It was quite interesting to see how literature was studied differently through the lens of being translated from a wholly different language. Such works have many different challenges accompanying them.
For one, there is a cultural aspect that is often loss because of a change in a language. Translated works can be as close as they need to in order to get the same story and themes across to the people reading them but without the original language, it will not be the same. Students such as I might have had to deal with the additional question of “Was this exactly how the author intended it or is somewhat different because the translator might have had to tweak the wording a bit to make it fit into our language. Language is very complex and because of that, a phrase that might be translated as close as possible can lose the weight it was intentionally given, and this is mostly true in literature.
There is also the added element of the translator and what he or she might bring to the prose. An article called “Why Translation Matters”, by Edith Grossman reflects that translating work for any medium is an art in and of itself and that the translators can also be classified as writers as they are given the task to decide how a translation fits any given work.
Throughout this class, I often found myself questioning whether or not the author of the original work meant to say the same thing that the translator put into the translated novel and how close it was to the original work compared to other translations for other countries. This added question added more depth to the class than I originally thought would be there and it definitely helped me think a lot about how literature from other places in the world can be.
– Bhavin Bhavsar
Grossman, Edith. “Why Translation Matters.” Words Without Borders, Apr. 2010, http://www.wordswithoutborders.org/article/from-why-translation-matters
Baho! by Roland Rugero is an interesting piece of literature that really challenges the way the reader perceives certain sections of society and the type of people they are home to. It’s in an interesting piece of literature to me, because of that.
There are various scenarios throughout the book that really make the reader think about the metaphors they represent. For one, the scenario with the mute and the villagers that suspect him of wrong doing can really get the reader to think about how the judicial systems of certain countries might make it hard for those accused to adequately defend themselves. There is a line towards the beginning of his part in the book that really stands out; “His jaw works. His tongue works. The main thing is to produce clear and audible sounds, words and phrases that are meaningful” (Rugero 12). I feel like this is the purpose of the entire book itself, as the author means to present things that are meaningful enough to the reader to make them reflect on things that happen in the world.
Situations such as the one above not only get you to think about the processes of such systems but how the system can allow innocent people to be accused and punished. This also applies to the opposite, as those that are accused and genuinely guilty can sometimes go be let off. This allows readers to question whether or not the current system works or needs to be greatly improved.
The book is chock full of questions that ask this general concept, at least that is my interpretation. It appears that Roland Rugero sought, through the writing of this book, to get people to ask more specific questions about how they themselves feel about the world around them that they might not necessarily have thought about before.
– Bhavin Bhavsar
Rugero, Roland, and Christopher Schaefer. Baho! Phoneme Media, 2016.
Tram 83 by Fiston Mwanza Mujila is another unique look at a society that works in a way that might be detrimental to the overall future of the people that live in it. There is a thick tone of unease throughout it, which is mostly exemplified by the two main characters of Lucien and Requiem, who are arguably unlikeable characters who exhibit different types of traits in comparison to each other.
Requiem is the type of character that loves to live in luxury and he seems to be constantly seeking a better status, even socially. But even in the early stages of the book, he is shown to be living better than a lot of others: “Requiem lived in Vampiretown, a bourgeois neighborhood that stood on the road leading from the station to the town center. The apartment he rented was quite spacious for the modern day bachelor” (21). Right of the bat, we get the sense of how his life is and how he seeks to keep it. His mannerisms make it seem like he probably stepped over a lot of people to get to where he was and yet, he still wants much more.
Lucien is different from Requiem and seems to trudge through his days: “Lucien got out of bed at three in the afternoon. Requiem and the girls had already taken leave of him. He was groggy, rocked by nausea and migraines” (24). This actually sets the tone for the character and is quite heavily contrasted with Requiem throughout the book.
Both of these characters demonstrate qualities that might not be attractive to most normal people but they also contrast each other in showing how people of the two sides of one coin can be in the negative sense. It’s really interesting to see how Fiston Mwanza Mujila utilizes these two characters and uses them as a vehicle for the story that he is trying to tell.
– Bhavin Bhavsar
The Signs Preceding the End of the World by Yuri Herrera is an interesting novel that encapsulates the journey of the main character, Makina. It’s an interesting tale with a strong female and foreign character that is the vessel that exists for the reader to travel with. The book itself seems chock full of things that may or may not have an underlying feeling. From the way a lot of the characters seem to be named after letters but changed to look different, there seems to be some things that are hard to analyze.
I enjoyed how Herrera seemed present the main character in a mature way and we really understood how she felt about certain things, the wording being used in a very concise and descriptive manner. However, this brings up the question as to if it was this way in the original translation or if the translator had to add things in order to either make the story flow a bit better or so that we could get into the world of the story a bit more easier. What cultural language-use was omitted and what was added in so that is more accessible to the English audience. In fact, I would wonder how that related to any of the other underlying meanings like the use of naming some characters after letters of the alphabet. Was it intended in the same way? Was it changed because of some translation issues? It brings up certain questions about whether translations can give the same experience to the story as the author originally intended.
Translations are frequent throughout many mediums and often times they are necessary for the exchange of culture but does that mean that they always come across as originally intended with the author’s original meanings? I guess that’s the fundamental question about whether translations work well most of the time or miss the mark sometimes.
– Bhavin Bhavsar
Utopia is an interesting novel by Ahmed Khaled Towfik and it is quite an interesting look at a dystopian setting and it utilizes the narrator and some of the themes to really explore the idea of how a society would function in that kind of environment and the kind of people that it would ultimately end up creating, but also that people can still be different (to a degree). And the biggest theme it explores that stands out to me is that such an environment will typically result in stagnancy because there is a lack of certain components of society due to “motivation through competition” not existing in the same capacity that it exists in our real world (at least in first world countries).
It’s interesting to view the story at the beginning through the viewpoint of a character who doesn’t have as many redeeming qualities as you’d expect of a flawed narrator but through him we get the a sort of look how a typical utopian would probably act in this setting having been brought up in the manner that they have. There’s a place where he brings up stagnancy in the book and how the walled off society is a victim to it. “There’s nothing new to stimulate your curiosity or your enthusiasm in Utopia. Nothing changes.” (Towfik, 11). It’s interesting to see that a society that is built with the idea of having the ideal has such a glaring flaw and the book has to really present that as one of it’s themes.
While this may not be the first time that a setting such as the one presented in Utopia has been explored, it is quite interesting to see a different cultural take on it and how it is quite similar and quite different than other stories that explore the same concept. It’s quite an interesting read.
– Bhavin Bhavsar