Nmero Extraordinario Conmemorativo 1974-1994 || The Construction of "further, alternative signs": Notes from a Workshop in Translating Women Writers

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The Construction of "further, alternative signs": Notes from a Workshop in TranslatingWomen WritersAuthor(s): Ana Fuentes, Carol Maier and Lynda PriviteraSource: Letras Femeninas, , Nmero Extraordinario Conmemorativo 1974-1994 (1994), pp. 167-175Published by: Asociacion Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina HispanicaStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23022488 .Accessed: 17/06/2014 17:39Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at .http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp .JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range ofcontent in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org. .Asociacion Internacional de Literatura y Cultura Femenina Hispanica is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize,preserve and extend access to Letras Femeninas.http://www.jstor.org This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=ailcfhhttp://www.jstor.org/stable/23022488?origin=JSTOR-pdfhttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsphttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspThe Construction of "further, alternative signs": Notes from a Workshop in Translating Women Writers Ana Fuentes, Carol Maier, and Lynda Privitera Kent State University "The meaning of any linguistic sign," Ramon Jakobson has written (232), "is its translation into some further, alternative sign." In other words, rather than the product usually referred to as a "translation" and frequently identified with destruction and loss, the activity of translation is inseparable from continued life. As such, it is by definition a highly paradoxical endeavor, given the mutability required by life itself; continuance implies resemblance but also owes irrevocably to change. Although literary translators have written elo quently about this paradox, they have often tended to privilege a decidedly abstract notion of theory and thus to prevent attention from focusing on translation practice. Thus, they have also contributed, albeit inadvertently, to translation's secondary status and to the suspicion with which "further" and "alternative" are viewed, if they are viewed at all. Fortunately, recent studies in translation theory have begun to counter the neglect of practice and to move toward making the "working" of translation more visible. (In this regard, Lawrence Venuti's article has become something of a "classic"; see also his recently edited collection of essays.) That some of the most provocative of these studies have been realized by feminist translators and critics such as Susanne de Lotbiniere-Harwood is no coincidence; not only have many translators been women, the role of translation is often described in terms conventionally associated with the feminine gender, as Lori Chamberlain has explained. Consequently, to draw attention to one's translation practice in a way that both exposes and questions its "femininity" is to challenge institution alized definitions and affirm destabilizing signs that are "further" and "alterna tive." It is also to explore the ways in which a "further, alternative sign" can become or strive to become "meaning" in its own right, imposing itself and threatening to obliterate other alternatives. Even in the work of feminist translators, however, at the intersection of translation as an activity at once overlooked and potentially overriding one This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp168 Numero Extraordinario Conmemorativo: 1974-1994 rarely finds the reader. This absence could be termed another of translation's paradoxes, becauseas students invariably point out after the first workshop in literary translationthe true loss in translation is precisely the experience of a "between" that translation affords. Far from the crippling experience translators themselves have often feared (and therefore from which they try to protect their readers), the experience of the "between" is an enabling one that gives rise not only to altered signs but to the possibility of an altered subjectivity, in which the definition of self and other must be questioned radically. This is especially true if the notion of translation is expanded to include not only the reader(s) but also the units of translation and the notion of (a single) product. Translation thus becomes a far-reaching activity that, without losing sight of a "text," concerns itself as well with questions of presentation, publication, promotion, and plurality. Consequently, the creation of a writer's voice in translation is enriched by multiple translations. Through them a reader (even one unfamiliar with the "original" language) can be drawn into the practice of translation and prompted to experience firsthand the decisions and responsibilities