Re-writing Hegemony in "Babel": A Greek Translation of T.S. Eliot's "Four Quartets"

Anastasia Anastasiadou
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.

Table of contents

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.

Full-text access is restricted to subscribers. Log in to obtain additional credentials. For subscription information see Subscription & Price. Direct PDF access to this article can be purchased through our e-platform.

Works Cited

Primary Sources

Eliot, T.S.
1952Tessera Kouarteta (Four Quartets), tr.Andonis Decavalles. Athens:Mavridis.Google Scholar
1969The Complete Poems and Plays. London and Boston: Faber and Faber.Google Scholar

Secondary Sources

Adorno, Theodor W. and Max Horkheimer
1972Dialectic of Enlightenment, tr.John Gumming. New York: Herder and Herder.Google Scholar
Alexiou, Margaret
1982 “Diglossiain Greece”. W. Haas, ed. Standard Languages, Spoken and Written. Manchester: Manchester University Press 1982 159–162.Google Scholar
Bambiniotis, Yeoryios
1979Neoelliniki Kini. Athens: Grigori.Google Scholar
Bassnett, Susan and André Lefevere
eds. 1990Translation, History and Culture. London and New York: Pinter.Google Scholar
Belezinis, Andreas
1987 “Glossiko Fasma Ellinikis Metapolemikis Piisis”. Skartsis 1987 : 122–131.Google Scholar
Bhabha, Homi
1994The Location of Culture. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
Browning, Robert
1983Medieval and Modern Greek. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
De Man, Paul
1986The Resistance to Theory. Manchester: Manchester University Press.Google Scholar
Derrida, Jacques
1985a “Des Tours de Babel”. Graham 1985a : 165–207.Google Scholar
1985bThe Ear of the Other: Otobiography, Transference, Translation. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press.Google Scholar
Dimitrakos, D
1951Mega Lexikon tis Ellinikis Glossis. Athens: Ikos Dim. Dimitraku A.E.Google Scholar
[ p. 327 ]
Eliot, T.S.
1951 “Dante”. Selected Essays. London: Faber and Faber 1951 237–277.Google Scholar
Ellis, Steve
1991The English Eliot: Design, Language and Landscape in Four Quartets. London and New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
Even-Zohar, Itamar
1978 “The Position of Translated Literature within the Literary Polysystem”. James S Holmes, José Lambert and Raymond van den Broeck, eds. Literature and Translation: New Perspectives in Literary Studies. Leuven: Acco 1978 117–127.Google Scholar
Graham, Joseph F.
ed. 1985aDifference in Translation. Ithaca: Cornell University Press.Google Scholar
1985b “Introduction”. Graham 1985a : 13–30.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Jefferson, Ann
1990 “Literariness, Dominance and Violence in Formalist Aesthetics”. Peter Collier and Helga Geyer-Ryan, eds. Literary Theory Today. London: Polity Press 1990 125–141.Google Scholar
Jusdanis, Gregory
1990 “The Importance of Being Minor”. Journal of Modern Greek Studies 8. 5–33.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Kermode, Frank
1968 “A Babylonish Dialect”. C.B. Cox and Arnold Hinchiffe, eds. The Waste Land: A Casebook. London: Macmillan 1968 224–235.Google Scholar
Lefevere, André and Susan Bassnett
1990 “Introduction: Proust's Grandmother and the Thousand and One Nights: The 'Cultural Turn' in Translation Studies”. Bassnett and Lefevere 1990 : 1–13.Google Scholar
Mouzelis, Nicos P.
1978Modern Greece: Facets of Underdevelopment. London: Macmillan.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Skartsis, Sokratis L.
ed. 1987Praktika St' Simbosiou Neoellinikis Piisis. Athens: Gnosi.Google Scholar
Smith, Stan
1994The Origins of Modernism. Hemel Hempstead Hertfordshire: Harvester.Google Scholar
Trotter, David
1986 “Modernism and Empire: Reading The Waste Land ”. Critical Quarterly 28:1-2. 143–153.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Tsotsorou, Aliki
1987 “Glossiko Fasma Ellinikis Metapokemikis Piisis”. Skartsis 1987 : 108–121.Google Scholar
Tymoczko, Maria
1990 “Translation in Oral Tradition as a Touchstone for Translation Theory and Practice”. Bassnett and Lefevere 1990 : 46–55.Google Scholar
Tziovas, Dimitris
1989 “Residual Orality and Belated Textuality in Greek Literature and Culture”. Journal of Modern Greek Studies 7. 321–335.   DOI logoGoogle Scholar
Venuti, Lawrence
1986 “The Translator's Invisibility”. Criticism 28:2. 178–214.Google Scholar
Williams, Raymond
1989The Politics of Modernism: Against the New Conformists. London: Verso.Google Scholar