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Introduction to the "Translation and Mobility" issue of TRANSIT

This introduction acquaints readers with the contents of the 2006 issue of TRANSIT with the special topic of "Translation and Mobility." The articles and multimedia in this issue can also be found on the TRANSIT website: http://german.berkeley.edu/transit/2006/index.html

Wenn die Schweizer Heimat exotisch geworden ist. Das Thema der Heimkehr aus Brasilien bei deutschschweizerischen Autoren

Wenn in einem schweizerischen Kontext von einer Heimkehr aus Brasilien die Rede ist, stellen sich unvermeidlich Assoziationen zu Gottfried Kellers „Martin Salander" (1886) ein. Doch während Keller die Rückkehr und Reintegration seines Protagonisten in die Schweizer Heimat als völlig unproblematisch darstellt, bilden die Texte authentischer Brasilienheimkehrer eine ganz anderen Realität ab. Der Beitrag stellt mit Dranmor, i.e. Ferdinand Schmid (1823-1888), Walter Alvares Keller (1908-1965) und Walter Burkhart (1883-1961) drei von der Literaturgeschichte heute eher marginalisierte deutschschweizerische Autoren vor, die nach einem längeren Aufenthalt in Brasilien ihre problematischen Rückkehrerfahrungen literarisch verarbeitet haben. Im Gegensatz zu Gottfried Kellers idealisierter Konstruktion, die ihre Entsprechung in der zeitgenössischen Schweizer Nationalideologie hatte, zeugen die teils autobiographischen, teils fiktionalen Texte der drei Autoren von der Kälte der Ankunft, von den „saudades" nach Brasilien, von der Schwierigkeit, sich wieder einzugliedern in einer Gesellschaft, deren Regeln kaum mehr einleuchten, kurz, von der Frage, was man macht, wenn einem die eigene Heimat exotisch geworden ist.

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Travelling without Moving: Physical and Linguistic Mobility in Yoko Tawada's Überseezungen

Travel and translation constitute the primary focus of Yoko Tawada's literary production. Many of Tawada's German-language works are travel stories that consider the models of subjectivity enabled by travel across spaces and languages. This essay considers how her works investigate the interconnectedness of mobility, geography, language and identity, and how - in more recent works - travel between languages becomes not a side-effect but a substitute for travel through space. Tawada argues that as modern technology alters our perceptions of space and as travel becomes increasingly uniform, travel between places may become less distinct. It is instead in travel through language that the most compelling journeys take place, where the subject may be transported, or, more properly, translated into another system of sounds and significances. Tawada shows that while the physicality of motion can go missing in some modes of travel (e.g. airplane travel), linguistic journeys are intensely physical, requiring, and increasing, a bodily relationship to language. Crossing from one linguistic territory to another, the speaking body is doubly transformed, both through a renewed sense of the bodily exertion inherent in speech acts and through a recoding of the body in the foreign language. In such a model, language can take on the qualities of space. This essay considers how, for Tawada, languages become sites through which the individual can move, locations where identity can reside, or bounded spaces that can demarcate belonging or exclusion. Tawada suggests the notion of a world without borders is fallacious: her focus on language and territoriality presents a world where linguistic boundaries remain intact and regionalisms and nationalisms flourish.

The Task of the Loving Translator: Translation, Völkerschauen, and Colonial Ambivalence in Peter Altenberg’s Ashantee (1897)

Following the exhibition of Ashanti culture in Vienna's Prater in the summer of 1896, the impressionist writer Peter Altenberg published Ashantee (1897) in remembrance and reenactment of that space in translation. Translation here connotes two parallel processes: trans-lation and trans-lation. The former articulates the hybridization of subjects in transit whereas the latter addresses their relocation and displacement as speakers of different tongues and representatives of distinct cultures commingle at the same time. This article traces the constant and confusing traffic of Europeans and non-Europeans in and out of turn-of-the-century "Völkerschauen" as well as Altenberg's linguistic illustration of those border crossings in Ashantee. By focusing on the relation among languages in this intercultural text primarily written in German, but also containing English, French, and "Odschi," -- the Ashanti language -- I shall investigate how Ashantee puts language to work as a marker of difference and a vehicle for equivalence. Altenberg's poetic interplay of languages explores the negotiation of self with the exotic and gendered Other by way of translation with the result of both sustaining and undermining traditional binaries of colonial power. Against the backdrop of Jacques Derrida's work on translation as a function of love, I will argue that the text reinscribes the colonial and non-colonial, Western and non-Western "contact zone" hidden behind Altenberg's love affair across the color line. My linguistic approach to the textual form is to complement and supplement a postcolonial, ethical reading of Ashantee.

