Sunday, December 27, 2009

Michael Idov about his self-translation

And interesting insight in how an author feels about self-translation gives a blog entry by the writer Michael Idov. He has self-translated his novel Ground Up which was also his first self-translation:

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Remembering Raymond Federman

Truly sad news: Raymond Federman died yesterday after a long fight against cancer.
I was blessed to get in touch with him during my research for my diploma thesis. He was so kind to answer several questions concerning his self-translations. I also had the chance to meet him in person at a lecture in Berlin last year. He was so vivid and engaging and generous. That's how I will remember him. The world has lost another great writer. He will truly be missed. My deepest sympathy to his family.

"Language vanishes into death, and death vanishes into silence. Or is it, death that vanishes into language, and language into silence?" (Reflections on ways to improve death)
Read the whole text on:

Get to know him:

People who had the chance to get to know him share their memories:

Journals on Federman passing away:
Buffalo News

Sunday, September 6, 2009

New issue of Quaderns focuses on self-translation

The new issue of the Spanish translation journal Quaderns.Revista de traducció (number 16) focuses on self-translation. Here is an overview about the articles relating to our subject:

Dossier. L’autotraducció

p. 107-122 Helena Tanqueiro, Patricia López L.-Gay, Francesc Parcerisas
(Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Facultat de Traducció i d’Interpretació): Translating, self-translating, being translated. A lecture series on literary translation at NYU in Paris.

p. 123-134 Rainier Grutman (Universitat d’Ottawa. Facultat d’Art. Escola de Traducció i d’Interpretació) : La autotraducción en la galaxia de las lenguas.

p. 135-142 Valentina Mercuri (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Facultat de Traducció i d’Interpretació): Autotraducción, libertad de autor y mediación cultural: El caso del italiano Carlo Coccioli.

p. 143-156 Xosé Manuel Dasilva (Universidade de Vigo. Facultade de Filoloxía e Traducción) Autotraducirse en Galicia: ¿bilingüismo o diglosia?

p. 157-164 Patricia López López-Gay (Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona. Facultat de Traducció i d’Interpretació - New York University) Conversación con Jorge Semprún. Sobre autotraducción. De los recuerdos y sus formas de reescritura.

p. 165-168 Muguras Constantinescu (Universitatea «Stefan cel Mare» Suceava. Facultatea de Litere si Stiinte ale Comunicarii) Irina Mavrodin sur l’autotraduction.

The issue is not yet available online, but I hope this will change soon:

Saturday, September 5, 2009

New research on Nancy Huston

The recent grown interest in self-translation is also reflected by the publication of several articles and book contributions this year which discuss self-translation issues by Nancy Huston:

Brownlie, Siobhan (2009): Translation and the Fantastic: Nancy Huston's Instruments des ténèbres French Forum 34:1, Winter 2009, pp. 67-83

Chatzidimitriou, Ioanna (2009): Self-Translation as Minorization Process: Nancy Huston's Limbes/Limbo. In: SubStance 38:2 , pp. 22-42.

Shread, Carolyn (2009): Redefining Translation through Self-Translation: The Case of Nancy Huston. In: French Literature Series 36, pp. 51–61.

Sigrist, Ilona (2009): The Stakes of Self-Translation as Authorship in Nancy Huston’s Dolce Agonia and Instruments des ténèbres. In: A. Fidecaro, H. Partzsch, S. van Dijk et V. Cossy (éds.): Femmes écrivains à la croisée des langues, 1700-2000, pp.199-212.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Francesca Duranti

In a recently published article on the Italian writer Francesca Duranti, Rita Wilson analyzes how self-translation becomes an integral part of the creation process of her work. In the short presentation of previous works by Duranti, it becomes clear that literary translation is a main concern for the writer as it is also one of the main themes of her literary oeuvre.
The translation of Sogni mancini (1996) into his English version Left-handed Dreams (2000) was the first time Duranti chose to self-translate one of her works: "Duranti, the writer as translator, draws on her own experience as a migrant from one culture (Italian) to another (North American) to reflect on what it means to be ‘translated’ both geographically and textually." (p.191). Wilson considers Duranti to be a "semi-expatriate" (Wilson, p. 187), because she lives only part of the year in New York. "Living and writing between two different cultures" (p.188) such became an important stimulus for her literary work. Because of various elements of hypertextuality in her work, "each version of a novel enters into secret dialogue with the others." (p. 190) This is of course also the case with the two versions of Sogni mancini: "both versions function simultaneously as hypotext and hypertext. Neither can be pointed to as the original one, or they both can" (p. 190).

