Monday, 10 October 2016

The fate of a Japanese silent film in translation

I have one thing to say about this year's Pordenone Silent Film Festival.


OK, two things:


It was my first visit (it's been a banner year for film festivals, what with the Slapstick Festival in Bristol, Il cinema ritrovato in Bologna, and then the first ever Cinema Rediscovered festival in Bristol) and I can't wait to go again.

I thought I would celebrate the brilliance that was this week by sharing a snippet of film translation history that I came across recently. It's a sordid story of silent film, translation, Ireland, criminal behaviour and flammable nitrate...

In researching the distribution of foreign films in Ireland (a task made more complicated because for much of the twentieth century 'foreign films' meant anything not made in Ireland) I came across a fascinating anecdote. On Thursday 21 September 1944 Dublin's Evening Herald newspaper reported on the theft of eight reels of 'the only English translation in the world of a foreign film, entitled "The 27 Martyrs of Japan". The case was heard at the Metropolitan Juvenile court, as the film had been stolen by a fourteen-year-old messenger boy:

Five rolls of the film had been recovered by the time of this first court hearing, and three were still missing. The unnamed boy reappeared in court on 28 August 1944, at which point it was discovered that the missing rolls of film had met an unhappy fate:

The film was in fact The 26 Martyrs of Japan, which had had a long run in Ireland. As reportedly the first Catholic-themed film to be released in Japan, it was much trailed in the Irish press, and opened at the Savoy in Holy Week, 1937:

It's not clear to me yet what form the translation took (there was some talk of a lecturer alongside the film), and why the print was still in Ireland in 1944 - and indeed whether the remaining reels of that print survive somewhere - but the good news is that a version of the film did survive elsewhere and it's once again being screened.

Sunday, 2 October 2016

Mystery dubbed film: WW2 film 'Behind these Walls'?

Hello gentle readers, I've been burrowing in Irish newspaper archives recently, for my own nefarious research purposes, and am a bit perplexed by something (well, more than one thing, but you know what I mean).

On 23 May 1948, Noel F. Moran, film critic of Ireland's Sunday Independent, reviewed an Anglo-French coproduction by the title Behind These Walls in his regular column 'This week's Films' (p.2). I'm unable to find any record of a film with this title, and as you will see below, he doesn't give any helpful information about actors, director etc., because he is too busy complaining about the dubbing.

I'm casting this one out to the 'verse, and would be very grateful if any readers or their acquaintances could shed any light on what the film might be. Here's what NFM says about the film:
The Anglo-French film "Behind These Walls" (Regal) is more notable as a technical experiment than as a story of the French Resistance Movement. It is, to my mind, an experiment that fails but, let me hasten to add, not on the technical side.
     The background is French: the characters are French. By means of the De Lane Lea process of English speech recording (it is known as "Lingua Synchrone"), these characters are given English voices to speak the English dialogue. Technically, as I have already implied, the process is a success. The synchronisation is a definite advance on the old hit-and-miss methods of dubbing, utilised largely on the Continent and in America. But, what has happened to the atmosphere and the realism? They have gone with the wind.
     At its best, the picture could never be regarded as another "Open City". It has not the same scope or stature, nor does it seek to give the same comprehensive survey of a great nation under the heel of the invader. Made with R.A.F. co-operation, it is a recreation of a true incident. A group of ordinary people face a tragically simple problem - whether or not to blow up a German benzine [sic] train and sacrifice the lives of 50 of their fellow countrymen, held as hostages. Emphasis is on the reactions of these hostages as they await their fate - the Mayor, outwardly calm but sick inside; the doctor; the old beggar, facing destiny philosophically; the spiv; the coward; all the unspectacular heroes and heroines of the back streets.
     The characterisation has all the visual appeal and the sensitivity one has come to associate with the French cinema - all set at nought by those English voices, which make the film neither fish, flesh nor good red herring, to to speak. The cockney-like voice of the tramp, for instance, is described in the publicity sheet as "a forthright accent that drives home the essential provincialism of the French original hero of this dramatic part". My imagination is not sufficiently vivid to catch the analogy. Give me the original French version, with English sub-titles, however inadequate. When I go to see a French film, I want to see a French film. Running time: 1 hour, 32 minutes.

