Michael Cronin, Translating Ireland: Translations, Languages, Cultures (Cork UP 1996), 229pp.

CONTENTS Acknowledgements ix Outline Chronology of Irish History [xi]; Introduction: Transition Zones [1] TRANSLATING THE MIDDLE AGES [8] Irish translation on the European continent; Translation and evangelisation; Barbarian translators and the Greek language; Naturalisation in medieval translations; Pragmatic translation in medieval Ireland; Circulation, visions and the translator’s signature; Translation, insularity and peripherality. 2: TRANSLATION, CONQUEST AND CONTROVERSY [47] Cultural submission and territorial translation. The Reformed Church, printing and vernacular translation. Patronage and continental translation activity. Translated audiences. The Emergence of English-language translation. Plain dress and pictures. Translation, poetic expression and freedom. Translation contexts. 3: DIGGING UP THE PAST [91] Language choice, facts and mediation Dermot O’Connor and translation politics. Genealogy, the Celtic revival and the elder sister. Hardiman, classical dignity and political rivalry. The Orient, archaeology and Irish antiquity. Civilisation, sentiment and empiricism. Licentiousness, metaphor and transvestism. Linguistic assimilation and translation readership. Prejudice, originality and mental modernity. The classic camp and creative experiments. The masks of translation, 4: TRANSLATION AND THE EMERGENCE OF A NEW IRELAND [131] Dangerous politics, translation and scholarship. A new literary vernacular. Translation afterlife and the literary revival. Mistranslation and the stage Irishman. Infected areas. Peadar Ua Laoghaire and the speech of the people. The subaltern in translation. Translation policy and the new state. Translation schemes and controversy. 5: THE STATE OF TRANSLATION: REVIVAL, RENEWAL AND CONFLICT [167] Fixation and discontinuity. Cultural self-representation. Translation resistance and fluent strategies. Unsettling realities. Political economy and palimpsest. Parallel modes of experience. Representing translators. Pragmatic translation, economic change and new technology. Translating the media. Transactions. Bibliography [206]; Index [220].

The history of translation in Ireland is the history of encounters. The encounters have been peaceful, violent, painful and as [Johnny] Rotten [of the Sex Pistols] found out, creative. Translators, as inventive mediators, have shaped every era of Irish life for centuries, but their role has been largely ignored. If they are remembered at all, it is usually for something else - their sanctity or prowess in the literary or philosophical field. Without translators, however, the emergence and development of different cultures in Ireland would have been literally and metaphorically speaking inconceivable. (p.1)

The language of the public domain, of power and intellectual influence, was English. In translation terms, this implied that the major target language, the language of public, prestigious and politically effective translation, was English. As we shall see, there were translations into Insh, but they were dwarfed by the number of translations into English from Irish. The latter pointed to the core predicament of translators from Irish into English in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. In order to counter erroneous, Anglocentric views of Irish history and literature, it was felt necessary to demonstrate, using the evidence of Irish texts, that certain received notions with respect to Irish culture were based on misrepresentation and falsehoods. The language of public debate under the new dispensation was English and the evidence, therefore, had to be made available in English. A paradoxical consequence of translation activity in this colonial context was that the scholars and translators who were most to the fore in defending the intrinsic value of native Irish language and culture made a significant contribution, through translation, to the strengthening of the English language in Ireland and to the marginalisation of Irish in the public life of the country. Eric Cheyfitz argues that ‘at the heart of every imperial fiction (the heart of darkness) there is a fiction of translation’ The colonial Other is translated into terms of the imperial Self, with the net result of alienation for the colonised and a fiction of understanding for the coloniser.’ (p.92); Note also remarks on Robert Welch’s ‘growth points’ in connection with Charlotte Brooke.

Translation as travel is the link ... between the local and the universal. The movement outwards is the translation effort of broadening the space of experience and the horizon of expectation through communication with others outside one’s own culture. The movement inward is the translation of extraneous material into one’s native language and culture. [...] Translation, like the practice of travel does not posit the local and the universal as mutually exclusive terms but sees the pair as genuinely liberatory in their mutual interdependence. (p. p.116; quoted in Loredana Salis, ‘“So Greek with Consequence”: Classical Tragedy in Contemporary Irish Drama’, PhD Diss., UUC, 2005.)

