(Paris) The poet Amanda Gorman caused a sensation during Biden’s inauguration in the United States. In Europe, the translation of his poetry has been at the center of a controversy highlighting ethnic tensions to some extent unfamiliar in the literary world.
“We bridge divisions because we know that in order to put our future first, we must first put our differences aside,” she wrote in her article. The hill we climb.
Recently published in the United States, this poem, influenced by the attack on the Capitol Building, was recited when the new American president took office, making its author, at the age of 23, a phenomenon.
An intertwined message of unity arrived on the other side of the Atlantic, where we mainly discussed … the skin color of the translators. Should they be black? Wasn’t this the time to inject more diversity into a literary world so white?
In the Netherlands, journalist and activist Janice Deol published at the end of February a inflammatory column in De Volkskrant: “White Translator of Amanda Gorman’s Poetry: Unthinkable”.
A week later, concerned translator Marek Lucas Reinfeld resigned. Meulenhoff publishers then apologized: “We missed a great opportunity to give a young black woman a stage in the Netherlands and Belgium. [néerlandophone] By not translating his work. ”
The incident angered the Spanish translator, Nuria Barrios (Lumen Editions, issued on April 8). “It is the triumph of identity discourse in the face of creative freedom,” she wrote in El Pais.
Because the controversy was alive in Spain. The Catalan translator, Victor Opiols, was challenged in early March by his editor. “They were looking for a different profile, a picture of a woman, a young woman, an activist, and preferably a black one,” he explained. The publisher, Univers, is not talking about his “plan B”: In Barcelona, readers will be waiting.
Same in Paris, where Fayard plans to publish it May 19, under the title The hill we climb. The translator is Belgian-Congolese singer Luce Walakuza, whose first experience was in this field.
In Swedish, he’s also a singer, but he’s a guy who’s stuck with the song “Berget vi bestiger” (which Polaris releases released on Tuesday). For Jason Diakite, Timbuktu on the scene, born to American parents, the poem “has lots and lots of rhymes, so it really sounds like a rap script.” He said on SVT TV.
“Failed” in the German language
In German, Up the hill It was released on the same day as in the United States, by Hoffmann und Campe editions. But according to the Austrian daily Der Standard, a “failed” translation abuses the “stylistic characters or strong images” of the original.
Three women worked there. Among them, “Hadeja Haruna-Ulker, black, and Cobra Gumusai, of Turkish origin, is less active in the literary and journalistic field than in feminism and anti-racism,” the Vienna newspaper also expressed its regret.
Mystery surrounds the name of the Finnish translator. Publisher Saara Tiuranemi revealed to Helsingin Sanomat on March 4, “We have sent our proposals to the translators to the author and his agent and are awaiting a response.” For her, this process is “not normal”.
In Italian, the publisher Garzanti kept the English title, “The Hill We Climb,” and chose, likely with the endorsement of Amanda Gorman, the young (white) translator, Francesca Spinelli. She told Il Libraio that she had tried to ignore the controversy in the Netherlands, “a heated and somewhat confusing debate in which everyone said what they were thinking, often without talking about the same thing.”
The Hungarian publisher Open Books Publisher has launched an original project: the translation, under the direction of the writer Kriszta Bódis, is done in cooperation with the youth of Rome in the framework of a literary workshop. We don’t know when it will end.
Outside of Europe, there are few translations planned. In French-speaking Canada, for example, right now we’re satisfied reading American Woman in her own language.
In Brazil, the choice fell on Stephanie Borges, black journalist, poet and translator. “It is a discussion of the utmost importance: We hope it will continue to bring more representation in the literary world,” Talitha Peresi, in charge of foreign rights youth in the INTERSICA editions, told AFP.