Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Happy St. Jerome's Day: untranslatable words

You get those little 'untranslatable words' meme going round at intervals. I'm always a bit suspicious - though I did like the word 'poronkusema' which is apparently, according to the interwebs, a distance of about 7.5km in Finland, equal to how far a reindeer can travel without stopping to urinate. 

But what about words which are untranslatable not because they mean something so specific, but because they mean so many things? My favourite (if, OK, fictional) example is Flann O'Brien's panegyric on the meanings of the Irish verb 'cur' [to put]:
There is scarcely a single word in the Irish (barring, possibly, Sasanach) that is simple and explicit. Apart from words with endless shades of cognate meaning, there are many with so complete a spectrum of graduated ambiguity that each of them can be made to express two directly contrary meanings, as well as a plethora of intermediate concepts that have no bearing on either. And all this strictly within the linguistic field. Superimpose on all that the miasma of ironic usage, poetic licence, oxymoron, plamás, Celtic evasion, Irish bullery and Paddy Whackery, and it a safe bet that you will find yourself very far from home. Here is an example copied from Dinneen and from more authentic sources known only to my little self:

Cur, g. curtha and cuirthe, m.—act of putting, sending, sowing, raining, discussing, burying, vomiting, hammering into the ground, throwing through the air, rejecting, shooting, the setting or clamp in a rick of turf, selling, addressing, the crown of cast-iron buttons which have been made bright by contact with cliff-faces, the stench of congealing badger's suet, the luminance of glue-lice, a noise made in an empty house by an unauthorised person, a heron's boil, a leprachaun's denture, a sheep-biscuit, the act of inflating hare's offal with a bicycle pump, a leak in a spirit level, the whine of a sewage farm windmill, a corncrake's clapper, the scum on the eye of a senile ram, a dustman's dumpling, a beetle's faggot, the act of loading every rift with ore, a dumb man's curse, a blasket, a 'kur', a fiddler's occupational disease, a fairy godmother's father, a hawk's vertigo, the art of predicting past events, a wooden coat, a custard-mincer, a blue-bottle's 'farm', a gravy flask, a timber-mine, a toy craw, a porridge-mill, a fair-day donnybrook with nothing barred, a stoat's stomach-pump, a broken—
But what is the use? One could go on and on without reaching anywhere in particular.
                                                 (from Flann O'Brien, The Best of Myles, pp.278-279)

Myles na Gopaleen is joking (I think) but in a very nice 2012 article called "Honor Thine Author" (paywalled) the translator Fiona Elliot puts in a plea to her authors not to use the German word aufheben because 
What English verb could match “aufheben,” meaning to pick something up from the floor, to save something up for later, to close a meeting, to terminate a siege, to remove restrictions, to cancel or annul, to repeal or revoke, to compensate, neutralize, offset, or elevate? (Actually, at the latest count there are forty-seven separate translations for it online at dict.cc.).
         (Fiona Elliott, "Honor Thine Author". Art in Translation 4:1 (2012), pp.89-98)

Happy St. Jerome's Day!

Sunday, 28 September 2014

Save the date: Translate in the City 2015, London, 6-10 July 2015

Doesn't everyone love a good summer school? I hear very good things about this one, so you might want to make a note in your diary.

Part-bursaries available.

Poetry in Metamorphosis: A celebration of Italian poetry and translation

For italianisti, poetry lovers and anyone who enjoyed this post on Dante in Essex:

Poetry in Metamorphosis
A celebration of Italian poetry and translation
as part of the British Academy Guardian Language Festival and the Settimana della Lingua Italiana nel Mondo 2014

Tuesday 21 October 2014

at The British Academy, 10–11 Carlton House Terrace, London, SW1Y 5AH
9.30 a.m.–5.45 p.m.