For further reading:
Wilson, Rita (2009): The Writer's Double. Translation, Writing, and Autobiography. In: Romance Studies 27:3, p. 186–198.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Daniel Gagnon

Daniel Gagnon is a Canadian writer, who self-translated two of his books and wrote a few articles about this experience. His first language is French, his two literary languages are French and English. His two self-translations are The Marriageable Daughter/La Fille à marier and My Husband the Doctor/Mon Mari le docteur, both originally written in English, and then translated by the author into French. How the publication orders influences the perception of the original/translation is well illustrated by these two books, as Gagnon states:
Since French is my mother tonge, and publication of the French text preceded that of the English original, both translations, La Fille à marier and Mon Mari le docteur, were received in Quebec as original texts [...] (Gagnon 2006b, p. 46)

This perception was even intended by the publisher despite the wishes of the author:
In the case of The Marriageable Daughter, the French translation appeared first, as if it were the original. The English original was published four years later in Coach House's Translation series, under the banner, "Translated by the author", despite my efforts to have it recognized as the original text. (Gagnon 2006a, p. 125)

This example illustrates why research on self-translation can not just rely on the publication indications. In most cases self-translations are not even indicated, and if they are indicated this might be a wrong track as seen above. Another problem occurs if one version is not even published as it is the case with the English original My Husband the Doctor.

For further reading:

Gagnon, Daniel (2006a): Bilingual translation/writing as intercultural communication. In: A. Pym u.a. (ED.): Sociocultural Aspects of Translating and Interpreting. Amsterdam, S. 117–127.

Gagnon, Daniel (2006b): Cross-writing and Self-translating. One Canadian/Québec Experience. In: Madelena Gonzalez et Francine Tolron (eds.): L'identité de la traduction et la traduction de l'identité. Cambridge Scholars Press, Newcastle-upon-Tyne, p. 46–59.

Gagnon, Daniel (2007): Les mots du Doctor Hat. In: Louis Jolicoeur (ed.): Traduction et enjeux identitaires dans le contexte des Amériques. Culture française d'Amérique. Québec: Presses de l'Université Laval, p. 165 –176

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Tschingis Aitmatov

Tschingis Aitmatov (1928-2008) had - like Beckett and Brink - two literary languages. He has written his books in his first language Kirghiz and in Russian. First he wrote in Khirgiz and translated his works into Russian. Later he decided to write them first in Russian so they could get translated faster in other languages, but he still tried to continue self-translation now in the other direction (Russian > Kirghiz):
Unfortunately, the language in which I write is not always my own decision, but is often a matter of circumstance. I often write in Russian now, because it is in my interests to do so; books get published and disseminated faster, and are also translated more quickly into other languages. Time is short, so I take the quickest way. I make a point, though, of at least trying to translate my own work into Kirghiz-though it is not always possible to do so. (Aitmatov, 1990:197)

For further reading:
Aitmatov, Chingiz (1990): Voice from the Republics. An Interview. In: Third World Quarterly 12: 1, p. 194–200.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Basque Self-translators

The most known Basque self-translator is Bernardo Atxaga. But if you take a look at the translation database published at the Basque Literature Portal, you can see that self-translation is quite common amongst Basque writers, as often the name of the author and the name of the translator are identical. Interesting is for example the case of Arantxa Urretabizkaia, who went from self-translation (Zergatik panbox) to collaboration translation (Saturno) and was not involved in the next translation (Koaderno gorria) at all - at least she is no longer mentioned as translator.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Milan Kundera

I just started reading Translating Milan Kundera by Michelle Woods and would like to share a passage: "Also in the mid 1980s, Kundera revised all the French translations of the novels written in Czech and declared these, rather than the Czech versions, to be the definitive and authentic versions of the novels. The translations in other words became the originals. Later, to produce new Czech versions, he would use three ‘originals’: the Czech manuscript, the first published Czech versions (in Toronto, Canada) and the French definitive translations." (Woods 2006:ix)

So if the translations became the new originals, can one then speak of the new Czech versions as translations? Is Kundera becoming a self-translator when re-writing the Czech original?

For further reading:
Woods, Michelle (2006): Translating Milan Kundera. Topics in Translation: 30.

