Volume 10, No. 1 
January 2006

  Dora Sales Salvador


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Index 1997-2006

TJ Interactive: Translation Journal Blog

  Translator Profiles
Love of Languages
by János Samu

  In Memoriam
John F. Szablya — 1924 - 2005

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee

  TJ Cartoon
Great Moments in Languages—The Homegrown Grammarian
by Ted Crump

  Translators Around the World
The Hague Program and how it could affect the translating and interpreting profession
by Eleni Markou

  Science & Technology
Nuclear Technology—a Translation Testing Ground
by M.L. Seren-Rosso

  Translation Nuts & Bolts
Translating Pronouns and Proper Names: Indonesian versus English
by Izak Morin
Equivalence in Translation
by Lotfollah Karimi, M.A.

  Translator Education
Criterios para las selecciones textuales en la formación de traductores especializados
M.ª Blanca Mayor Serrano

  Literary Translation
Documentation as Ethics in Postcolonial Translation
by Dora Sales Salvador
Fate: The Inevitable Betrayal in Translating
by Leandro Wolfson
Proper Names in Translation of Fiction (Translation into English of The History of a Town by M.E. Saltykov-Shchedrin)
by Alexander Kalashnikov

  Translators' Tools
Translators’ Emporium
Compiling Corpora for Use as Translation Resources
by Michael Wilkinson

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor
Translators’ Best Websites
by Gabe Bokor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
  Translation Journal

Literary Translation


Documentation as Ethics in Postcolonial Translation*

by Dora Sales Salvador
Department of Translation and Communication
University Jaume I, Castellón (Spain)


The work of translation is above all a problem of documentation.
       Roberto Mayoral (1994: 118)

Beliefs and values, ideas and ideals, are perhaps the most difficult aspects of culture to represent and to translate.
       Maria Tymoczko (1999: 164)

* Abstract

The purpose of this paper is to reflect on the documentation challenges—mostly in cultural terms—put forward by the translation of postcolonial literature. The new technologies on the documentary scene have been a revolution mainly in relation to the accessibility of diverse sources. Nonetheless, the translation of postcolonial literature entails very specific documentary needs, of ethical and political nature, for which sometimes neither the libraries nor the new technologies are ready. This is a thought-provoking challenge for contemporary translation studies and also for the key discipline of documentation. Above all, we intend to focus our thoughts on the ethical responsibility of documentary work, from a theoretical viewpoint that will be illustrated with literary examples taken from the work of some reputed translators. We will see that a recurrent strategy used by these translators is to prepare critical notes that accompany their translations, and which also constitute valuable documentary sources for other future translations.


Translating postcolonial literature: Documentary competence and challenges

he phenomenon known to criticism as postcolonial literature consists of the creative works produced in the former European colonies, and presents a large number of linguistic and cultural specificities. On the linguistic level, it must be stressed that many authors in this field choose to write in the European language which arrived in their countries thanks to imperialism and later became the official or global language or lingua franca, a vehicle of communication, since they know that this translinguistic option allows them to become part of the transnational repertoire and market: if they wrote in their native languages, which have minority status in that global context, their opportunities to disseminate their work would be reduced. However, if it is true that the translinguistic option is a sign of identity for many postcolonial writers, it should above all be emphasized that what is being transmitted in the language chosen is another culture, a whole world of reference which those literatures invite us to discover. Thus, a large part of postcolonial literature, eminently hybrid in nature, entails the translation of linguistic and cultural elements which are specific to a culture that expresses itself in literary terms in another language. By now there exists a substantial corpus of such literatures, written in languages such as English and French (the main but not the only languages used), from such formerly colonized locations as India, Pakistan, the Caribbean, Morocco, Algeria, Senegal, Mali, Ghana, Kenya, and many other places.

In addition, the literary scene in Western societies is increasingly marked by the presence of literature written by immigrants of diverse origins, which may (though it does not always) correspond to postcolonial contexts. Examples here are the works of Emine Sevgi Özdamar, Mahi Binebine and Fatou Diome, of, respectively, Turkish, Moroccan and Senegalese origin. The hybrid texture of this literature of immigration immediately manifests features similar to those of postcolonial literature. The European literary polysystems are ever more strongly characterized by the presence of artists from immigrant communities whose work is marked by hybridity, métissage and fusion, and who are contributing, all in all, to the creation of a collective vision of immigration from a constructive viewpoint.

