October 22, 2021

The Queens County Citizen

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Amanda Gorman’s translation of poetry has been controversial

Amanda Gorman's translation of poetry has been controversial

(Paris) Poet Amanda Gorman caused a sensation during the inauguration of President Biden in the United States. In Europe, the translation of his poetry was at the heart of controversies highlighting extraordinary racial tensions in the literary world.


Hughes HONORÉ with AFP offices around the world
France Media Agency

“We bridge our divisions because in order to put our future first, we must first put aside our differences,” she writes. The Hill We Claim.

Published in the United States, the poem, influenced by the attack on the Capitol, became a phenomenon at the age of 23 when the new American president took office.

The message of unity was scrambled across the other side of the Atlantic, where we mainly discussed … translator skin color. Should they be black? Isn’t it time to incorporate more diversity into a very white literary world?

In the Netherlands, journalist and activist Janice Duel published an inflammatory column in the de Voxcrant newspaper in late February: “Amanda Gorman is a white translator of poetry: on can not be left behind”.

A week later, the skeptical translator, Mary Lucas Rizneveld, resigned. Milenhoff then apologized: “We missed a big opportunity to give a platform to a black young woman in the Netherlands and Belgium. [néerlandophone] By translating his work ”.

“Different profile”

The incident angered Spanish translator Nuria Barrios (Lumen Editions, released April 8). “It’s the success of recognition speech in the context of creative freedom,” she wrote in El Pais.

Because this controversy is alive and well in Spain. Catalan translator Victor Obioles was challenged by his editor in early March. “They are looking for a different profile, a woman, young, activist and black,” he explained. The publisher, the Universe, does not communicate on its “Plan B”: in Barcelona, ​​readers are waiting.

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The same thing happens in Paris, where Fayard plans to release on May 19th The Hill We Claim. Translator Belgian-Congo singer Lous and Yakuza, first experience in the field.

In Swedish, he is a singer, but a man glued to “Bergett v Bestiger” (released Tuesday by Polaris Editions). Born to American parents, Jason Diacita, for Timbuktu, this poem “has a lot and a lot of rhymes, so it really feels like rap text. I know this very well, ”he said on SVT Television.

“Fiasco” in German

In German, On the hill Hoffman und Campe editions were released the same day in the United States. But according to the Austrian daily Der Standard, the translation is “a failure”, which abuses the “stylized figures or strong images” of the original version.

Three women worked there. Among them, “the black Hadija Haruna-Olkar, and the Cobra Gomez of Turkish origin, were less active in the field of literature and journalism than in anti-feminist and anti-racist activism,” lamented the Vienna newspaper.

The mystery surrounding the name of the Finnish translator. “We have sent our proposals for translators to the author and his agent and are awaiting a response,” publisher Sarah Turanemi told the Helsingin Sanomat newspaper on March 4. For her, the process was “not normal”.

In Italian, the English title “The Hill We Climb” was retained by publisher Gorzanti and selected with the approval of Amanda Gorman, a young (white) translator, Francisco Spinelli. She tried to ignore the controversy in the Netherlands, telling the Il Libreo website that “everyone has their say, often hot and some confusing discussion without talking about the same thing”.

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Hungarian publisher Open Books publisher launches original project: translation, directed by author Krista Badis, takes place in the framework of a literary workshop with young Roma. We do not know when this will end.

Outside of Europe, some translations are planned. For example, in French-speaking Canada, we are currently content to read American Women in her own language.

In Brazil, the choice fell on Stephanie Borges, a journalist, poet and black translator. “This is a debate of paramount importance: we hope it will bring more representation in the literary world,” Talita Perisse, the person in charge of foreign rights youth for the Intrenseca editions, told AFP.