Note: After writing this post, I read a good summary of this book at another blog.

Author-translator collaboration

Some consider Milan Kundera or Isaac Bashevis Singer as self-translators because they were actively involved in the translation process done by professional translators. The case of Milan Kundera is of particular interest because he revised every single translation of his work before it was published and "added a note to all revised French translations granting the 'same level of authority as the original'." (Vanderschelden 1998:25)
In her article "Authority in literary translation. Collaborating with the author" Vanderschelden discusses different forms of collaborations - they mainly differ in the form of intensity, the degree of influence of the author on the translated text: "The notion of 'authority' conveys the power and legitimacy of the author in relation with the text. In this context, translation collaboration can sometimes shift the decision process from translator to author". (Vanderschelden 1998:26) Despite the proclaimed "death of the author" by Roland Barthes, the translation practice shows that the author is still seen as the ultimative decision instance regarding the meaning of the original. This leads to "an element of subordination on the part of the translator" (Vanderschelden 1998:25).
Other collaborations she discusses include:
- Umberto Eco with William Weaver
- Jorge Luis Borges with Norman Thomas di Giovanni
- Cortázar with Laure Bataillon
- Cabrera Infante with Suzanne Jill Levine

For further reading:
Vanderschelden, Isabelle (1998): Authority in literary translation. Collaborating with the author. In: Translation Review 56, pp. 22-31.

Woods, Michelle (2006): Translating Milan Kundera. Topics in Translation: 30.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Yoko Tawada

Yoko Tawada was born in Tokyo in 1960 and has been living in Hamburg (Germany) since 1982. She writes in Japanese and German but usually does not self-translate. She has established quite an interesting writing system how to choose the language for a certain text as she explains in an interview: If the sound is important she writes the text in German, if it is more important how the text looks like, she writes it in Japanese. When writing her book "Das nackte Auge" she decided to write it in Japanese and German simultaneously, writing one passage in one language and then translating it into the other. For her it was a quite disturbing experiment and she is not convinced that she is a good translator:

"Ich habe in meinem neuen Buch „Das nackte Auge“ auf Japanisch geschrieben und es dann ins Deutsche übersetzt, dann auf Deutsch weiter geschrieben, das wieder ins Japanische übersetzt und so weiter – ich bin immer hin und her gesprungen. Das war das erste Mal, dass ich so etwas gemacht habe. Das bringt alles durcheinander - genau das wollte ich aber. Das kann man nur als Experiment betreiben. Die Übersetzung als Tätigkeit ist aber sehr faszinierend. Man erfährt dabei sehr viel über die Sprachen. Das ist sehr wertvoll. Das Ergebnis ist aber schwierig. Ich bin keine gute Übersetzerin." (Interview on

Self-translation as a regular practice is not an option for her.

For further reading:

Interview (in German):

Brand, Bettina (2006): Ein Wort, ein Ort, or how words create places. Interview with Yoko Tawada. In: Helga W. Kraft (ed.): Women in German Yearbook: Feminist Studies in German Literature and Culture. University of Nebraska Press, pp. 1-15.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Conference: Les écrivains du sud-est européen en quête d'identité

Self-translation will be a subject on the conference: "Les écrivains du sud-est européen en quête d'identité" which will take place at Bucharest, University Spiru Haret, from 6 - 7 november 2009.

Abstracts of the contributions are already available online. The conference language is French.

Interesting concerning self-translation is especially the contribution by Najib Redouane:
"Crise identitaire et bilinguisme littéraire chez Vassilis Alexakis". But there are also contributions about Ciroan, Tsepeng, Panait Istrati and Luca.

If anybody attends this conference I would be grateful for more information. The contributions will be published after the conference.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Samar Attar

