We’re not really going to play a game, but I do want to talk about King’s College’s very cool project called “Translation Games“.

Translation Games is a research exhibit on the interactivity of the art of translation. Led by Ricarda Vidal (King’s College) and Jenny Chamarette (Queen Mary), this exhibit uses one piece of literary text as a catalyst for multiple translational interpretations. The opening was a July 31st and the exhibit has been open up until August 2.

Though the exhibit was in England, and I clearly couldn’t make it, I applaud those who participated, especially with the variety of ideas about translation that were showcased.

A bit of backstory, the Games exhibit had a literary text that was made available to the public; those who participated could interpret the piece as they saw fit. Within the fields of translation varied: translation via text, textile, video, or various forms of artwork were submitted. Like our version of Telephone (the brits call it “Chinese Whispers, oddly enough), each individual bases their interpretation on the one that precedes them.

For the “Translation Games”, two chains of Telephone were created: one in which the source text would be translated into various languages, one by one, and another chain in where textile designers and artists would base their work on the already translated text from the previous chain.

What I find most valuable about this project is it’s representation of translation. As I stated in an earlier post, translation today is moving gradually into the spotlight of theoretical and academic discussions. Its role in literature and particularly in the idea of multiculturalism is finally getting the recognition it deserves. Translation does not necessarily mean a transference of ideas from one language (or mode of communication) to another, but something more nuanced and varied. German theorist and literary critic Walter Benjamin (who also worked as a translator) believed translation should be more like a transparent sliding door; the work should have no hint of translation whatsoever and should in fact slide from one language to another without garnering attention from the reader. This idea takes the importance of literary scholarship quite literally… the work triumphs over language. Yet, today many translators and writers believe a translation should reflect not only the translators own thoughts and style, but also that of the culture and language it is being translated into.

“Translation Games” is taking that idea and running with it. A piece of work, whether literary or art, can only progress through translation (of course, only if the translators fully grasp and understand both the source and target cultures/languages).

My ideas are not yet fully formed… currently I am reading “In Translation: Translators on their work and what it means” by two of the most influential and present translators in the academic and literary world today, Susan Bernofsky (translates German) and Esther Allen (Spanish and French). This anthology on translation has essays from authors and translators who have devoted much of their careers to this field. It’s definitely worth a read!

Bravo to those at King’s College and Queen Mary’s for displaying a new focus on the art of translation!

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