UPDATE later that evening: Warm thanks to Lucy M. and Sam B. who have solved the mystery. The film is Jericho, also known as Behind These Walls, directed by Henri Calef and released in 1946. There does appear to be some confusion about the title. The film was reviewed in the New York Times on 6 December under the title Jericho ("exultant drama in the truly fine, French tradition"). There is no mention of the translation but it seems more likely that it was the subtitled version since it played at the 55th St. Playhouse which showed a lot of subtitled imports. Jericho was also the French release title. It was reviewed twice in the Monthly Film Bulletin in the UK, on 1 January 1947 for the dubbed version under the title Behind These Walls, on 1 January 1948 for the English-subtitled version, under the title Derrière ces murs. The subtitles were referred to as 'adequate' and the dubbed version 'not too offensive'.

Friday, 30 September 2016

Happy International Translation Day! and 2016 UK translator survey

What better way to celebrate St. Jerome's Day than via this email this morning that made me smile. It's from the indefatigable Paul Kaye at the European Commission representation in London (@PaulKayeEUlangs for anyone who might like to follow him on Twitter):

Subject: Happy St Jerome's Day! He'd do our survey if he were in our target group...

Dear all,

Today is the feast day of St Jerome, an Ilyrian theologian born in what is now Slovenia. He translated the Bible into Latin and is today the patron saint of translators. That makes 30 September International Translation Day.

If you work in translation in the UK, I'm sure St Jerome would urge you to complete our 2016 translator survey:

Best wishes,


Here's the man in question: (For more images of St. Jerome at work, see this old post...)

Tuesday, 13 September 2016

CFP: The Translator Made Corporeal: Translation History and the Archive, British Library, 8 May 2017

British Library and University College London

The Translator Made Corporeal: Translation History and the Archive

8 May 2017 
British Library Conference Centre

Keynote speaker: Jeremy Munday


In 2001 Theo Hermans suggested that while we have recognized that there can be no text without the human translator, translators are still expected to remain “hidden, out of view, transparent, incorporeal, disembodied and disenfranchised”.

Anthony Pym describes the need to look at the “flesh and blood” translator if we are to gain a deeper understanding of translators as cultural agents. D’Hulst suggests that we should ask Qui? - who is the translator? To answer this question he suggests we need to investigate the biographical detail of the translator, including his/her educational, social and economic background. More recently, Jeremy Munday, Outi Paloposki and others have suggested that we should research translators’ archives to reveal their every-day lives, struggles, networks, and even friendships. Munday has further suggested the creation of micro-histories of translators.

This conference sets out to explore current progress in studying the human, flesh-and-blood translator in an historical and cultural context.  A final panel, chaired by Theo Hermans, will focus on the future potentials, limitations and risks of biographical research of translators in Translation Studies and the humanities.

The British Library and University College London are currently accepting abstracts for papers from scholars and early career researchers in Translation Studies, History, Gender Studies, Comparative Literature, Sociology etc. We also welcome papers from archivists, curators and translators.


Themes for papers may include, but are not restricted to:

•    Biographical case studies of translators
•    Translators as political and/or cultural agents
•    The translator’s every-day life
•    Status and agency of translators
•    Translators' networks
•    The translator’s relationship with the author, publisher, editor
•    Translators’ social and cultural profile(s)
•    The translator negotiating her/his public persona – visibility versus invisibility
•    Translator as a poly-professional versus mono-professional
•    Amateur translators
•    Translation as a collaborative act
•    Collection of, and access to, translators archives
•    The opportunities and difficulties posed in of crossing disciplinary boundaries
•    The place of Bourdieu in investigating translators (“field”, “habitus”, capital)
•    The potential of collaborative research

Deadline and further details

Abstracts of 300 words should be sent to deborah.dawkin[at] by Friday 4 November 2016.
Selection of papers will be confirmed by the committee by 9 December 2016.

Scientific Committee

Theo Hermans, Jeremy Munday, Outi Paloposki, Mark Shuttleworth, Jakob Stougaard-Nielsen, Deborah Dawkin, Peter Good, Rachel Foss.

