Friday, June 30, 2017

Interview _ Pietro Deandrea

Pietro Deandrea has, for many years, been researching into literature and the arts connected to contemporary migrations.

His books include New Slaveries in Contemporary British Literature and Visual Arts: The Ghost and the Camp (Manchester University Press, 2015); Fertile Crossings: Metamorphoses of Genre in Anglophone West African Literature (Rodopi, 2002); and; L'occhio della terra (Le Lettere, 2006), his translation into Italian of Niyi Osundare's poetry collection, The Eye of The Earth.

In this interview, Deandrea talks about the arts, literature, migration and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do?

I teach English and Postcolonial Literatures at the University of Torino, Italy (Dipartimento di Lingue e Letterature Straniere e Culture Moderne).

My aim is to make students enjoy the peculiar power of literature to incarnate ethical values. My ideal wish is also to help them develop their autonomous skills in decoding literary texts in all their nuances. Nowadays we are exposed to all sorts of manipulative messages, so I wish they could arrive (again, through literary sensitivity) at an active practice of critical interpretation.

What first drew your attention to the connection between the arts, literature and migration? And, what are some of the things you've found?

Working in the field of Postcolonial Studies, migration is the most relevant topic we are currently bound to come across, both in texts and in everyday life. It is part and parcel of the inherent porosity and adaptability of Postcolonial Studies. To paraphrase Hannah Arendt, refugees (and by analogy asylum seekers and migrants) are the key figures of our incomplete modernity: the historical drive towards political engagement shaping Postcolonial Studies point to the urgency, I feel, to concentrate on migration and its latest developments.

My recent monograph New Slaveries in Contemporary British Literature and Visual Arts: The Ghost and the Camp (Manchester University Press, 2015) focuses on a particularly tragic aspect of globalization's migrants in the heart of 'civilized' Europe, something that I feel everyone should be aware of.

The book makes an effort to bring to the fore new forms of enslavement that have been recently growing side by side with the ordinary lives of European citizens, something that might be taking place at our doorstep. Many different kinds of novels (including crime fiction), plays, films and photographic projects poignantly represent this phenomenon from various perspectives, in its spatial and psychological effects. In some cases, the boundaries of artistic genres are modified, when dealing with new slaveries.

I felt it important to offer a wider picture of the emergence of this topic in British culture, not least because the peculiar power of literature that I mentioned above, is capable, more deeply than sociology or political studies, to inspire an empathy with these new slaves and to offer viable strategies of resistance, both individual and collective.

Pietro Deandrea's books include New Slaveries in Contemporary British Literature and Visual Arts (Manchester University Press, 2015) and L'occhio della terra (Le Lettere, 2006), his translation, into Italian of Niyi Osundare's poetry collection, The Eye of The Earth.

What sets the book apart from other books that have been published on these issues?

I might be wrong, but this is the first monograph on the topic as far as the British context is concerned.

Other researchers have published brilliant books on asylum or refugees narratives, such as Agnes Woolley's Contemporary Asylum Narratives: Representing Refugees in the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014) and David Farrier's Postcolonial Asylum (Liverpool UP, 2011). I am certainly in debt with books like these, in their opening new areas of postcolonial investigation and in their theoretical strategies.

At the same time, I aimed at examining how the emergence of new forms of slavery includes a wider range of migrants, not least economic migrants and documented ones. Besides, I was also keen on discussing the ways in which these migrants' lives are reduced to a spectral existence and spatially stifled – when not literally detained, by both illegal organizations and British institutions (the continuities in the strategies of these two apparently opposite poles is, sadly, one of the evidences highlighted by my research).

What were some of the most challenging aspects of the work that went into the book?

The genres that the book deals with are many: crime novels, sociological papers employing literary strategies, films, documentaries, novels for young adults, humour novels, plays, dystopian novels, photographic exhibitions – I had to struggle to examine them under the light of a single, possibly coherent perspective. But they do share so many features... Moreover, they deal with characters that are not always 'postcolonial' in its strictest sense, and come from countries that were not part of [the colonies]. And some of its authors could be defined as white Britons. But then again, this demonstrates the suppleness of Postcolonial Studies as a critical reading of literature and the arts.

