Thursday, September 13, 2007

On Translation, Thomas Bernhard and Objectification

Found this very interesting website which has some interesting information about the process of literary translation. One in particular this "workshop" about translating Juan Goytisolo. Peter Bush has translated most of his recent works including his autobiography. I was extremely impressed by Count Julian which I read recently and which I found very stylish, rich and innovative in the use of language. It was translated by Helen Lane. There are also other interesting articles about english subtitling of Pedro Almodovar's Women on the Verge of Nervous Breakdown and translating Fernando Pessoa's The Book of Disquiet. Other articles on the sidebar also look interesting. Actually this website is run by British Centre for Literary Translation which was founded by W.G. Sebald, who was also its director.

It is unfortunate that translators in general don't get the recognition and praise that they deserve. On the contrary they are almost always criticised - either for being too literal or else attempting to "improve" on the original, if they try to be creative. I don't think any history of Modern literature can be written without at least mentioning the names of Constance Garnett, C.K. Scott-Moncrieff, Willa and Edwin Muir, Helen T. Lowe-Porter, Gregory Rabassa, Ralph Manheim and so many others. It is also a shame and a cause of a major cultural gap that in general non-European languages, or actually anything outside French, German or Spanish, haven't been able to attract the translators to match these people. Czech, Polish and Hungarian books are often translated into English via intermediate languages, mostly German and French!


In his review of a new collection of essays by Orhan Pamuk, British writer Tibor Fischer says that Pamuk has forced him to reconsider his opinion of Thomas Bernhard who he otherwise finds "excruciatingly dull." Some time back he had expressed similar feelings for the works of Laszlo Krasznahorkai ("hard going") and Bela Tarr ("soporofic"). Though I must says I did find his comment about Tarr's style a little amusing:

When Tarr starts a pan, you know you have time to go out of the auditorium: you can have a piss, eat a hotdog, do the lottery, make a phone call, and when you go back in, the pan won't have finished.



Some entertaining debate on comment is free. This post about how women are complicit in the way men objectify them has male commenters frothing at the mouth with righteous anger and schadenfreude. I just spent a long time going through all the comments. Really entertaining and a bit sad too. One of them defines objectification as, "the extraction of surplus value from images of flesh." I think it actually also nails down the root issue. The whole pornography, objectification in media thing, is not really about sex or gender it is about capitalism and market which is always finding new commodities for transaction, even when it comes to human body and sexual desire. I am not justifying it, in fact I completely agree that the way pornography has become so normal and mainstream is on the balance harmful to society and personal relations. But we have to first acknowledge the demand-supply dialectic alongwith the reifying forces of market before we do something about the problem. Just reiterating the same old thing about how men are sexist or women are shallow will not achieve anything. Another entertaining debate on this post defending female promiscuity covers the same ground.


Szerelem said...

you posted on Pamuk too!!!!
ok shall read all the links and comment agin but hee Pamuk makes me so excited! The wait for the book is just too much now :(

Alok said...

i am not as familiar with him as I should be, having read only My name is Red and a few pieces on internet -- actually just his speech I think, which was wonderful.

Madhuri said...

Thanks for the link to the review on Pamuk's new book - it says enough about what to expect from it - which seems quite interesting. Pamuk is a great writer, and his depiction of Istanbul is arresting. so is his narration of stories.

Alok said...

Have meant to read his Istanbul book and also Snow. Will do sometime.

Anonymous said...

Hi! The links to the british council (at the start of your post) have been 'decommissioned', it appears -- i get a 404 and then when i google it it says the decommissioned thing. i'm disappointed -- i'm about to start reading goytisolo in the original and i am not sure how to go about it, which book to choose first, which are too difficult, etc., so i was hoping that 'workshop' link would be of help. do you have the text of it, or remember more about it?