On Translation - Speeches from the 2014 French Voices Ceremony
During our second French Voices Ceremony, presided over this year by Honorary Chair Rick Moody, one of the ten titles to receive grants for 2014 has been selected by the French Voices Jury to receive the 2014 Grand Prize, worth $10,000. Translator Pascale-Anne Brault and Thomas Lay of Fordham Press accepted this year's award for their work on Barbara Cassin's La Nostalgie.
Pascale-Anne Brault, Thomas Lay, acquisitions editor at Fordham University Press, and Rick Moody kindly agreed on this occasion to share with us their thoughts on Cassin's book, but also more broadly, on the virtues of translation. A special thank you to all of them for allowing us to reproduce their speeches here:
Translator Pascale-Anne Brault on La Nostalgie
“With this particular project – the translation of a book on the concept of nostalgia – I came to see that the mechanics of translating and the topic of the book were closely intertwined – that translation, might in fact be seen as a form of nostalgia and that, for me, over the course of the last 30 years, translation has indeed become inseparable from nostalgia. Translation has given me the unique opportunity to work with my native language from abroad – to have nostalgia for and even to mourn it – in ways I could not have foreseen. […]
Why do we sometimes feel like strangers even when we are at home? Why do we sometimes feel at home in places where we have no roots? Why do we like to return there and why do we feel nostalgic when we are away? What does it mean to be at home? Can we ever really be at home? These are just some of the questions treated by philosopher and philologist Barbara Cassin in her new work Nostalgia: When Are We Ever at Home? […]
“Land of the fathers, language of the mothers: it is with the language of the other that one makes a new fatherland for oneself.” For Barbara Cassin, language is thus clearly central to the experience of exile; those who have been exiled from their homeland seek to find a home in language, that is, not just in the language of the new country, but, for many, in a native language that, through exile, has taken on a new significance. […]
Nostalgia for the land is obsolete, she thus claims. Cassin attempts to show how contemporary philosophy opens up the classic representation of the themes of rootedness and uprootedness, of belonging and foreignness, of one’s relationship to one’s native language, to a discussion of the political stakes of such concepts, and how they might impact the current landscape of a global world. Through Homer, Virgil, and Arendt, Barbara Cassin thus treats a topic that could not be more contemporary as she makes us rethink notions of home, homeland, and language in a world with ever-increasing numbers of immigrants, refugees, and displaced peoples.
Cassin concludes: “When are we ever at home? When we are welcomed, us and those who are close to us, along with our language, our languages.” To be welcomed, taken in, is to be, and Cassin coins this wonderful word, “hospité”, that is, given hospitality, accepted in one’s own singularity, and, if we are lucky, allowed to translate that singularity in a foreign land, at home, not at home.”
Thomas Lay, Acquisitions Editor at Fordham UP, on La Nostalgie
“When are we ever at home?, asks Barbara Cassin. In revealing nostalgia as a coming-to-terms with alterity, Cassin argues forcefully for the centrality of translation in our understanding of our world. Language, she argues, operates according to a kind of nostalgia that knows no fixed home but instead offers, in her words, “a different type of adventure, one leading us to the threshold of a more open, more welcoming way of thinking, of a vision of the world free from all belonging.” If, as Cassin shows, one of the West’s founding myths – Aeneas’s arrival in Italy – draws its power from the taking on of a language other than one’s own, it remains no less crucial today, with the rise of global English, that we celebrate translation, not as that which makes the world available to America, but as that which puts one language into contact with others. […]
No one understands better than Cassin the way in which translation activates meaning, rather than merely conveying it, and no one accomplishes this activation better than Pascale-Anne. In her hands, Cassin’s account of finding a home in language sings in an English that is at once idiomatic and idiomorphic. In this translated text, the confrontation of languages – French, Latin, Greek, English – provides the challenge of writing toward meanings that weren’t just there for the taking.”
Honorary Chair Rick Moody on French Voices
“The French Voices Award and like efforts at the PEN American Center and elsewhere have not only brought more great writing from France and elsewhere in Europe to the United States, but these efforts have at the same time reminded American readers how diving into literature from abroad not only broadens our own tastes, but is a kind of civic and global duty, in which we, in a most pleasurable way, learn about cultures other than our own, and how these allegedly differing cultures, at the end of the day, are not so different at all. […]
The French Voices Award, therefore, is not just an attempt to remind some unreliable American readers about great writing in a tongue not all of us speak. It is not just a recognition of these nominated French works, though they are well worthy of our recognition tonight. It is also a de facto celebration some of what binds our two countries together, a tradition of human values, an anti-tyrannical tradition, and a tradition of bravery and courage in the face of what opposes civility and human dignity. Literature is the best of all places to find these abiding truths refreshed. And the French Voices Award stands for that, stands for the tradition of French writing, stands for the Franco-American historic relationship, now more than ever.”
Cultural Counselor Antonin Baudry, FACE Foundation Trustee Yves-André Istel and Writer Rick Moody
You can read the full speeches here.