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Review of  Translation in Anthologies and Collections (19th and 20th Centuries)

Reviewer: Roxana Birsanu
Book Title: Translation in Anthologies and Collections (19th and 20th Centuries)
Book Author: Teresa Seruya Lieven D’hulst Alexandra Assis Rosa Maria Lin Moniz
Publisher: John Benjamins
Linguistic Field(s): Sociolinguistics
Subject Language(s): Chinese, Mandarin
Issue Number: 25.2520

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The contributions in this book grew from presentations at the International Conference “Translation in 19th- and 20th-century anthologies and collections” held in Lisbon (6-7 May, 2010). The book contains an introduction, a foreword by the editors and sixteen chapters in three sections: discursive practices and scholarly agency, national and international canonization processes, and selection and censorship. Each paper opens with an abstract and ends with conclusions and references usually divided into two sections, primary and secondary sources.

The editors put to good use Lefevere’s concept of rewriting (1992) represented here by anthologies and collections, with the aim of presenting them as useful tools for carrying “cultural capital” (again Lefevere’s concept) across geographical frontiers.

The first section, “Discursive practices and scholarly agency”, starts with Lieven d’Hulst’s study, “Forms and functions of anthologies of translations into French in the nineteenth century”. Focusing on translation anthologies in 19th century France, the study approaches two terms which are often used interchangeably, namely “anthology” and “collection”, from the perspective of their generic dynamism. Aiming to clarify terminology, the author turns to the landmark 19th century French dictionary, Larousse’s Grand Dictionnaire Universel. The conclusion is that these terms share the same generic status, which is “dominantly discursive, possibly even literary for the anthology, on the contrary to the other aforementioned concept” (24). D’Hulst compares a number of anthologies and collections of translations, which reveal common features with the original works.

Alexandra Assis Rosa’s article, “The short story in English meets the Portuguese reader: On the ‘external history’ of Portuguese anthologies of short stories translated from English” relies on the external history of translations (translators, translated works and their time of production) in order to analyse two main issues relevant for this topic. One is a quantitative analysis of translated short stories published in Portuguese anthologies and collections, the selected corpus comprising 8 collections with a total of 140 titles and more than 18 source languages. This analysis reveals the supremacy of translations from Anglo-American literature, and the most prolific interval of such translation anthologies in the years 1940-1970. The second focus falls on paratextual elements (covers, spines, blurbs, etc.) and their role in the dissemination of translated short stories among Portuguese readers.

Marta Pacheco Pinto’s contribution, “Cancioneiro Chinez: The first Portuguese anthology of classical Chinese poetry”, treats Antonio Feijo’s translation of “Cancioneiro Chinez” and the impact of this translation on Portuguese literature, as well as the translator’s approach to the source text. The metatextual level considered by Pinto -- such as front cover, collection title and preface -- highlights how much “Cancioneiro Chinez” owes to 19th century translation practice: the word “translation” is hardly anywhere to be found, thus blurring the line between the translator and the original writer; the Preface is in French and not in Portuguese, suggesting the expected education level of the target readership. The author stresses that although in terms of critical reception Feijo’s endeavour faced surprising neglect, it can be appreciated for introducing aliterary production of a geographically remote culture to Portuguese readers.

Martha P.Y. Cheung’s “Academic navel gazing? Playing the game up front? Pages from the notebook of a translation anthologist” deals with a personal project of the author, the creation of an anthology in English of various Chinese texts on translation. She establishes a parallelism between the West and “the rest” in the globalization age, which clarifies her position as a postcolonial researcher attempting to make her voice heard in Translation Studies. Her project deals with the classical paradigm of identity constructed on the duality Self/Other, Self being understood both as her personal identity, and her identity as a representative of Chineseness. Her paper provides a good starting point for a debate centring on the transfer of cultural identity.

“Las antologias sobre la traducción en la Peninsula Iberica: Revisión critica” by José Antonio Sabio Pinilla presents fourteen anthologies of texts on translation published in Spain, 1987-2009. Pinilla demonstrates that the publication of these anthologies coincides with the institutionalisation of translation studies in the academic world, their purpose being primarily to assist students and researchers in the field. Analysing paratextual elements such as titles, introductions and prefaces, the author makes insightful observations referring to the type of anthologies, criteria underlying the selection of representative texts, the compilers’ target readership and objective, as well as the approach to the discourse on translation across time and space.

The second section, “National and international canonization processes”, opens with “Poetry anthologies as Weltliteratur projects” by Ana Maria Bernando. She analyses four anthologies of world poetry, two Portuguese and two German, aimed at finding representations of the concept of “world literature” and of emphasising the role played by translation as a tool of cultural transfer. Bernardo addresses issues such as the compilers’ approach to the cultures represented in the anthologies, the principles governing the selection process (chronology, topic, focus on a particular time period, genre, etc.), or self-representation, meaning the inclusion of the compiler’s own national literature.

