Review: Marxism and the French Left – by Tony Judt

marxism and the french left

This is an in depth study of socialism in France. The book is broken up into a series of long chapters, each covering a critical period of the political left in France. The emergence of working class political culture in the nineteenth century is explored and we see the development of trade unionism and the creation of socialist parties. The development of the social party, the SFIO is looked at in detail, prior to its rise to power under Blum. We then see the decline in the power of the socialists as they concede proletariat votes to the PCF, communists. The chapter on the French communists looks at the theorists who were so successful at internationalising the ideas and images of French Marxism. Sartre among the most famous, also there is a detailed study of Althusser, who unlike many of the French Marxist writers – was also an actual member of the PCF. The tailing off off Communist popularity as it clung hopelessly to the vestiges of Stalinism, leads to the book’s final chapter, where the rise of the socialists yet again, culminates in the ascendancy of Mitterand at the 1981 French general elections where the socialists swept surprisingly into power. this victory is compared with the Revolution of 1791 and the Paris Commune of 1871 in terms of its relevance to leftist politics in France. I found this book to be very detailed and some chapters were a bit tricky in terms of ideas and specialist vocabulary – but the book, read for a History of French Labour course at Cardiff University – has certainly enlightened me on certain aspects of French working class politics and I feel that the knowledge imparted has been vital.

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Review: Liberté, Égalité and Fraternité at Work – by Steve Jefferys

liberté. égalité and fraternité at work

This is a relatively concise look at Employment relations in France. Taken from a contrastive Anglo-Saxon point of view, the author explores the intricacies of the French economic system and how industrial relations are different in France than other Western capitalist nations. In France, strikes, in particular by public sector workers, are notoriously common and tend to make headlines around the world. This study reveals some of the reasons for the French workers’ propensity to take strike action. The government tends to have a major effect on working life and state intervention is common in the French economy. From the effects of Vichy to the Gaullist dirigisme through to the more recent Aubry laws to the present day, the effects of the state, mixed in with the demands of employer and employee associations, there is a complex web of interactions. Trade Unionism in France is relatively undersubscribed but has a large ability to mobilise the workers en masse. There is a myriad of acronyms relating to the various unions and other associations. The CGT, the CFDT, the FO, the employer association Medef. All of these contribute in their own right to forming the employment relations. France has a strong welfare element to its state and has also moved away from its more traditional family-owned patrimonial role of the employer to being more Americanised in its business models with international pension funds being more predominant in the stock market. This book is a great introductory text for my History of French Labour course at Cardiff University and I felt that the author does a very good job of explaining how the French economy operates. I would imagine that over the next year I will be regularly thumbing the pages of this text for reference.

Review: In Other Words – A Coursebook On Translation – by Mona Baker

in other words
This Mona Baker book is a core text on my Translation (MA) at Cardiff University. We use the text to accompany the Translation Methods Course. The early chapter of equivalence at word level and how to translate non equivalence is particularly interesting, useful and a strong section of the well-written precise coursebook. On occasion there is perhaps an abundance of examples although Baker covers a range of different languages, often straying into non-European, non-standard foreign tongues. In this new edition there is a valuable additional chapter on Ethics and Morality. This is a fashionable area of current Translation research. I feel that the book is an essential read for anyone considering Translation as a profession or those who study it at degree level. To a lay reader, perhaps the in depth detail is a bit profound. However, the book remains very accessible and is an ideal entry level text for students. This book will be well-thumbed in my reference section.

Review: The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance

The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance
The Politics of Translation in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance by Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I discovered this book in the Cardiff University library and thought it would provide a valuable insight into translation in history. I am interested in general history of the Renaissance and Middle Ages and found that this book helped to transfer pre-existing knowledge to the field of Translation. The book is a selection of academic papers from primarily North American institutes, There seemed to be a lot of emphasis on the French language as a vernacular and also, more obviously, Latin. I suppose that this reflects the importance of French as a cultural language at the time. It precedes English as the global lingua franca by some distance.

The general introduction chapters were very useful in terms of setting into context the role of translation during the epoque and the political implications that a translator would consider.