that the act of transla tion involves. In order to occasionrather than describethe informed translation prac tice outlined above, we designed a workshop session in which participants were asked to prepare a collaborative translation of work by two women writers, Rosario Castellanos and Virginia Woolf. The "originals" they were given included not only the first manifestation of the text but also two or three published translations. The workshop opened with a brief explanation of the "theory" behind the session so as to encourage the participants to work within an expanded definition of translation. Comments and discussion, however, arose from practice. The group was then divided in two; one half worked (into English) with Castellanos's poem "Se habla de Gabriel"; the other worked (into Spanish) with several passages from Woolf s A Room of One's Own. The facilitators served as discussion leaders, but in fact their role was more that of consultants, because the discussion effectively "ran" itself. At the end of the period, all participants met again as one group and exchanged their translations. Both groups found they had discussed similar questions, and many of the participants were pleased by the "risks" they had been willing to take in their collaborative versions. The consensus was that multiple translations and the interpretations of multiple translators made the group aware of the complexities of the translator's task, which is perhaps best experienced as a collective rather than an isolated activity. Several of the participants also mentioned that the workshop would prove valuable in their teaching of literature as well as translation. These comments and the overwhelmingly positive response we received to the workshop led us to prepare the brief summaries that follow. Our hope is to stimulate further workshops and encourage the use of multiple translations in various classroom settings. Group One: Spanish to English. For the group that worked from Spanish to English, Castellanos's poem "Se habla de Gabriel" was chosen because it raises several translation issues that are integrally related to gender: This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspFuentes, Maier, Privitera 169 Se habla de Gabriel Como todos los huespedes mi hijo me estorbaba ocupando un lugar que era mi lugar, existiendo a deshora, haciendome partir en dos cada bocado. Fea, enferma, aburrida lo sentia crecer a mis expensas, robarle su color a mi sangre, afladir un peso y un volumen clandestinos a mi modo de estar sobre la tierra. Su cuerpo me pidio nacer, cederle el paso, darle un sitio en el mundo, la provision de tiempo necesaria a su historia. Consent!. Y por la herida en que partio, por esa hemorragia de su desprendimiento se fue tambien lo ultimo que tuve de soledad, de yo mirando tras de un vidrio. Quede abierta, ofrecida a las visitaciones, al viento, a la presencia. (188) Before the discussion began, a general question was posed to the group: What happens to tone, register, rhythm and sense in translation? More specifi cally participants were asked: How does the translator deal with gender-related problems such as translating the feminine adjectives that in Spanish provide the reader with information about the speaker in the poem? At least three English translations of this poem exist; they demonstrate different writing styles, approaches and interpretations of the "original." Com mentaries by each of the three translators provided the group with more information about the three approaches to the poem. In the foreword to her translation The Selected Poems ofRosario Castellanos, Magda Bogin explains: Translators face hard choices. There are no exact equivalents for tone or rhythm or meaning, which in poetry are one. Every poem, and within the poem each line, has endless possible solutions in its new tongue. If 1 have erred in any direction, it has probably been in choosing to retain what I can only call the gently elevated, at times even heroic, feel of Castellanos's diction. To do this, and to suggest the lingering presence of her work in her This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp170 Numero Extraordinario Conmemorativo: 1974-1994 literary forebears, I have leaned more heavily than usual on English's generous supply of romance words, (xvi) In Maureen Ahern's introduction to her anthology of work by Castellanos, she writes, "In translating Castellanos's poetry, choices for even a single lexical item must be made in terms of the author's feminist ideology, or the message will be skewed." (29) She concludes: Rosario Castellanos's writing is the place where gender, culture, and textuality meet. In it women occupy the positionand the You, the We, and the They. They are the speakers and hearers, writers and readers. Through the comprehensive imagery of her space, body, myth, and mind, woman becomes the full signat once the signifier and the signified. (57) In the third commentary, Julian