Speakers include: Jacob Blakesley (Leeds), Nadia Cannata and colleagues (Sapienza Università di Roma), Daniela Caselli (Manchester), F.M. Federici (UCL), Paul Howard (Cambridge), Daniela La Penna (Reading), Matthew Reynolds (Oxford), Claudia Rossignoli (St Andrews) and Nigel Vincent (Manchester)

at the Italian Cultural Institute, 39 Belgrave Square, London, SW1X 8NX
6.30 p.m.
Matthew Reynolds will introduce readings by Philip Terry (Essex) from Dante’s Inferno
Marina Warner will introduce Jamie McKendrick’s new translation of the poetry of Antonella Anedda

For further information and the programme, see:

Thursday, 25 September 2014

Job opening: in-house translator from French and German to English

In-house Translator from French and German to English

Additional languages would be an advantage and a background in science and/or technology would be an asset
We are a small translation agency based in Colchester, Essex, specialising in intellectual property. We pride ourselves on our customer service and in particular on the high quality of translations we produce, and we are now seeking a new colleague who will enjoy working to these values.

Responsibilities will include:
• translation and checking of texts (patents, trademark documentation, oppositions, appeals, judgments, scientific articles) from French and German into English.
• coordination of incoming work and assignment of texts to translators.
• dealing with clients in French and German.
• administration related to translation tasks.

The ideal candidate will:
• be qualified to postgraduate level in translation (essential)
• speak English to native-speaker level (essential)
• be able to translate from French and German into English (applicants with only one of these two language combinations may still be considered)
• have experience in a scientific and/or technological field (desirable)
• have excellent attention to detail
• work well both independently and as part of a team
• be able to work to deadlines without compromising quality of work.

Permanent position on successful completion of three-month probationary period.
Training provided in a friendly, team-orientated company, with opportunity to develop areas of interest and expertise.
Salary commensurate with experience.
Part-time options may be available – please state your availability when applying.

Closing Date: 17th October 2014.

To apply, please send a CV and covering letter to Priory Translations
By e-mail: careers[at]priorytranslations.co.uk (please include the reference "In-house Translator" in the subject line)
By post: Careers
Priory Translations Limited
Graphic House
11 Magdalen Street

Original post is on the company website here

Sunday, 21 September 2014

STEM visuals in translation: project seeks co-researchers

Maybe of interest to some readers of this blog:

I saw on the European Society for Translation Studies Facebook page that a Lisbon- and New Mexico Tech-based research project, VISTAC (Visualising Science and Technology Across Cultures), is seeking co-researchers to look at STEM visuals in translation. They want to disseminate a survey in the main internet languages and are particularly interested in hearing from researchers who speak Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Russian or Spanish.

The last thing I read on this topic was a fascinating article by Liangyu Fu entitled 'Indigenizing visualized knowledge: translating Western science illustrations in China, 1870-1910' which is currently free to read on the Translation Studies website. But it would be great to read something more up to date too!

CFP: Recent European (Re)translations of Shakespeare

This just came round on the Translatio mailing list and looks like an interesting seminar:

Call for Papers: Recent European (Re)translations of Shakespeare

Conveners: Lily Kahn (UCL),  l.kahn@ucl.ac.uk
                     Márta Minier (University of South Wales), marta.minier@southwales.ac.uk
                     Martin Regal (University of Iceland), martinregal@gmail.com

