I always seem to have more than one book on the go: some that I am reading and some I just need to re-read. At present I have two of each, all linked to translation, though some more directly than others.
A text I am reading for the first time is Teresa Fiore’s Pre-Occupied Spaces, a splendid, intricate account of how mobility, its routes and its memory mark all aspects of contemporary Italian cultures. Her subtitle, Remapping Italy’s Transnational Migrations and Colonial Legacies, speaks volumes about the complexity of what she is trying to do. She is bringing together colonial and postcolonial perspectives, research on migration and diaspora, memory studies, and much more. And she is trying to account for a space – Italy – which is both contained within its physical borders and utterly uncontainable: its boundaries stretching across the world as Italians migrate, its internal space occupied and re-occupied in hostile or hospitable moves. This is a book, Fiore says, ‘preoccupied with space’ (3), where ‘preoccupied’ is both a cipher of today’s anxieties about migration (‘preoccupation’) and a reminder of the always already complex nature of our cultures, our languages, our spaces (‘pre-occupation’). It is precisely the acknowledgement of that ‘pre-occupied’ complexity which is, for Fiore, the best antidote to nationalist ‘preoccupations’. Though the book is not ostensibly about translation, translators and translation practices abound on its pages. Fiore’s object are the stories we tell and we are told about Italy. Once we break the apparently simple equation between nation, language and place, though, it becomes clear that those stories are told in multiple languages, not just in Italian. Translation, then, is a practical skill as well as a hermeneutic tool which we cannot do without if we want to understand the transnational nature of our world.
The second book I am reading is Tong King Lee’s Applied Translation Studies. I have only just started it, so I am not yet sure where it will take me, but the questions it tries to address have certainly been bothering me for a long time. How do we establish a better dialogue between Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies? And what arguments can we use to narrow the gap – old, yet extremely resilient, whether in the world of research or that of training – between theory and practice? I look forward to finding answers to these problems as I read on. In the meantime, I must admit I was captivated (as I am sure I was meant to be) by T.K. Lee’s very first question: ‘Translation: Why even bother about it?’ (1).
Then the two books I am re-reading, in different ways:
The first is Moira Inghilleri’s Translation and Migration. Since it was published, I have been picking it up, again and again. I go back to it, mentally dialogue with it, get my students to read it and then discuss it with them. It is rich, wide-ranging, engaging, informed – but most of all it is always speaking from a profoundly ethical and deeply human position. In March, Moira and I will be speaking together in Manchester, at the ‘Mutations in Citizenship’ event, so the dialogue will become real, rather than just taking place in my head. And I am definitely looking forward to that.
Finally, another book I am just starting, with some trepidation. It is the English version of Erri De Luca’s Il giorno prima della felicità, translated by Jill Foulston and published by Penguin last year as The Day before Happiness. I read it in Italian years ago, so I am both re-reading it and discovering it anew. De Luca is one of my favourite writers. I wished for years to see his work in English and once even tried to suggest him to a British publisher. That plan did not work out, but when his small, perfectly formed little books finally began to appear in English, I was both delighted and apprehensive. Would they be successful? Would they be loved? Would the translations do justice to his punctiliously precise, almost translucent prose, where not a single word is a waste of space? For a while, I kept my distance, but at last I have decided to take the plunge. Yet, as a reader, will I be coherent with my principles as an academic? Will I be strong enough not to be tempted to see the translation just as a copy of the original? With something we love too much, can we practice what we preach?
De Luca, Erri. 2016. The Day before Happiness, trans. by Jill Foulston. London: Penguin.
Fiore, Teresa. 2017. Pre-Occupied Spaces: Remapping Italy’s Transnational Migrations and Colonial Legacies. New York: Fordham Univeristy Press.
Inghilleri, Moira. 2017. Translation and Migration. London & New York: Routledge.
Lee, Tong King. 2018. Applied Translation Studies. London: Palgrave.
‘Mutations in Citizenship: Activist and translational perspectives on migration and mobility in the age of globalisation’, University of Manchester, 23rd March 2018, http://genealogiesofknowledge.net/events/mutations-citizenship-activist-translational-perspectives-migration-mobility-age-globalisation/
About the blog
In our 'What are you reading?' series we're asking leading translation scholars to share what they're currently reading, whether for business or pleasure.