tight, pulsating sound of drums, particular words leap up like shining fountains, words of prophecy, words of supreme and overarching union, words of immeasurable significance for both the present and the future: the words “Elelef”, “I love you”, and “Glory in the highest”; and suddenly, like swords that, clashing, join, or like the clangourous onrush of a train arriving in Parisian subterranean tunnels, also the words “Chardon-Lagache”, “Denfert-Rochereau”, “Danton”, “Vauban”, and “Gloria, gloria in excelsis”.

 

As they prepare for their own English version, a personal history with the original is disclosed to the students: Oktana (1980), the posthumous collection where Embirikos’ poem can be found, was one of the first books for poetry I owned; the translation, one of the very first I ever attempted. Yet it has remained unfinished since the mid-90s, for a host of reasons: at first my abilities were limited, then the right tone and equivalences within the English poetic tradition couldn’t quite be found, then a fine translation by someone else was discovered after all. Regardless, my attachment to the poem was such that the project had to mutate, gradually, into experiment: towards integrations of visual language, typographical variances, hyperlinked, constantly multiplying online presentations, forking paths and translational roads not taken. It still is a work-in-progress, perhaps aptly so: untangled from the prospect of a finished, proper English existence owed to poem and poet in this case, ‘the words’ become a field of intentional non-finality where alternatives are imagined every time the draft translation is revisited. Some of these alternatives are now perhaps as surreal as some of the original’s components. ‘Embirikos’ Words’ as my version’s title, is about the only decided thing at this point.

The above comments already point to how suitable Embirikos’ poem can be for such an exercise, given exactly the surrealist frame that prompts towards a similar freeing of choices and associations in translation, a conscious extending of the mode of composition to the mode of processing literary text in another language. Combined with self-referential elements beginning with the very title, particular thematic attention to how (foreign) words and experience are linked, this is a poem where translation is recognized embedded in the very fabric of its telling.

At the same time, the sharing of my own, somewhat ambiguous, relationship with the original involves students in a process where this is certainly not just another poem to be translated, despite it not being a ‘talismanic encounter’ of their own, an individual choice. Yet they do discover personal entry points within group discussion, also while a reading of the poem by Embirikos himself is played in class, and later on, working from the solitude of their own desks. Existence of published translations is mentioned so they worry less about adhering, aspiring to or competing with them (nevertheless the one by Margaronis which can be found in The Greek Poets: Homer to the Present is handed out to them in the following weeks and once their own creative responses have been produced). Some unintentional ‘reverse psychology’ was interestingly noticed when these were handed in: despite a brief of working freely with Embirikos’ text as starting point for something radically new even, several of them compartmentalized their response to the assignment – producing a relatively faithful version alongside, and before proceeding to engage with more creative textual formations.

Rewording and reconceiving ‘The Words’ was one among the ways of making creativity and translation come closer together. A selection from the work of postgraduate students at the DFLTI can be found filed under Translations and other writings.

© (Paschalis Nikolaou) 2015