The longevity of Shakespearean translations is generally somewhat limited. Although some canonical translations have a relatively long life as literary works and/or in the theatre, it is common for Shakespeare to be retranslated periodically. Within Europe there is a widespread phenomenon of systematic series of (re)translations of Shakespeare’s complete works; in recent years this trend has given rise to the WSOY Finnish Complete Works, completed in 2013, the new Polish Complete Works, the New Romanian Shakespeare series, and others. In addition, specially commissioned individual retranslations designed for specific productions are a common feature of the European theatrical scene. Examination of the rich variety of issues surrounding this phenomenon of retranslation in the European context can provide valuable insights into the theory and practice of Shakespearean interpretation.
This proposed seminar will bring together scholars, editors and practising translators engaged in the production and analysis of Shakespearean translations. It will also be open to dramaturges or directors who would like to comment on working with new or revised (that is, dramaturgically adjusted) translations. Proposals will be welcomed on topics including but not limited to the following:
·         factors galvanising the decision to produce new translations, including philological and interpretive shifts, changing conventions of theatre, and the emergence of new performance and directorial styles;
·         the collaborative framework behind commissioned translations and the relationship between the translator and other stakeholders;
·         societal perceptions of the modern Shakespeare translator; trends in the selection of different translation strategies (e.g. foreignising vs. domesticating);
·         comparisons between alternative translations of the ‘same’ play (both synchronically and diachronically);
·         different translations of a single play by the same translator; the use of updated and otherwise modified versions of existing translations in new productions instead of commissioning completely original work;
·         the critical reception of new translations both in textual format and in theatrical contexts.

We will consider papers focusing on academic translation series not necessarily intended for performance in addition to those specifically commissioned or designed for theatrical use that may not be as suitable for employment in educational contexts.

Please submit an abstract (200-300 words) and a brief biography (150 words) by 1 December  2014 to all seminar conveners. 
All participants will be notified about the acceptance of their proposals by 1 March 2015
The deadline for submitting the completed seminar papers (3,000 words) is 1 May 2015.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Translating incidental rhyme, part 1

One of the things that interests me in translation is how the material features of the text like sound, prosody etc. can be a challenge for the translator (see e.g. here (paywalled) and here and here).  It's the start of the new academic year, and I was hunting around for good examples of rhyming texts for lecture examples and class exercises.

Obviously poetry is the obvious place where you find rhyme, but then the problem of translating the sound and rhythm gets tangled up in all the other problems of poetry translation, and that's a different kettle of fish. I was looking for rhyme that wasn't part of a complex poetic whole, and could be discussed as a (relatively) free-standing textual issue. So, method:
1) Come across random instance of rhyme occurring in non-poetic context.
2) Check for existing translations.
3) Track down copy of translation to see what they did with the rhyme.  
4) Develop (hopefully) engaging classroom exercise based on the students translating short text excerpts and then comparing their version with the published version.
The first text I thought I might use is a French graphic novel:

The first episodes of Transperceneige came out in 1982, written by Jacques Lob and drawn by Jean-Marc Rochette. The graphic novel is set in a post-apocalyptic world where a new ice age has descended and all of humanity has frozen to death, except the inhabitants of a train fuelled by a perpetual motion engine. The book was filmed by Bong Joon-Ho last year as Snowpiercer. Though the film is 'inspired by' rather than 'an adaptation of', its appearance has led to a flurry of translations, including translations in English and in Italian.

One of the features of the French graphic novel is a series of 'establishing shot'-type panels (I'm sure there's a more technical term for them) giving exterior views of the train against the snowy landscape. There are ten of these panels, one for each of the original episodes (I think, since the story was originally published in instalments):

The text in each case is presented as a rhymed couplet or quatrain. In the single-volume graphic novel, these panels have a strong rhetorical effect, punctuating the narrative, offering moments of reprieve from the story of the main characters and providing an external, ironic narrative perspective. I wondered how this would be rendered in English translation.

So I trundled down to my trusty branch of Forbidden Planet in Bristol and bought the first volume in English translation by Virginie Sélavy, to find that the rhymed bits from the French graphic novel don't rhyme in English. For instance, one recurring couplet is:
C'est le transperceneige aux mille et un wagons.
Cest le dernier bastion d'la civilisation. 
This is repeated four times, juxtaposed with images of the violence and exploitation of life aboard the Snowpiercer. The couplet is identical in each case except for the punctuation.

In the unrhymed translation by Sélavy, instead of repeating the same text several times, we find slight variations.
This is the Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long.
This is the last bastion of civilisation...

This is the Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long,
Carrying the last of civilisation through the endless wastes...