Palley offers yet another approach to translation. In his "Note of the Translations" he states: "there are occasional nuances, ambiguities, colloquial allusions and turns ofphrase which offer thorny problems to the translator: their simplicity is highly deceptive. I have sought to retain the sense at all times without sacrificing normal English constructions and syntax" (172). As the discussion began, the issue of gender-specific adjectives arose immediately. Because of the feminine adjectives in Spanish, the reader is aware that the speaker of the poem is female from the fifth line of the first stanza. However, the English versions are more ambiguous in this regard and the speaker's gender is not clear until the first line of the third stanza: "Su cuerpo me pidio nacer ..." The importance of communicating this information in transla tion was discussed and various opinions were voiced. The group consensus was that it was not necessary to attempt to specify the gender at exactly the same point in the translation as Castellanos specifies it in her poem. The group then decided to focus on the fourth and fifth stanzas of the poem as these lines offered several interpretations, as is evident from the different English versions. Bogin's translation reads as follows: I agreed. And through the wound of his departure, through the hemorrhage of his breaking free, the last I ever felt of solitude, of myself looking through a pane of glass, also slipped away. I was left open, an offering to visitations, to the wind, to presence. (78) Ahern's translation of these stanzas: This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspFuentes, Maier, Privitera 171 I consented. And when he departed from that wound, through that unloosening hemorrhage, the last of my aloneness, of my looking from behind a glass flowed out. 1 remained open, manifest to visitations, to wind, to presence. (102) Finally, Palley's rendition of these lines: I consented. And through that wound which bore him, through that hemorrhage of his release, there departed as well the last trace of my solitude, of looking through a glass. I was left open, offering myself to visitations, to the wind, to the presence. (115) Several points of discussion arose beginning with the possible translations of "Consenti." Although two of the translators chose the cognate "I consented," the group did not agree with that rendering. They also argued that "1 agreed" did not fully communicate the semantic content of the Spanish verb consentir, which can also mean "to allow" or "to tolerate." Does a woman consent or agree to give birth? Does she have a choice? From these questions, the group decided that the rendering "I gave in" communicated the intended meaning more accurately. The second point of discussion concerned translating "Y por la herida en que partio . . Two of the translations were more literal, especially Bogin's, focusing on the baby's departure through the wound. Palley, however, focused on "the wound which bore him." The group wondered if it was more important to emphasize the child's departure as a result of his birth, as in the first two translations, or the birth itself? Was the mother or her child the focus of the poem? Since the poem mainly refers to the feelings of the mother as a result of having a child, the group decided to emphasize the birth itself. Related to the second point, yet separate, is the rendering of "su desprendimiento." Did the child depart or break free, or was he released? Departing and being released seemed too mild to refer to childbirth. The rendering "break free" came closer to communicating the message that the group interpreted from the "original" but still did not seem strong enough in relation to "hemorrhage." It was decided that "tearing free" would better communicate the idea. The third major point focused on the stanza "Quede abierta, ofrecida /a las visitaciones, al viento, a la presencia." The discussion centered around the This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp172 Numero Extraordinario Conmemorativo: 1974-1994 experience of the poem in Spanish. Is "I remained or was left open" strong enough to communicate that experience? There was much debate about the translation of "ofrecida." Was the speaker manifest, an offering, or was she offering herself? Two other possibilities arose from the discussion: "vulnerable" and "offered." Did the speaker offer herself or was she offered to visitations, wind and presence? One of the participants suggested that "las visitaciones" may be a Biblical reference. If so, the translator might be inclined toward use of the English cognate. The discussion then returned to the previous stanza and its description of birth: did the speaker have a choice about giving birth or offering herself? Or did she give in, vulnerably? The final version that resulted from the group discussion reads as follows: I gave in. With the wound that birthed him, with the hemorrhage as