The case that broke out last February 25, after an intervention by the Dutch journalist and activist Janice Deul in the newspaper de Volkskrant: Deul was angry with the choice of the publisher Meulenhoff to entrust the translation of the poem The Hill We Climb by Amanda Gorman – read during Joe Biden’s inauguration – to writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld. The title of the paper was unequivocal: A white translator for Amanda Gorman’s poem: incomprehensible. Following the controversy, Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, winner of the International Booker Prize in 2020, left the post. A similar case repeated a few weeks later in Spain. Gorman’s Catalan translator, Victor Obiols, was downloaded from the Barcelona publisher Univers because he is not suitable for the job. The publisher, Obiols explained to the AFP, had decided to entrust the task to a preferably black woman.
In Italy, the poem will come out with the translation by Francesca Spinelli, journalist of Internazionale, which the Corriere reached via email in Brussels, where she lives.
What is your opinion of the translators case in the Netherlands and Catalonia?
They are two very different cases. In the Netherlands, it was Marieke Lucas Rijneveld who pulled back from the criticisms born in a specific context, that of the Dutch cultural world, with its tensions and requests to give greater visibility to Afro-Dutch artists and artists. In the poem published a few days after the affair, Rijneveld stressed the autonomy of his decision. Many have instead presented it as a passive victim of an overseas taxation. just one of the many simplifications resulting from the affair. In the Netherlands, as in Flanders and France, the controversy was exploited by the right in the name of defending “integration”, a very insidious term in this context.
Is the case of Victor Obiols different?
S. I understand that he did not appreciate being discharged after work already completed, but it is not clear if his profile was approved by the Amanda Gorman team. Obiols may have paid for a caution from the Catalan publisher. Having said that, his first reaction – he spoke of an “inquisition” and declared that he would have blackened his face in order to translate, then moderating the tones in subsequent interviews – reveals in my opinion one of the most interesting aspects of the story, namely the generational fault that it crosses the world of translation, and the different way in which, according to age, concepts such as the sensitivity and legitimacy of the translator have been defined in recent weeks.
How did you prepare to face Amanda Gorman’s text?
First of all, I listened to his speech several times on the day of the inauguration. I have read some of his interviews, I have seen some videos to familiarize myself with his ideas and with his way of expressing them. I have read and listened to the inaugural poems of the other five authors who preceded it. They are texts that dialogue with each other, illustrating a genre, occasional poetry, now not very widespread, except in countries where the figure of the national poet exists (the case of Belgium). To return to the US inaugural poems, it is interesting to read them in chronological order. In my opinion, they should be published together, to allow the reader to compare them and listen to them conversing.
Did you find it difficult to make the Italian text faithful to the original?
From the point of view of meaning, The Hill We Climb not a complex text. addressed to a nation and written to be understood by all its citizens. for very musical and rhythmic, rich in stylistic figures and literary references. My first version tried to render above all the musicality, the rhythm, the phrasing. During the editing phase, also to respect the indications of Amanda Gorman’s team, the editors preferred a greater adherence to the content. It will be interesting to see the approach of other foreign publishers.
How do you rate your experience?
it was an unusual translation in many respects. Amanda Gorman’s team had specific needs regarding the profile of translators and the approach to the original text. Delivery times were very tight due to the expected release together with the original version. When translating (especially poetry), the text must be given time to rest. In this case, the work took place under the sign of adrenaline from the very beginning, even more so when the controversy over translators exploded. The experience remains positive, as always when you have the opportunity to revive a text in another language.
What is Amanda Gorman’s message, even for the reader who does not follow American politics closely?
The text was written at a very special moment in the history of the United States, to urge citizens to rediscover a sense of unity with purpose, which has a purpose. Of course, the fact that she was asked to write it has a symbolic weight that goes beyond all borders. And many passages, on justice, democracy, the relationship with history, are more universal exhortations.
March 27, 2021 (change March 27, 2021 | 19:51)