Samar Attar was born in Damascus (Syria). She has studied Comparative Literature in Syria, Canada and the United States, worked in Algeria, West Germany and Australia and is married to a German. Samar explains that being surrounded by so many different languages, makes it hard to tell which is your mother tongue (see Attar 2005, p. 132).
Attar started to self-translate because she had a hard time to get her novel Lina: A Portrait Of A Damascene Girl - written in Arabic - published. (see Attar 2005, p. 133). She sees the act of self-translation as a "response to continuous attempts to stifle and silence my voice as a novelist.The act of self-translation has made me visible and has given me a voice which I was denied as a writer in Arabic". (Attar 2005, p. 134) Self-translation also helps her to keep her Arabic language alive but overall "censorship was and still is the reason that forced me to use translation as a strategy to assert my voice as a writer". (Attar 2005, p. 141).
Concerning the discussion of the terms orginal/translation she states:
"Self translators cannot reproduce in one language what they have created in another. Ultimately, what they produce through self translation is a complementary literary text which does not simply echo the original, but has its own echo and effect in the target language and culture. Unlike conventional translation contexts, self translators do not usually engage in the two-stage process of reading-writing activity (their reading activity is of a different nature), but rather in a double writing process. Thus, their translated text becomes a version or a variant of the original text, indeed an original work in its own right." (Attar 2005, p. 139)

For further reading:
Attar, Samar (2005): Translating the exiled self. Reflections on translation and censorship. In: Intercultural Communication Studies XIV:4, p. 131–147. >> A longer version of this article appeared in Translation Review (special issue on Arabic), 65 (2003), p. 35-46.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Ryoko Sekiguchi

I just read in another blog about the lecture "Ryoko Sekiguchi: Ecrire entre deux langues : en français, en japonais" that will take place 13th July at the University of Osaka (Japan). Sekiguchi will be present. I quote an interesting note:

"Chacun de ses livres existe en version française et japonaise, mais avec de subtiles différences : le titre est parfois identique, parfois non ; il ne s’agit pas simplement d’ une auto-traduction, mais plutôt d’un rapport de transfert, de transposition, puisque la transparence totale entre les deux langues est impossible. Il n’y a ainsi ni original, ni copie, mais une « écriture double », un « entre-deux langues » mouvant qui se nourrit de leur décalage, mais aussi de leur continuel frottement."

This quote underlines the difficulty to find an adequate term for the process of self-translation. Is it more translation or more writing? The suggested term "écriture double" prefers to accentuate the writing aspect. The quote also stresses that established terms like "original" don't seem to be applicable when talking about self-translation.

During my research on Sekiguchi I found a summary of another discussion with her, which took place in 2006: Blurring Boundaries: A Conversation on the Art of Translation with Rosa Alcalá, Ryoko Sekiguchi, and Cole Swensen (Poets House, 11/17/06). I hope somebody will also be so kind to sum up the lecture in Japan.

For further reading:
Sekiguchi, Ryōko (2002): L'auto-traduction ou l'artifice de la contrainte. In: Poésie 100, p. 260-261, Berlin.

New study of Molloy

As already stated, self-translation is an issue researchers on Beckett are more and more aware of. In her new study of Molloy: Modalités po(ï)étiques de configuration textuelle: le cas de Molloy de Samuel Beckett, Carla Taban dedicates the fourth chapter to the issue of self-translation:
Chapitre 4. Molloy/Molloy : (auto-)traduction et po(ï)éticité intra-inter-textuelle

For more information on the book, visit the presentation by Rodopi.

For furter reading:
Taban, Carla (2009): Modalités po(ï)étiques de configuration textuelle: le cas de Molloy de Samuel Beckett. Amsterdam/New York, 360 pp. Pb: 978-90-420-2587-5

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

André Brink

André Brink is one of the most consistent self-translators. He writes his books both in Afrikaans and English. He does not refer to one version as translation, so one can't tell which one is the translation and which one is the original. Because both versions influence each other he prefers to call the process "rewriting" instead of "translating: "However, I do not ‚translate‘ my books. I rewrite them in English or Afrikaans, sometimes alternating chapters and in the process reworking the original in the light of the changes made in the other language. This cross-pollination continues until I say ‚that is enough‘, otherwise I'd never finish a book.“ (Maree 1999, S. 43) André Brink started self-translation because his book Kennis van die Aand was banned in South Africa: „With my work banned, I suddenly found that I had lost my audience, because I only wrote in Afrikaans. So I decided to push things further by translating the novel into English, so it could reach a public outside South Africa.“ (UNESCO 1993).
Research on self-translations by André Brink is rare as far as I know. There is one article by Alet Kruger (2008) and a very interesting master thesis by Ehrlich Shlomit (2007) on André Brink and Dalene Mathee.

For further reading:
Eder, Richard (1980): An Interview with André Brink. In: New York Times, 23.03.1980.

Kruger, Alex (2008): Translation, self-translation and apartheid-imposed conflict. To be published in Language and Politics 2008. Available online.