In this new space which is being created, translation has played, and continues to play, a crucial role, as it has throughout the development of human communication. Today no-one doubts the relevance of translation as a means for the construction of cultural representations. In the words of Pilar Godayol (2004: 172): "ningún discurso cultural—incluido el traductológico—se puede mantener al margen de los efectos del poder y fuera de su representación" [Gloss: 'no cultural discourse—including that of translation—can stand outside the effects of power or outside its representation']. It follows that, given this power of representation and transmission of ideology attaching to translation, it is important, in our ever more multicultural Western societies, to learn how to rethink the politics of translation which tends to construct a simplified or stereotyped image of other cultures. Thus, aware of the need to respect and encourage cultural pluralism, we argue that in the field of the translation of postcolonial literature it is necessary to reflect on the ethical responsibility attaching to the task of documentation, which will inevitably be interdisciplinary in nature.

In fact, in today's ramifyingly complex information society, it is essential to stress the key importance of documentation in the field of translation studies, as a tool existing in relation to all the other disciplines involved in the educational process. We may usefully point out that in Europe all higher education courses in translation and interpretation include, as compulsory curricular elements, components intended to develop documentation skills related to the information retrieval and the evaluation of its quality, in the context of a multiplicity of formats.

In this connection and in the area of translation studies, the group PACTE (based at the Universidad Autónoma de Barcelona, Spain) has been stressing in its work the importance of this instrumental skill in the process of acquiring the general skill of translation (Hurtado Albir 2001: 394-408). Authors such as Consuelo Gonzalo García (2004) have defined this skill as documentary competence. A succinct definition of what we mean by this concept is provided by María Pinto, who sees this competence as "basada en el manejo de información, determinando necesidades, planificando la búsqueda, usando estrategias para localizar y obtener información, discriminando y valorando la información para la toma de decisiones" [Gloss: 'grounded in the handling of information, defining needs, programming search, employing strategies to locate and obtain information, sifting and evaluating information with a view to decision-making.'] (Pinto 2005). In any process of transfer between a source text and a target text, translators need to be competent in documentation, as an essential part of translational competence.

Following the position of María Pinto (forthcoming), we argue that it is ever more important that the translator should acquire the skill of information literacy, defining this process as the acquisition of skills, competences, knowledge and values enabling the access to, use of and communication of information in whatever form, with the aim of producing competent professionals and users, trained in the habit of identifying and registering information sources in appropriate ways, able to process and produce their own information, able to sift and evaluate the information process, and able to produce quality communication products (American Library Association 2000). This is a 'generic habit' which is of major importance in enabling people to successfully tackle decision-making, problem-solving or research. Information literacy comprises the whole range of experience in all its forms, detecting what forms and modes of information are relevant to different situations.

In her brief guide to documentation resources for translation studies, Rocío Palomares Perraut (2000: 15-16) stresses that the translator needs to use documentary sources in order to acquire information on the content of the source text, terminological information in order to use specialist vocabulary correctly, and phraseological information in order to employ the style of the source text. The key is, then, to know how to seek, locate and handle, in a contrastive fashion, the documentation sources which are needed for the translation activity. The appearance of tools such as the Internet has brought about the transition from an all but one-dimensional library-based model (based on the printed text) to a compendium of different information sources and means of acquiring, handling, archiving and disseminating data. In the field of documentation, the ability to adapt and a concept of learning as an ongoing process are crucial. Certainly, today's climate in information and documentation technologies is very much technology-oriented, and this can create confusion and encourage the a priori notion that we can find any information we seek. Here a warning note is sounded by Cerezo, Corpas and Leiva (2002: 149):

No todo son ventajas en Internet. Consideran Palomares Perraut (1999) y Gonzalo García (2000) que los principales inconvenientes que presenta la red son la gran dispersión de la información; la mutabilidad de los contenidos que ofrece; la propia estructuración de la red, lo que redunda en una cierta ineficacia; y la dudosa fiabilidad de la información que a través de ella se proporciona, como consecuencia de la denominada democratización informativa.

