Allen began her conversation by pointing out the large strides that have occurred in the publishing industry toward embracing translations. In the early 1990s, editors would often refuse to publish translations, using the reason that "they just don't sell." The de facto result of this was neglecting 80% of the world's literature.

She then moved into discussion of polyglossia, and how the negotiation of untranslated terms without a translated work could create unique effects. These effects, she explained, were of different efficacy to different translators. In describing her translation of Rosario Castellanos's The Book of Lamentations, she recalled coming across "San Juan," which, as a native of California, she had left alone (San Juan is a location in Southern California). In a different translation, however, this had become "Saint John." Subjectivity is a large part of these decisions, and how such decisions strike a reader's ear. She asked us to think, in Schleiermacher's terms, of who is "foreignizing" and who is "domesticating."

The 1990s were also a time of authors experimenting with polyglossia as a rhetorical tactic. Notable examples include Salman Rushdie and Junot Díaz. The latter's The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao uses roughly 18% Spanish, often teaching the reader to decode using contextual clues. Allen described her potential translation of Juan Rulfo's "You Don't Hear the Dogs Barking," in which she wanted to have the father in the story, a pillar of traditionalism, speak untranslated Spanish, and the child, who has supposedly revoked his past, speak English. Cormac McCarthy also often uses blocks of untranslated Spanish as an "illustration," almost-typographical blocks of text that even if one doesn't comprehend serves an aesthetic purpose.

Overall, Allen argued for the productivity of polyglossia, arguing that not only was it essential to expressing certain structural ideas, but it also often honored certain authorial concepts about the figurative power and import of translation.


Casey Michael Henry

Casey Michael Henry is a Ph.D. student in English at the CUNY Graduate Center. His dissertation explores the phenomenon of "connection" as it relates to late postmodern novels, and the rise of new media narrative, in the 20th century.Henry also worke...