“Publishing translated literature in late 19th century Portugal: The case of David Corazzi’s catalogue (1906)” presents an interdisciplinary approach blending principles of Translation Studies and tenets of book history and reading. João Almeida Flor offers a case study of a 19th century Portuguese publisher’s catalogue aimed at understanding book market conditions of the epoch, and how they impacted translation policy in terms of author selection, translation norms and representation of literary genres. The analysis of David Corazzi’s catalogue reveals a balance between national productions and foreign literatures. In an obvious attempt to avoid commercial risks, Portuguese literature was represented by celebrated names already familiar to the Portuguese readership. Regarding the geographical distribution of translated works, besides those from French which dominated, Flor shows that German, Anglo-American and Spanish literatures were modestly represented, while Eastern European letters were hardly represented.

Vanessa Castagna’s “Short stories from foreign literatures in Portugalia’s series Antologias Universais” discusses a series of anthologies published by Portugalia Editora during the years 1940-1960. The article examines the main features of these anthologies, focusing particularly on their general structure (preface, bio-bibliographical note on authors, contents), the series organisation according to three main coordinates (author nationality, language, and sub-genre of short stories), and their key characteristics such as criteria for author/work selection and translations made by famous Portuguese writers. Castaga also mentions the important role assigned to translators, as well as the importance of paratextual items such as prefaces, which were often genuine documents of literary criticism.

In “Patterns in the external history of Portuguese collections with translations of Polish literature (1855-2009): An exploratory case study”, Hanna Piȩta sets out to identify the representation of Polish literature in Portuguese collections and how they contributed to the canonisation of Polish writers. Since Piȩta’s interest is mainly in the external history of such translations, she provides accurate and detailed accounts of number of translated volumes, their distribution among publishers, pace of translation production from Polish, and even fluctuations of the translation flow.

Against the background of Orientalism in Portugal, Teresa Seruya’s “Extra-European literatures in anthology during the Estado Novo” focuses on short story anthologies translated from Indian, Chinese and Japanese from 1933 to 1974. Seruya’s research reveals that the interest of the Portuguese in Orientalism at the end of the 19th century and the beginning of the 20th century was almost inexistent, despite the existence of “direct sources of cultural information about China and Japan” (175). The comparative analysis of these anthologies indicates a common set of features: their limited representation, which suggests the publishers and the public’s weak interest in such publications; that most of them were indirect translations from the above-mentioned languages, and followed the same trend, tending to universalise to the extreme the otherness of the represented cultures.

The third and last section starts with Patricia Anne Odber de Baubeta’s “Children’s literature in translation: Treachery and double crossings? Or: You can’t judge a book by its cover”, which undertakes a comparative analysis of a collection of short story anthologies, Série 15, in its French, Spanish, Italian and Portuguese versions. The analysis identifies relatively similar patterns of publication in all the above-mentioned countries, in which publishers opted for a mixture of translations and original productions commissioned to national authors known to write for children. Baubeta stresses that in Portugal, in particular, this collection filled a void in the domestic literary system, which lacked extensive writings for children and teenagers. Also focusing on the Portuguese versions, the author concludes that although translators did not adopt a domesticating orientation, they tended to favour “readability of the text in the target language” (196), their main concern being to make texts as accessible as possible to young readers.

In “Translating German poetry into French under the Occupation: The example of R. Lasne’s and G. Rabuse’s anthology (1943)”, Christine Lombez compares two anthologies of German poetry translated into French for the purpose of detecting how they fulfilled the target of German cultural offensive in France. One of the anthologies included authors loyal to the National Socialist regime. This publication was deemed by many as a form of treason, and another collection was devised, this time with poets not covered in the former anthology. Lombez concludes that, surprisingly, despite the generally negative reception of the former anthology, it was reedited several times, with necessary excision of paratextual elements that were visible elements of Nazi propaganda.

In “The reception of science fiction and horror story anthologies in the last years of Francoist Spain: Censoring aliens and monsters in translation”, Cristina Gómez Castro shows that science fiction and horror story anthologies were allowed by the Franco regime as a form of cheap mass entertainment. Castro further discusses that although the censorship mechanism in the seventies was not as active as it was at the beginning of the regime, anthologies were still reviewed by censorship boards, which paid particular attention to sexual references or improper language. The censors mostly interfered with the texts under the form of cuts or by resorting to a procedure called Official or Administrative Silence, in which responsibility was passed on to the publishing house. The paper shows that before the texts reached the censorship boards, translators were operating their own modification of source texts, domesticating and adjusting them so as to comply with the governing morals of Francoist Spain.

Continuing the discourse on translations during the Spanish Francoist regime, Carmen Camus-Camus, in “Censored discourse in anthologies and collections of the Far West”, approaches another marginal form of the literary canon, i.e. Far West narratives. She claims that due to the regime’s aversion to translations and the focus on national materials, Spanish authors were encouraged to write in the vein of North American Western writers, with obvious changes to the genre poetics due to their Spanish transplantation, the result being often “a mere pastiche or caricature of the hallowed American Western” (230). Camus specifies that although domestic Western productions were favoured, translations were also published, and despite the fact that censorship was milder in their case, translators resorted to self-censorship, adjusting source texts in order to meet the criterion of acceptability to the detriment of adequacy.

