by Santiago Barcaza S., MFA Student, Creative Writing in Spanish
Without wanting to dwell too much on certain aspects proposed by academia, 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?