mercredigirl: Picture of ginger, captioned: 'Old ginger is the hottest (a Chinese idiom)? Nah, I'm pretty bitchy too!' (Ginger!)
[personal profile] mercredigirl
Great Expectations is a novel which has been historically acclaimed as a portrait of the Victorian society of Eng-land, and of the social mobility that was taking place during this time of upheaval. Named for the autocratic monarch of the country at that time, this period was marked by a gradual liberalisation of the native warlords (who began taking on a more political than military role) and of the gender-segregated and caste-based society. The author of the novel, Dickens Charles (Man or Male-person, a common Eng-land name), was one of the most representative writers of Eng-land.

My father's family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip1, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip.

I give Pirrip as my father's family name, on the authority of his tombstone and my sister - Mrs. Joe2 Gargery, who married the blacksmith. As I never saw my father or my mother, and never saw any likeness of either of them (for their days were long before the days of photographs), my first fancies regarding what they were like, were unreasonably derived from their tombstones3. The shape of the letters on my father's, gave me an odd idea that he was a square, stout, dark man, with curly black hair. From the character and turn of the inscription, "Also Georgiana4 Wife of the Above," I drew a childish conclusion that my mother was freckled and sickly. To five little stone lozenges, each about a foot and a half long, which were arranged in a neat row beside their grave, and were sacred to the memory of five little brothers of mine - who gave up trying to get a living, exceedingly early in that universal struggle - I am indebted for a belief I religiously entertained that they had all been born on their backs with their hands in their trousers-pockets, and had never taken them out in this state of existence.

Ours was the marsh country, down by the river, within, as the river wound, twenty miles of the sea. My first most vivid and broad impression of the identity of things, seems to me to have been gained on a memorable raw afternoon towards evening. At such a time I found out for certain, that this bleak place overgrown with nettles5 was the churchyard6; and that Philip Pirrip, late of this parish7, and also Georgiana wife of the above, were dead and buried; and that Alexander8, Bartholomew9, Abraham10, Tobias11, and Roger12, infant children of the aforesaid, were also dead and buried; and that the dark flat wilderness beyond the churchyard, intersected with dykes13 and mounds and gates, with scattered cattle feeding on it, was the marshes; and that the low leaden line beyond, was the river; and that the distant savage lair from which the wind was rushing, was the sea; and that the small bundle of shivers growing afraid of it all and beginning to cry, was Pip.


1 Horse-lover. The Anglo-Saxon peoples originated as nomadic horse-tribes. A Christian name is the given name of the person, typically bestowed upon a child in a religious initation ritual called christening. A family name is a second name common to all members of a patriarchal family unit. These peoples put the given name preceding the family name.
2 An abbreviation of the common name He-will-add (Joseph). Mrs is a prefix that indicates his aunt was the wife of Gargery Joe. Women in this time legally renounced their own names and properties upon their marriages.
3 These people traditionally bury their dead and erect over the graves small squarish stones carved with the names of the deceased.
4 A female form of the common name Farmer (George).
5 A weed which stings the hands, common to the inhospitable terrain of Eng-land.
6 A burial-yard attached to a church (religious building; these people are typically monotheists whose central tenet of faith is the incarnation, execution and resurrection of their god).
7 The region supervised by a single member of their priesthood.
8 Defender-of-men.
9 Son-of-the-furrowed.
10 Father-of-a-multitude. In their tribal mythology, this was a nomad who made a contract with their patron god to be the ancestor of many descendants as long as they kept their agreement.
11 God-is-good.
12 Famous-spear. By this time, however, the Anglo-Saxon peoples were no longer organised in a warrior-oriented caste system. Armies still existed, and could be summoned by the native warlords (called peers of the realm).
13 A flood-gate, frequently found in the landscape which the narrator describes.
troisroyaumes: Painting of a duck, with the hanzi for "summer" in the top left (Default)
[personal profile] troisroyaumes
Saw this guest post on Three Percent by Mima Simić about how her English translation of a story she had originally written in Croatian was published and edited without her permission. Relevant quote:
Sometime in April of 2010 I was informed that my story (“My Girlfriend”) was to be included in the 2011 Best European Fiction edition (as the Croatian representative, yay!). This was, naturally, quite a delightful piece of news for me; an opportunity to reach the vast English speaking market, as writing in so-called small languages can be quite a limitation to one’s literary ambitions. Dalkey received my story not in Croatian, but in English; it was I who translated it. As a conscientious author, and not wanting to be misread nor derided for my command of the lingua franca of the universe, before I’d sent it in, I had it (proof) read by a few native speakers, including my American professor of creative writing (American as in born, raised, writing and teaching in the U.S.).

All seemed well; no one from Dalkey contacted me except to sign a contract that allowed the publisher to use the story, or parts of it, for their advertising and other purposes. There was nothing in the contract about the text of the story itself, nothing about editorial interventions, proofreading etc. And why should there be? Even in “uncivilized” non-EU and non-U.S. countries (such as mine) we know that a publisher/editor ought to consult the author should they think it necessary to change their text. And one would expect this to be doubly true of Dalkey who are hailed as the trailblazer of translated fiction in the English-speaking world, are producing a report on best practices in publishing translations and have in fact published a guide to editing translations (!)

