Translating into a common European culture

Alexej_von_Jawlensky_-_Abstrakter_Kopf,_Andante

As the ALTA conference goes into day two the European Society of Authors have issued an invitation to build a “literary and intellectual community committed to translation, transmission and mediation of literature in the different languages of the European continent.” Coincidence?

Actually, presenting the whole issue as a European vs. American high-stakes competition might be just the way the open the funding floodgates from the very highest levels:

“President Romney, the Europeans are gloating over the higher number of translations they’ve done this year. It’s got to stop!”

“And I’m just the man to stop it. Hand me the translator’s red phone. It’s time for action!”

Okay, kidding. I’d be happy for the transatlantic translation race scenario to actually come into being but about the election, please . . No! C’mon, it was only one debate).

The invitation asks the question “What kind of structure could facilitate the transmission and translation of books and contribute to the construction of a common European culture?” and mentions some of the authors and researchers examining this topic. Yet I wonder if this “structure” they’re hoping to create isn’t only imaginary and won’t end up just diverting time and money from culture itself. Maybe this construction of a common European culture will either happen or not and can’t be talked about at panels and seminars and organized from Brussels?

And then you could look at all the multilingual writers of modernism, and then not only the well-known European painters resident in Paris but the Russian painters in Germany as well as the composers that came to Vienna to study with Schoenberg who were all sent into exile, to concentration camps or subsequent obscurity and you realize that all these attempts to create a literary and intellectual community are a vain but necessary attempt to pick up these pieces and try to put them back together in some recognizable form.

On a lighter note, the latest Finnegan’s List will be out at the Frankfurt Book Fair next Thursday. The list is composed of 10 polyglot authors’ recommendations of books that should be translated into one or another European language that they have yet to be translated into.

The European Society of Authors has a fantastic page of video interviews and other assorted performances on their website – most, but not all subtitled when not in English, with figures such as Luis Buñuel, Kurt Schwitters, Petr Slavík on Czech alternative culture in the 70s, Georges Bataille, Antonin Artaud and more.

Photo – 1) Abstract Head by Alexej Jawlensky, 1933. The painting was acquired from the artist by fellow artist, art dealer and founder of Munich’s Blue Four group Galka Scheyer. Besides Scheyer the group consisted of Russian Jawlensky, Russian Wassily Kandinsky, Swiss Paul Klee and New York-born German-American Lyonel Feininger. Scheyer was the only “true” German in the group, which of course meant that being Jewish she ended up settling in Hollywood and banging her head against a wall trying to sell the group’s paintings. 2) Galka Scheyer and the Blue Four/wikimedia commons

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One Comment on “Translating into a common European culture”

  1. ann
    12/10/2012 at 9:21 am #

    thanks this

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