Theoretically speaking, I found that in a research like this postcolonial critical approaches had to be enriched with other perspectives coming into play: therefore, I had recourse to theory from Holocaust and Trauma Studies.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

In March 2017, I came across the project while I was teaching a course in Literature and Translation where we were working on texts dealing with migration, such as Samuel Selvon's “The Lonely Londoners”, David Dabydeen's “The Intended” and Caryl Phillips' “The Lost Child”, amongst others. So I couldn't help grabbing this chance to work, together with my students, on poems which deal with such an urgent topic.

How would you describe the work you and your students have done as part of Journeys in Translation?

Basically, we gave flesh and blood to the translation theory we had been discussing during the course. Interpreting the texts, reflecting on them in all their nuances and supposed effects on readers, and finally trying to transpose them into your language, into another readership.

I was quite satisfied to experience the students' active participation, and in some cases their observations and translation proposals went well beyond my expectations – we happened to spend two hours on a single poem! I even had to limit their contribution, at times. It was really a collective engagement with the poems, and a collective production.

Lydia Towsey’s “Come In”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publication, 2015) p.16. Translated into Italian by English Literature and Translation MA students as part of a seminar that was held at the University of Turin between March and April 2017.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

As I said above, literature has the power to inspire empathy with its subjects.

In our case, I had a feeling that we all understood the condition of contemporary migrants' more deeply. Besides, translation made us move a step deeper in our comprehension of the phenomenon, when we dirtied our hands with the raw material of these situations through the manipulation of words. So many times we were faced with a sentence, a line, or simply an image that subtly conveyed more than one aspect in the lives of contemporary refugees, and we consequently felt the ethical responsibility of transferring all these nuances into Italian. Maybe we did not always succeed in doing that, but we certainly reached the goal of fully engaging both our linguistic and humane alertness. In fact, these two aspects of a translator's activity eventually seemed to merge into one, and that is something I am quite proud of.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land: Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Interview _ Eva Malessa

Eva Malessa is an educational professional who also works as a translator and an academic proofreader.

In this interviews Malessa talks about migration, adult late literacy acquisition, and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do?

My bilingual background and my passion for languages and literature drove me to pursue the study of Finnish, German and English.

As a qualified language teacher, I have gained considerable work experience in various educational settings in Finland and the UK, e.g. as a foreign language assistant at the Glasgow Gaelic School. Most recently during my MA studies at Newcastle University I have gained experience of teaching multilingual groups of home and international students giving German conversation and beginner classes in addition to Finnish and German language tasters to promote language awareness and learning.

I have also been working for the Action Foundation and First Step charities in Newcastle, assisting refugees, asylum seekers and other migrants in their English learning process as an ESOL volunteer.

What has influenced you the most?

Working as a full time teacher is very time-consuming. However, in addition to teaching, I have been occasionally working as a translator and academic proof-reader. In most cases purely for the joy of discovering even more linguistic details about my languages.

I am an avid reader and being able to read fluently in three languages can be both a blessing and a curse as there is simply too much to read. Yet I could not imagine spending a day without a book in my hands.

My academic interest in late literacy resulted, last year, in a postgraduate dissertation exploring behaviour of non-literate and low-literate adult second language learners in a computer-assisted language learning context of the Digital Literacy Instructor (DigLin). This European DigLin project aims to advance literacy training for adult immigrants learning for the first time in a language other than their first language. My study investigated Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (LESLLA) learners learning to read for the first time in Finnish.

How have your personal experiences influenced you in this?

So far I have studied and worked in Germany, Finland and the UK. As a European citizen I have enjoyed my freedom of movement and residence and taken it mostly for granted, even though Brexit has changed things and had a great impact on my professional and private life.

Growing up in highly-literate countries one easily forgets that not everyone has the opportunity to be(come) literate.

