Re-writing Hegemony in "Babel": A Greek Translation of T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets"
The American College of Greece, Athens
This paper seeks to determine the ways in which the translation of T.S. Eliot's Four Quartets by the post-war Greek poet A. Decavalles challenges the hegemony of this major text of the Western canon. Four Quartets is considered an anti-local poem, expressing the desire for the creation of "classic" English, which presupposes a transcendental linguistic essence and a "universal" perspective. Decavalles evinces an active attitude towards translation both in his reference to it as "re-creation" and in his creation of a target text which is at points not fluent, and even problematic. The opacity of the rewriting of Four Quartets in Greek, a language of a peripheral European country, constitutes a political act of resistance to Western (modernist) hegemony as it undermines the metaphysical certainties of Eliot's text.
This paper seeks to investigate the ways in which Andonis Decavalles' modern Greek translation of Eliot's Four Quartets, a major work of the Western canon and a prominent modernist text, challenges the hegemonic poetics of Western modernity. Greek culture, a peripheral and "minor" one (Jusdanis 1990: 9), that has been subject to both "economic" and "cultural [ p. 318 ]imperialism" (Mouzelis 1978: 146), has long experienced a feeling of belatedness with regard to its glorious past as well as a sense of otherness in relation to the West, thereby mirroring Europe's own hegemonic, condescending gaze towards it. It is in this context that Decavalles presented his 1952 translation, the first of the complete set of Quartets ever to appear in Greece, preceding it with a 70-page, multi-section preface which combined a review of Eliot's oeuvre with Decavalles' ideas on language, poetry and translation.
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