Responsibility with Loyalty: Oral History Texts in Translation

Barbara Reeves-Ellington

In the current trend toward greater reflexivity in scholarship, both translators and oral historians are re-examining their roles as mediators in the process of interpretation and representation. Based on my own interviews with Bulgarian women, I am attempting to develop model translation strategies for oral history narratives using Neubert and Shreve 's textual approach to translation. Guided in my decisions by the potential audience response, my objective is to provide historical information while retaining the emotional ring of the original interview and showcasing the unique features of the individual narrators' voices. Wary of the need to avoid "doing violence" to the people whose stories I recorded, I want to practice enough resistance while translating to complicate the reading process without resorting to subversive tactics.

Table of contents

One of the advantages of oral history methodology is that it permits juxtaposition of narrators' stories alongside a researcher's interpretations. Consequently, the evidence the narrators provide can be read in their way as well as [ p. 104 ]through the researcher's analysis (Thompson 1983: 293). But the advantage holds only for monolingual settings where oral narratives are spoken in the language in which they will be published. Circumstances are quite different in a bilingual setting because "every translation, even the so-called literal reproduction, is a sort of interpretation" (Gadamer 1989: 32).

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