This is the Snowpiercer, train of a thousand and one carriages.
The last bastion of civilisation.

This is Snowpiercer, one thousand and one carriages long...
This is the last bastion of civilisation.
The same happens with the initial introduction to the train (see the first panel above). This text reappears in the final panel of the graphic novel; the only difference is that in the opening panel it has a full stop, and in the final panel it has suspension dots.

In the English translation, more small variations appear. The first panel is rendered as follows: 

The final panel is rendered:
Across the blank immensity of
an eternal winter, from one end
of the planet to the other, there
travels a train that never stops...
These aren't huge differences. 'Blank' replaces 'white' and the adjective 'frozen' disappears. There's a slight difference in the layout of the text. I wonder, why the variation? I guess the rhyme just felt hokey in English, but perhaps there's also something about the repetition which doesn't travel over in English? Perhaps, without the rhyme, the repetition seemed a bit flat? Interestingly, what appeared at first to be a trivial use of rhyme, not linked to other elements of the text and therefore easily dispensable, turns out to exist in a more delicately balanced textual ecology.

More on the translation of incidental rhyme (in detective fiction) in part 2.

Thursday, 11 September 2014

CFP: Early Cinema in the Balkans and the Near East: Beginnings to Interwar Period (Athens, June, 2015)

It's great to see translation included in this conference call for papers; will look forward with interest to the resulting publication.


Early Cinema in the Balkans and the Near East: Beginnings to Interwar Period

Athens, Greece: 5-7 June, 2015

Hellenic Open University
Hyperion University Bucharest and Istanbul Şehir University
Altcine and Filmicon: Journal of Greek Film Studies


This conference aims to broaden the geo-cultural scope of early film studies by providing a forum for scholarship on early and silent cinema in the Balkans and the Near East. These geopolitical designations are to be taken heuristically, as temporary placeholders for conceptual mappings that remain to be developed and that this conference seeks to encourage.

A key common denominator between these otherwise diverse areas in (film) historical terms is that the arrival of the moving pictures finds them in varying stages of transition away from the Ottoman imperial system. The post-Ottoman transition was characterized by intermediate geopolitical formations that no longer exist, though they remain controversial, and by a high degree of overlap between imperial, national, and colonial jurisdictions.

These are critical issues that contribute to the under-representation of the Balkans and the Near East in early film studies. It is broadly known that the Balkans and the Near East feature prominently in early Western cinema’s orientalist imaginary and have stocked Western film companies’ catalogues with filmed “views.” Scholarship on these issues is still scarce, however, and these areas, as producers and consumers of early cinema, are virtually non-existent in film studies. Understanding the impediments to scholarship and mapping out focus areas for investigation can make for exciting and paradigm-changing scholarship.

With this potential in mind, the conference committee welcomes presentation proposals from university-, museum- and archive-affiliated scholars, as well as from independent researchers.  In addition to showcasing developments in research, the conference should be an inviting environment for building collegial ties with a view to future archival, historical, and theoretical work. The broader objective is for this event to become the first step towards a transnational community of scholars working on early and silent cinema in and about the Balkans and the Near East across new media and multiple platforms.

A selection of the conference papers will be published in an edited Special Issue of Filmicon: Journal of Greek Film Studies.

Sample Topics

§  Periodization: pre-history; introduction of sound; the meaning of “earliness” in the geocultural space in question; etc.

§  Production: the meaning of domestic (local, regional, indigenous, etc.) and national; genres; personnel; organizations; economics; etc.

§  Exhibition practices and contexts: intertitles and commentators; open-air venues and fairgrounds; travelling cinematographers-projectionists; urban venues; distribution; etc.

§  Regulation: censorship; film trade agreements; diplomacy; quota systems; litigation; professional associations; etc.

§  Imports: networks; markets; economics; etc.

§  Specialized press and other cinema-related writing: star and fan discourses; reviewing; advertizing and marketing; audience research; etc.