In the light of the most recent humanitarian migration to Europe special language and literacy training for low-educated, low- or non-literate adults is urgently needed. In Finland, however, adult non-literacy is a new phenomenon and while there is little research on how non-literate adults acquire basic literacy skills, the challenge to acquire simultaneously oral and literacy skills in Finnish is enormous.

One driving force for me to conduct my study and explore the potentials of adult late literacy acquisition in the online DigLin learning environment is the fact that literacy is one major factor in preventing social exclusion, as it enables active participation in literate societies. [Editor's Note: More information on current research on Low Educated Second Language and Literacy Acquisition (LESLLA) for Adults is available at the LESLLA online research forum.] 

What would you say has been your most recent achievement as a writer?

Last year I participated in a German writing competition, entitled ‘When Cultures Meet’, organised by the DAAD London, the IMLR, and the Goethe Institut in London.

The task was to continue storylines on themes of migration and flight based on launchpad texts provided by German-speaking authors Anja Tuckermann from Berlin and Ulrike Ulrich from Zürich.

My text won the competition in the native speaker category.

The awards ceremony in London earlier this year was a great opportunity to meet the two authors and the other participants and hear their own versions, complex stories of hope and despair, full of emotions and surprising ends.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I have not translated poetry before and when I read on social media about the Journeys in Translations project, I decided to give it a go and translated four of the 13 poems into Finnish.

I chose the following poems: "The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel" (Ambrose Musiyiwa), "Waiting" (Kathleen Bell), "What's in a Name" (Penny Jones) and "Dislocation" (Pam Thomson), as they skilfully capture fleeting moments and memories in words and create strong visual and vivid images.

I felt drawn to a world of strangers, a strange world that became more and more approachable by applying words of my own language. To quote Pentti Saarikoski, a Finnish poet, "Suomen kieli on minulle ikkuna ja talo. Minä asun tässä kielessä. Se on minun ihoni." (The Finnish language is my window and house. I live in this language. It is my skin.)

I hope my translations can convey the essence of these poems of human nature and need. Moments and memories can, in my opinion, be encoded in language to make people think about and question their own behaviour and hopefully also relate to other people’s experiences and endeavours through the means of poetry.

Kathleen Bell’s “Waiting”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p. 62. Translated into Finnish by Eva Malessa.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

I believe that in times of crises and uncertainty we need literature and poetry to reflect our lives and find ways to overcome difficult times by building and repairing bridges from one person to another. Language is one of the most powerful tools to do so. In Nelson Mandela’s words, "If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart."

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land: Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Interview _ Giacomo Savani

Giacomo Savani is an archaeologist, a writer, and an artist.

His short stories have been featured in anthologies and magazines that include Italian Shorts (Caracò Editore, 2012); 10:25 International and Con.Tempo.

In this interview, Savani talks about poetry and Journeys in Translation.

How would you describe the work that you do?

I am an archaeologist, a writer, and an artist and I like to combine these three ‘souls’ in my work. I have written and illustrated several historical short stories, sometimes in collaboration with other authors, such as the novelist and archaeologist Victoria Thompson.

I like to investigate the positive impact that imagination and art have on archaeological research, incorporating creative work and reflective practice.

Who or what has had the most influence on you as a writer?

Ancient classics have played a major role in my education and are still greatly influential on my work. Among modern authors, I would certainly mention Dylan Thomas, Beppe Fenoglio, Boris Vian, J.D. Salinger, and Haruki Murakami.

How did you get involved with Journeys in Translation?

I heard about Journeys in Translation through a friend of mine, a Greek writer that suggested my name to the organisers. I was excited about taking part to this project and I decided to translate all of the poems on the list.

Which were the most challenging aspects of the work you put into the project?

Translating texts written by such a variety of authors in so many different styles and ‘languages’ has been undoubtedly a great challenge for me. Sometimes, I was immediately captivated by the atmosphere and rhythm of a poem, which I then almost naturally translated into my own poetic language (e.g. "Framed" and "Waiting").

Other times, this process has been much longer and more complex. The poem "but one country" has been particularly challenging. I had to work on the text and, at the same time, on its ‘shape’, as this can be considered an example of concrete poetry. While I am pleased with the result, I see it more as a technical exercise than an act of creativity.