Flânerie

This six-and-a-half-minute video, Flânerie, is an audiovisual projection of a number of themes in Convolute M (“The Flâneur”) of Walter Benjamin's The Arcades Project, with a focus on the flâneur’s “kaleidoscopic consciousness” and experience of the crowd, as well as on the “colportage phenomenon of space.” It is one of nine chapters in a longer celebration and elaboration in digital video of Benjamin’s unfinished masterpiece, which is entitled Walter Benjamin’s Paris: Projecting the Arcades.

Translation after 9/11

Commenting on the judicial scandal of the conviction of Mohammed Yousry, the official translator for the mastermind behind the first World Trade Center bombing, Emily Apter argues that translators occupy an increasingly dangerous position in the post-9/11 world. Through her analysis of the trial and the accompanying controversy on translation, she shows that translators are assumed to have divided loyalties and the ability to move incognito among language communities that touch but do not cohere. Hence, Yousry’s case reveals how translators become scapegoats in the culture and language wars over migration and Islam in the aftermath of 9/11. In accordance with her recently published book The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature, she pleads for an “English Plus” movement that might thwart the drive to monolingualization, cultural isolationism, and political unilateralism, which characterize current policies of the United States.

Transit Heimat: Translation, Transnational Subjectivity and Mobility in German Theatre

This paper is interested in themes of translation, transnational subjectivity and mobility in German theatre between 1994 and 2004. It is set within the broader context of the expansion of Europeanisation that followed German reunification and the lifting of the Iron Curtain in central and eastern Europe. It is therefore especially concerned with theatre that responds to the issues that arise with the opening of Europe’s eastern borders and the tensions associated with increased cross-border movement.

Some of the developing tensions will involve the changed status of nations in post-communist Europe, the future of national identity and culture and the formation of transnational or post-national subjectivities. Anna Langhoff’s 1994 Transit Heimat/gedeckte tische is the primary example used in this paper. It is a play about central and eastern European refugees written and performed in the critical early years of reunification that brings an early example of the changing face of Europe to the German stage. It is the little-known but important precedent for later more boisterous German-language treatments of the theme of refugees and xenophobia such as Christoph Schlingensief’s provocative Bitte Liebt Österreich (Vienna, 2000). Foreign subjects also find their counterparts in Heiner Müller’s posthumously performed Germania 3 Ghosts at Dead Man (Berlin 1996) and Germania Stücke (2004). The paper argues that these theatrical and performance pieces represent the downside of transnational or post-national subjectivities as experienced by the new Europe’s poor and powerless. In danger of falling into an underclass of stateless and itinerant welfare recipients, the characters display the trauma of the transition from the old communist regimes to the neoliberal economies of western Europe. It concludes that the play offers a timely reflection on the state of foreignness showing it as a transnational subjectivity produced by entrenched nationalist perspectives, shown nonetheless to be resilient and enduring.

This paper interprets the theme of translation in three quite specific ways before considering its wider metaphoric possibilities. Firstly, the translation of a published German text into English. Secondly, it involves the complex imaginative and creative process of transforming the verbal text, usually dialogue and stage directions, into material stage elements – voice, body, gesture, movement, image and so on. The third and related sense of translation concerns the less tangible elements of the text – variously, the sub-text, ideological underpinning, the gendered and colonialist constructions, and the visceral and affective elements – that are in excess of the verbal text and the stage directions. These elements are also translated into performance and shape its reception.

Finding Home in a Liminal Space: Exile and Return in Andreas Dresen’s Halbe Treppe

In his film Halbe Treppe, Andreas Dresen uses stylistic elements and modes of production similar to exilic filmmakers, as described by Naficy in his book An Accented Cinema, in an attempt to portray both a sense of exile and a desire for freedom in his characters. Since exile is inextricably bound-up in questions of both homeland and identity, the film invites comparison not only to exilic cinema but also to certain aspects of New German Cinema, particularly issues of German identity that many critics argue have been too often ignored by other young German filmmakers. By emphasizing the importance of Frankfurt/Oder as the setting for his characters’ experience of exile, Dresen creates a connection between identity and “place” that encourages the spectator to reflect upon the traditional notion of “Heimat” and how it might be re-imagined in a new multicultural, unified Germany.