The British Library and Translation
The British Library is committed to promoting the importance of translation through its collections and events.  Among other translation related events, it is proud to host the annual Sebald Lecture and International Translation Day. “The Translator Made Corporeal: Translation History and the Archive” conference builds on two recent conferences held here: “Archival Uncertainties“, an international conference, exploring  the “diasporic archive” which featured leading Translation Studies scholars presenting their work on translation related archives, and the 2011 Conference “Literary Translators: Creative, Cultural and Collecting Contexts” which served as a forum for translation scholars, publishers, curators and archivists to discuss the future of collecting translators’ archives

Tuesday, 6 September 2016

Bursary Opportunity in Ireland for Brazilian Literary Translators in 2017

This looks like a wonderful opportunity for qualified candidates:

Bursary Opportunity in Ireland for Brazilian Literary Translators in 2017

Literature Ireland, in co-operation with the Trinity Centre for Literary Translation, Trinity College Dublin, wishes to invite applications from literary translators for a residential bursary in Dublin in the period January to May 2017.

The bursary will be awarded to a practising literary translator of established track record who is working on a translation into Brazilian Portuguese of a work of contemporary Irish literature.

Travel and living expenses will be covered by Literature Ireland, while accommodation and work space will be provided by the Trinity Centre for Literary Translation, Trinity College Dublin. The successful applicant will be asked to work closely with students on the M. Phil. in Literary Translation (1–2 contact hours a week) and to organise three public workshops/talks on contemporary Latin American literature.

The bursary will be of four months’ duration. All applicants for this bursary must provide proof that they hold a publishing contract for the work in question. Applications should include an outline project proposal, current curriculum vitae and two references (including one from a publishing house). Where possible, a sample of the translation-in-progress (approximately 1,000 words of the original) should also be submitted in support of the application.

Completed applications should be submitted by email in English to no later than Friday, 14 October 2016. The successful candidate will be notified by Friday, 21 October 2016. For further information, contact Rita McCann, info at, or Dr Sarah Smyth, ssmyth at

Tuesday, 30 August 2016

Two Irish events for International Translation Day, Cork and Dublin, 2016

A flurry of posts, as St. Jerome's day heaves into view.
This next event looks fantastic; I wish I could go! What a dream line-up of speakers including Professors Luis Perez Gonzalez, Michael Cronin, Hilary Footitt, Lawrence Venuti and other very distinguished scholars...

There is more information at

The event is organized by Dr Caroline Williamson of University College Cork whose article "Post-traumatic growth at the international level: The obstructive role played by translators and editors of Rwandan Genocide testimonies" was published in issue 9(1) of the journal Translation Studies.


As it happens the reason I can't go is a happy one; I will be taking part in another event on Tuesday 27 September for International Translation Day, at the Royal Irish Academy in Dublin. The programme is as follows:

Translation Seminar with Professor Reine Meylaerts, KU Leuven

Translation and Citizenship: 'La loi doit être connue pour être obligatoire'

Since the European democratization processes of the long nineteenth century, the very core of the legal and political potential to act as a citizen was formed by communicative resources. Communication between authorities and citizens through one (or more) national language(s) thus became of utmost importance. That is why studying language and translation policies is crucial to understand the role of language and translation in the construction of democratic citizenship. Drawing on examples from nineteenth-century Belgium, this presentation will reflect on issues of translation and citizenship and on methodological and theoretical implications for Translation Studies.

14:00—16:00, choose one of the following round tables:

1) The Work of the Professional Translator

This roundtable will discuss topics such as training, freelance v staff translator, the translation market, specialising and technology. Chair: Annette Schiller (ITIA)

2) Translation History: Why Bother?

This roundtable will discuss the function and utility of translation history, approaches to translation history, futures of translation history, interdisciplinarity and impact. Chair: Carol O'Sullivan (University of Bristol) and Alice Colombo (NUI Galway)

3) Why Translation Matters

This roundtable will look at the function and place of translation in society, its role in intercultural dialogue, its challenges and its future. Chairs: David Johnston and Piotr Blumczynski (Queen's University Belfast)

The afternoon's roundtables will be followed at 17:00 by 'Translating Anne Enright' - an event with Anne Enright in conversation with four translators of her work; Sergio Claudio Perroni (Italy), Hans-Christian Oeser (Germany), Isabelle Reinharez (France) and María Porras Sánchez (Spain). 

Click here to book tickets for the 'Translating Anne Enright' event at 17:00 on 27 September 2016.

More information on both events and booking links at