Friday, August 31, 2007

IRSCL Conference and Galician Translation

I’ve just arrived in Sweden after being in Japan for the conference of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature. I loved Japan and really enjoyed the conference, which focused on different issues of power and children's literature. I learned about organizations related to children's lit and to educating children about literature, and also about awards for children's books, and I attended sessions on a variety of other topics, ranging from post-World War 2 literature in Asia to historical novels in Denmark, from anthologies by and/or about queer youth to wordless picture books, from anime to libraries, from books about transracial adoption to nonsense, and much more.

There were several presentations besides my own that looked at translation. I chaired one session that was about translation and national identities. The speakers were from Spain and they talked about translations from Spanish or English to the minority languages of Galician, Catalan, and Basque. One of the speakers focused on translations to Galician and she found that many translators added in Galician idioms or information about specific Galician cultural issues to the texts they were translating, and she claimed that this was a way of building a Galician identity. This is clearly a strongly domesticating strategy and it really struck me as being one that I personally wouldn't use or promote. However, the point the speaker and her co-authors made was that since Spanish is dominant in Spain, making texts Galician in this way helps create pride in the Galician language and culture, and that this is important for children who might otherwise feel that they should only or primarily use Spanish. Apparently, schools in Galicia now require children to have half of their subjects in Galician, so perhaps in a generation or two, the use of Galician will be more common, and children will gain the belief that Galician is a worthy identity, so translators won't feel the need to use this strategy anymore.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Postcolonial Theories of Translation

I’m off to Japan now to attend the conference of the International Research Society for Children’s Literature, where I’ll present on the role of power in translating dialects in children’s literature. My research on this topic has been influenced by postcolonial theories of translation, and it’s been fascinating to see how postcolonial theories relate to children’s literature and to translation in general.

For those of you who might want to learn more about this topic, I recommend these books: Translation and Power, edited by Maria Tymoczko and Edwin Gentzler, and Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained by Douglas Robinson. They give detailed background to the topic.

A quote from the first book sums up the role of translation in colonization: Translations are “one of the primary literary tools that larger social institutions–educational systems, arts councils, publishing firms, and even governments–had at their disposal to “manipulate” a given society in order to “construct” the kind of “culture” desired” (Tymoczko and Gentzler, xiii).

In other words, those in power can decide which texts to translate and how to translate them in order to further their own goals and influence those over whom they have power. What I will talk about in Kyoto refers to how adults might use this power when it comes to writing and translating for children.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Nordic Translation Conference, Redux

Awhile back, I posted the first call for papers for the Nordic Translation Conference. I've received a great selection of abstracts now, and I'm excited about how the conference is shaping up. Below is the second call for papers. One thing I've added to it is that people can now send in proposals for workshops they'd like to run as well; there's been some interest in having workshops/training sessions, and so far several people have offered to organize a few, and I hope there will be even more such offers. Another thing I'd like to mention about the call for papers is that I really encourage more inter-Nordic paper proposals, and not just Nordic-English ones.

And for those of you who might like to attend the conference, Scandinavian Airlines has agreed to be the official airlines of the event, which means that everyone who flies to London on SAS or one of their partner airlines will get discounted airfare.

For updated information on the conference, regularly check
this website.

Second Call for Papers

The Nordic Translation Conference will take place in London at the Institute of Germanic and Romance Studies on 7 and 8 March, 2008.

For the first time, a major conference is being planned all about Nordic translation. While many conferences on translation frequently include a presentation or two that mention Nordic issues, however peripherally, there has not yet been an event solely dedicated to the particular challenges and pleasures of translating between and among the Nordic countries, which are often closely related culturally, if not always linguistically. It should be exciting for academics and translators working on and with the Nordic languages to gather, discuss, and exchange ideas. The speakers will include Douglas Robinson, Kirsten Malmkjær, Tiina Nunnally, Geoffrey Samuelsson-Brown, Janet Garton, and Martin Næs.

