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Banville Project: Literature As Translation


Banville Project: Literature As Translation

Banville Project: Literature As Translation

With the Yeats Reborn project (2013-2015) EFACIS brought together lots of colleagues and students, as well as creative writers from all over Europe, into one big translating community. In December 2015 we rounded off this vast cooperative exercise with a set of workshops and a festive evening with a lecture, drama and music, presented by Yeatsians from Ireland, the US and the continent. As the website of Yeats Reborn remained alive and kicking we got many enquiries about the follow-up, so we thought about this and come up with the following suggestion.

When John Banville turned 70 in 2015 one might have thought he would start to slow down, but on the contrary, he seems to go into a higher gear, having two new books in the pipeline for 2017 and doing some teaching stints. He is an author who is already translated into many languages, and one of the leading literary voices in Ireland, so his international scope and appeal to many different cultures made him a suitable follow-up. The fact that he is strongly influenced by Yeats creates a link, but his main charm is of course the beautiful prose in which he interweaves philosophy and aesthetics. So the EFACIS board decided that we would launch a Banville project.

In the Yeats Reborn Project we offered 30 poems, 5 plays and 5 essays to be translated by anyone who wanted to do it. These translations were then checked by a jury, consisting of two people per language, one a specialist in Yeats, the other in translation. EFACIS colleagues were encouraged to invite a creative writer of their own language to partake, and in many cases this happened. We published a bibliophile book with all the best poetry translations; the other texts were published on the web, as this made them more widely available (like when, e.g. a local Hungarian theatre wanted to use the Hungarian translation of a Yeats play).

The Banville Project will have two strands:

(a)   Translation and comments on the text Fiction and the Dream:

This is an unpublished piece which John Banville gracefully made available for this intercultural exercise. It summarizes his view on literature and the unknowability of the human being, which, we hope, will elicit reactions from scholars and other creative writers.

In every language group two or three people get together; they translate the text available on the EFACIS website. Ideally one person provides a translation of the text and a creative writer (preferably of national renown) reacts to it; then someone else translates the writer’s comments if they are not in English and/or writes his/her own. Download Fiction and Dream here

(b)  Students who want to translate two key passages from Banville are welcome to do so and to write a commentary in English either about the translation difficulty or about the texts themselves (no more than one page). We suggest the following two epiphanies: the opening of Dr Copernicus p.3-4 in the Minerva edition and the epiphany scene in Eclipse p. 32-33 in the Picador edition; the first passage starts with “At first it had no name” and ends with “Got lost in the straw”, the second one starts with “I clearly recall the day I first became truly aware of myself.” (32)  Till “that I carry in me yet, and that yet will overflow at the slightest movement, the slightest misbeat of my heart?” (33) = 4 pages in all. See more details here.

We post these reactions on the Banville website (which will go live in May) and everybody (junior, mature and specialist scholars) can react to them, preferably with some striking observations in concise form (no more than 1 page). A jury of Banville scholars (Derek Hand (Dublin), Laura Izarra (São Paulo), Elke D’hoker (Leuven) and Neil Murphy (Singapore)) will select the best insights, which will be published in an e-book, probably by Leuven University Press, or Peeters Press (who did a splendid job with the Yeats book, and are familiar with using many different alphabets). 

So publication will be in two forms: (1) the translated texts of Fiction and the Dream which will be published on the webpage and (2) an e-book which will combine the most insightful observations on Banville’s views and on the translations of the three texts.

We cannot offer any payment but contributors will receive the e-book for free. This entails that, like in the Yeats Reborn project, we will ask the selected contributors to sign a Creative Commons Declaration which gives EFACIS copyright over their final submission.

The time scheme will have to be somewhat tight but we will aim at 8 December 2017, Banville’s birthday.

  • 16 March: publication of Banville’s text & the Project concept on the EFACIS webpage.
  • 16 March onwards: finding the participant teams in every language (two or three people: a Banville specialist, a translator and a creative writer)
  • Until September: translating the text and the reactions to the text
  • Until October: collecting the translations and publishing them on the Banville website
  • Until 10 October: collecting reactions by Banville & translation scholars to the texts on the website
  • 10 October – 1 December: compiling the e-book with best observations /interpretations of the Banville text, its translation problems and the reactions to it
  • 8 December : offering the book to Banville and the contributors; this will be connected to a Banville colloquium.

In this way this is a real EFACIS project as it brings about interaction between Ireland and the rest of the world in the form of a complex, multifarious “answer” from different cultures to Banville’s texture which interweaves aesthetics and philosophy in a unique way.

If you want to participate please send a mail with short CV and letter of interest before 1 May to Hedwig.Schwall@kuleuven.be and to efaciscoord@gmail.com. You will hear from us about how the group formation is working out in your language. After 10 May the communication will happen only via efaciscoord@gmail.com.

We look forward to your participation!

The EFACIS team



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