14 diciembre 2011

E-nterview December 2011

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An E-NTERVIEW with literary translator AMALIA GLADHART

When Literary Translator and Associate Professor of Spanish Amalia Gladhart (Department of Romance Languages, University of Oregon, USA) visited Rosario (Argentina), her modest claims on her journey were "a chance to see something of Argentina and to teach in a different environment and meet new colleagues in various fields." Well, after having successfully asked for a virtual interview with her, one can tell she has certainly got that from her stay, and perhaps even more.

On October 5th, Professor Gladhart delievered a special talk on what it takes to deal with the Challenges of Intercultural Translation, as part of the International Programme run by the Facultad de Derecho (U.N.R). She welcomed her audience in Spanish, announced she was going to switch to English for her conference and, for around an hour or so, she kept inflicting an invaluable dose of food for thought when it comes to literary translation. 

Apart from some instances of wordplay such as coinages and humour, there are a couple of items on which a literary translator may have to reflect prior to even dealing with such "problems." For instance, a thought-provoking rhetorical question Gladhart made on the occasion was, "Should I bring the text to the reader or the reader to the text?" 
Aha! How many a problem could be, if not fully, at least partially solved if one ever came to stop and opt for either approach? 
Another interesting viewpoint (and perhaps a little bit more widespread) has to do with Professor Gladhart's own target when it comes to translation: to her mind, the difficulty of translation lies beyond the translation of language, the solution of puns. Her first and last mission in translation is transmission. To her, the notion of equivalence is essential, and sometimes in order to translate one must stick to the solution provided by "modeled adaptation." 
But what about regional accents or usages? In cases of "bad Spanish" in the original, should one reflect this feature as "bad English" in the target language? What about the form "vosotros" when used by a character within the source language text in Spanish?
In her translation of the novel Beyond the Islands (Más allá de las Islas, by Alicia Yánez Cossío), Amalia Gladhart had to deal with a myriad of challenges, particularly that of intertextuality. Since the story is set on the Galápagos Islands, there were tons of myths embedded within the major text. Not to mention facts and general background knowledge which the novel implicitly required for the translation to be sound and fair to Ecuador's history. All this and more has a literary translator to face when embarking on the pleasure-seeking yet time-consuming, stressful but fruitful task of translating literature. And one could add even more premodification here, mind you.
Adhering to the idea that we are always "reading translation as an independent text," and claiming that there's always "room to more translation," Professor Gladhart delivered a truly exquisite as well as enriching conference on the challenges of literary translation. Concrete examples of attempts at solving them as drawn from her own valuable experience were not wanting.

E-nterview with Amalia Gladhart: On the Finest Balm for the Pangs of Literary Translation...
At present, Amalia Gladhart is in charge of the translation of a collection of short stories by Argentine writer Angélica Gorodischer. As follows, an impossible-to-miss e-nterview with Amalia Gladhart, by Delfina Morganti H.- 
                                                                                                                             December, 2011.
E-NTERVIEW with Amalia Gladhart, Literary Translator and Associate Professor of Spanish (Department of Romance Languages) at the University of Oregon, USA.

D: How did you feel about your stay in Rosario? And what motivated you to ever come and visit?
A: I enjoyed my time in Rosario very much. It was my first visit to Argentina. I came as a visiting faculty member with the International Program (Programa Internacional) run by the Facultad de Derecho at the Universidad de Rosario. I wanted a chance to see something of Argentina and to teach in a different environment and meet new colleagues in various fields.

DIn what ways has it proved useful to you to mingle with the culture of the author you are currently translating?
AMany ways-- day to day familiarity with physical settings mentioned in the book, vocabulary and local usage, a chance to consult with the author, to read the newspapers, eat the food. . .  So much in translation is understanding the context that frames the words on the page.

D: How does literary translation differ from technical/scientific translation in your view?
AI think principally in the kinds of language use-- literary language (often) reaches for new ways of saying things, ways of using the language that may be unfamiliar, not normative, perhaps jarring. Technical/scientific writing aims for a different kind of precision. But language is never entirely transparent, so in terms of translation issues, there is certainly overlap between the two.

DDo you trust the concept of invisibility when it comes to literary translation? Do you think it fair to call for invisibility in translation in general?
AI'm not sure I understand what you mean here. Do I think the translator should seek invisibility, seek to erase herself from the translated text? No. Each and every translation is an interpretation, it is one possible reading of the source text. Some translated texts may seem more distant or even exotic to the reader than others--for a variety of reasons, including setting, plot, imagery--but I don't think it's necessary, or even desirable, that a translation always read "as if" written in the translating language.

D: In an article he wrote for The New York Times on October 2010, Michael Cunningham claims that “that the original novel is, in a way, a translation itself. It is not, of course, translated into another language but it is a translation from the images in the author’s mind to that which he is able to put down on paper.” Would you agree with his point of view?
A: Yes.

DSome technology experts predict that MT (machine translation) might, in the near future, be successfully applied to all kinds of translation, regardless of rhetorical content and regardless of form. What is your opinion when it comes to the issue of machine translation in literature?
AI don't see machine translation taking over literary translation in the near future, though as more and more data is crunched and more examples of language use can be compared or mined, the technology is certainly being refined. I question whether machine translation will develop the kind of predictive capacity, if you will, that would allow it to handle new usages. Another question would be how or what to privilege when choices must be made--not "just" sense, but rhythm, sound, meter. 

DWhat should a literary translator do, in your opinion, when he feels literally lost in his translation? What are your tips to help our mind stay easy so as to come back to the text more relaxed? 
AI am a big believer in the meditative value of jogging-- it lets me burn off nervous energy in a physically productive way while letting my mind roam. 

DYou have been working on Latin America for years now… Are you planning to visit Argentina again in the near future?
AI'd love to return to Argentina in the near future! No concrete plans yet, but I'm always hopeful.

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