Authentic voices

Just as I long to see films with authentic local actors playing the parts of Greeks or Russians or Germans (instead of the same old Hollywood star whose inflated persona overrides the part s/he is playing), so I long for authentic local voices to tell their own stories. Perhaps it is the same, slightly (largely?) imperialist attitudes that dictate that all nationalities have to be played by Americans/Brits/Australians in the movies, just as all novels must talk about other countries from our perspective? It seems to be that we believe a story much more if it is told by a visiting member of our tribe, rather than a member of another, which cannot be the right impulse, can it?

And that is why I love independent, foreign films and translated fiction. Because here are the stories told from the horses’ mouths – Bosnians talking about their own war and Icelanders talking about their own cold…Why do we have the misconception that we will not understand or sympathize unless the story is told by one of our own? I know that a lot of this has to do with the fear of translation and a laziness to read substitles – something peculiarly English. And yet time and time again one reads from comments of readers on Social Media, saying how much they loved the stories and had had no interference from the fact that it was a translation. I just got an email this morning from somebody who had purchased a copy of Istros’ poetry collection, ‘Definitions’ by Octavian Paler from Romania. After the list of positive adjectives came the words: ‘…so well translated…I wasn’t even aware it had been translated’. I would like to add to this that the voices being translated are all authentic ones – the voices of those who experienced rather than witnessed, and this is what makes the stories good!


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Filed under Contemporary European literature

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