Translator Sean Sell on Contemporary Indigenous Literature in Mexico

Excerpt from Paul Worley & Kelsey Woodburn’s interview with Sean Sell:

Not many people know that Maya literatures or even in general indigenous literatures exist. Why do you think that is? What is the role of the translation in the promotion of these literatures even within their countries of origin?

unnamed-1“Colonialism in the new world has not ended; rather, the colonizers took control away from European nations. Indigenous people throughout North and South America continue to fight to preserve their culture and have at least some control over their lives. Words like autonomy, sovereignty, and agency all relate to this struggle. While Western Civilization may see the world as a set of nations based on lines drawn hundreds of years ago by white politicians and map-makers, indigenous people (those who haven’t been displaced) have older connections to lands based on where and how their cultures developed. These writers use literature to speak for their connection to the land, a theme that comes up repeatedly.”

SOURCE:  Woodburn, Kelsey, and Paul Worley. “Translator Sean Sell on Contemporary Indigenous Literature in Mexico.” Asymptote.

The Language Wars

“[T]oday, languages are changing more rapidly than ever.  The reality is most lexicographers are likely scrambling to keep up with all the neologisms and newly developed, most prominent meanings. We can point to the networked behavior of digital and social media as one of the driving factors, the ‘how’ of rapid meaning changes. But why are there so many more new connotations for words? If there is such a thing as a linguistic time of peace, is there a linguistic time of war?

rhetoricThe fact is language does not change in steady ebbs and flows. Cultural and social forces can play a major role in the speed at which language changes. Some language scholars claim that language actually behaves differently during times of social upheaval and even war, according to linguist Donna Farina. So as a society becomes increasingly unstable, it turns out this is when linguistic innovation happens more rapidly, possibly as speakers seek to explain, reclaim, dilute or degrade certain terms on the linguistic battlefield.”

SOURCE: Luu, Chi. “The Language Wars.” JStor Daily.

The Stranger’s Tongue

“[F]iction gives people the possibility to look at the world from the perspective of another person’s life. Kundera calls this an ‘experimental self.’ Literature from other countries would possibly open up that space even further, and you’re not looking at the culture from the outside but from someone’s point of view who lives there or has grown up there.

As a translator she said she’d become very aware of the relation between culture and language:

languagesSome expressions or experiences become embedded in language that is almost unique to that culture. Therefore the two are very closely related. So what you’re trying to do as a translator is to make the author you’re translating understood in your own language, while at the same time stretch your culture and language a bit to accommodate what makes their voice and experience different. Which in the end might change your own culture a little bit.”

SOURCE: Buchanan, Rowan H. “The Stranger’s Tongue.” Electric Literature.

Reading “The Stranger” in Tehran

Excerpt from Robert Zaretsky’s interview with Mohammad Hekmat:

What are the pleasures and difficulties in translating Camus into Farsi? Are these difficulties only linguistic, or are there philosophical and political challenges as well?

the-stranger“Linguistically, the difficulty is in certain terms that he uses. Perhaps the most difficult term, which I have seen other translators struggle with too, is the word absurd. There is no direct translation of the word absurd into Persian. I have seen different approaches by Iranian translators — some even just use the transliteration of the word. His more philosophical works have been much harder to translate. I tried to read The Myth of Sisyphus in Persian, and it’s extremely hard to understand. This has been a general issue with translation of modern and Western philosophy into Persian. There is simply a shortage of terms, and the style had no tradition. There have been numerous efforts to invent new words, many of which have been successfully adopted, but it’s an ongoing process.”

SOURCE: Zaretsky, Robert. “Reading ‘The Stranger’ in Tehran: An Interview with Mohammad Hekmat.” Los Angeles Review of Books.

How Facebook, Fake News & Friends Are Warping Your Memory

“Memory is notoriously fallible, but some experts worry that a new phenomenon is emerging. ‘Memories are shared among groups in novel ways through sites such as Facebook and Instagram, blurring the line between individual and collective memories,’ says psychologist Daniel Schacter, who studies memory at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. ‘The development of Internet-based misinformation, such as recently well-publicized fake news sites, has the potential to distort individual and collective memories in disturbing ways.’”

nature_NF_Memory-illo_09.03.2017“Although history has frequently been interpreted for political ends, psychologists are now investigating the fundamental processes by which collective memories form, to understand what makes them vulnerable to distortion. They show that social networks powerfully shape memory, and that people need little prompting to conform to a majority recollection — even if it is wrong. Not all the findings are gloomy, however. Research is pointing to ways of dislodging false memories or preventing them from forming in the first place.”

“To combat the influence of fake news, says Micah Edelson, a memory researcher at the University of Zurich in Switzerland, ‘it’s important to understand not only the creation of these sites, but also how people respond to them’”.

SOURCE: Spinney, Laura. “How Facebook, Fake News and Friends Are Warping Your Memory.” Nature News.

Foucault -The Power Thinker

“Rather than staying in the world of words, in the 1970s he shifted his philosophical attention to power, an idea that promises to help explain how words, or anything else for that matter, come to give things the order that they have.”

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“Foucault sought to unburden philosophy of its icy gaze of capturing essences. He wanted to free philosophy to track the movements of power, the heat and the fury of it working to define the order of things.”

“Discipline, according to Foucault’s historical and philosophical analyses, is a form of power that tells people how to act by coaxing them to adjust themselves to what is ‘normal’. It is power in the form of correct training. Discipline does not strike down the subject at whom it is directed, in the way that sovereignty does. Discipline works more subtly, with an exquisite care even, in order to produce obedient people. Foucault famously called the obedient and normal products of discipline ‘docile subjects’.”

SOURCE: Koopman, Colin. “Why Foucault’s Work on Power Is More Important Than Ever.” Aeon.