Overall, however, working on this project has been a very rewarding experience. Before starting to collaborate with Journeys in Translation, I never had the chance to translate poems. Thanks to this project, I discovered the beauty and labour of this sophisticated art.

Giacomo Savani's Italian translation of Marilyn Ricci’s “Framed”, Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p. 114.

What would you say is the value of initiatives like Journeys in Translation?

I think that initiatives like this one are an extremely powerful way to engage with compelling socio-political problems such as the current migrant crisis in Europe. In particular, I find that giving a new voice to people suffering much hardship and deprivation is a beautiful, humanistic act, which will hopefully contribute to create a bridge of empathy between different cultures and backgrounds.

Editor's Note:

Journeys in Translation aims to facilitate cross- and inter-cultural conversations around the themes of home, belonging and refuge.

The project encourages people who are bilingual or multilingual to have a go at translating 13 of the 101 poems from Over Land: Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) from English into other languages and to share the translations, and reflections on the exercise on blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends, and on social media.

So far, the 13 poems that are being used as part of the project have been translated into languages that include Italian, German, Shona, Spanish, Bengali, British Sign Language, Farsi, Finnish, French, Turkish and Welsh. Currently, over 20 people from all over the world are working on the translations. More translations and more languages are on the way.

In Leicester, Journeys in Translation will culminate in an event that is going to be held on September 30 as part of Everybody's Reading 2017. During the event the original poems and translations will be read, discussed and displayed.

Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for Those Seeking Refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan and is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

More information on how Over Land, Over Sea came about is available here.

Saturday, June 17, 2017

Journeys in Translation — an International Translation Day and Everybody's Reading 2017 celebration

As part of events to mark International Translation Day 2017 and as part of Everybody's Reading, Journeys in Translation will be hosting an event at which 13 poems will be read in English and in translation.

Posters showing the poems alongside the translations will also be on display.

The event will be held at the African Caribbean Centre on International Translation Day which, this year, falls on Saturday, September 30.

The poems, from Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge (Five Leaves Publications, 2015) have been translated into more than 16 other languages, among them, Arabic, Bengali, Chinese, Farsi, German, Hindi, Italian, Shona and Spanish.

The event is free and open to all.

If you cannot make it to the September 30 event in Leicester, you could:

  1. translate or encourage others to translate as many of the 13 poems as possible,
  2. share the translations and reflections on the translations through blogs, in letters and emails to family and friends and on social media, and/or
  3. organise a related event in your locality at which the 13 poems and translations will be read and discussed and let us know how the event goes.
Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge was edited by Kathleen Bell, Emma Lee and Siobhan Logan. The anthology is being sold to raise funds for Doctors Without Borders/ Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF), Leicester City of Sanctuary and the Nottingham and Nottinghamshire Refugee Forum.

Copies of the anthology are available from Five Leaves Bookshop (Nottingham).

*See also:

[1] How Over Land, Over Sea came about
[2] Interviews with Journeys in Translation poets and translators
[3] The 13 Journeys in Translation poems:

[a] "but one country", Rod Duncan (Over Land, Over Sea: Poems for those seeking refuge, Five Leaves Publications, 2015) p.123
[b] "Children of War", Malka Al-Haddad (p.119)
[c] "Come In", Lydia Towsey (p.16)
[d] "Framed", Marilyn Ricci (p.114)
[e] "Song for Guests", Carol Leeming (p.92)
[f] "Stories from 'The Jungle'", Emma Lee (p.85)
[g] "The Humans are Coming", Siobhan Logan (p.79)
[h] "The Man Who Ran Through the Tunnel", Ambrose Musiyiwa (p.1)
[i] "Through the Lens", Liz Byfield (p.121)
[j] "Waiting", Kathy Bell (p.62)
[k] "What's in a Name", Penny Jones (p.5)
[l] "Yalla", Trevor Wright (p.94)
[m] "Dislocation", Pam Thompson (p.120)