[Gloss: The Internet does not bring unmixed benefits. Palomares Perraut (1999) and Gonzalo García (2000) argue that the main disadvantages of the Internet relate to the highly dispersed nature of the information, the changing nature of the content, the structure of the Internet as such, which tends towards inefficiency, and the unreliability of the information offered by it resulting from what is called information democracy].

In other words, the Internet offers the translator an invaluable and inexhaustible source of information, a working medium and a means of communication which modifies the constraints of time and space. But, in view of what many critical voices have called infoxication (Cornellà 2000) on the Internet, we need to stress the importance of maintaining a critical perspective when handling sources and evaluating their credibility.

In this connection, and in direct relation to the subject of this paper, we may note that María Pinto (1999: 100), in an interesting article on documentary skills and the translator of literary texts, defines translation as a content analysis operation, closely linked to recent notions regarding channels and constraints in the context of information flow, communication processes and their functions and effects in society, leading us to consider the unity of the text from a strategic, pragmatic-documentary perspective. Pinto stresses (1999: 106-107) that the translator's documentary competence in the work environment needs to develop in terms of three complementary aspects, i.e. the translator is: a) a user of information resources and sources; b) a processor and transformer of original information; and c) a producer of new documents. At the same time, the translator's documentary competence has to evolve in three dimensions: the informational, the methodological and the strategic (Pinto 1999: 108-110).

Certainly, the translator's documentary activity is a vital instrumental link in the chain of mediation and transfer of knowledge that makes up translation, an indispensable part of translational know-how. Documentary competence is essential for the practice of translation, and, therefore, for the translator's (ongoing) learning process.

Documentary search throughout the translation process entails learning how to locate, validate and correctly use the information sources offered by the library and the new technologies. Translators are faced with the challenge and the responsibility of becoming acquainted with and using the diverse means which now exist for the location, recovery, handling and dissemination of information, manipulating the new and extraordinary resources which information and telecommunications technology have made available for their work. In other words, it remains up to the translator to find the data, the information source; and the translator is responsible for knowing how to use it. All in all, to translate is to mediate between languages and cultures, to operate a constant decision-making procedure, and, most certainly, to know what documentation means. Otherwise, decision-making cannot be based on proper criteria. If one is to translate, acquiring the right documentation means knowing how to identify the informational requirements of the text to be translated, and knowing how to find the right solutions:

... no es posible que un especialista almacene en su memoria toda la información que se produce sobre su especialidad. Mucho menos podrá hacerlo sobre temas que no se incluyen dentro de su mismo campo de especialización. La perspectiva inicial de la persona 'humanista' que 'lo sabe todo' hay que sustituirla por la del humanista que sabe 'dónde' y 'cómo' encontrarlo todo. ... Al traductor o intérprete no se le exige que 'lo sepa todo', sino que sepa 'cómo saberlo todo'.

[Gloss: ... specialists cannot memorize all the information produced in their area of specialisation. Still less can they do so on subjects not falling within their specialist field. The earlier notion of the 'humanist' who 'knows everything' needs to give way to that of the humanist who knows 'where and how' to find everything. ... We do not ask the translator or interpreter to 'know everything', but to 'know how to find everything'.] (Mayoral, Kelly and Gallardo 1985: 270)

Saber documentarse implica siempre saber identificar problemas de traducción y categorizarlos (culturales, gramaticales, terminológicos, etc.) para poder luego, en cada caso, elegir como consulta la fuente o fuentes de información adecuadas para su resolución.