Maree, Cathy (1999): ‚We can only manage the world once it has been storified‘ – Interview with André Brink. In: Unisa Latin American Report 15:1, S. 43.

Ehrlich, Shlomit "(2007): The Status and Production of Self-Translated Texts: Afrikaans-English as a Case in Point. Master thesis Bar-Ilan University. Available online.

UNESCO (1993): André Brinks talks to Bahgat Elnadi and Adel Rifaat. In: UNESCO Courrier, Sept. 1993,, 20. Dec. 2007.

Wheatcroft, Geoffrey (1982): A talk with André Brink. In: New York Times, 13.06.1982.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Ariel Dorfman

Ariel Dorfman, born in 1942, is a Chilean bilingual writer (English/Spanish). He explains that the decision in which to write a novel is always hard, but becomes even more difficult when chosing the language for your autobiography: "I couldn’t for the life or death decide in which of my two languages to write the story of my life. […] Whenever I wrote anything about my life, in either language it simply sounded … false, falso, fraudulent, fraudulento.“ (Dorfman 2004, p. 206)
Ariel Dorfman started with self-translation because his play "La muerte y la doncella" was not successful in Chile, so he decided to translate the Spanish original into English. "Death and the maiden" became a worldwide success despite of or even due to the former rejection by the Chilean public: "I translated it immediately into English, and worked with it in English from that moment on. I probably never would have gone through that experience if it hadn’t been that what I wrote in Spanish was rejected by my own audience in Chile." (Dorfman 2002, p. 56)
Ariel Dorfman continues to self-translate his work also for economic reasons: „[Y]ou get paid once in Spanish and once in English and between both payments, sabes, you manage to get one whole meal for one family of four.“ (Dorfman 2004, p. 206)

For further reading:
Dorfman, Ariel (2002): Resisting Hybridity. In: Daniel Balderstone/Marcy E. Schwarz (ed.): Voice-Overs. Translation and Latin American Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press, p. 55-57.

Dorfman, Ariel (2004): Footnotes to a double life. In: Wendy Lesser (ed.): The Genius of Language. Fifteen Writers Reflect on Their Mother Tongues. New York: Pantheon Books, p. 206-217.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

History of self-translation

As self-translation has become a more and more common practice in our globalized world, more and more research is be done in this area. Jan Walsh Hokenson and Marcella Munson have given an excellent overview of the history and long tradition of self-translation, explaining the historical and political circumstances in the different centuries which led authors to self-translation.
If you don't have the time to read a whole book or just want to get an impression of how widespread self-translation has always been, you can also start with an article by Julio César Santoyo (written in Spanish). Santoyo aims to refute that only few authors translated their own works by listing numerous self-translators since the 14th century and claims that more research has to be done on this subject. His short overview gives you several starting points for your own research as sometimes you don't really get more information as just the fact that the author translated his own work. No languages are mentioned, neither how often the author used self-translation or if he did translate his work on his own or with the aid of a professional translator.

For further reading:
Jan Walsh Hokenson and Marcella Munson (2007): The Bilingual Text. History and Theory of Literary Self-translation. St. Jerome Publishing. 246 pages.

Julio César Santoyo (2005): Autotraducciones. In: META v50 , n3, p. 858-867.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Author-Translator Conference -Call for papers

Today I read an interesting call for papers. It is a conference about authors as translators, also focusing on the subject of self-translation. It will take place at Swansea University, 28 June – 1 July 2010. Confirmed keynote speakers include: Susan Bassnett, David Constantine, Lawrence Venuti.
Deadline for abstracts: 30.09.2009.
Click here for more information.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Reasons for self-translation

There are many different reasons why authors decide to self-translate their works. One can distinguish at least political, literary, economic and personal reasons.
André Brink started with self-translation because one of his work was banned in South Africa, so he decided to translate the original - written in Africaans - into English to get it published. Reaching a wider audience is also the main motiviation of authors writing in a minority language especially in Spain for Catalan and Galician writers but also for Gaelic authors. Some writers started to self-translate because they felt misunderstood and deceived by the translations done by professional translators. So they prefered to do it on their own or others like Kundera claimed to review the translations before they were published. Some bilingual writers explain that they feel the work is only completed if it exists in both languages. Several authors started to write the two works simultanously and translating helped them to find the weak points and so while translating they improved the other version and so the two versions were finished at the same time - before even one was published. Thats why often it is hard to tell which version was the first one or it doesn't really exist an "original" version. But this another issue I will soon adress in another posting. There are also personal reasons for self-translation, as some authors state that by chosing one language over the other, they feel kind of guilty. So self-translation helps them to restore a kind balance and harmony between their two languages. For others it is a way to stay in touch with both languages, especially if they live in exile, it is a way for them to keep their first language alive.

