Holocaust Writing and Translation

Interest in writing by survivors and witnesses of the Holocaust is increasing, rather than decreasing with the passing of the years; the Holocaust is a key component of educational curricula in many European countries and the USA, literary and historical works and memoirs of survivors regularly reach the bestseller lists, and films with a Holocaust theme attract large audiences. Understanding and commemoration of the Holocaust are key points of reference in contemporary discussions about global insecurities and the treatment of minorities in liberal democracies (Langer 1975, Kushner 1994, Vice 2000).

However, the vast majority of these works of testimony and literature are read and interpreted in translation, usually without acknowledging the fact. Much of the critical language of ‘authenticity’ and ‘immediacy’ that is used in connection with testimonial and autobiographical writing of Holocaust survivors does not take into account the effects of translation, and there has been very little scholarly work on the translation of these texts (Hirsch 1997, Hammel 2004, Kuhiwczak 2007, Davies 2009). Work in Translation Studies has drawn attention to the role of the translator both as a cultural mediator making texts available to new audiences and as an interpreter of the text affected by a variety of ideological influences; making visible the translator and the conditions under which translations are produced unsettles some of the assumptions of studies of Holocaust writing, but also opens up new fields of investigation.

The aim of this project is to bring scholars from different disciplines together: the first phase of this project involved the establishment of a network of scholars from Translation Studies, Life writing, Holocaust writing and experts with different linguistic expertise. Supported by an AHRC Networking grant and under the directorship of Professor Peter Davies and Dr Andrea Hammel, the diverse perspectives have enabled the group to develop original methods for understanding the processes involved in the translation of texts by Holocaust survivors. A series of workshops has brought together the participants in order to discuss and develop methods and work through case studies. The fourth workshop will include a public event, inviting stakeholders from the general public to participate.

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