THURSDAY, MARCH 11, 2021
Three cheers for named Catalan person: The dumbness which prevails in Our Town perhaps most resembles The Plague. Three cheers for the Catalan translator person who will still get paid, even though his completed translation will have to be discarded.
A news report in the Washington Post offers this basic background:
BERGER (3/11/21): A Catalan translator has been removed from a job translating the poem by National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman that she presented at President Biden’s inauguration because, as a White man, he did not fit the “profile,” AFP reported.
The move by Barcelona publisher Univers marks the second instance of controversy in Europe around the choice of a White person being chosen to translate “The Hill We Climb” by Gorman, who is Black, and at 23 became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history.
Translator Victor Obiols told AFP on Wednesday that Univers had commissioned him last month to translate Gorman’s work into Catalan, a language spoken in Spain and Andorra. After he completed the job, the publishing house informed him he “was not the right person,” he said.
“They told me that I am not suitable to translate it,” Obiols told AFP. “They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably Black.”
That's the basic background. Apparently, Univers didn't realize that Obiols wasn't a woman and wasn't black when they first hired him on.
(For the record, the first translator who couldn't stay was Dutch. It was time for them to go!)
The Dumbness in Our Town, how it burns! And how rapidly it spreads! We offer three cheers for the latest reject because of the analysis he offered:
BERGER (continuing directly): “It is a very complicated subject that cannot be treated with frivolity,” he continued. “But if I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, Black, an American of the 21st century, neither can I translate Homer because I am not a Greek of the eighth century BC. Or could not have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.”
Obiols said he would still be paid for his work. Univers did not respond immediately to a request for comment.
That analysis isn't new, but it's beautifully expressed. As for the rapidly spreading Dumbness, The Dumbness, how it burns!
(It's a bit like the Dowdism which once moved through Our Town. Except the Dowdism crept.)
This is "a very complicated subject that cannot be treated with frivolity,” Obiols politely said.
But that's the way an increasing range of topics are now being treated here in the streets of Our Town, especially in its more elite quarters. Our new religion spreads and grows. As with all our human toys, it becomes increasingly stupid and dumb.