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The experience of World War I in Portugal through translation

Abstract: Considering that translation is never an objective or innocuous issue, this article focuses on the World War I narratives translated and published in Portugal between 1916 and 1939, the role they played in the shaping of public opinion and the ideologically conditioned representation(s) of war they conveyed, bearing in mind the role that censorship played in this context.

Keywords: World War I, narratives, translation, representations of war, censorship

Introduction

The Great War 1914-1918 was undoubtedly one of the bloodiest events in the 20th century. It was fought not only in the front, but also “at home”. Each belligerent country had its high share of human sacrifice whose righteousness had to be justified or contested. Pamphlets, posters, news, books, films, among other resources, served both sides.

Portugal played an active, although controversial, role in the conflict, thus meeting more or less explicit political agendas of the ruling elites.

Considering that translation is never an objective or innocuous issue, this article will focus on the World War I narratives translated and published in Portugal between 1916 and 1939, the role they played in the shaping of public opinion and the ideologically conditioned representation(s) of war they conveyed.

The “archaeology” of World War I narratives translated into Portuguese and published between 1916 and 1939, carried out in order to find out “who translated what, how, where, when, for whom and with what effect” (Pym 5), proved to be essential for the understanding of how the war was fought “at home” in Portugal. Because it is not possible to address all these questions here, this article will focus mainly on “what”, “when” and “with what effect”.

In spite of this, there is enough evidence that the translations met the changing political and ideological agendas of the moment. As Venuti states, “translating is always ideological because it releases a domestic remainder, an inscription of values, beliefs, and representations linked to historical moments and social positions in the domestic culture” (Translation Studies 485).

Also bearing in mind Even-Zohar’s polysystem theory (Even-Zohar “Polysystem Studies”) according to which translations can play an important role in filling a void in a certain literary system, it is fair to say that, in Portugal, the translated literature of the Great War compensated the lack of national war literature. The number of translations increased as the number of national publications decreased and eventually disappeared.

Translations played therefore an important role in the shaping of public opinion by providing different perspectives about the war which were not to be found in the Portuguese war literature. The experience of war was thus enlarged and enriched.

 
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