Poetry and Translation events

Two forthcoming events on poetry and translation, on poetry crossing borders, on translating  the self and the past.

The Poetry Society Annual Lecture 2017

Jan Wagner

The Shedding of Skins and Schemes: a voice of one’s own and the voices of others

Touring Oxford, Liverpool and London:

University of OxfordUniversity of LiverpoolKing’s College London

Jan Wagner is the outstanding German poet of his generation. His lecture, delivered in English, is on influence and the exchange of poetic ideas across borders; of the teachers poets must find for themselves (and then distance themselves from again). Interspersed with readings of some of his own poems, Wagner’s lecture draws on poets such as Rimbaud, Heym and Brecht, Popa, Pound and Hughes, and the poet-translators who have carried their work between cultures.

For more information about this event please click here.

 

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The Sebald Lecture 2017

Releasing the Lyric: Translating Latin and Greek Poetry

Michael Longley CBE

Monday 20 February 2017

7pm, The British Library Conference Centre

London NW1 2DB

Tickets £12 (£10 over 60s, £8 con)

The Sebald Lecture is given annually on an aspect of literature in translation and is named after W.G. Sebald who set up BCLT in 1989. ‘Max’ was a German writer who opted to live in the UK and continue writing in German. His novels and essays include The Rings of Saturn, Austerlitz and On the Natural History of Destruction, and they established him as a leading writer of the 20th century.

For more information please click here.

 

 

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Guest Post: Art-Poetry by Colin Campbell Robinson

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the dogen variations are inspired by Dogen’s Eihei Koroku

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dogen 9dogen 10dogen 11dogen 12dogen 13

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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.

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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.