Amanda Hopkinson reviews Home on the Move: Two Poems go on a Journey, edited by Manuela Perteghella & Ricarda Vidal, Parthian, 2019.
Home on the Move: Two Poems go on a Journey, edited by Manuela Perteghella & Ricarda Vidal, Parthian, 2019.
Both editors of this finely honed multilingual anthology of poems that ‘explores and interrogates ideas of home, belonging and language’ are practitioners of ‘translation’ (literally ‘carrying over’) in an unusually wide sense. They work between multiple languages, language moderators as well as translators, and beyond genre, with the transmission from visual to verbal.
The earlier One Poem in Search of a Translator by Manuela Perteghella (with Eugenia Loffredo, 2008) offers a ‘rewriting’ of Apollinaire’s Les Fenêtres. It showcases the work of twelve literary translators, alongside Robert Delaunay’s series of paintings. Literary translation as creative writing is by now a familiar concept; more radical is the equivalence of the artist engaged in a different medium.
In Home on the Move Perteghella’s multimodal practice extends from still to moving images. Her work as a curator has embraced theatre and film and Ricarda Vidal shares these seamlessly wraparound interests. A teaching fellow in the Department of Culture, Media and Creative Industries at Kings College, London, Vidal’s most recent publication addresses inter-semiotic translation.
Their collaboration began with Talking Transformations, the first incarnation of Home on the Move. An introductory map traces an English poem’s journey in translation through the principal countries of British emigration (France and Spain) then returns ‘home’. In tandem a Polish original travels via Romania to Britain (Poland and Romania being our main sources of immigration). Within this cycle, which is really the ‘mother tongue’ between generations, and which the ‘foreign’ language? What the place of translation, even interpretation? The project commenced in 2017, prompted by the spectre of Brexit from Europe.
Ludic and inspired use of language gives agency to the poem over and above its human authors. It resides in the current subtitle, Two Poems on a Journey, and the degree to which the translators integrate a sense of the poem-of-itself appearing as relevant as a responsibility to the original authors. It evolves further in the final back-translations. For example, the last lines of the first poem, ‘Home’, in the English original by Deryn Rees-Jones – ‘To know the world in another language | is to never know the world the same’ – part company in Elise Aru’s French version and become: ‘ce n’est jamais connaître le monde de la meme manière’ [‘is to never know the world in the same way’, my gloss and emphasis.]
This extension is reiterated in translation into Spanish (by Silvia Terrón), then in back-translation into English (Noèlia Díaz Vicedo). Curiously, it is only in Timothy Mathews’ back-translation from French that it travels ‘home’ into the version closest to the original: ‘Is to know the world never again the same’. Could this be a meeting of minds between two anglophone writers?
Whether or not readers are ignorant of many of its source languages, this small book contains much fascinating reading. Viewing too, for it also includes visuals supplied by film-makers. This is important for readers are also translators, processing words into pictures in our mind’s eye. If we lack some evocative poetic images – of sparrows, snails, spiders’ webs – not exposed to the camera, every poem lives on in our personal verbal-to-visual translations.
– Amanda Hopkinson
Amanda Hopkinson is a writer, academic and translator, mainly of prose and poetry from Latin America (Spanish, Portuguese and French). A former director of the British Centre of Literary Translation and professor (of same), she is a judge of the Warwick Prize for women writers in translation and co-director, with Ros Schwartz, of Warwick Translates annual Summer School. Recent translations include Lisbon Tales (OUP, 2019) and The Hole (by Mexican author José Revueltas, co-translated with Sophie Hughes, New Directions, 2019). She is currently working on another novel by Elena Poniatowska.