[Gloss: To find the right documentation always means to know how to identify translation problems and categorize them (as cultural, grammatical, terminological, etc.), in order subsequently to be able to choose in each case the most suitable information source(s) for resolving them.] (Gonzalo García 2004: 281)

Beyond all doubt, the field of documentation as applied to translation is a notably transversal domain, in which much research still needs to be done. Here, we wish in this paper to stress how, in the case of the translation of hybrid literatures (postcolonial literature, literature of immigration), the documentation resources available (both traditional resources and those provided by the wide-open field of the Internet) are often insufficient (Sales Salvador 2004). The main issue at stake is how to deal with the documentary needs thrown up by the translation of postcolonial literature, which raises challenges that arise above all from various cultural factors. What do we do, for instance, if in the text we have to translate we find terms and expressions from non-Western languages for which we have no dictionaries to hand? What do we do if, once we have, finally and after a labyrinthine search, found a dictionary for one of the minority languages we require—taking into account that such dictionaries tend to be published with a small print-run and little guarantee of being reprinted in the countries where those languages are spoken, not by Western publishers with a wide distribution network-, we discover that the terms we seek do not appear there because they are colloquialisms or localisms or archaisms or terms used only by a particular group? In the words of Roberto Mayoral (1994: 118), "el trabajo de traducción es en gran medida un problema de documentación" [Gloss: 'the work of translation is above all a problem of documentation'], and this is especially and complexly so in the case of translating hybrid literatures.

In fact, many practising translators in the field of postcolonial literature recognize that their most valuable source and point of reference is the author of the book they are translating. Writing in the area of intercultural communication studies, H. Ned Seelye (1994: 28) makes the extremely valid point that someone who lives in or has lived in the cultures concerned is one of the best sources of information. Thus, Miguel Sáenz, the Spanish translator of Salman Rushdie and Emine Sevgi Özdamar, who recognizes that his best resource has always been to contact the two authors, speaks of his experience translating Emine Sevgi Özdamar, a Turkish author writing in German, and states (Sáenz 1999: 176), recalling the problems he has encountered: "En primer lugar, conocer el contexto cultural del autor, lo que comprende tanto la cultura de su país natal como la del ambiente en que ha vivido en el país de acogida" [Gloss: 'The first is that of being aware of the author's cultural context, including both the culture of his native country and that of the environment in which he has lived in the host country'.]

The translation of intercultural literatures points up the need to open up translation and documentation paths that take full account of linguistic hybridity and cultural diversity. It is known that translation takes place not (only) between languages but (also) between cultures, and the information needed by the translator therefore always goes beyond the linguistic. The work that has been carried out in translation studies within the (poly)systemic or descriptive paradigm should alert us to the importance of reflecting on the responsibility of the translator, as one who has the power to construct the image of a literature and a culture, which will then be observed or consumed by readers from another culture. As has been pointed out by África Vidal Claramonte (1995), this critical broadening which impelled translation studies to move beyond (though not to oppose themselves to) linguistic approaches had much to do with the polysystem theory (Even-Zohar 1990) and with what has been termed the 'manipulation school' (Hermans 1985). These two critical approaches, in many ways convergent, have encouraged this repositioning, endowing translation with the role of an essential shaping force in literary history and cultural dynamics, since they view it as above all part of a socio-cultural context. Translation always entails an unstable relationship in terms of the power which one culture may exercise over another. By means of the translation process, which is more than anything an entire information process of enormous magnitude and influence, what is produced is not textual equivalents, but rewritings the nature of whose representation will depend on the pen that signs them, the context, and the cultural (poly)system in which they are located. Translation is a discursive operation which is ideological and political in nature. The activity of the translator is never confined to translation alone: translators are social agents who communicate differences and negotiate limits. Above all, this line of translation research should remind us that the translator is never neutral and cannot be exempted from the need to take a position. Indeed, any translator is constantly obliged to do just that.

Precisely in this sense, Maria Tymoczko (2003) has recently put forward reflections on the ideological positioning of the translator. Applying a multidisciplinary theoretical approach from which self-criticism is not absent, Tymoczko examines the fashionable metaphor of the 'space between' in the translation field, and, avoiding all complacency, helps us engage in a critical (re)conceptualisation of that image, which is, indeed, often employed in the postcolonial area with which we are dealing here. Tymoczko's work postulates that, in the final analysis, the discourse of the 'space between' is not only misleading but actually retrograde with respect to the translator's understanding process and the notion of ideological engagement as such. The ideology of a translation lies not only in the text translated, but also, and to a major extent, in the position adopted by the translator. This position is, inevitably, ideological, and immerses the translator in an unending process of decision-making which configures the space of enunciation from which one translates. As Tymoczko lucidly puts it (2003: 201):