Conversely, the translator may resemble the French Oriental traveller Isabelle Eberhardt, for whom transvestisrn offered the possibility of media0 tion. By dressing as a male Arab and speaking Arabic, she could gain access to areas of North African culture that would normally be out of bounds to a female Westerner. Cross-dressing invites understanding. But a disguise may be only that, a disguise, which hides real interests. As Ali Behdad points out in his Belated Travellers: Onentalism in the Age of Colonial Dissolution, Eberhardt’s reports from North Africa played an important role in causing a shift in French colonial policy from assimilation to association in the latter half of the nineteenth century. (Behdad, Cork UP, 1994,pp.113-32.) Eberhardt did not leave behind her French identity or the interests of the French colonial administration. Borrowing a term from Michel Serres, Behdad sees Eberhardt as a parasite, as the necessary noise in the French imperial system that allows it to restructure itself. To retum to nineteenth-century Ireland, the passage of material from Irish into English has the potential to be doubly threatening. The threat in the political sense is obvious, though stressed by Hardiman rather than Ferguson. The foreignness and otherness of a culture that is largely identified with the politically oppressed majority is by definition unsettling for a ruling elite. The sexual menace is more oblique, lying in the possibility that wildness and sentiment might breach sexual decorum and introduce a troubling alterity. The translator as transvestite is O Cathain’s “shadowy figure”, a necessary mediator, but suspect because of crossing sexual boundaries in one case and linguistic, cultural (and emotional) boundaries in the other. If, as Ferguson affirms, Irish song appeals more to the heart than to judgement, then the normative checks of reason are suspended and anything is possible. (|Irish Minstrelsy, No. II, p.155). Indeed, it is because anything is possible that translation is the parasite that will allow Anglo-Irish literature to restructure itself in the nineteenth century just as translation was to the fore in restructuring Irish language and literature in the seventeenth century. In the case of the translator as parasite, it is worth emphasising catalysis rather than dependency. (p.133);

Takes issue with Leerssen over Irish Bulls: ‘Leerssen describes the stereotype but fails to situate it in a translation context. A foreign accent and unfelicitous expression are obvious consdquences of unsuccessful translation, of the failure to master the language of the master. … By concealing the labour of translation, the difficulties that many Irish peole faced in learning Engish as a foreign language, couples with mother tongue interference and with apparent idiosyncrasies of accent and idiom, were presented as the undisguised hallmarks of stupidity. Depending on the state of relations between Ireland and England, the dullness was cast as sinister or endearing. Therefore, the decision by Synge, Hyde, Yeats and lady Gregory to positively chamion the English language spoekn in rural areas was to make an aesthetic virtue of a translation necessity. The uniwtting translation process that had sustained ridicule in jokes and on the stage was now consciously cultivated as a marker of specificity rather than shunned as a brand of inferiority. Instead of concealing translation, the process was now foregroudned in the public search for a new Irish literary idiom.’ (p.144.)

Note that Michael Cronin and Liam Mac Cóil approached Arts Council in 1989 with ‘embryonic proposal for the establishement of an agency in Ireland that would have specific responsibility for the promotin abroad of Irish literature in translation. (p.172); produced report, Literature without Frontiers/Litríocht gan Teorainn; ILE estab. 1994.

Translation means feedback, reponse, the acknowledgement of another literary tradition and culture. For other writers, however, translation was a form of dispossession.

‘The temptation in the case of both Friel and Montague is to read their literary examination of the themes of language and translation as a simple denunciation of the linguistic legacy of colonialism. W. J. Mc Cormack adds the rider that ‘rather than see this phenomenon [transliteration of placenames] simply as damning evidence of colonialism, we should additionally see it as a negotiation between languages, even to some extent a compromise imposed by the defeated upon their aggressors’. (Ascendancy, &c.; 1994, p.251.) The historical indictment is certainly present in the work of Friel and Montague, but the ultimate argument for a contemporary audience is that translafion is our condition. Time and change have meant that it is no longer possible for a painless, unproblematic shift back to the originary Eden of Irish. For the Irish Anglophone, entering into the world of Irish language, literature and culture is another form of translation with all the difficulty, disorientation and uncertainties that this process implies. Translation is never without consequences. One of the failures of the Revivalist movement in post-Independence Ireland was to assume that translation was transparent, that [199] a natural ability to speak and write in Irish lay below the thin anglicised veneer of the translated Irish.’ (pp.199-200.)

In a country of violently conflicting loyalties, translation, as Hugh notes [in Friel’s Translations] is “all we have”.’ … the ancient necessity of a practice that at crucial periods in Irhs history has provided the openness that has sustained hope. By underlyig the central role of tranalstion in the development of the literatures and cultures of Ireland, it may also be possible to make a case for dialogue and renewal.[… &c.’ END; p.200.]

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