Monday, June 15, 2009

Greek self-translators

During my research on Vassilis Alexakis today, I found a very interesting article published 25.1o.2007 in the English edition of the newspaper Kathimerini about a conference with five Greek authors who write in a foreign language. Three of them are self-translators. One of them of course was Vassilis Alexakis, the other two were Panos Karnezis and Theodor Kallifatides.
Panos Karnezis was born in 1967 in Greece and has been living in England since 1992. He writes in English and translates his books into Greek. Theodor Kallifatidis was born in 1938 in Greece and has been living in Sweden since 1963. He writes in Swedish and rewrites his books in Greek.

For further reading:
Literary encounters that span different languages. Five cosmopolitan Greek writers share their thoughts with a packed Athenian audience. In Kathimerini English Edition. 25.10.2007.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Raymond Federman and the Web 2.0

Raymond Federman is one of the most important postmodern writers and of course a self-translator. He was born in 1928 in France and emigrated to the United States in 1947.
Raymond Federman's favourite writer is Beckett. As we have seen Beckett functions as a link between Nancy Huston,Vassilis Alexakis and Raymond Federman.
Federman writes in English or in French. He mostly self-translates his poetry, but he has also self-translated some of his novels. I will tell you about his self-translations on a separate posting.
Raymond Federman is very interested in getting in touch with his readers. For this purpose he is one of the few writers who uses the means of the Web 2.0. He writes his own blog, of course he has a homepage, but you can also find him on Facebook and myspace and he has even published his email-adress, so you have many means to contact him directly.
If you ever have the chance to attend one of his readings, don't miss it, you will never forget it!

Raymond Federman on the web:

Self-translation in different languages

As the approach to self-translation has to be a multilingual one, it is helpful to know the term "self-translation" in different languages:
French: auto-traduction
German: Selbstübersetzung
Spanish: autotraducción
Italian: autotraduzione
Portuguese: autotradução
Galician: autotradución
Catalan: autotraduccion
Romanian: autotraduceri

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Nancy Huston

Nancy Huston was born in 1953 in Calgary (Canada). Since 1974 she lives in France and is married to the philosopher Tzvetan Todorov. Nancy Huston won many literary awards, amongst them the Prix Femina for her novel Lignes de failles.
She gave her literary debut in 1981 with the novel Les variations Goldberg not in English, but in French. In 1991 she switched her literary language and wrote her first novel in English Plainsong. But as she could not get it published she translated the novel into French. Both versions, the French and the English, were then by chance published at the same time. The French version Cantiques des plaines won the Prix du Gouverneur in the category "Romans et nouvelles en français" in 1993 in Quebec. This decision caused a lot of trouble because obviously Cantiques des plaines was "only" a translation and so some claimed that it could only have been rewarded in the category 'translation'.
Nancy Huston continues to translate her own work. In an interview with the Victorian Writer in 2007 she explained: "[S]ince rhythm and phonetics are of the utmost importance to me, I wouldn’t trust anyone else to translate my work into one of these languages."
As many other self-translators, Nancy Huston is very interested in the work of Samuel Beckett and even dedicated a bilingual book to him: Limbes/Limbo: hommage à Samuel Beckett.

Interviews with Nancy Huston:
Victorian Writer (2007): Finding freedom in a foreign idiom. July-August 2007.
Lire. Le magazine littéraire (2001): Entretien avec Nancy Huston. Mars 2001. [Link updated]

Interesting articles on Nancy Huston:
The Independent (2008): Biography. Nancy Huston: A view from both sides. 22 February 2008.

Interesting research on Nancy Huston as a self-translator for further reading:
Elefante, Chiara (2007): Ecriture multilingue et auto-traduction dans l'oeuvre de Nancy Huston: "désirs et réalités". In: Giovanna Bellati (ed.): Un paysage choisi. Torino: Harmattan, pp. 161-172.
Klein-Lataud, Christine (1996): Les voix parallèles de Nancy Huston. In: TTR. Traduction, Terminologie, Redaction 9:1, S. 211–231, available online.
Senior, Nancy (2001): Whose song, whose land? Translation and appropriation in Nancy Huston's Plainsong/Cantiques des plaines. In: META, vol. 46, n°4, p. 675-686. Available online.
Wilhelm, Jane Elisabeth (2006): Autour de Limbes/Limbo: un hommage à Samuel Beckett de Nancy Huston. In: Isabelle Génin (ed.): Traduire l'intertextualité. Presse Sorbonne Nouvelle, pp. 59-85.