Finally, from the point of view of the ideology of translation, the discourse of translation as a space between is problematic because it is misleading about the nature of engagement per se. Whether translation is initiated for political purposes from a source culture, from a receptor culture, or from some other third culture, translation is a successful means of engagement and social change—like most political actions—requires affiliation and collective action. ... Effective calls for translators to act as ethical agents of social change must intersect with models of engagement and collective action. This the discourse of translation as a space between abandons. ... the translator is in fact all too committed to a cultural framework, whether that framework is the source culture, the receptor culture, a third culture, or an international cultural framework that includes both source and receptor societies. ... The ideology of translation is indeed a result of the translator's position, but that position is not a space between.

Tymoczko's reflections are, we believe, of major interest for our consideration of the prospects for the translation of postcolonial literatures. The act of translating postcolonial literatures faces us with the challenge of assuming an ethical engagement in favour of the cultural diversity which feeds into the source text, recalling that translation has an active, and extremely powerful, potential in the shaping of a cultural politics open to the plurality which ever more visibly surrounds us. In the face of texts that are formally and conceptually hybrid, translators assume full awareness that they are translating not from one language to another, but from an intersection point (linguistic, cultural, symbolic) to a system which is largely unaware of the linguistic and cultural specificities implied in the source text. With literatures of this kind, the question, and the challenge, may be expressed thus: What do we do with these differential elements? How do we transpose them to the target language and system? The challenge posed by translations of this nature, with their ethical dimensions, is above all one of documentation.

At this point we would like to pose that the ethical dimension is, in a sense, context-specific rather than universal: by ethics we mean not a source of values but the way in which people relate to those values, to use the formulation of Iris Zavala (1996: 26). The relationship involved here is, like any other, dynamic and in constant evolution: there are no magic formulas which can be applied to every case of translation of hybrid literature. Each text calls for an approach of its own, an attentive reflection and a rigorous consideration of the possible alternatives. What should in all circumstances be defended is the need for the translator to take an ethical attitude: one that is open to dialogue, to awareness of the particularities of each text—a willingness to relate to the values of others. Above all, however, it is necessary to learn about those values, to document oneself. For this purpose, we need to develop an intercultural awareness, the 'contextual sensitivity' which María Pinto (1999: 104) identifies as a particularly useful element for the literary translator. This awareness or sensitivity is in line with the positions of Gayatri Spivak (2003), who takes a firm stand against the erasure of differences and uniformisation. The alternative propounded by Spivak is to practice a cultural translation which resists appropriation by the dominant power and is committed to the specificity of the writing that comes from subaltern locations. Such a project, obviously, requires the development of linguistic and instrumental skills of a specialized nature, open to the understanding of difference.

We should recall that, to a large extent, the reactions to and reception of manifestations of other cultures are conditioned by the images we have of them—by the translations which already exist and to which the target culture is historically accustomed. These are translations which are unlikely to favour cultural multiplicity, being grounded in translation models that typically tend to domesticate and homogenize and do not encourage the habit of adopting translation decisions that will heed the call of cultural diversity. The fact is that the translation models which currently dominate in our Western cultural system tend, in general, to subordinate content and formal experimentation to the rules of the target language, thus testifying to the strong association of translation in our society with traditionalist publishing policies that are unwilling to confront the intercultural challenge head-on.

Fortunately, however, there do exist valuable exceptions. Thus, as a stimulus to reflection offering possible routes for translation studies which could help question this immobility, we will now proceed to the brief enumeration of the contributions of a number of women translators of postcolonial literature, whose practice is to affirm their own visibility and to position themselves under the banner of their translation projects, while also becoming sources of documentation. These are: Gayatri Spivak, Liliana Valenzuela and Malika Embarek López.

