Review: Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice

Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice
Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice by Susan Bassnett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’ve read a few articles on the subject of postcolonial translation and have found the area to be interesting. I thought I’d delve a little deeper into the subject. This book is a collection of nine extended essays. My first criticism is that there is too much of an emphasis on postcolonial translation in India. Whereas, due to the nature of the Indian multilingual community and its relationship with the British Empire, I can see how it can be an important focus in postcolonial translation, I felt that this book devotes too much to this one region and doesn’t fully explore more exotic regions of the world. There is very little reference to Africa and not much on South America, certainly not the Spanish-speaking part of South America. Thus, the book takes into consideration English as a primary language and the effect of British imperialism. A more varied range of essays with reference to other colonial powers would, I feel, add some spice to the book’s material. The essay on border writing in Quebec, was, I feel, the best essay in the collection. I did also, however, surprisingly, take a lot out of the Hélène Cixous / Clarice Lispector essay. Although, at first glance, the study of a famous French feminist’s obsession with a Brasilian (feminist) writer, may seem a bit trivial, I found that this essay best introduced me to new ideas and ways of viewing postcolonial translation. It is in essence a power struggle of differentials between colonised people and coloniser. When you add in the mix of a feminist outlook into translation, then some truly profound revelations come into play and I felt that the author of this particular essay (Rosemary Arrojo), developed some very interesting and original ideas, which could be applied to the whole field of postcolonial translation. Overall, this book was perhaps a bit too advanced for my tastes and it was rather difficult to maintain elevated excitement throughout the course of reading it.

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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: Translation and Identity in the Americas

Translation and Identity in the Americas
Translation and Identity in the Americas by Gentzler Edwin
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This was the first book I have borrowed and read from Cardiff University library’s Translation section. As a Translation student focussing on the Spanish language, I felt that this book would offer plenty of interest to me, considering that the Americas has the largest hispanic population in the world. The book is subdivided into five main chapters, each directed towards a certain geographic region in the Americas. The monolingualism of the USA, with its vast multicultural population, displays problems in the cultural struggles created by the way it forces minorities to adapt to English, the arrogance of this coming to light very much in the post September 11th world where military action has often been plagued with troubles of mistranslation and at official levels, an overwhelming dependence upon the force majeure of the official tongue. Quebec offers a unique zone in the Americas and its struggles with linguistic identity and its isolation are clearly demonstrated by Edwin. I found the history of Quebec to be enlightening and was new knowledge to me. The way that its patois language, joual, struggles to define itself in a society dominated by colonial English and French, formed a major role in the Quebecois independence movement and has manifested itself in local theatre and the adaptation of translation as a device for the feminist movement. This feminist translation in Quebec has transcended to borders and come to the forefront of translation studies worldwide. The chapter on Brazilian Cannibalism was, for me, the most interesting of the whole book. It truly indicates a unique way of looking at the post-colonial world. How cannibalism itself can be viewed from within Brazil as a positive force yet to the external viewer it is seen as a negative connotation of savagery, demonstrates the Derridaean deconstruction at play in translation to a relatively understandable level for the novice initiate into translation studies. The cannibalist school of thought shows how translation redefines boundaries and how there is a struggle between cultures in the process. The works of Latin American fiction authors and their relationships to Translation was particularly relevant to me, as a student of Spanish. I discovered some new authors here and have bookmarked their work. I also, as a result of this chapter, plan to reread Garcia Marquez’ 100 Years of Solitude, to view it from the perspective of the Translation theme which is not so obvious on a first read of the great novel. The last chapter of the five focusses on border areas and the identity struggle that cultures face there. Mexico and the Caribbean have their own issues with border areas. Criollism in the Caribbean is now on the rise as a fashion and old concepts and prejudices are being redefined by the local linguists. I think the whole frontera issues on the Mexican – US border were very intriguing and analysing the history of the area plus the effects of bilingualism and the culture that arises from it, could be an area in which I would maybe consider focussing an eventual dissertation for my degree.
Each chapter concludes with a deeper analysis by the author and there is a thoroughly wholesome introduction and conclusion. If there was any criticism, then perhaps there is a repetition and over-reliance on the analytical deconstruction models of Jaques Derrida. However, I feel that this book was useful in that it successfully drew me to the attention of this man’s ideas and that had been something that prior to reading this work, I had only skirted over and had not adequately understood.
I found this book to be very readable and interesting. It broadened my mind to some of the wider issues that Translation Studies scholars have to consider. I’m sure that I’ll be returning to the library to reborrow it for reference purposes in my later studies.

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Review: Lost In Translation: Misadventures In English Abroad

Lost In Translation: Misadventures In English Abroad
Lost In Translation: Misadventures In English Abroad by Charlie Croker
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I thought I’d try this book out to see some of the problems translators face. The book is a humorous collection of real-life examples of when translators (translating into English) have made embarrassing mistakes…

Translation agency’s advertisement in the Moscow Times:
Bet us your letter of business translation do. Every people in our staffing know English like the hand of their back. Up to the minuet wise-street phrases, don’t you know, old boy.