Ibon Uribarri Zenekorta’s article “Philosophical collections, translation and censorship: The role of collections in the reception of modern philosophy in 19th and 20th century Spain” centres on religious censorship in Spain, where the Church, in defence of its conservative values, opposed the dissemination of any innovative ideas. Philosophical works represented such agents of innovation and, as such, their translation was strictly controlled and, where possible, outright forbidden. Zenekorta shows that those interested in introducing these works to Spanish readers had to set up their own publishing houses or journals to accommodate modern European scientific and philosophic thinking. They managed to publish philosophical texts translated mainly from English and German, despite the efforts of the authorities to discourage such endeavours by resorting to various forms of sabotage, such as negative reception and criticism.

The reception of British literature during two dictatorial regimes, Socialism in Hungary and Estado Novo in Portugal, is analysed by Zsófia Gombár in “Translation anthologies and British literature in Portugal and Hungary between 1949 and 1974”. The author’s research reveals completely different attitudes to literature in the two countries. The Portuguese regime seems to have ignored the propagandistic potential of literature, which is visible in the somewhat lenient attitude of the censors towards translated literature. On the other hand, Socialist Hungarian authorities relied heavily on literature to disseminate and spread Socialist ideas. This different interest in literature is also accounted for by the fact that Salazar’s regime intended to keep the people as ignorant as possible, which explains the preference for translations of non-canonical literary works. At the other pole, the Hungarian Socialists’ cultural agenda included the education of the masses, but only allowed the publication of well-established classical authors, whose ideas could hardly question the Socialist doctrine.

The book ends with notes on contributors and a very useful index of names and subjects.

“Translation in Anthologies and Collections (19th and 20th centuries)” has the great merit of approaching a field of research which has been largely ignored or poorly explored so far, i.e. anthologies. Long considered marginal, and, as such, underresearched by scholars, anthologies are studied from various stands and in distinct historical, cultural and literary contexts. The approach is all the more original and useful since it studies anthologies from a translation perspective. The editors’ purpose of presenting anthologies as “spaces for intercultural encounters, forms of creative rewriting, as domestic offers of a partial canon for a given area of a foreign culture, be it an author, nation, literary genre, specific domain or other” (Foreword, viii) is fully achieved, considering that the contributions cover a wide range of literary genres, intercultural perspectives and transnational translation and editorial policies.

The three sections are well-structured and balanced in terms of number of articles included in each section, and thematic coherence. The abstracts preceding each paper create clear expectations about the content. The references are well-documented, updated and relevant for the topics treated, most useful for any further research readers may be interested in pursuing.

The volume addresses a wide target readership not confined to translation studies scholars and students, since it opens avenues to interdisciplinary approaches including comparative literature, reception studies, historiography, censorship, and philosophy. It is particularly useful for researchers whose interests are mostly in Spanish and Portuguese literatures, since thirteen of sixteen chapters treat to these two geographical areas. In fact, this would be a drawback of the book, the somewhat limited range of national literatures considered for study, one not noted anywhere in the introduction or foreword. On the other hand, this topographical localisation provides coherence to the anthology, together with the general methodological lines displayed by the various papers that mainly follow the principles of Descriptive Translation studies, most articles focusing, when referring to translations, on the target products and not on the source texts.

Although the volume is in English, which clearly suggests that it addresses English-speaking readers, a few quotations are given in their source language (see the quotation in German in the Introduction, p. 4, or those in French abounding in d’Hulst’s paper). In addition, José Antonio Sabio Pinilla’s study is in Spanish; only the abstract is in English. Pinilla’s contribution is highly interesting, and it is unfortunate that readers who do not know Spanish will not be able to read the chapter. Editorial control also seems to have been negligent in certain situations, where the papers (for instance, Vanessa Castagna’s case) would have benefited from more thorough proofreading in terms of grammar and comprehensiveness.

Given the fact that anthologies have not been extensively studied so far in Translation Studies, they represent a fertile field for further research. Viable research paths are suggested not only by the editors in their introduction, but also by the contributors, who make recommendations for intriguing and exciting new avenues to pursue. The editors are to be thanked for bringing to the fore a neglected area of research in Translation Studies, thus enriching the bibliography on the topic, and broadening scholarly work on anthologies in terms of translations.

Bassnett, Susan. 1991. Translation Studies. London & New York: Routledge.

Gentzler, Edwin. 1993. Contemporary Translation Theories. London & New York: Routledge.

Lefevere, André. 1992. Translation, Rewriting and the Manipulation of Literary Frame. London and New York: Routledge.
Roxana Bîrsanu is an Assistant Lecturer currently teaching English for Specific Purposes in Bucharest, Romania. She holds a PhD in Translation Studies from the University of Salamanca, Spain. Her research interests center mainly on Romanian translations from modernist Anglo-American literature, translation norms in the Romanian literary system, and intercultural communication. She has published numerous translations of French and English works, fiction and non-fiction, and has co-authored textbooks on general and business communication in English.