Author Archives: Santiago Barcaza S.

Map and territory: LIFE TRANSLATED FOR OTHERS (3)

by Santiago Barcaza S.

When the Nobel Prize was given to Beckett, the Swedish Academy considered the set of its texts in English and French as a single work and at the award ceremony, its dedication to “one man, two languages ​​and a third nation” [ Ireland]”.

Beckett is the self-translator who has received more attention and more studies have been done since he was the first to arouse interest in self-translation as a subject of study (Cohn, 1961). The anecdote is the following: the impossibility of finding an English publisher for his texts, considered at the time as untranslatable, caused the author to translate into French his work Murphy, written in English and published in 1938. From 1946, Beckett writes only in French, something that is quite difficult for him, and he translates himself into English. The recognition comes in 1953, year of the appearance of En attendant Godot and Trilogie. The self-translation into English of the first, Waiting for Godot, appears a year later, in 1954, when it is reconciled with the English language. From that moment on, he continues writing in both languages ​​and exchanging the directions of the self-translation.

By the way, to the question, why self-translate? It is not difficult to understand the eagerness of authors like Tagore or Beckett to reach more readers, to ambition as soon as possible a place in the history of universal literature. But there is also another literature. There is a literature that comes from the bosom of cultures that resist extinction, languages ​​that do not give ground to the languages ​​of the colonizers.

odi gonzales
The poet Odi Gonzales

I held a conversation with Odi Gonzales (Cuzco, 1961), poet, translator, self-translator, professor and researcher at NYU, where among other topics we spoke about the Quechua language and its resistance. Here are some fragments of that conversation:

“In a language in danger of extinction, the passage of time will always generate profits and losses. For example, the advent of technological devices and the Internet allow you to communicate with monolingual children from a rural school in the Andes and record the conversation; or make documentaries, movies, photography, etcetera. These records are documents that will not be deleted, they will survive the speakers themselves. That is a gain. But at the same time, these media, with hegemony in Castilian or English, are undermining the speech of monolinguals or bilinguals, who tend to use more the acquired language, to incorporate neologisms into their lexicon”.

And with regard to the orality of the Quechua language, he tells us:

“For example, in the Quechua oral stories, there is no omniscient narrator, since that would make the story implausible: the narrator can not be in two places at once, or know what his characters think. On the other hand, in writing [in the dominant language], the omniscient narrator is crucial, indispensable. Likewise, we believed that Joyce had invented the interior monologue in Ulysses, that paradigm of the modern novel. But the truth is that internal monologue is common practice of oral languages. In Quechua, it is configured exclusively with the pronoun us (ñoqayku), which involves the narrator and his immediate surroundings. The poet speaks for himself and for his own, not for others. The great difference between the interior monologue of a foxs tale and that of Ulysses, is the extension. By its nature, the inner monologue of an oral story is short, precise and concrete, composed only a sentence or two. Instead, Bloom’s inner monologue is a 42-page stream”.

(You can check the complete interview in Spanish here)

With Quechua, Odi talks to us about a kind of oraliture (?). The translations come and go, from the first to the second language and vice versa, and in the turns the words are polished together like stones. As explained by Odi, oral literature as an artistic expression of the Andean cosmovision, marks a cultural continuity between what has been and what it is today. Authors who live in communities and in cities, who permanently travel the path between both spaces. Making their lives territory of coexistence and conflict: between tradition and modernity, between the community and the individual, between the original language and the imposed language. But at the same time, translating, or rather self-translating, the complex message that is transmitted from the oral to the written, and vice versa. Because after all, how do you create a literature that is not written?

Map and territory. A fictitious and real construction at the same time, by authors descendants of peoples and subjugated cultures. A fiction that delimits a territory with diffuse borders, with authors whose mother tongue is the dominant one, but who possess the strength to fulfill the mission of not turning their back on their ancestors.

In the next installment, we will approach the work of Mapuche poets, from the Kenyan Ngugi Wa Thiong’o and we will follow the dialogue with Rodrigo Rojas.


Map and territory: LIFE TRANSLATED FOR OTHERS (2)

by Santiago Barcaza S.