As no one contacted me about any edits, I presumed everything was fine with the story. Imagine then my astonishment when the Anthology arrived at my doorstep (in December 2010) and I realized that a diligent Dalkey editor not only made quite a few interventions in the text, but they also inserted (!) a piece of text that changed/determined sex of my narrator! As this gender/sex ambiguity is one of the thematic pillars of my story, this benevolent editorial intervention (which made the narrator a man and the relationship heterosexual!) completely changed my story, its aims and effects. To be sure, the author is not, nor can they be, the owner of the interpretation, but surely they should be the owner of their text? The copy editor’s job is not to rewrite or retell the story in their own words—but rather to intervene as little as possible and if they do change something, to check with the author before the text goes to print. Is this too much to ask of Dalkey? And is it unfair to ask this: Would this have happened to me if I had been an American author?
Wow, extremely problematic on multiple levels. I wonder how often this sort of thing happens to authors who get translated into English.
tevere: Jihae, solemn with hint of smile (Default)
[personal profile] tevere
Any advice on this would be greatly appreciated! (Although it occurs to me that it's always a bad idea to ask the internet for advice on a holiday weekend...)

A Timorese author I know is interested in finding an Australian publisher for the English translation of his novella, the original of which is in Tetum. The translation into English has already been done by someone other than myself; he's asked me to edit the translated manuscript with an eye for preparing it for publication in Australia. He's actually already found a publisher who's willing to look at it, but I understand no promises have been made.

I read the manuscript for the first time last night, and it's left me feeling rather bewildered as to how best to proceed. The story itself is engaging and moving -- it's a semi-autobiographical account of Timorese children who were forcibly separated from their families shortly after the Indonesian occupation of Timor-Leste in 1975 and sent to orphanages in Indonesia. Many of the younger children forgot their Timorese identities and were only able to rediscover them with difficulty during adulthood; some were eventually reunited with their families after independence in 1999.

Timor-Leste has a rich oral tradition, but to the best of anyone's knowledge this novella is actually the first published longform work of fiction actually written in Tetum, the lingua franca. (Other Timorese works published internationally, like Naldo Rei's Resistance, were written in English or Portuguese.) As such, it reads like a mix between an oral narrative and a documentary: omniscient third-person description of events as they unfold, but incorporating an integrated parallel narrative where the protagonist speaks directly about his experiences during those events (as if being interviewed several years after the fact). The omniscient third-person and the protagonist's recollections are completely intertwined in a way that I don't think I've ever really seen in an English-language novel-- the closest I can think of is Chimamanda Adichie's The Headstrong Historian, where the past and present seem gently blurred.

I personally find the structure really interesting because it says so much about the evolution of Timorese storytelling into different media, but I suppose my concern is: will it work as a young adult novel for a Western audience that's perhaps more used to perfectly linear first- or third-person POV? Maybe even more to the point: will a mainstream publisher even accept it, let alone publishing it to see if it can work for a Western audience?

On the other hand, I absolutely don't want to be the person saying, "Your story must match these conventions of the English-language storytelling tradition, otherwise it will never get a chance." I hate the fact that publishing houses (deliberately or unconsciously) police non-Western and non-white narratives, choosing which gets to be 'representative' of a particular culture or race or ethnicity.

There's probably a way of preserving the novel's unique structure while making it slightly more comprehensible to a Western audience, and I've gone back and asked the author for his thoughts on the issue. In the interim, though: does anyone have opinions about the issue of translating the culturally-specific structure of a work, as well as simply the language? Is it betraying the original text by pandering to a lowest common denominator (the closed Western experience of the world), or is it widening its reach for cross-cultural enjoyment?
yasaman: picture of woman wearing multi-colored headscarf that covers her mouth (yasaman; base by enriana)
[personal profile] yasaman
As difficult as I've found translation to be, I've never quite thought of it as harshly as the Italian saying in the subject line suggests: after learning of Daniel Ladinsky's "translations" of Hafez's poetry, I now begin to understand the sentiment.

So, my cousin is getting married this weekend, and she asked me to help her find an English translation along with the original Persian of a relevant poem about love or marriage. At the wedding, my father would read the Persian, and I'd read the English. I agreed, and told her to email me with her choices, and I'd do my best to match translation to original or vice versa. Today, she emailed me with what she thought was a translation of a poem by Hafez, and asked if I could source the original for my dad to read. Here's the poem she found:

"The Gift" by Daniel Ladinsky

Our union could be like this:
You feel cold
So I reach for a blanked to cover our shivering feet.
A hunger comes into your body
So I run to my garden and start digging potatoes.
You ask for a few words of comfort and guidance
I quickly kneel at your side offering you a whole book as a gift
You ache with loneliness one night so much
you weep, and I say
here is a rope, tie it around me
Hafiz will be your companion for life.

