THE CULTURAL TIGHTROPE
Spain is different
Over the past twenty plus years I have translated and revised academic articles for publication in international journals and papers for academic conferences. And I have done so successfully, with a very large number of Catalan and Spanish professors having their work published in the most prestigious of indexed journals. I say this not to boast, but to give some context to this month’s musings. I translate and/or revise articles and papers in a wide array of academic fields. I am able to do this because, although lacking an in-depth knowledge of the field itself, my job is to basically interpret what the professor is trying to say and write it in clear, concise English, something both they and, from what I’ve been told, many other native translators are not able to do. Why wouldn’t native translators be able to do it? The answer is simple, because their translation of the text is often too literal, which does not make for a clear message and results in the article being rejected by any serious academic journal following a – nowadays incredibly thorough – peer-review process.
But that’s just a little background, what I really want to share with you is that, having translated/revised hundreds of academic articles written by professors at universities here, I have been privy to a vast well of research related to Catalonia, be it in the social sciences, geography, tourism, history, art history, medicine, healthcare… well the list really does go on and on.
One excerpt from an article I translated recently stuck with me due to its cultural relevance, especially for those readers who may be new to Catalonia and only just familiarising themselves with the desire of many Catalans to be considered separate from Spain and all things Spanish, given that Catalonia has its own proud traditions, history, culture and language, which many here regard as having little to do with those of their Spanish neighbours. That is not to say that there is not an equally large proportion of the population who believe Catalonia to be rightly part of Spain, rather than a separate entity from it, I hasten to add.
Anyway, here is the excerpt I wanted to share with you, without giving any further introduction than to state that it gave me food for thought (original translation):
“We are the incorrigible Spanish, we never learn. We laughed as we lost the colonies and now, instead of trying to regenerate ourselves, we keep on laughing, failing to have learnt the lesson. We do not want redemption: we build new bull rings instead of schools; we joke, always laughing, we have fun the whole time and make no effort to rebuild industry, trade and agriculture, which are all gasping their last breaths. Let us not speak of art. Spanish art is a parody, all other nations laugh at us.” (Soler 1901)
As you will see from the name and date at the end of the excerpt, this was written by one Soler back at the beginning of the last century. As I learnt from doing this translation, Francisco de A. Soler was an associate of Pablo Picasso, who would do the illustrations for Soler’s magazine writings. As I said, food for thought.