The translator of postcolonial literature as a producer of documentary sources: The cases of Spivak, Valenzuela and Embarek

Gayatri Spivak, who is well known for her theoretical and critical work in the postcolonial field, is an interesting case of a translator who assumes her visibility and is engaged with issues of cultural subalternity. Spivak always accompanies her translations with a full critical apparatus, which, in the two texts which we have examined for this article—both translations from Bengali into English of the Indian activist Mahasweta Devi (1980; 1995)—is embodied in: a translator's preface; an interview between translator and author; a translator's afterword; and a collection of notes, here taking the form of an end-of-book glossary providing specific documentation on the terms and references (political, cultural and literary) which appear in the interviews with the author and in her fictions. Spivak stresses that her concern as a translator has always been to maintain the tone of the subaltern discourse that is manifested with great dignity by Devi in her prose. Communication between author (Devi) and translator (Spivak) is an aspect on which Gayatri Spivak places enormous value, as a form of dialogue which has provided her with feedback in her practice of both translation and literary criticism.

In her afterword to Devi (1995), Spivak emphasizes the role of visibility in her translational project, whose aim is, above all, to contest hegemonic notions while refusing at all moments to be confined by a 'space between'—positioning herself, rather, in clear and manifest fashion, in favour of Devi's cultural specificity and the values her work transmits. Those are also the values which she, as translator, wishes to transfer to the target system (international and anglophone). Following the line earlier set out in her "The Politics of Translation" (Spivak 1993), Spivak here declares: "Since the general tendency in reading and teaching so-called 'Third World' literature is toward an uninstructed cultural relativism, I have always written companion essays with each of my translations, attempting to intervene and transform this tendency" (Spivak, in Devi 1995: 197).

Liliana Valenzuela, in her translation of the most recent book by the Chicana author Sandra Cisneros, the novel Caramelo (2002), adds a substantial note at the end setting out her project and her relationship with the translated text. In addition, on the credits page there appears a "Nota del Editor" ("Publisher's note") which states: "La presente edición reproduce la forma en que los habitantes de las comunidades fronterizas sintetizan un lenguaje formado de palabras en inglés y español, el llamado 'lenguaje de la frontera'. Véase nota de la traductora al final del libro" [Gloss: 'This edition reproduces the form in which the inhabitants of the border communities synthesize a language out of English and Spanish words, known as 'border language'. See Translator's note at end of book'.] The publisher has thus not only allowed the inclusion of a translator's note (already an achievement in itself in the context of popular, not academic publishing houses), but has clearly expressed his open support for this critical contribution accompanying the published translation. The continual dialogue between Valenzuela and Cisneros, who were in permanent contact during the translation process, is also stressed by Valenzuela. Both Cisneros and her translator are bilingual and bicultural, as Chicanas leading their lives between English and Spanish, the US and Mexico. They share a complex context—cultural, linguistic and social—in which the characters of the fiction translated move. Valenzuela also speaks of the very specific labour of documentation needed to translate this novel, in the following terms:

... muchas personas me ayudaron a encontrar palabras y expresiones que no se encuentran en los diccionarios. Pues así como la autora realizó un gran trabajo de investigación y hasta podría decirse de etnología al rescatar de la tradición oral la manera de hacer rebozos, al igual que las costumbres y dichos mexicanos, yo también tuve que investigar los términos más apropiados hablando con la gente.

[Gloss: ... a lot of people helped me find words and expressions which weren't in the dictionaries. The author herself carried out a huge labour of research, if not ethnology, rescuing techniques for making shawls from the oral tradition, alongside Mexican customs and sayings, and in the same way, I too had to research the most appropriate terms by talking to people] (Valenzuela 2002: 543).

Malika Embarek López, for her part, has specialized in the translation into Spanish of French-language literature from Maghreb. She is above all known as the translator of the Moroccan writer Tahar Ben Jelloun, and has also translated (among others) Edmond Amran El Maleh, Mohamed Chukri, Abdellah Larui, Haim Zafrani and Mouloud Feraoun. In cases such as these—of literature characterized by métissage and profoundly hybrid in linguistic and referential terms—it is not sufficient to have a good knowledge of the language of writing and the target culture: even more important is knowledge of the source culture and all it entails. Embarek is herself a translator of mixed racial and cultural origins, whose life is itself a source of documentation: she thus finds herself in a position which is both complex and privileged, thanks to which she endeavours in her translations to reproduce "the passionate embrace" (Embarek López 1999: 208) of her two languages: the dialectal Moroccan Arabic of her father (excluded from the written word) and her mother's Spanish. The aim of her translation project is to reconstitute in Spanish the Arab voices which are more or less latent in the French in which Ben Jelloun chooses to write from the postcolonial vantage-point, making good use of the inheritance of Arabic terms which the Spanish language possesses, while also providing glossaries or explanatory notes where she finds this the most effective (and ethical) means of rendering the text.