It's a nice little poem, but there's a problem: Hafez never wrote a poem like this. This supposed translation doesn't correspond to any of Hafez's original works, and the "translator" neither speaks nor reads Persian. I guessed that it was a at best loose translation with the use of the word "potatoes": potatoes did not reach Europe or Asia until the 16th century C.E., and Hafez died in the 13th century. I could think of no good reason for a translator to change one vegetable for another while translating, and so the rest of the poem became suspect. I spent a fruitless half hour searching for ghazals by Hafez with the word "union" or "marriage" in the first line, hoping one of them would correspond to this one. No luck. Instead, when I dug a little bit deeper, I found these two articles on the specious nature of Ladinsky's "translations" of Hafez: A.Z. Foreman's gloriously scathing review of The Gift, and Murat Nemet-Nejat's review of the same. I'll let Foreman sum it up nicely:

"Dan Ladinsky's The Gift: Poems from Hafiz the great Sufi Master is perhaps the most inexcusably excruciating book bearing the name "translation" I have ever had the displeasure read. For absurd reasons, it is still widely popular and seen as successful, despite a decade's worth of hindsight since its first printing in 1999. So let me do my part to call this book what it really is: an awfully-written, narcissistic, colossally unintelligent act of charlatanry which derives its success largely from exploiting (and grossly perpetuating) some of the most shameful traits of the American public: ignorance of Islam and Islamic languages, unbridled consumerism, poor literary sensibility, stereotypes of "The East" and reviewers' reticence to say anything negative."


Read more... )

Are there any other examples you can think of where translation becomes betrayal? How can we promote non-appropriative, faithful translations, and how can we even be certain that the translations we read are faithful and respectful to the traditions they originally come from?
dhobikikutti: earthen diya (Default)
[personal profile] dhobikikutti
[personal profile] ephemere posted an essay titled No Country for Strangers that has some thoughts about colonialism and languages which I found very relevent to this community:
Background: I'm a Filipino living in the Philippines; I have lived here almost all my life, the exception being approximately two years of my early childhood that I spent in the U.S. We speak Filipino at home, but I write and do research and have academic discussions in English. I was taught to read and write in both English and Filipino, I consider myself more fluent in English than I am in my native tongue, and in my education both here and in the U.S. English-language literature has dominated my reading. For a long time I was content with this skew and was mostly unaware of its ramifications; I didn't think there was anything wrong with it, and my satisfaction in how many "world classics" of literature I'd read subsumed the slight shame I felt at not having read many works of Philippine literature, or not being able to read written Filipino without a great deal of concentration. Right now I'm still struggling with this disconnect between who I am and what I read. I'm grappling with the reality of how so much of my thinking -- even in economics, which is what I've been trained in -- has been shaped according to the perspectives of Western intellectuals whose views simply cannot be applied wholesale to the situation my country is in. And I'm coming to terms, slowly, with the amorphous nature of our national identity, the difficulties that stand in the way of its formation, and what this means to me as a majority sourcelander, an economist, and a reader. This isn't me speaking for all Filipinos. This is me speaking out of the conjunction of all these facets of my experience.

First things first: specific points, based on the aforementioned perspective. Charles Tan talks about the "small but growing awareness of the literature of other cultures" as a "liberty that occurred only because of humanity's continued struggle for 'enlightenment'". I find this exceedingly ironic when taken in light of the past history of the Philippines and of the present state of education in the country. I was very aware of the literary classics of other cultures when I was growing up, and I don't doubt this applies to many members of my generation who had access to the same educational resources I did. Most of my books as a child were simplified versions of books by authors such as Dumas, Stevenson, Alcott, Carroll, and others. In high school we were required to make ourselves familiar with Shakespeare, Hugo, Poe, Marlowe, Steinbeck, etc; our school's reading room was dominated by British, French, and American writers. We were supposed to know the figures of speech and the literary conventions used by these writers -- so where does "small but growing" come from? We, of the upper and middle classes, who had the means to access "superior" educational materials, were immersed in this from childhood. This is not an expression of unalloyed liberty to progress further toward 'enlightenment'. It is part of an educational system that was to a large extent instituted during the American occupation, whose so-called benevolent rule has not been fully extricated from either the public consciousness or our political decisions up to this very day. It is an outgrowth of a dominance that may have been thought to have eased when we were 'granted' our independence, but has in fact never disappeared, only become more subtle in its influence on our psyches.

I don't wish these influences, which shaped my knowledge of and love for literature, were completely gone from me. They've taught me many things; because of them I can engage with some people with the advantage of being informed by the literature of their country. But I want to recognize them for what they are; I want to be conscious of their effects, and capable of rejecting these effects. Yet the truth remains that these influences are often taken for granted by many Filipinos; we consider it perfectly natural that we know so much about U.S. pop culture, it's a default that we can pretend to talk like Americans or think like Americans -- act and live like them, and yes, write like them.

So please don't talk about this awareness of other cultures' literature as if it were new to us. It's not. The very fact that knowledge of American/British literature is considered a default among the educated class here is glaring proof of that.

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