§  Reception: spectatorship (gender, class, ethnicity, etc.); translation and appropriation; cultural politics; etc.

§  Intermediality: film and oral or print cultures; film and photography, film and theater, film and music; film and shadow-play (shadow-puppet theater), film and mass commercial print genres; film and non-Western pictorial or other systems of (re)presentation; etc.

§  Comparative approaches: comparative film histories; comparative aesthetics; metropolitan vs. peripheral early cinema; trans-national, sub-national, trans-local approaches; etc.

§  Film and history:  film and war; film and national histories; film and colonialism; film between empires; film and society; propaganda and ideology; fiction and event; etc.

§  Theory:  film and the nation(al); geopoetics and national poetics; post-Ottoman and post-colonial transitions; “mimicry;” coloniality; genre theory; gender; orientalism; alternative theorizations; etc.

§  Archives and other institutions of cultural heritage: public education; access; preservation; etc.

The conference will be conducted in the English language.

Keynote speakers:

·      Prof. Dina Iordanova (University of St Andrews, UK)
·      Prof. Cemal Kafadar (Harvard University, USA)
·      Prof. Hamid Naficy (Northwestern University, USA)

Proposal submission deadline: October 31, 2014

Proposal length: 300 words + short BIO

Registration: 30€ (university faculty)—15€ (students and unaffiliated researchers).  Free and open to the public.

Contact & Submissions: earlybalkansfilms at gmail.com

Conference Committee:
Emmanuel Arkolakis<http://eap.academia.edu/EmmanuelArkolakis>
Canan Balan
Maria Chalkou
Vassiliki Tsitsopoulou
Marian Tutui

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

1920s Russian documentary at the seventyseven film club.

I've just spent a lovely evening at the Arts House in Stokes Croft watching 1920s Russian sort-of-documentaries (if you like your documentaries with lashings of Soviet propaganda).

First up: Salt for Svanetia (1930) a visually astonishing piece of early ethnography which in its tone strongly reminded me of some aspects of Carlo Levi's Christ Stopped at Eboli. Funny to think that this mountain scenery was shot the same year as Die Weisse Hölle vom Piz Palü. Fanck's mountain footage is better, but the camera work in Salt for Svanetia is much more interesting, as indeed one can see for oneself thanks to the miracle of Youtube:

The second film was Turksib (1929) an account of the building of the Turkestan-Siberian railway which was hugely influential among British documentary filmmakers of the 1930s, and is frequently mentioned in Paul Rotha's The Film Till Now.

The above version is a very odd-looking one which seems to be an amalgam of a German version, complete with localised maps with German script, and a version with English titles in a very generic 'silent film' font. The version which we saw this evening, is the version released by the BFI, done by John Grierson in 1930, which is neither of these; it's very cleverly and emotively titled. We are told by Rotha that:
An appreciation of the titling of Victor Turin's Turksib appeared in the Sunday Observer, for 23 March 1930, and is worth citing: '...I have been waiting a great many years to see a film in which the titles would play a definite part in the visual and emotional progress of ideas...In Turksib the titling is inseparable from the sweep of the film...I cannot describe the curious assault on the senses of those moving arrangements of letters, the cumulative effect of the final titles with their massive cadences. The words of Turksib are images; integral, triumphant, menacing. They are symbols of disaster and determination, fear and terrific jubilation. They have no longer sound or aural meaning--they are eye-images, mute, rapid and wrought from the emotional fibre of the film itself.' This criticism is all the more interesting in that it comes from the pen of an advocate of the dialogue film.'


It was interesting to see the two films back-to-back, because the titles in Salt for Svanetia were in Russian, with English subtitles (from a German DVD). It's a very different experience as a translation, because you're seeing the two texts constantly juxtaposed (not quite as in the video above; I remember, from the viewing, lots of play with size of text, which isn't there in these titles (and may, indeed, be a figment of my imagination).

[trundles happily off to think some more about the translation of the titles of silent film]