he tore free, went also my last bit of solitude, of me gazing from behind glass. There I was, open, vulnerable to visitations, to wind, to presence. Grupo Dos: Ingles al espanol. La razon de elegir este texto para realizar una sesion sobre la traduccion de obras escritas por mujeres obedece a que este parrafo ilustra los problemas relacionados con la traduccion del genero y el tipo de decisiones que el traductor tiene que tomar. El parrafo esta extrai'do del capitulo tercero de A Room of One's Own: When however, one reads of a witch being ducked, of a woman possessed by devils, of a wise woman selling herbs, or even of a very remarkable man who had a mother, then I think we are on the track of a lost novelist, a suppressed poet, of some mute and inglorious Jane Austen, some Emily Bronte who dashed her brains out on the moor or mopped and mowed about the highways crazed with the torture that her gift had put her to. (49) El primer paso que se dio fue hacer una lectura detallada del texto para obtener una idea general sobre el contenido. Ya en esta primera etapa comenzo el debate, puesto que el hecho de tener presentes a diferentes lectoras dio lugar a variadas interpretaciones de pequeflos matices en el texto. El siguiente paso file la lectura del mismo parrafo en espanol, extraido de cada una de las dos traducciones publicadas de A Room of One's Own. Una de las traducciones fue realizada por Laura Pujol, que es una traductora profesional catalana. Ella ha traducido tambien To the Lighthouse de Virginia Woolf. Su traduccion del parrafo con el que se trabaj6 en la sesion es la siguiente: This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspFuentes, Maier, Privitera 173 Sin embargo, cuando leemos algo sobre una bruja zambullida en agua, una mujer poseida de los demonios, una sabia mujer que vendia hierbas o incluso un hombre muy notable que tenia una madre, nos hallamos, creo, sobre la pista de una novelistamalograda, una poetisa reprimida, alguna Jane Austen desconocida, alguna Emily Bronte que se machaco los sesos en los paramos o anduvo haciendo muecas por las carreteras, enloquecida por la tortura en que su don la hacia vivir. (69-70) La otra traducci6n fue realizada por Jorge Luis Borges, que ademas, ha traducido Orlando: A Biography, tambien de Virginia Woolf. Sin embargo, esta afirmacion es cuestionable porque el propio Borges ha declarado en varias ocasiones que la traducci6n la realizo su madre y 61 solamente la corrigi174 Numero Extraordinario Conmemorativo: 1974-1994 que el espafiol ofrece de poder especificar el genero. Finalmente, el grupo opto por una traduccion mas literal con objeto de evitar tener que elegir entre alguno de los dos extremos. La preposici6n "of' en la frase "one reads of' llamo la atencion del grupo. La eleccion de Borges "Cada vez que una lee de" parecia estar condicionada por la influencia del ingles. Ninguna de las dos traducciones fueron del agrado del grupo, asi que se opto por "acerca de." Un problema similar surgio con la frase "a witch being ducked," porque se penso que las versiones existentes no recogian por completo el significado del original. Fue necesario remontarse a los origenes de la expresi6n para tomar una decisi6n acerca de la traduccion mas apropiada. La frase "a wise woman selling herbs" introdujo el problema de la traduccion de tiempos verbales. La traduccion de Borges "vendiendo," parecia demasiado literal, teniendo en cuenta que el participio de presente no se utiliza en espanol con tanta frecuencia como en ingles. La version de Laura Pujol no se ajustaba al tiempo verbal, de acuerdo con la interpretacion del grupo, de modo que se tradujo como "una curandera que vende hierbas." El grupo tuvo que tomar una nueva decision ante diferentes interpretaciones. Para algunas personas la frase "a very remarkable man who had a mother" enfatizaba la palabra "mother," puesto que, ademas, hasta ese punto del parrafo, solo se habia hablado de mujeres. Para otra parte del grupo, el enfasis se situaba primero en "remarkable man," para despues dirigir la atencion sobre el topico de que "detras de un gran hombre siempre hay una gran mujer." Esta ultima fue la interpretacion que se siguio para la nueva version. La cuestion del genero surgio con la frase "a lost novelist, a suppressed poet." En ingles no existe ninguna indication de genero, pero en espanol es necesario tomar una decision. Se esgrimi6 de nuevo el argumento de que en este parrafo se presentan varios tipos de mujeres relacionadas de diferentes formas con la literatura. Esto inclino al grupo a decidirse por el genero femenino, y a traducir esta frase como "de una novelista malograda, de una poeta sofocada." Curiosamente Laura Pujol tomo la misma decision en su traduccion, mientras que Borges opto por el genero masculino, probablemente utilizado en un sentido general. Para la palabra "suppressed" ninguna de las dos traducciones convencio al grupo, de modo que, despues de considerar varias