Translation channels: A primer on politicized literary transfer

Ioana Popa
Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique

Abstract

Focusing on a comparative analysis of the translations in French of literary works from four Eastern European countries (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary and Romania) during the communist period, this article examines the political stakes of the international circulation of literary texts. More precisely, it proposes a model for describing the different modalities of international circulation—referred to here as translation channels—based on the statistical analysis of a relevant set of variables. These channels allow us to present a gradation of the degree of politicization and institutionalization of the literary transfer, and to go well beyond an analysis in terms of the undifferentiated flow of imported books or the simple opposition of authorized vs. unauthorized translations or submissive vs. dissenting writers.

Keywords:
Table of contents

The social sciences have engaged various historical and national contexts of politicization of the literary world (Boschetti 1985, Sapiro 1999, Matonti 2005). More often than not, by studying the logic of writers’ commitment or political attitudes, the mechanisms of a heteronomous control or the ways of maintaining literary autonomy, these analyses have attempted to contextualise the forms and levels of interaction between aesthetics and politics. The task could also be pursued by considering the forms of international circulation of literary texts produced within a politicized world, that is by looking at the very specific mechanisms of cultural exportation or importation that characterise such a context (Popa 2002a, 2004). We have chosen to focus on the context [ p. 206 ]engendered by the Communist regimes in Eastern Europe and to contextualise the question of cultural (Espagne and Werner 1987, 1988) and linguistic transfer (Toury 1995) through the French translations of Polish, Czechoslovakian, Hungarian and Romanian literary texts, from 1945 to 1992. As the area of circulation of these texts covers, on the one hand, a politicized literary world and, on the other, a literary field structured by autonomous and heteronomous poles (Bourdieu 1991, 1992), one of the main theses of the present study argues for the existence of an effective interaction between aesthetic and political logics of circulation and reception. It investigates the modalities and degrees of political control over literary transfer as well as the role of translation in maintaining autonomy in the field of literary production. Translation allows, indeed, strategies of resistance for circumventing political constraints.

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