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.