Transformative Translations: Cyrillizing and Queering

This paper addresses the (im)mobility of queer sexualities in an era of labor migration and globalization. With my discussion of the 2004 documentary by Pauline Boudry, Brigitta Kuster, and Renate Lorenz, “Copy me – I want to travel,” I am particularly interested in analyzing how this film offers a queer-feminist perspective on a transnational issue without representing queer sex or queer life in any central way.

The film tells a story of Bulgarian computer production while cutting across national, economic, ethnic, gendered, and sexual borders. Through a practice of strategic mistranslations, it reworks such dichotomies as reality and projection, or fiction and documentary. Its focus on the reverse engineering of the Apple-II model marketed successfully during the Cold War as Pravetz II, a socialist product, destabilizes the polarities of copy and original as well as of socialism and capitalism. The dominant role of women in the Bulgarian computer industry, its decline with the transition to capitalism, and the subsequent migration of highly skilled female computer specialists to Germany foregrounds gendered notions of work and productivity. Those are supplemented by the film’s insistent gender re-imagining of Bulgaria’s most infamous virus writer, “Dark Avenger.” The documentary is interspersed with drag scenes citing classic spy films, which comment on the discursive link between heteronormative image making and Cold War ideology. Taking my cue from this mobilizing of drag and discipline, I make an argument for transformative translation as a way of queering the audience rather than representing queer subjectivities.

Die Übersetzung von Rhythmus: Hölderlins Transitprogramm hin zu einer "belebenden Kunst"

Die Übersetzungen Hölderlins nach 1800 veranschaulichen seine ganz besondere Aneignung des griechischen Rhythmus: Während in einer ersten "metrischen Phase" zunächst die Metren und vor allem auch die äolischen Perioden des antiken Chorgesangs von Sophokles direkt von der Vorlage übernommen werden, entfernt sich Hölderlin zusehends davon, so dass er gegen Schluss der Übersetzungen von Oedipus und Antigonä zu einem Eigenrhythmus findet, der die rhythmisch-periodischen Muster der griechischen Vorlage verstärkt. Je mehr sich der Dichter rhythmisch vom Original entfernt und sich Freiheiten erlaubt, desto mehr imitiert er wiederum dessen Grundrhythmus. Diese gegenläufige Doppelbewegung, die so genannte "hesperische" Tendenz, die Hölderlin aus dem Übersetzungswerk gewinnt, bildet die rhythmische Grundlage der großen Gesänge wie beispielsweise "Friedensfeier", "Der Rhein" und "Patmos". Erst in der streng formalen Analyse des prosodischen Rhythmus, wie sie in diesem Artikel unternommen wird, kann Hölderlins kulturelles Transitprogramm erfasst werden.

The Courtyard in the Mirror

This multilingual short story is a multifaceted gem of contemporary fiction. Tracking habits and ruptures in the daily lives of her neighbors and interlocutors around a German courtyard, a Turkish migrant begins to model-whimsically and with punning poignancy-something approximating postnational intimacy. In this imaginative and multi-medial landscape newly global functions of reading print literature are also probed.

Open Forum

„Felsenwand“ vs. „Blumental“: Fremdwahrnehmung und Selbststilisierung in J.G. Seumes Mein Sommer 1805

Der Beitrag verortet Johann Gottfried Seumes Reisebericht "Mein Sommer 1805" im Kontext der Reiseliteratur der Spätaufklärung und interpretiert ihn im methodischen Anschluss an neuere Ansätze der kulturpoetischen Ethnographie als Manifestation einer der personalen und der nationalen Identitätsbildung dienenden Konstruktion des Fremden. Es wird gezeigt, dass Seume, ausgestattet mit dem "cultural baggage" seiner Zeit, das Fremde ins Eigene zu übersetzen und unter Kontrolle zu bringen versucht, indem er das weite, unbegrenzte Russland als Gegenbild zu Italien bzw. als 'große Schweiz' inszeniert. Die literarische Darstellung seiner Reiseerfahrungen dient der Selbstbehauptung und dem kontrastiven Entwurf einer kulturellen deutschen Identität.