Nancy Huston in Paris this weekend

Literary festival in Paris (4th-8th June) has invited Nancy Huston, another contemporary self-translator. All events are for free so check out the festival site for more infomation.

Literary language choice

In her article "French: the language of freedom", published Friday April 10th 2009 in the Guardian Weekly, Florence Noville discusses why so many writers decide to write in French, although it is not their mother tongue. Noville names several authors like Beckett, Kundera, Alexakis, Weber and claims that they all have abandoned their mother tongue to write in French. Well, this is just not true. Although all these writers have indeed chosen to write in French, they did not abandon their mother tongue, or as I prefer to say, their first language, as literay language. Instead they decided to write in both languages, many of them even decided to self-translate their works. It is really unfortunate that bilingual literature is still being ignored.

Alexakis spoke at Lyon

I just read in another blog that Alexakis spoke several days ago at Lyon in France about "D'une langue à l'autre". I hope to get more information soon.

So a woman named Olga told me on the blog Defkalion the following:
"Et bien, il a dit que l'auteur ne cherche pas dans quelle culture il va écrire (française, grecque ou autre..) mais il cherche à trouver sa culture personnelle et à écrire dans celle-ci. Il s'agit de la culture du roman. Cette dernière a une existence propre et n'est pas liée à un à lui pays. Lui - même, quand il écrit dans une langue c'est parce que ses personnages la lui imposent. Pour écrire il faut 2 aiguilles comme pour le tricot; il faut 2 idées qui avancent ensemble en créant une histoire à laquelle il croit fortement. Il faut aussi aimer raconter des histoires, il en a raconté quelques une drôles et émouvantes."
Merci beaucoup, Olga!

Second Update:
You can watch the whole conference online.

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Vassilis Alexakis

Vassilis Alexakis is a Greek and French author and self-translator.
He was born in 1934 in Greece. Today he lives in France and Greece and writes his books in French as well as in Greek. He was awarded many literary prizes like the Prix Médicis for his novel La langue maternelle or the Grand Prix du Roman de l'Académie française for his novel Ap. J-C. in 2007. He made his literary debut in French in 1974 with his novel Sandwich.
Every time he starts writing a book, he decides whether to write in French or Greek and then translates the book in the other language afterwards. Self-translation gives him the opportunity to ameliorate the original which he also does. Because of this revision Alexakis prefers the self-translated version of his texts as he explains in his book Les mots étrangers: "En me relisant à travers une autre langue, je vois mieux mes faiblesses, je les corrige, ce qui explique que je préfère être lu en traduction plutôt que dans la version originale."
Alexakis often discusses the issue of being a bilingual writer in his books. I learned about the work of Alexakis during my research for my diploma thesis and I really love his work. I highly recommend his novel Paris-Athènes. You can find an extract of the book translated in English by Andriana Mastor on Words without Borders, an online magazine for international literature.
Yesterday I got in touch with a student from Canada, also interested in self-translation, Eleftheria Tassiopoulos, who will present a paper on his self-translations at the conference in Taragona, I posted some days ago. I am really looking forward to read this paper.

Interesting research on Vassilis Alexakis as a self-translator for further reading:

Marianne Halloran (2008): Vassilis Alexakis: exorciser l’exil. Déplacements autofictionnels, linguistiques et spatiaux. Available online.

Efstratia Oktapoda-Lu (2001): Vassilis Alexakis ou la quête d'identité," in: Jean-Pierre Castellani. La Langue de l'Autre ou La Double identité de l'écriture, Tours, Publication de l'Université François Rabelais, pp. 281-295.

