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Arts & Humanities Research Council
British Academy

Translation in the light (or shadow?) of language, culture, and politics: A workshop to mark the anniversary of Sándor Weöres

Start: May 22, 2013 09:30 AM
End: May 22, 2013 08:30 PM

Location: UCL School of Slavonic & East European Studies, Masaryk Senior Common Room (4th Floor): 16 Taviton Street, London WC1H 0BW

hungarian workshop banner

On the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the birth of the Hungarian poet, Sándor Weöres (1913-1989), this one-day conference brought together academics, translators, and publishers to explore Weöres’s legacy and to reflect on the translation of poetry and the translation of cultures. Speakers addressed translation-critical factors from language typology, the politics of language, the economics of publishing, and the status of ‘poetry’. View conference poster and programme.

Listen to a podcast of the opening panel, featuring presentations from George Gömöri, Zsu Varga (CRCEES) and Eszter Tarsoly (CEELBAS):

Sandor Weores

The work and legacy of Sándor Weöres, one of Hungary’s most influential poets in the twentieth century, provide an exceptionally intriguing starting-point for discussion of the possibilities of translation in its most challenging form, namely, the translation of poetic texts, which, in turn, also challenges the notion and the possibility of translation itself.

Labelled by the then pejorative term formalist by the powers that be in cultural politics in Socialist Hungary, Weöres was banned from publication in the 1950s. Like many similarly side-lined poets, the only way he could see his work appear in print was through translations of literary works during these years of relative silence. He not only translated from Russian, French, Italian, English, and Chinese – often taking a rough translation of the source text as a starting point – but in his poetry he also explored such diverse areas as Eastern philosophy, Polynesian and classical European myths, early modern Hungarian literature, and children’s nursery rhymes. Following his Europe-wide recognition, which included two public readings in London (1966 and 1980) and in New York and Washington, D.C. in 1977, his works have been translated into a variety of languages, including English, French, and Russian.

The conference sought to provide a forum for practitioners, scholars, and other interested parties active in both practical and theoretical aspects of the problematicity of translation, to explore mainly, but not exclusively, the following questions:

  • In which ways do concrete, practical differences and distances between languages and culture present both challenges and stimuli for translators?
  • What are the asymmetries and inequalities in the perceived power, influence, and authority of the languages from and into which translations are made?
  • What is the role of the publishing market in mitigating or enhancing such perceptions regarding the differences between languages and culture?

The conference is organised in collaboration between CEELBAS, the Balassi Institute, Hungarian Cultural Centre London, and the Centre for Russian, Central & East European Studies (CRCEES).

Balassi Institute Hungarian Cultural Centre London