It is clear that the market and institutions of the target culture do not always permit or support new approaches that are creatively and interculturally aware and may (indeed will) challenge readers' expectations of fluency and formal homogeneity in the body of the text. Nonetheless, such is the challenge for those who translate. It is here that we locate the potential latent in projects such as those we have descriptively summarized (Gayatri Spivak, Liliana Valenzuela, Malika Embarek), which we see as concrete examples of the translation ethics and documentation which are needed in our world of cultural diversity, in which it is vital to understand the other if we are to avoid creating barriers of separation and intolerance. In other words, this position, which is grounded in a real social need, is the responsibility not only of publishers but also—and above all—that of the translator community, whose members are in a position to act on the status quo and take the plunge of truly developing the "models of engagement and collective action" demanded by Tymoczko (2003: 201). It is up to us, those who translate, to deconstruct homogenising and risk-averse translation policies and trace out new paths. In our view this should, to a large extent, be grounded in the labour of documentation which accompanies and sustains the process of transfer. The intercultural challenge is by now an ineluctable part of our societies. Today more than ever, translation, as a constant process of negotiation, impels us to engage in dialogue with what is different. While it is true that, as Tahar Ben Jelloun poses (2002: 46), translation is often a sign of a curiosity for knowledge, what we need to do is to test just how far that desire to know other cultures goes, to find these things out in a prejudice-free and ethical manner. We are talking about a project aimed at stimulating the development of intercultural competence in a context of dialogue.

Concluding points: Documentation, the way forward

What, then, should we do if things are the way they are? In the context of an open-ended project, we would here like to make two proposals, which we believe would yield results and which need to be impelled by the translators themselves, following the philosophy of engagement and collective action that we have outlined above, following Tymoczko (2003).

Our first proposal is that translations of hybrid literature should better contain a critical apparatus. This could consist of an afterword and, if necessary, a glossary, giving visibility to the sources used and enabling their further handling. We are talking about a means of enhancing the translator's visibility and, at the same time, placing a source of documentation at the service of the reader (whether professional or not). It is true that the publishing establishment could prove hostile to the idea of including extra material in this way, but one can but try. Let us engage in dialogue with our publishers and explain to them, on reasoned grounds, the nature and implications of our translational project. We need to have firm faith in this translational project based on glossaries and afterwords—on tools which should be made available to translators to serve as a link between cultures, though without simplifying the reality of one or other side, respecting the idiosyncrasy of the original and opening up paths for understanding for the reading public. In other words, in this three-term exchange of information, it is for the translator, as mediator, to be aware of the two areas that are being placed in contact.

Our second proposal concerns the creation of an open-access virtual area (e.g. database or portal) which would, on an ongoing basis, store the documentation (explicitly contextualized) drawn on by translators in the translation process. This would facilitate the availability, for those who need it, of the kind of information which those who translate literature of this type sometimes track down only after long and arduous search: how to contact the authors themselves, or else specialists in areas related to the documentation requirements of the work being translated; location and use of hard-to-find dictionaries; background material (anthropology, mythology, popular culture, and so on). The aim would be to consolidate the already highly positive experience derived from the use of technological resources.

All in all—and there is no going back—the translation of hybrid literatures (postcolonial literature, literature of immigration) brings us face to face, on both theoretical and practical levels, with the need for reflection on intercultural matters. These narratives, which throw up documentary challenges and force us to re-evaluate our translational assumptions, impel us to become part, as translators, of the learning of diversity. If we rise to the challenge of cultural documentation that is implicit in the translation of these literatures, we should be able to launch translational projects which can contribute to the creation of a documentation store based on the experience acquired with each and every translation. Fortunately, the library is already under way, and we as translators can contribute to its growth, documenting ourselves with a sense of responsibility and on the basis of intercultural awareness, and sharing the results of our research.

Works Cited

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