The stand out chapter for me introduces the subject of Etienne Dolet, a translation martyr who was sentenced to death and executed as a result of his work. The Dolet tale was an intriguing one and demonstrates clearly how a target-language’s cultural attitudes have to be taken into consideration when working as a translator. I feel that Dolet is a person upon whom I would like to follow up research throughout the course of my Translation degree.

I am a keen fan of Montaigne and it had previously eluded me that a lot of his great work was inspired by his activities as a translator. There are two chapters covering his translation of Raimond Sebond and the detailed critique that has ensued regarding the fidelity of his translation and the speculation of the true political motives behind his methodology. I think that very often, in translation, some of the reasoning and suppositions of translation critics fail to address the actual linguistical differences between foreign tongues. There are massive style changes at work that are bound to change the register of the original author and the translator would often introduce new ideas and themes only at a subliminal level, although that could very reasonably be done within the culture and political / historic climate of the current prevailing target-culture.

This book covers a wide variety of other topics, some of which are more relevant and interesting than others. I enjoyed The Alfredan Boethius chapter. The work of Eusebius on Vergil’s 4th Eclogue and also there was a certain romance to Leo Africanus’ story.

I think that this book is quite specialised and obviously could be very much more enlarged with further examples. It is a nice, neat text to furnish a translator with examples of some of the perils his journey might face. I’ll definitely refer to this book in future studies.

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Review: Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation

Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation
Becoming a Translator: An Introduction to the Theory and Practice of Translation by Douglas Robinson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This is another book I’ve read in preparation for the Translation (BA) at Cardiff University on which I’m about to embark. This book aims not so much at the theories of Translation Studies as in other textbooks I have read but focuses more on life as a professional translator. It is preparation for the world of work and discusses many of the issues which one might encounter if one is successful in this career choice. The book has its own ideas and it does perhaps over-apply its terminologies of pattern-building and intuitive leaps. I found it a bit wishy-washy in places as I am still very new to the ideas of Translation. It is easy enough to understand as a basic concept yet the actual science of translation can be quite complicated. There are some nice, practical exercises at the end of each chapter which are good food for thought. I think that this book was a good introduction to translation and I can see it being a useful source of reference for me in years to come.

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Review: Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications

Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications
Introducing Translation Studies: Theories and Applications by Jeremy Munday
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Ahead of embarking upon a Translation (BA) at Cardiff University, I thought I’d prepare by investigating one of the course textbooks. This introduction to Translation Studies was a revelation in how it introduced me to the new terminology I will be working with. I initially found the introduction of new models and ways of thinking a little daunting, but by the end of chapter twelve I felt that I was making progress in understanding the general gists of translation studies. The chapter on machine translation was the most appealing to me and I see this as an area in which I might specialise. The case studies at the end of each chapter were particularly thought-provoking and useful in allowing you to grasp the concepts at discussion in each chapter. I felt that this book was an ideal way to anticipate my future degree and I look forward to referring back to this text as my studies progress.

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Review: Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation

Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation
Is That a Fish in Your Ear? The Amazing Adventure of Translation by David Bellos
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I am starting a degree in Translation at Cardiff University next year and I thought I would try to get to grip with this new endeavour by learning a bit more about the art and science of Translation Studies. David Bellos is a professional with an obvious passion for languages. His book is most interesting and covers a very wide range of areas, neatly categorised into concise chapters which flow together seamlessly. The history of Translation opened my eyes and really build on the often misconceived notions a non-specialist may have on Translation. The book was full of very interesting and educated anecdotes which were often humorous and always memorable. I found the development of machine translation most intriguing and the different roles of translators in the modern world was well-covered. It is very surprising how the English language is represented globally and its dominance as a global lingua franca produces some bizarre skews for the world of translation. there is a dearth of foreign language speakers with English mother-tongue which is one reason why I am studying the Translation degree. This introductory book has really inspired me and convinced me that I am on the right course. I feel motivated by the wide range of possibilities further study in this area could bring. I think that it is a most wise study and I can see that this book will become well-thumbed as a reference-point for me in the future. I don’t reread many books but I can certainly see me repeating this work.

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