PLEASURES AND PITFALLS OF ENGLISHING GREEK FICTION
Stathis Gauntlett, FAHA
Thursday 26 May, 6.30-8.30pm
Kathleen Syme Library, 251 Faraday St, Carlton, VIC
Literary translation was initially a displacement activity in which I indulged in the margins of sabbaticals in Greece and Cyprus whenever the opportunity arose to collaborate with interesting authors. The products were published in Australian literary journals, unadorned by commentary. Translation remained a mere parergon until I was persuaded to try producing book-length scholarly translations complete with annotations and analysis that the bean-counters might regard as academic research.
This talk focuses on three such volumes, published over the last twelve years, the most recent being The Last Varlamis by Thanasis Valtinos, a contemporary text of indeterminate genre, to be launched with some fanfare in London on 13 May.
The other translations I shall discuss are the Cypriot novella “The Gangsters” by Lefkios Zafiriou and Erotokritos by Vitsentzos Kornaros, a 10,000-verse Cretan Renaissance romance that took three of us five years to translate and annotate.
My reflections on the experience of Englishing these quite different texts raise issues specific to translating from Greek (a highly inflected language with a history of diglossia, transliteration problems, and politico-cultural minefields to negotiate, inter alia), but also challenges or vexations of more general applicability (such as dialect, intertextuality, postcolonial translation, mission-creep, publishing, reviewers) — all of which will be tempered with recollections of the many ways in which the translation process enhanced the pleasures of a literary text.
Stathis Gauntlett is a Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities and currently a Senior Research Associate of the University of Melbourne, where he was first appointed to the foundation lectureship in Modern Greek in 1973. He retired from the Dardalis Chair of Hellenic Studies at La Trobe University in 2006. Among his publications are books on rebetika (‘Greek blues’), articles on Greek literature and oral traditions, and literary translations.