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Abstracts for 2019 Convention panel on Radical and Rogue Translations

Rogue and radical translations function as unauthorized, anti-authoritarian, and anti-authorial texts. Due to the challenges they represent to capitalist proprietorship and other structures of power, radical and rogue translations often incite controversy and become the target of legal action.

This panel takes up radical and rogue translations as translation proper, but not property. Radical and rogue translations serve as a means to interrogate filial notions of creative and intellectual ownership derived from (neo)imperialist, capitalist economic and legal structures. The three papers look at the claims translators make over texts—to play and produce pleasure, to push politically against Western hegemony, to supply texts for reader demand without a profit motive—through innovative translation and distribution strategies. An examination of radical and rogue translations gives the lie to the integrity of the text and of the author and calls for contestatory models of textual circulation outside of legal contracts and transactions.

Simon Yiu-Tsan Ng looks at translation outside of the framework of faithfulness, asking how we might consider translation differently if slippage in meaning is intended and infidelity expected. He focuses on the case study of Erin Mouré / Eirin Moure’s Sheep’s Vigil by a Fervent Person (2001), subtitled as “A Transelation” (with an inserted letter “e”), her English version of Fernando Pessoa’s O Guardador de Rebanhos. Mouré’s method is casual and playful, resulting in unexpected expansions: she adds more layers to the music of Pessoa’s poetry by adapting it into her English syntax and weaving into the English version her meditative words and spontaneous questions, and sometimes, contemporary scenes and images from twenty-first century Toronto. Mouré’s playful approach to translating poetry does not aim to bring Pessoa’s poetry from one language to another; instead, the unexpected textual jouissance through the process of transelation creates an economy of pleasure rather than proprietorship.

Claire Nashar’s paper takes as its point of departure the correspondence between translation and commodity fetishism in Marx’s analysis of capital, which only repeats the much older relation between translation, trade, and the fetish forged in the 16th and 17th centuries on the West coast of Africa, as historian William Pietz has shown. Through the case study Korean-American poet Don Mee Choi’s Petite Manifesto (2014)—a poetic interpolation of her American English translations of Kim Hyesoon’s radical feminist Korean poetry—this paper reconsiders the terms of translational “loss” and “gain” in light of the failure of formal decolonization in South Korea and the consequent economic and cultural persistence of U.S. power in that territory. With attention to Choi’s symptomatic grammatical slippages, homophonic elisions, and abject motifs, the paper tracks the compromised conditions of exchange between the U.S. and South Korea, advancing a more comprehensive model than loss or gain for understanding the ways that translational economy forms and deforms the US literary marketplace.

The text under investigation in the paper by Corine Tachtiris utilizes a less radical translation strategy than those by Mouré and Choi, but takes an extreme stance toward authorial proprietorship in other ways. Since moving to France from former Czechoslovakia, Milan Kundera has exerted a great deal of control over his texts and their translations. Unhappy with the English and French translations of his early novels, Kundera commissioned new ones, labelled “authorized translations,” which he had also rewritten from the original Czech texts. Additionally, Kundera at first refused to allow his later texts, composed in French, to be translated into Czech, arguing that no one would create a better version than the author himself. Tachtiris’s paper studies the pirated translation into Czech of Kundera’s novel L’identité (1998) made available for free online in 2006 without legal permissions. Just as the protagonist of L’identité experiences an uncanny loss of her sense of self, the rogue translation of the novel challenges Kundera’s jealously guarded identity as author, asking to whom the text “belongs”: author, translator, or reader?

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