Without wanting to dwell too much on certain aspects proposed by the academy, I am surprised that there are two currents of thought: one that regards self-translation as an unusual phenomenon, a marginal activity and another one that supports the opposite. I will not use this space to delve into one or the other. I agree with the outstanding researcher of translation studies Julio César Santoyo, when he says:

Seen the seen, one can not help but wonder: can we continue talking about the self-translation as a phenomenon ‘rather weird’ or ´exceptional´? We are not faced with rare exceptions but before an immense corpus, increasingly of texts translated by their own creators. Far from being a ‘marginal case’, the author’s translation has a long history and is today one of the most frequent and important cultural, linguistic and literary phenomena in our global village, and certainly deserves much more attention from which has been borrowed so far“.

In fact, the first known self-translator is the jewish historian Flavius ​​Josephus, who in 75 AD wrote in Aramaic, his mother tongue, the seven books of his first work, The War of the Jews, to later revise it and translate it to the Greek. From then until today, self-translation is a common practice. They form a group so broad and so diverse that it is impossible to list them all. However, as a sample, I quote a short selection: Fray Luis de León, Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz, Stéphane Mallarmé, Samuel Beckett, Joseph Brodsky, Vladimir Nabokov, José María Arguedas, Milan Kundera, et cetera. However, addressing the self-translation in one of these authors runs the risk of falling into exceptional particularities and the preparation of a rather monographic study. Nobody doubts the fact that these authors are interesting, but that some are paradigmatic, as to help understand or illuminate the act of self-translation – for example, of poets of indigenous origin in southern America- is perhaps another issue. So, I wonder what is really the self-translation? why? And for what?

In an article published in 2011, the researcher of the University of the Cape in South Africa, Maria Recuenco, explains that in countries or multilingual societies, the step of self-translation, from a language called “regional” to the official language of State or dominant language, is as logical as it is complicated. A clear example of this is Belgium, a traditionally fertile territory for linguistic contact between Flemish and French, and which has a significant number of bilingual authors.

To talk about this, I met with the Chilean poet, academic and researcher Rodrigo Rojas (Lima, 1971), MFA from the New York University, and author of the book La Lengua Escorada(2009, Pehuen Editores), where he discusses the literature produced by four authors of Mapuche descent, and recognizes the complexity of its bilengual nature not so much because of its fluency in the use of mapudungun or spanish, but rather because of the cosmopolitan and multicultural scene in which they develop their literary work.

Neruda and Tagore

Neruda and Tagore, a curious link

A paradigmatic example for Rodrigo, which will help us approach the subject of this essay with determination, is that of the Bengali poet Rabindranath Tagore (Calcutta, 1861 – 1941). In fact, Tagore is excellent at exemplifying how the use of another language (English), a culturally dominant language since those years, earned him many benefits.

“He gets to win the Nobel Prize –he says– very soon after he has translated his own poems. And he does this by putting them in tune with the cultural expectations of the England of his time, which even leads him to transform his own poetry. However, after the First World War, the political landscape changes completely in Europe. The thought and the european imagination isfaced with the fact that its own idea of ​​civilization was able to generate such level of death that drastically changes its sensitivity and also changes aesthetics. There begins the advent of the vanguards, with which the poetry of Rabindranath Tagore in English is quickly forgotten because it is identified with the previous Victorian aesthetic. So, it’s interesting to stop there: how fruit of the self-translation, he could earn a lot and at the same time, lose so much. However, many theorists of India today speak about the legacy of Rabindranath Tagore and show how his poetry is still valid, beyond the world wars, accompanying the Hindu literary canon as a result of a series of changes that go beyond the independence of India or the advent of the communist party. This is a sign that we are facing a poetry much less attached to fashion than can perceive in your self-translations into English.

