World Book Day: Children’s Literature and/in Translation

It is good to see that, to celebrate World Book Day, Sainsbury’s has published a list of 50 books which every child should read by the age of 16. Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory takes the top spot, followed by Alice in Wonderland, The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe, Winnie The Pooh and Black Beauty. I was pleased that some of my favourites, shared (and joyfully rediscovered) over recent years on page and screen with my own family, are there, including A Bear Called Paddington, The Railway Children, The Wind in the Willows, Charlotte’s Web and Watership Down. And with recognition of Mark Twain, Eric Carle, Dr Seuss, L. Frank Baum, L.M. Montgomery, Laura Ingalls Wilder, Maurice Sendak and others, there is – despite the recent impoverishment and indeed provincialization of the GCSE English syllabus — an eloquent celebration of a wider body of literature in English from which young people have much to learn and in which they can take great delight. (John Sutherland helpfully suggested in The Guardian the ‘10 [Anglophone] American writers that English children should study for GCSE’.)

I was concerned, although perhaps not wholly surprised, to see only one work in translation on the Sainsbury’s list. Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl is an important, powerful text, and a key one in Holocaust education. In the context of the survey and more generally, it is undoubtedly a title I would have suggested as incontournable. The diary is now the most translated Dutch book of all time, with the first translation, in German, appearing in 1950. English translations for Britain and the United States followed two years later, and the text has subsequently been translated into more than 60 languages.

There are, however, plenty of additional contenders for inclusion in the Sainsbury’s list. Although the appetite for and visibility of literature in translation continues to grow, there is clearly still much work to do on raising awareness of the rich diversity of texts available thanks to the tireless work of translators. There was an excellent special issue of In Other Words published by the British Centre for Literary Translation  on the subject in 2012,  the English-Speaking Union offer a prestigious annual prize (the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in Translation), and – to complement the Sainsbury’s list – I suggest as an excellent starting point Anthea Bell’s recommended top 10 books for children in translation.

Call for Papers. Studies in Travel Writing. Travel and the Maghreb: Encounters

Call for Papers
Travel and the Maghreb: Encounters

In 2017 the journal Studies in Travel Writing will publish a special issue, guest-edited by Dr. Patrick Crowley (University College Cork), on travel in the Maghreb (Morocco, Tunisia, Algeria). This volume will focus on texts written by European, Arab, Berber, and Ottoman travellers who were active during the period of European colonial expansion, entrenchment, and demise in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. Essays that reflect upon the relationship between travel in the Maghreb and encounters that lead to unexpected insights are particularly welcome.

The nineteenth-century French painter, Eugène Fromentin, who travelled extensively across Algeria, wrote that ‘the Orient […] eludes the conventions [of art], it’s outside any discipline; it transposes, it turns everything on its head’. Fromentin reflected on this transposition, this zone of cultural exchange, in terms of the history and expectations of Western art. Here we have an encounter that is not about the confirmation of European Orientalist stereotypes, even if they are present, but also about a moment of perplexity that unsettles expectations and becomes a conduit of intercultural exploration.

In what other texts has travel to the Maghreb prompted reconsiderations of aesthetic conventions, or disrupted conventional forms of knowledge, practices of religion, sexuality, and the formation of national borders across the Maghreb? And in what directions have such reflections led – new understandings of cultural practices in the Maghreb? Or the resistance of what appears to be ‘untranslatable’, or opaque? What are the tropes of such encounters?

French accounts of travel to the countries of the Maghreb come quickly to mind (Maupassant, Gide, Eberhardt, Barthes) but ‘writing the Maghreb’ took place in more than just French. From William Shaler’s Sketches of Algiers (1826) to the travel writings of Paul Bowles, North Americans travelled to what were to become the French administered countries of Morocco, Algeria and Tunisia and were faced with a range of linguistic differences. German, English and Italian travellers also encountered these Arab and Berber cultures entangled within French colonial modernity. Each was faced with linguistic limits, with the question of whether or not to hire a dragoman, with the issue of translation – its slippages, surprises and frustrations. To what extent do linguistic mistranslations play a part in travel narratives set in the Maghreb?

To varying degrees, Western travellers put the countries and regions of the Maghreb to work — for example, Kerouac’s use of Morocco as a prelude to France in ‘Big Trip to Europe’ (1960). To what strategic ends were the countries of this region, and their peoples, put to rhetorical use? Analyses of travel accounts in which Maghrebian countries, regions, or spaces prove resistant to such strategies would be welcome.

And what of travellers from Egypt and other parts of the Ottoman Empire writing in Arabic, travelling across the Maghreb from Tunis to Fez? In Islam et voyage au moyen âge (Seuil, 2000) Houari Touati provides insights into the jawla, the Islamic Grand Tour, during the Middle Ages. Do similar forms of travel writing, rihla, produced during the colonial period, offer perspectives on colonial modernity across North Africa? Is there an assertion of cultural or religious commonalities across the region that are over and above the formation of national boundaries? And how, as with the other issues above, are they conveyed through the detail and forms put to use in these travel texts?

The issue will accept essays in English of around 7000 – 10,000 words. Submissions must deal with travel texts, but ‘texts’ may be broadly defined to include, among other forms, published books, unpublished manuscripts and documents, letters, diaries, and journals.

The timetable is as follows: Abstracts of around 500 words by 1 June 2015; essays to be commissioned by 25 June 2015; commissioned essays due to editors by 5 February 2016; referees’ reports due May 2016; final copy to editors by 1 December 2016.

Please send abstracts to Patrick Crowley (pcrowley@french.ucc.ie) by 1 June 2015.