Review: Narcocorrido: A Journey into the Music of Drugs, Guns, and Guerrillas – by Elijah Wald


Whilst planning to do a university translation dissertation on some aspect of narcoculture I was drawn to this work (in English – also simultaneously released bilingually with a Spanish version) by American author and folk musician, Elijah Wald. Having been introduced and hooked on the sounds of Los Tigres Del Norte for years, the Narcocorrido is a music form that particularly interests me. The Spanish word ‘Correr’ = to run, gives way to the Corrido form of music, a Mexican musical ballad, originally historically done as the spoken word, but more recently with Mexican folk music of accordions, guitars and harps added. It is a form of Norteño / Ranchera / Mariachi music, very spicy in rhythm, with neatly rhyming lyrics, telling a popular story. A lively, popular music artform, where masculinity and hyper-masculinity can flourish. The traditional Corrido has been superseded by the Narcocorrido, which tells the stories of Mexican and Latin American drug lords and their conquests – their crossborder trafficking, their grisly assassinations, their lovelife, their organisations. The Corrido is an alternative form of news and corridistas may cover any political event, with some controversial writers documenting political scandals and guerrilla uprisings. Elijah Wald takes us on an interesting personal journey as he hitchhikes and buses across every conceivable region in Mexico and also dips into the Corrido communities of North America. We meet the stars of the genre, the well known celebrity figures, from Los Tigres Del Norte themselves and their most famous writers such as Jefe del Jefes, Teodoro Bello. The issues of assassinated star Chalino Sánchez were particularly interesting and displayed the true dangerous nature of these musicians and their controversial cultural work. We head from the Sinaloan narcocorrido heartland, up to Texas and onto rural Michoacan. Not only do we learn more of the drug trafficking inspirations and the gruesome Mexican drug war, but also we learn of other areas of Mexican culture, history and politics. Wald is a man of the people and the rural campesinos are never far from his heart. He is equally at home listening to corridista buskers on the bus aswell as being able to snort cocaine whilst partying with the stars. For me, the translations done by the author about the often unknown corridos are a true revelation and, being an apprentice translator, I particularly found this aspect of the book exciting. The book is a real adventure and I’d encourage any travel lover to get involved in the quint narrations and journeying. I think that this book will long be regarded as the definitive text on Narcocorridos and I look forward to reading more work by Elijah Wald. It has left me a large legacy of topics and material to research and I shall be busy well into the future covering issues raised by my reading of this most excellent, well written text.


Review: Cahier d’un Retour au Pays Natal – by Aimé Césaire

cahier d'un retour au pays natalAimé Césaire is the father of Martinican literature. In his Cahier, he explores his roots in his native Martinique and looks with an often angry voice at the repression of his fellow islanders. The Cahier is a poem directed at enlightening the views of his fellow countrymen and giving them a point at which to resist their colonial masters, to escape the bonds of Negrédom, the chains of slavery that bound them in the triangular slave trade culture and left them in the sugar cane fields of Martinique. A founding father of the black movement in literature, Négritude, Césaire explores the roots of slavery and his négritude is a self-revealing look at how he is perceived by the world, due to his skin colour. The poetic text is often violent and revealing and he uses a variety of different methods to shock and disturb the reader. One is always looking for an identity of Martinique and the author succeeds in describing the island’s features, its fauna and flora, its colonial past, its poverty and hunger and suffering of the population. As we move through the book, the racial voice progresses until we hear a potent cry of anger about this inequality, the way in which his race restricts his world view and aspirations. I found the book, convenient in its parallel text, usefully translated, and a positive journey into the Caribbean. In the twenty-first century we still have not unshackled racism from our society and slavery is very much alive, if not as a political reality, but as an enchaining colonial restriction upon the black inhabitants of Martinique and its Caribbean cousins. It must be stressed how important a work this must be to natives of Martinique and the foundation point it is for black literature. I studied this book as part of my ‘Imaging The Islands’ course at Cardiff University’s School of Modern Languages.

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: Through the Language Glass – by Guy Deutscher

Through the Language Glass
Through the Language Glass by Guy Deutscher
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This book was a fantastic read. It was quite different to how I initially imagined it to be. As you follow the story is constructively builds a cohesive, rational scientific argument as to exactly how and why different language users perceive the world differently. It is thoroughly thought-provoking and addresses issues that I had never previously pondered about but which are clearly important. There is a clear difference between language speakers across the world, but how does this manifest at a biological level? From colour perception to spatial awareness to use of gender, our language constrains us, in effect imprisons us to perceive the world in predetermined ways. I think that by reading this book I am more aware of the difference in languages and by being aware of that difference it assists one to break their own shackles of a restricted mind. At the very least I have a sturdy amount of scientific examples of linguistic studies with which to embellish my work on the Translation degree I am studying. A good read.

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Review: Translation and Globalization – by Michael Cronin

Translation and Globalization
Translation and Globalization by Michael Cronin
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book, by Irish author Michael Cronin, explores translation studies from a globalization perspective with specific attention paid to the situation in Ireland. Globalization is a trend which is ever-increasing in our world and it is an undeniable fact. How do translators fit into this movement of culture? They are involved whether they support globalization or not and very often they must remain unbiased in their views. As contact increases between different cultures and language groups across the planet the translator is finding himself ever more involved. Technology issues and localisation are covered and this is particularly relevant to Ireland which has set itself up as a hub for the international technological revolution. The book analyses the different cultural conflicts which arise in translation as a result of globalization. What are the relationships between powerful global languages and more minor ones? I found the final chapter on minor languages, looking in detail at Irish Gaelic, most interesting. When one is a native speaker of English it is difficult to overlook the factors affecting translators of minor languages whose working lives and structure and thinking are markedly different to the bulk of translators. The book is very well written and gives a comprehensive outlook on Translation Studies, never veering too far from the underlying topic of globalization. I found it easy to follow and rich in its definitions and examples. I will be using the specific content on Translation History for my next essay.

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Review: Translation-mediated Communication in a Digital World

Translation-mediated Communication in a Digital World
Translation-mediated Communication in a Digital World by Minako O’Hagan
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was published in 2002 and obviously a lot has changed in twelve years in the filed of technology. Bearing in mind that it is outdated, there are, however, some very good valid points which are raised about translation-mediated communication in the computer age. Translators need a new set of skills in order to function in the modern age. There is a movement towards machine translation and the way in which it integrates into traditional styles of translation is a new subject for translation studies. The whole internet and the increasing need for webpage translation means that translators need to be aware of web languages and also about the varied nature of websites. The whole language of websites is different. People do not read websites like they do books or traditional forms of media and this the language to be translated is different. I found the whole approach of the book to the translator’s role in globalisation to bring some good far-reaching ideas into my mind about the future of translation. I left this book wondering more about the subject and the possibilities of technology. To be critical of the book, there was an overuse of acronyms. TMC was easy enough to adapt to but I found that the steady introduction of new acronyms in the text just became overbearing and confusing so that I couldn’t remember what was being referred to. There was a fair bit of repetition of ideas and sometimes the language became too over-technical and unnecessarily complicated and was very difficult to follow. I think the authors are obviously talented people in this field and have critical knowledge. I would like to see the book brought up to date for today’s situation. The ideas identified in this work were very prophetic and this indicates the high level of competence in the study.

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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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