posibilidades, se decidio que "sofocada" se acercaba mas al significado del original. El resto de los comentarios estuvo relacionado con la eleccion de palabras para producir un texto que fuera "natural" en espanol. Al final de la sesion, se comento el esfuerzo que la traduccion conlleva, y la dificultad de tener que decidir acerca de tantos pequeflos matices que se pueden encontrar en un texto. Se obtuvo tambi6n como conclusion que el hecho de que las versiones existentes hubieran sido traducidas por profesionales y posteriormente publicadas, no las hace "perfectas," y que toda traduccion depende de la interpretacion (la nueva version) que se haga del original, que, por supuesto, sera diferente para cada lector. En relation con esta idea, se debe mencionar la opinion de Borges sobre la traduccion, en lo que Emir Rodriguez Monegal ha denominado la teoria de This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspFuentes, Maier, Privitera 175 Borges del "lector como escritor" (Levine 1134): Borges enfatiza la estrecha relacion que existe entre interpretation y traduction. El debate que surgio de la sesion realizada prueba esta teori'a. Tanto en el comentario sobre el poema de Castellanos como en el que se mantuvo sobre el pasaje de A Room of One's Own, las traducciones sirvieron de puntos de partida que, incorporando los textos que las habian ocasionado, dieron lugar a signos alternatives y aun mas amplios. OBRAS CITADAS Ahem, Maureen, ed. A Rosario Castellanos Reader. Trans. Maureen Ahem and Others. Austin: U of Texas P, 1988. Borges, Jorge Luis, Trans. Uncuartopropio. By Virginia Woolf. 1936. Madrid: Jucar, 1992. Bogin, Magda, Trans. The Selected Poems of Rosario Castellanos. Ed. Cecilia Vicuna and Magda Bogin. Saint Paul, Minnesota: Graywolf Press, 1988. Castellanos, Rosario. Meditacion en el umbral: Antologiapoetica. Mexico: Fondo de Cultura Economica, 1985. Chamberlain, Lori. "Gender and the Metaphorics of Translation." Signs 13.3 (1988): 454-72. de Lotbiniere-Harwood, Susanne. Re-belle et infidele/The Body Bilingual. Les editions du remue-menage/Women's Press, 1991. Jakobson, Roman. "On Linguistic Aspects of Translation." On Translation. Ed. Reuben A. Brower. New York: Oxford UP, 1966. 232-39. Levine, Suzanne Jill. "Translator's Introduction." "Some Versions of Homer." By Jorge Luis Borges. Trans. Suzanne Jill Levine. PMLA 107.5 (October 1992): 1134-35. Palley, Julian, Trans. Meditation on the Threshold. By Rosario Castellanos. Tempe, Arizona: Bilingual Press, 1988. Pujol, Laura, Trans. Una habitacionpropia. By Virginia Woolf, 1967. Barcelona: Seix Barral, 1989. Venuti, Lawrence, Ed. Rethinking Translation: Discourse, Subjectivity, Ideology. New York: Routledge, 1992. . "The Translator's Invisibility." Criticism 28.2 (1986): 179-212. Woolf, Virginia. A Room of One's Own. 1929. New York: HBJ, 1959. This content downloaded from on Tue, 17 Jun 2014 17:39:35 PMAll use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditionshttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jspArticle Contentsp. [167]p. 168p. 169p. 170p. 171p. 172p. 173p. 174p. 175Issue Table of ContentsLetras Femeninas, , Nmero Extraordinario Conmemorativo 1974-1994 (1994), pp. 1-238Front MatterCrnica de una ilusin [pp. 7-8]"Letras Femeninas" 1974: The Beginning [pp. 9-9]"Letras Femeninas": The First Decade [pp. 10-10]Presentacin [pp. 11-11]La dama ausente en la retrica corts [pp. 13-22]Autobiografa y escritura conventual femenina en la colonia [pp. 23-30]Lo precolombino: notas sobre el dilogo disfrazado en sor Juana Ins de la Cruz [pp. 31-38]On the Double: Tres amores and the Postponement of Love in Avellaneda's Theater [pp. 39-47]Ambigedad epistemolgica en un drama de Julia Maura [pp. 49-56]Entre Eros y Logos en la poesa de Ana Mara Fagundo [pp. 57-69]Intertextualidades y diacronas en la poesa de Orietta Lozano [pp. 71-77]The Presence of Absence: Reading the Spaces in Rosario Aguilar's "El guerrillero" [pp. 79-85]La narrativa fantstica de Anglica Gorodischer: la mirada "femenina" y los lmites del deseo [pp. 87-96]Postmodernismo y teora del caos en "Cola de lagartija" de Luisa Valenzuela [pp. 97-105]Un orden en el caos: Visin crtico-narrativa de Julieta Campos [pp. 107-114]Lenguaje, ideologa y vanguardia en la poesa de Julia de Burgos [pp. 115-121]Ana Lydia Vega y la re-escritura de la historia [pp. 123-129]La nostalgia del milagro: Guadalupe Loaeza y la crnica como crtica cultural [pp. 131-137]Entre biografa y mitografa femenina: "Antonieta" de Bradu [pp. 139-146]The Construction of a Feminine Voice: Rich, Castellanos, Belli, Swir [pp. 147-155]Images of a Better World: Latina Muralists in New York [pp. 157-166]The Construction of "further, alternative signs": Notes from a Workshop in Translating Women Writers [pp. 167-175]Poemas Seleccionados [pp. 177-179]El sueo de otro sueo [pp. 181-187]Gua de la revista "Letras Femeninas": 1975-1993 [pp. 189-237]Back Matter


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