Home Language & Literature The Age of Translation: Early 20th-century Concepts and Debates
Source language and country
The distinction between the source language and the author’s nationality was deemed to be relevant at the beginning of this study, so as to measure the supposedly different receptions of British and American dramatic works in Salazar’s Portugal as well as to potentially distinguish lightweight Austrian operettas from German plays, the latter of which might have been selected for stage as a sign of political affiliation with the Nazi regime.
Figure 1 displays the number of theatre translations staged or to be staged between 1929 and 1945 according to the author’s nationality. The most frequently translated authors were French (226), then Spanish (177), Italian (37), British (27), Hungarian (23), German (22), American (21), Belgian (13), Austrian (8), Russian (6), Argentinian (6), Norwegian (2), Dutch (1), Irish (1), Greek (1), Danish (1), Peruvian (1), and Swedish (1).
Figure 1: Theatre translations staged or planned to be staged in Portugal between 1929 and 1945, according to author's nationality
Figure 2 shows the number of theatre translations staged or planned to be staged between 1929 and 1945 arranged according to source language. A comparison of the two charts (Figure 1 and Figure 2), however, reveals no significant difference with regard to the dominant source cultures, that is, France and Spain, and also confirms the unimportant position of both German-speaking countries in the target culture, which might point to the conclusion that geographical, cultural and language-related factors were far more decisive than political ones in the selection process in Portugal.
Figure 2: Theatre translations staged or planned to be staged in Portugal between 1929 and 1945, according to source language
Given the centuries-old hegemony of the French language and literature in Portugal, the elevated number of theatre translations from the French should not come as a surprise. It is also true that Portuguese cultural life - mainly due to geographic and language proximity - had also been traditionally dependent over the centuries on Spain. Interestingly, the repertoire of translations both from French and Spanish - just like from Italian, German, and Hungarian, is overwhelmingly dominated by comedies and farces. The most frequently staged French authors of the period are now largely forgotten playwrights, but immensely popular in their own time and country, Louis Verneuil (1893-1952), Henri Bernstein (1876-1953) and Andre Bisson (?-?). Among the most popular Spanish authors, we find the comedy writer Carlos Arniches (1866-1943), Antonio Paso (1870-1958), Pedro Munoz Seca (1979-1936), and Adolfo Torrado (1904-1958).
The most frequently performed Italian author in Portugal was Dario Nic- codemi (1874-1934), a playwright of comedies of manners, followed by far by the Nobel laureate Luigi Pirandello (1867-1936), and the theatre-founder Gino Saviotti (1891-1980), who became the director of the Italian Cultural Institute of Lisbon in 1941. Both playwrights’ political sympathies for the Mussolini regime were widely known. Other Fascist sympathisers were Luigi Chiarelli (1880-1947) and Bruno Corra (1892-1976), whose plays were staged in the Teatro Avenida. The remaining plays were predominantly comedies and farces, but one can also find historical dramas such as Maria Antonietta (1868) by Paolo Giacometti (1816-1882).
As far as the German stage plays are concerned, no tangible evidence has been found that there was any conscious political motivation behind the selection of these particular dramatic texts. Indeed, none of the German playwrights under scrutiny had any affiliations or ties with the Nazi regime. The most-performed German author of the period was the comic dramatist Franz Arnold (1878-1960) along with his writing partner Ernst Bach (1876-1929), whose comedies and farces had already gained quick popularity in Portugal in the late 1920s.
The prominent number of Hungarian plays, however has certainly caused some initial surprise. Hungarian, being a (semi-)peripheral language, is expected to be a less-frequently translated language. Nonetheless, it has a distinguished position in the ranking according to nationality, preceding even the German and American plays in number. The popularity of the Hungarian plays dates back to the Republican years when Austro-Hungarian operettas were very much in vogue in the Portuguese theatres. Nonetheless, the most frequently-staged author of the period under study is Laszlo Fodor (1898-1978), alternatively, Ladislas Fodor, Ladislau Fodor, film adaptations of whose plays had already been available in French, German, British and American cinemas from the early 1930s.
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