Out of the Wings

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At its best, translation is a refusal to accept that we are born into and live in little worlds of our own, worlds that border only on silence. It is a celebration of that same journey into otherness that lies at the heart of the experience of theatre, perhaps above all other forms.

The translations provided in this website are of course concerned to be as accurate as possible. But within the parenthesis of that 'as possible' there is an overriding preoccupation with the performable. These are translations whose purpose is to give as full a sense as we can of the stage potential of the original. In short, they are translations written for performance. And there is a qualitative difference here between the work of the philological translator, who fixes on the text as a series of internal mechanisms, and that of the theatre translator, who is constantly looking outwards from it, keeping his or her gaze on the crossings still to be negotiated.

For, of course, the translator for performance has to hit various moving targets – the actor, for whom dialogue has to be speakable, but also must have the ring of emotional truth by containing within itself the patterns of motivation and potentials for action that structure and mark the original; and the spectator, for whom the stage language must be not just understandable, but also capable of creating the complicity that allows for the imagining of worlds that are both other and yet have something recognisable about them.

Language, of course, is never neutral. The fact that we talk most commonly about doing translations rather than making, writing or creating them, implies the relegation of translation to a subset of writing. In a literary context, it suggests something ancillary, an activity that is subordinate, merely referenced to rather than emerging from an original. The translator’s ambition here is guided philologically. And although many such translators claim performability for their product, the fact remains that those who write professionally for the stage consider translation from a very different perspective. There are absolutely valid sectoral reasons why they should do so, and any meaningful discussion of theatre translation cannot afford to shelter behind high-minded precepts of philological fidelity rooted in academic isolationism.

In other words, to work towards production is to place the discussion of theatre translation within the context of creative struggle. The key assumption here, given that the techniques and processes of theatre translation are in themselves diverse and various, is that translators must see themselves to all intents and purposes as writers for the stage. It may well be that they are writers with little or nothing of their own to say, at least in this context and at this particular moment, but theirs is the creativity which searches for viable solutions within very clear – though constantly mutable – constraints.

This is the spirit in which the translations to be contained within this site are provided.

Users should note, however, that while these translations are geared towards performance, they are also offered here in draft form. Any suggestions for improving the translations will, of course, be gratefully received.

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