Interesting interviews with Vassilis Alexakis for further reading:

Christophe Kantcheff (1995): Vassilis Alexakis. Croquis d'un Grec. In: Le Matricule des Anges, issue 14. Available online.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Dissertation on Alexakis

Today I read the introduction of the dissertation: Vassilis Alexakis: exorciser l’exil. Déplacements autofictionnels, linguistiques et spatiaux by Marianne Halloran (Date of defense: 2008-02-29, language: French; available online as pdf) which seems quite promising. Although she takes the fact into account that Alexakis does self-translations, she announces that she will not compare the different versions, which I think is a quite refreshing approach. On the other hand, she decided to limit herself to the french versions only, which at first glance I find a bit problematic.
In her introduction she discusses the use of the term "Francophonie" which Alexakis refuses to use for himself. She also refers to the manifesto " Pour une 'littérature monde' en français" which was published in Le Monde in 2007 and emphasizes the need to overcome old literary categories which are based on national aspects. How to "label" or "categorize" bilingual writers mainly self-translators is an issue still to be solved.
Halloran also draws attention to the fact that in France many literary prizes especially in 2007 have been given to foreign writers. A fact that was already discussed in 1997 in the New York Times by Alan Riding in a very interesting article: "An Invading Legion of Foreign Writers is Snapping up the Medals".
Alexakis himself also points out that he neither belongs to the French nor to the Greek literature. Halloran remarks that Alexakis is not even mentioned in the Encyclopedia of Modern Greek Literature which I think is quite remarkable and also quite disappointing.
Altogether, I am looking forward to read the whole dissertation and I am really grateful that she has made it available for all of us.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Conference: New Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies

Self-translation will be a subject on the conference "New Research in Translation and Interpreting Studies" which will take place from 25 -27 June 2009 in Taragona, Spain.
The program is available online.

Self-translation will be discussed on Saturday in the Sala de Graus with the following contributions:

Thomson, Brook: Una voz en dos mundos: La autotraducción y la traducción de la poesía

Tassiopoulos, Eleftheria: Bilingual texts and self-translation

If anybody attends this conference I would be grateful for more information on these two lectures.

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Il traduttore come autore-The translator as Author

There has been a conference on the subject: "Il traduttore come autore / The Translator as Author" in Siena, Italy this weekend. The programm looks very interesting.
If anybody reading this blog has attended this conference, I would love to hear about it.

Samuel Beckett, of course

The most well known self-translator is of course Samuel Beckett. He wrote his plays and prose in English or French and translated almost every work in the other language. Often he is considered to be the only self-translator who has done self-translation to such an extent, but although it is truly not common amongst self-translators to translate every single work, he is not the only one. Self-translation is also a characteristic of the oeuvre of André Brink or Nancy Huston, to name just a few. As Beckett's oeuvre is availabe in two languages, critics of consider only the work in one language, considering this version to be the original no matter in which direction the translation has occured. But as the translation can also be considered as a comment on the earlier version, critics who will take into account both versions of the work, will gain a deeper understanding.
Sometimes Beckett worked with professional translators but most of the time he translated his works alone. He also participated in the translations of his works into German. Most of the research in the field of self-translation has been done on Samuel Beckett, so the further references are only a minor selection.

Interesting research on Samuel Beckett as a self-translator for further reading:
- Friedman, Allen Warren (eds.) (1987): Beckett Translating/Translating Beckett. University Park/London: The Pennsylvania State.
- Fitch, Brian (1988) : Beckett and Babel: An Investigation into the Status of the Bilingual Work. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.
- Scheiner, Corinne (1999): Writing at the Crossroads: Samuel Beckett and the Case of the Bilingual, Self-Translating Author. In: Marius Buning and Ton Hoenselaars (eds.): English Literature and the “Other” Languages. Atlanta and Amsterdam: Rodopi Press, pp. 175-184.
- Scheiner, Corinne (2000): Bilingualism and biculturalism in self-translation: Samuel Beckett and Vladimir Nabokov as doubled Novelists. Ph.D. Dissertation, The University of Chicago.
- Oustinoff, Michaël (2001): Bilinguisme d'écriture et auto-traduction: Julien Green, Samuel Beckett, Vladimir Nabokov. Paris: L'Harmattan.


Welcome on my blog. I'm very interested in the subject of self-translation, which means authors who translate their own literary works and looking forward to discuss this subject with other people. Also I will present self-translators and interesting articles on this subject. Any suggestions on authors and articles are welcome!
I apologize for any spelling and grammar mistakes in advance but my languages keep melting into each other with sometimes funny consequences. My first language is German, my second language French and my third language is English and I also have some basic knowledge of Spanish.

Sunday, May 24, 2009


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