But Tagore in Chile is also known for being whom Neruda would have stolen some verses …

That is interesting because being Tagore the author of the texts that Neruda plagiarized is valid to ask how did Tagore come to the hands of Neruda? What versions and what translations? It is true, he was a Nobel, but how many spanish versions were there? It is known that the wife of the poet Juan Ramón Jiménez, Zenobia Camprubí, had translated and published Tagore in Spain. But in Chile, another person had also done translations of Tagore and they were translations in prose, not verse. This is Gabriela Mistral, who had also translated the French symbolists, and so on. It is much more likely that Neruda had met Tagore in those interviews he had in Temuco with the director of the Girls’ Lyceum, which at that time was Gabriela Mistral. She must have taught him these world poets to open his head. So it seems very interesting to me how this Tagore, who betrays himself to be accepted in the English literary medium, in a sort of self-exoticise by the Victorian sensibility and who gets the Nobel for that, then falls into oblivion. But it turns out that here, in Latin America, once translated, again, but from its own self-translated translation of little value in the Anglo-Saxon world, it comes alive again, but in an underground way, because of the accusation of plagiarism with which Pablo Neruda is accused.

In the next installments, I will talk with Odi Gonzales about oral language and written language and we will continue talking with Rodrigo Rojas, we will confront his theory with that of other researchers and we will review some case studies of poets of indigenous Latin American origin and other recognized poets in the western world.

Map and territory: LIFE TRANSLATED FOR OTHERS (1)

by Santiago Barcaza S.

A map is a graphic and metric representation of a portion of territory. This means that, created with the purpose of knowing and showing the world to others, maps constitute a sort of translation that, not only do we see or read, but that we live to comprehend the territory that we inhabit.

In Latinamerica and in Chile in particular, map and territory, look like two concepts dissuaded and confronted since centuries, not only by authorities in place, but also by an important part of the civil society in what refers to (1) accept and include the indigenous communities that inhabit their same territory, and (2) understand and value their “maps” and all the effort they make to translate the transcendental attributes of their culture, their very life. In other words, the defense or recovery of lands, involves, for the indigenous communities, not only a matter of economic survival, but it also connects with the dream of revitalizing their culture.

In this essay -and in the successive ones that I will publish in this blog- I will deepen on the political and sociological role that indigenous movements and communities in Chile give to literature, which is generated mainly by bicultural and bilingual creators, who seek through their creations -translated by themselves to Spanish- to put in doubt the dominant / subordinate binarism; and on the other hand, I will try to explain how, through literature, It is possible to create a strategy that allows creators of indigenous origin to reverse the reduction of their cultures, languages and policies.

Under a post colonial perspective, the space / inhabitant or space / community relationship leads to a particularly rich and highly complex point: the border. This is where the roads open up to clarify the relationship between the State and the territory, the nation and territoriality, as well as the impact that the border, as a material construction, symbolic device, legal reality and literary element, has on the notions of identity and roots. The place that the border occupies as a symbol in the bilingual poetry of authors of indigenous origin in Chile and the scope that the symbol includes, helps to understand the metaphorical-conceptual character that the idea of territory can have to explain the practice of self-translation as place of transit from one cultural space to another.

But what is self-translation? By self-translation we understand the “translation of a work by its own author”; In this practice, two phenomena occur: on the one hand, author and translator skills are merged and, on the other, the “original-version” logic is challenged, since these texts elude the temporality in which they were conceived as they constitute the product of an author that interpellates two cultural spaces in simultaneity. In the territory where the poet lives, embedded in a larger territory subject to the dominant culture, translation gives and takes shape within the asymmetric power relations of colonialism. In order to critically reverse or challenge such asymmetries, there are scholars who propose a use of translation as an “outburst” to destabilize the coherence of the original and the idea of invariable identity, of unique identity.

Several philosophers agree that every human being has the need to have roots, and that almost the totality of the moral, intellectual and spiritual life of a person is reached through the environments that he has felt part of along the life. This sense of belonging, far beyond the mere fact of integrating a group, implies a personal identification, the generation of affective bonds, the adoption of shared norms and habits, and a feeling of solidarity with the rest of the members. But what happens when you live between two or more groups. Precisely in this intermediate space, the indigenous self-translation accounts for this “outburst” since the concept of the original text -as we saw previously- linked to the prerogative of temporality, is challenged in the self-translation, by the fusion of roles of author and translator who appeals to two (or more) cultural spaces at the same time. And, finally, the identity linked to the assessment of the “unique” is questioned in paragraphs and other antagonistic signs that can be found in any comparative study of versions of bilingual texts.

In the next installment, we will approach two poets of Chilean indigenous origin and we will hold a dialogue with the researcher and academic from the Universidad Diego Portales, Dr. Rodrigo Rojas.