The conference will look at literary and non-literary translation of all kinds, including interpreting and subtitling, both between various Nordic languages and also between English and the Nordic languages. Nordic here includes Danish, Faroese, Finnish, Greenlandic, Icelandic, Norwegian, any of the Sámi dialects, and Swedish. Topics can include, but are not limited to, specific linguistic issues involved in translation/interpretation between two or more languages, analysis of particular texts/genres, professional issues, translating texts by or about minority groups, the translator/interpreter’s role, and the effect of cultural similarities/differences among Nordic countries. Both academics and practicing translators are encouraged to attend and present at the conference.

In addition, the conference will include several workshops on relevant topics, such as working with specific languages or kinds of texts, using computer tools, finding reference materials, and so on. Those interested in running workshops are also invited to submit proposals.

Please send proposals for conference papers or workshops (250-400 words) and a brief biographical note by 15 October 2007 to B.J. Epstein
by e-mail or to her c/o French Department, Swansea University, Singleton Park, Swansea, SA2 8PP, Wales, or by fax to +44 1792 295978. Conference details are available at For ease of communication, English should be the primary conference language.

Monday, August 13, 2007

A Round-Up of Articles

A couple of months ago, I posted a round-up of articles because I kept seeing so many interesting ones on translation. Well, here’s another one, mostly focusing on translating poetry. It’s exciting that translation is appearing more and more!

Here is an entire issue of an
online magazine devoted to translation. I like the quote in the piece by Linh Dinh that says “The best way to criticize an imperfect translator is to do a better translation.” I wonder how many translations have been done for that reason. There is also a nice metaphor for the work a translator does: “I’m not a translator so much as a tightrope walker between two unreliable

An article on translating poet César Vallejo is here. Poet Clayton Eshleman writes, among other things, about how translating Vallejo has influenced his own work.

one on translating poet Zbigniew Herbert is here. This essay contains the line “Hofmann can’t read Polish (neither can I), but he makes a vigorous, smart and hugely entertaining case by comparing the older and newer translations.” I find this to be odd; if one compares two or more different translations of the same work without also analyzing the source text, then one is comparing how the texts work in the target languages, not how the target texts are as translations. In my opinion, this is not how one should critique a translation.

Finally, for those who can read Swedish, here is
an article by the Danish poet Pia Tafdrup, about being translated. She writes that she doesn’t consider herself a Danish poet, but rather a poet who happens to write in Danish, since she was born and raised in Denmark. Since poetry is a way of understanding, a way of reaching other people, translation is an important part of it. She says that like Doctors Without Borders, there should be Poets and Translators Without Borders, too.

Enjoy the reading!

Friday, August 10, 2007

Translator Watson Kirkconnell

Here is an essay on an interesting, and sadly forgotten, translator, Watson Kirkconnell. Among other things, he published European Elegies, which had 100 poems from 50 languages! He was inspired to take on this task after the death of his wife.

About translation, Mr. Kirkconnell said “The letter killeth, but the spirit maketh alive.” He also thought that in order for a translation to be successful, the translator had to be filled with emotion.

Monday, August 06, 2007

Noble Translation

Some of you may be familiar with the Earl of Roscommon’s poem on translation. Wentworth Dillon (1633-85) was the fourth Earl of Roscommon and he was a poet and translator. Here is his poem:

‘Tis True, Composing is the nobler Part,
But good Translation is no Easie Art,
For the materials have long since been found,
Yet both your Fancy and your Hands are bound,
And by improving what was writ before,
Invention labours less, but Judgement more.

Each poet with a different talent writes,
One praises, one instructions, another bites.
Horace did ne’er aspire to Epick Bays,
Nor lofty Maro stoop to Lyrick Lays.
Examine how your Humour is inclin’d,
And which the Ruling Passion of your Mind;

Then seek a Poet who your ways does bend,
And choose an Author as you choose a Friend;
United by this sympathetick Bond,
Your grow familiar, intimate and fond.
Your Thoughts, your Words, your Stiles, your Souls agree,
Nor longer his Interpreter, but He.

As with many other translation theorists and critics, he thinks writing is the more original and noble art, which implies that translation is reductive. However, the Earl differs from other critics in that he does seem to believe in the need for the translator to have a certain bond with his or her author in order to do the best job possible, which implies that he recognizes and respects the translator’s role in making a successful translation and the limitations the translator faces. Still, both translation and writing are “no Easie” arts and they are both noble.