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Exploring the reasons for the Iberian absence

Not much has been written on this topic, given that histories of the translation of Modern Greek literature, either general or focused on (part of) the Iberian Peninsula, are scant. Existing ones also tend to consider periods of translation rather than those of non-translation. Two exceptions are Gesti Bautista (164ff) and Lafarga and Pegenaute (497). Two very general and not necessarily mutually exclusive explanations can be put forward to explain this silence in translation history.

1) Discrepant literary tastes that discouraged translations

As noted earlier, Modern Greek literary production had been limited from the 17th century mainly to poetry (most of it popular, but also learned). Towards the second half of the 19th century, narrative begins to grow in quantity and quality with authors like Dimitrios Vikelas, Alexandras Rankavis, Emmanuil Roidis or Georgios Vizyinos, soon followed by the generation of Kostis Palamas, Andreas Karkavitsas or Kostas Uranis.

It is fairly clear from the analyses that in Western Europe, unlike Eastern Europe, this new narrative goes largely unnoticed and the main publications are of older narrative texts and poetry, as well as some newer poetry; thus, the relative number of translations into these languages decreases. Most translations into Iberian languages were, in fact, indirect translations through French. This means that when the number of translations into French began to shrink, the probability of Greek literature being translated into Iberian languages decreased as well. However, the older narrative and poetry were far from having been widely translated into Iberian languages and, in fact, two of the four translations produced in the first half of the 20th century were contemporaneous narratives, so this change in literary trends can perhaps explain what happened to some Western European languages, but not necessarily the stagnation and near disappearance of translations into Iberian languages.

2) The absence of strong Greek communities abroad and international cultural


The Greek diaspora largely ignored the Iberian Peninsula. Greek emigrants in the 19th and 20th centuries settled mostly in Great Britain, Germany, Belgium, France, Russia or Italy; and, after the Second World War, also in the United States, Australia, Canada, Chile, Argentina, Mexico and South Africa (Clogg 20ff). Thus, the absence of vibrant Greek communities in the Iberian Peninsula or of a strong international cultural relationship led to ignorance of the Modern Greek literary tradition. Nevertheless, some Spanish writers established relations with Greek writers during the first quarter of the 20th century, most importantly Miguel de Unamuno (who corresponded with Kazantzakis and Palamas) and Rosa Chacel, but due to lack of interest, linguistic knowledge, among other factors, these relationships hardly ever led to translations (Lafarga and Pegenaute 497; Metzidakis 48ff).

In this regard, the case of Catalonia merits particular attention. Translations from Modern Greek literature into Catalan started in the 1880s, the decade when the Catalan nationalist awakening (Renaixen^a) started to consolidate (Pinyol i Torrents 283). At the end of the 19th century, Barcelona became the main editing hub in Spain, publishing a great number of titles both in Spanish and Catalan. In fact, some of the translations into Spanish in this period were produced by Antoni Rubio i Lluch (1856-1937), who also translated into Catalan (Gesti Bautista 161). Catalan interest in Byzantine and modern Greece had two explanations, already discussed in section 1: a) the rediscovery of Catalan history in Greece and b) the political and linguistic similarities found between Catalonia and Greece (Ayensa i Prat 474ff; Gesti Bautista 160ff; Portulas 243). There are no clear reasons why translations stopped at the end of the 19th century, but it seems that the interest of Catalan philhellenes increasingly focused on Ancient Greece (Gesti Bautista 164). Although the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera (1923-1930) discouraged the public use of Catalan, translations into the language continued to grow during this period (Pinyol i Torrents 287), so the decrease in the number of translations from Modern Greek cannot be blamed on repression. By contrast, the Francoist dictatorship’s (1939-1975) banning of Spain’s regional languages probably explains the low rates of translation into Catalan until the 1970s (Gesti Bautista 164). In any case, when the Catalans were in a position to start translating again in the 1960s, the political and linguistic situation of both Greece and Catalonia had changed profoundly, and the strong 19th-century interest never resuscitated.

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