Translation, Conflict and Memory – DCU, 3-4 November 2017


After a successful first meeting in Re-encountering the Canon, held in University College Cork in September 2016, the second edition of the Symposium on Literary Translation and Contemporary Iberia, focused this time on Translation, Conflict and Memory, gathered a group of scholars from the Iberian Peninsula, Ireland, France and the United States to explore the crossings and negotiations between translation, the representation of conflict and the re-creation of memory in national and transnational contexts.

The symposium started on Friday afternoon with a though-provoking keynote speech by Pilar Godayol, professor in Translation Studies at the Unviersity of Vic-Central University of Catalunya. Professor Godayol introduced one of the most debated topics of the weekend, the intimate relationship between translation and censorship during Franco’s regime. Through an overview of the history of Mary McCarthy’s novels in Spain during the dictatorship and a close look at the censor’s reports, Prof. Godayol gave an insightful perspective on the difficulties of translation and publishing at the time and the contradictions and discrepancies present in the censors’ reports.

Censorship was indeed one of the key topics discussed, with excellent presentations on its different ramifications in the representation of drama and its political use (Dr Catherine O’Leary), the impact of censors’ comments on the final translation of Orwell’s Homage to Catalonia (Prof Josep Marco), or the recovery of the translation market into Catalan in the 1960s (Lara Estany Freire). All the papers presented very different but complementary perspectives on the difficulties of the process of importing foreign literature into Spain during Franco’s regime, generating stimulating conversation.

Along with censorship and the political manipulation of literature in Franco’s Spain, several papers dealt with the reception of the conflict and the re-creation of memory abroad, providing with abundant perspectives of the war in different settings and in very diverse media: from the US reception of the successful mini-series El tiempo entre costuras (Dr Kyra A. Kiertys), to the analysis of the manipulation in the translation of Paco Roca’s graphic novel Los surcos del azar into French (Dr Thomas Faye), as well as an overview of new trends in the translation and reception of contemporary Spanish narrative in the Anglophone world (Eddie Mc Whinney) or an analysis of the translation and reception of Los girasoles ciegos in Portugal by Dr Inês Espada Vieira, who also discussed the idea of ‘travelling memory’ and the role of translation in transforming the memory of the Spanish conflict into a shared, European memory. In line with this, Dr Manus O’Dwyer presented a compelling paper on the concept of ‘multidirectional memory’ and its presence in Valente’s translations of Jewish authors Jabès and Celan.

In consonance with the transnational travels of conflict and memory and the desire to present a multifaceted overview, other papers dealt with so-called peripheral languages and the effect the travels of both their people and their texts have had in the representation of their cultures. Dr Elisa Serra Porteiro focused on the translation into Galician of the play El irlandés astrólogo, by Galician exile Luís Seoane, and Dr Martín Veiga analysed Pearse Hutchinson’s engagement with the conflict through his translation of O moucho, by Galician poet Uxío Novoneyra. My own presentation, earlier in the morning, dealt with the translation of O lapis do carpinteiro into English and the impact of the translator’s approach in the construction of meaning through cohesive networks present in the text.

Surprisingly for a small symposium, a full panel was focused on the figure of Langston Hughes and his role as a bridge in the representation of the Spanish conflict through his writings and translations, in many cases created in collaboration with Spanish intellectuals. The three papers by Dr Patricia San José Rico, Dr Andrew Samuel Walsh and Dr Evelyn Scaramella nicely tied up a multidimensional perspective on this figure that has been key in the visibilization of both the Spanish civil war and the literary productions that are linked to it in some way or another, particularly through his translations of Lorca.

            Both the papers and the dialogue they brought about were particularly inspiring, and the reduced size of the encounter facilitated the continuation of the exchange afterwards, aided by a relaxed wine reception on Friday in which we had the pleasure of listening to a brief poetry reading from Martín Veiga’s latest creative publication, Diario de Crosses Green. I unfortunately did not have the opportunity to attend the dinner organised for Saturday evening, but I cannot but hope that there will be a third edition to continue the inspiring conversations generated both in UCC last year and in DCU last weekend, in an exciting symposium exceptionally well organised by Dr Lucía Pintado Gutiérrez and Dr Alicia Castillo Villanueva.

For more information and abstracts of individual papers, please visit the symposium website.

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