63 Cultural translations

Zehar #63

63 Cultural translations

Cultural translation is an exercise that is repeated again and again in everyday life and on the following pages. Translations are representations of the possible links that exist between codes and objects, and at the same time they form new paths to establish links that go beyond mechanical approaches. Although translation is a repetitive exercise-due to the fact that it is repetitive-the information that is inferred from these is fresh information.

Translation is an activity that we all carry out from one day to the next. It is an activity that enables us to understand the codes that surround us, to make use of them and to transform them. We use various techniques to understand, use and transform these, and the ones that we have made use of here are experiences that are based on and refer to these different techniques.

edito_en.pdf — PDF document, 169Kb

Azucena Vieites

Repetition is not repeating

In any form of art, translation involves a technique of concrete materialisation. An awareness that images are constructed by taking into account their materiality—how they are made, what sensory experience we have of them—which requires us to understand the different procedures through which they are embodied. I have recently returned to silk-screening as a way of transferring drawings from one technique to another. Silk-screening always has the ability to surprise, and it is important that what you do surprises you. There is something magical and amazing about an image which suddenly comes up: something in which one's own body is involved. Through a movement, through an action, we obtain an immediate, undelayed result. What it is obtained is the remnant of the action— the remnant as an organic result—which implies the idea of the abject. This process of working from the materiality of the images means not so much documenting a process—which consists on reworking the drawings through the silk-screen (the notion of the document acquiring a certain virtual character)—, but of combining the ideas of the remnants as an organic and abject result, as the unassimilable.

vieites_en.pdf — PDF document, 347Kb

Fran Ilich

We have mirrors instead of eyes

We're at a workshop at the Goethe Institue in Mexico City, centring on the idea of creating a short film with a mobile phone, and I'm one of the students. The date could be today or last week or even 10 years ago, but as it happens it's taking place over these days. We don't specifically examine the actual technology of making films using mobile phones or stuff like that. Instead, we focus on the old question of storytelling, and the first week, we spend a routine eight hours a day developing ideas, writing, and discussing scripts, point of view and the different things that motivate us to tell a story. Slowly and painfully we come to understand and accept that the thing we so obsessively wanted to talk about and to which we still cling is simply not a story.

ilich_en.pdf — PDF document, 173Kb

Iratxe Retolaza

Feminist pens, exercises in translation

There has been much debate on the subject of translatability, not only in the area of literature and the word, but also in reference to the codes that lie beyond the word. In contrast, there has been little talk—here at least—about the translatability of gender resources. Any debate on the translatability of grammatical genders or of public gender roles has been rare indeed. This shortfall has led translators to fail to perceive these issues and even some of the most skilful translators, well used to translating other linguistic resources with the greatest of precision, have ignored gender resources. An example can be seen in one of Raymond Queneau’s best-known literary works, Exercises de Style, masterfully translated (as Estilo-ariketak) by Xabier Olarra. The excellent translation plays with word and language, and the text contains numerous profound reflections on literature. I was surprised, then, by how little attention had been paid to gender resources in this painstaking translation, and by the tendency to reduce the possible meanings in this area. This was made all the more surprising given that in the original French work, Queneau himself plays in many of these exercises of style with the precision or ambiguity of grammatical gender and with the gender representations his readers are used to making. In other words, Raymond Queneau recognises the capacity of gender (both grammatical and in public roles) as a literary and creative resource and seeks to break down the grammar of language and widen and split those narrow public roles.

retolaza_en.pdf — PDF document, 216Kb

Xabier Paya

The contraband of the imagination

Borges once said that the history of literature is the history of a few metaphors, and he lists some of them: the river as time, life as a dream, eyes as stars, women as flowers... Maybe, then, all reality can also be explained by means of a few metaphors. And if so, what would these metaphors be? Cultural codes are frontiers between two realities, customs posts levying duties. The square peg does not fit into the round hole, and, unless we make some adjustment, the Round Holers will not be able to receive the message from the square peg. But if that is so, then perhaps the peg is meaningless without its squareness. And how many pegs are there in the market of ideas, anyway? Even the market cannot answer that question. I have therefore chosen to analyse a piece of one particular market: metaphor in the transaction of bertsos1 [extemporised verses].

paya_en.pdf — PDF document, 166Kb

Xabier Mendiguren Bereziartu

Translation, the Inn of the Remote

The French translation theorist Antoine
 Berman invited us to view translation as the«inn of the remote» (l’auberge du lointain), recalling the reference by Jaufré Rudel,the medieval troubadour, to l'ostal de lonh. Hundreds of definitions of translation have been suggested, but this one offers particular scope; in effect, since the dawn of humankind, translators and interpreters have helped surmount the barriers of remoteness. In the words of Santiago Kovadloff, the ability to translate is «a gift that facilitates proximity», turning the other into a neighbour, thus translating means offering others that marvellous singularity of the neighbour, which they could otherwise not enjoy. In other words, he views translation as a service that encourages coexistence: As well as helping us recognise that the world of the other is not inscrutable, it tells us that it holds something of interest to us too, insofar as it reveals what we are.

mendiguren_en.pdf — PDF document, 248Kb

Xabier Gantzarain

Fiction is an habitable world

Our day had already begun, but it was still dark and cold; it was winter. The cars splut- tered their way to work and in people’s kitch- ens some bluish lights were still on. When we reached the bus stop, the day still wasn’t fully awake, and neither were we, it was as if last night’s dreams were still stuck to our eye- lids. We didn’t feel like talking. All we could do was light up a cigarette to make the bus come quicker. Izibene’s eyelids looked heavy as if they were weighed down by her dreams or a lack of sleep. She coiled up in the seat beside me like a hedgehog and fell straight asleep. Be- fore she did, though, her lips drew an af- fectionate smile—or at least that’s what it looked like to me as I watched her— reflected in a window turned into a mirror by the darkness of the morning. I was sitting up straight as a ramrod, like some dictator’s statue, when I was overcome by sleep. And in my dreams, the bus never stopped, and I had a hedgehog by my side, and I was afraid of nothing.

gantzarain_en.pdf — PDF document, 68Kb

Xabier Erkizia

Could somebody translate this music for me?

As I write this article, I read in a newspaper a sentence that is highlighted in an interview and which very much catches my attention: «Music cannot be translated into words, and that is precisely where its power is». These words belong to a composer, Luis de Pablo to be precise, and they clearly summarize one of the matters that have centred musical creation since its beginnings. Is music exportable, translatable to other arts or languages? Or is it a self-centred and closed art which does not accept any translation whatsoever as valid?

erkizia_en.pdf — PDF document, 422Kb

Frederick Brandão

Tradition, Translation & Transliteration

What gets in the way of the search for a happy ending is that, while it is possible to find happiness, there is no possible ending. Nearly five years after I first came into contact with the Quilombola community of Ita- matatiua, I am now planning to go back to photograph the inhabitants and the landscape. Any notion of concluding a text about the place and its people would be mere speculation. For this reason, translation can be seen as being infinitely open and imperfect; open, because a story is not considered to have come to an end, nor are the ties of friendship or hatred that bind the observers and the observed broken.

brandao_en.pdf — PDF document, 201Kb
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