On a Japanese food package:
This cute mild curry uses 100% Japanese apple and cheerful hamster.

Finland:
If you cannot reach a fire exit, close the door and expose yourself at the window.

It’s hard to turn the page in this book without giggling your head off yet at the same time, for the trainee translator, reading the mistakes and attempting to understand how exactly they happened, can be quite a good challenge.

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Review: Tudors

Tudors
Tudors by Peter Ackroyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

The second volume of Ackroyd’s history of England, this work covers one of the most astonishing and exciting periods of English history. Two of the most revered and famous monarchs existed in the Tudor period, that of Henry VIII and Elizabeth I. The whole reformation and what it entailed, really separated our Isles from continental history and led to our definition as a modern race. Henry’s time was defined by his cataclysmic relationships with two wives fouling foul of the executioner and he became also a pioneer of the use of divorce. It is interesting to see how the Tudors interacted with other European powers, always on the dividing line between the struggles of France and Spain. I found the Elizabethan period to be the most interesting. The Virgin Queen was truly a great monarch and it is interesting to see how this mysterious woman steered our country onto a great imperial path. It was the time of the early explorers and the start of Empire and the infamous defeat of the Spanish Armada is a highlight as is the conflict with Mary, Queen of Scots, who was ultimately dispatched at Fotheringay castle, a place I once visited as a child and a whole story that was most inspiring. I look forward to see how England progresses beyond the Tudors. It, for sure, can be said that they were a dynasty set apart from others and that their influence can still be felt today. It was a fascinating period of English history and I eagerly anticipate to see how history develops from here, as Peter Ackroyd’s six volume history continues to progress.

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Review: Foundation

Foundation
Foundation by Peter Ackroyd
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Peter Ackroyd is a fantastic author and, having previously read his ‘Albion’, I was keen to embark on this first of a new series of general English history. I wanted further detail on existing knowledge and the fact that this series is broken into separate volumes for each period of English history, makes it a compulsive part of my reading list. The first volume covers history from ancient times up until the start of the Tudor age. The book weaves the important political events and well documents the history of Kings yet at the same time, chapters are interspersed with more general elements of the history, covering the areas of history which affected more the general population. The range of sources compliment the narrative well and these sources are not always the more general ones associated with more standard histories. We hear tales of the common populace and these little anecdotes really help the reader to empathise more exactly with what life was actually like at the time. I was struck by the general violence of our more distant history, how it has shaped our culture, from the top down. The focus on Roman history wasn’t as pronounced as I have seen in comparative volumes of British history. In fact, through the series of conquests of England by various tribes and peoples, Ackroyd tells a story not of bast change but of an undulating continuity whereby newcomers integrate into the status quo of the island inhabitants of the realm. As a slight criticism, perhaps I expected more detail on the distant history. The time period covered by this book could have been divided into perhaps two or three or even four volumes though I’d imagine that, perhaps, a lack of sources would preclude the author from extending his ideas of history for my proposed extensions. The Plantagenets are a most amazing dynasty, full of beautiful romantic tales. The detail on the War of Roses is a more complete version of this 30 year period than I have ever read and as I headed up towards the reign of Henry VII and the initiation of the Tudors, I was turning the pages at a frantic rate. the book concludes with the first chapter of the next volume which I have already purchased and I will continue onwards with the series without pause for breath. A good book and a nice introduction to the new series of a most talented and dynamic historian.

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Review: The Albanians: A Modern History

The Albanians: A Modern History
The Albanians: A Modern History by Miranda Vickers
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Albania is one of those countries that have a colourful history and is a place that was a bit of an anomaly to me. I know that it is publicly perceived as a poor backwater of Eastern Europe but I wanted to read this well-written book to glean further information. After the fall of the Ottomans in the Balkans, Albania came into being as an independent entity. This came out of the back of several Balkan conflicts. The Albanians are one of the rainbow of ethnic tribes in the region, with their own language, culture and religions. The new country was plunged into a period of turmoil, facing the brunt of two world wars as it attempted to establish itself. The ancient ways of Ottoman times left a great deal of difficulty for any ruling power to modernise and Albania seemed destined to become isolated and a haven for political extremes, reaching a zenith under the charismatic tutelage of the communist dictator Enver Hoxha. His forty year rule paved the way for Albania to develop in its own unique way, relying at different times on the patronage of Russia, China, Yugoslavia and Italy. With the fall of communism in the modern era, a new democratic age was heralded, though the much anticipated improvements were not quite so instant with the country facing many political crises, the collapse of pyramidal banking schemes, the rise of organised crime and ongoing disputes about the ethnic Albanians in neighbouring countries. I found this book particularly enlightening in helping me to understand the Kosovo situation and all that it entails. As we move into the twenty-first century Albania holds Kosovo’s hand and makes inroads into its own emergence as a balkan power. It is now a member of NATO and has high hopes of full EU accession. The region is an interesting one and to understand Albania and its peoples this book is heralded as the cornerstone text for English-speakers.

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