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Changing perspectives: translations of Scottish twentieth-century poetry into German.


This essay explores the implications of perspectivity for translating, and reading translations of, Scottish twentieth-century poetry. After outlining the general role of perspectivity and perspective change in translation, it focuses on issues of language and culture, using Iain Galbraith's 2011 anthology Beredter Norden as an example. In particular, it discusses ways of dealing with the heteroglossia of Scottish poetry (English, Scots and its dialects, and Gaelic) and with various types of reference to Scottish culture. The theoretical basis is a functional approach to translation, which can accommodate different translation strategies depending on the goal(s) pursued.


How do perspectives on Scotland change in translation, and how are they changed by translators? To answer this question, I shall begin by briefly examining the general role of perspectivity and perspective change in translation, and then proceed to explore the way in which they affect issues of language and culture in translations of Scottish twentieth-century poetry into German. My examples will be taken from Iain Galbraith's 2011 volume Beredter Norden ('Eloquent North'), a 543-page en-face anthology that includes poems by sixty-six poets from John Davidson to Jen Hadfield. (1) Among the few anthologies of Scottish poetry available in German, this is by far the most voluminous and, arguably, the most sophisticated. My aim will be to show how the concept of perspective change can open up new ways of thinking about translation in a Scottish context.

What does it mean to speak of perspective change in and through translation? The concept is not widely used in translation studies. In fact, to my knowledge, Hans J. Vermeer is the only translation theorist who discusses perspectivity in any detail. (2) For Vermeer, perspective means 'not only, narrowly speaking, the angle of vision proper, but any kind of emotional and rational perception with one or more senses, including hearing, taste, etc. [...] Perspectivity means that any sensory perceptions are possible from one situationally specific angle only and that there can consequently be no objectivity (or neutrality).' (3) In perceiving something, we focus on some aspects to the exclusion of others. Cognition is therefore dominated by perspectivity, and since all perspectives are individual, cognition is inevitably relative.

In the following, I shall concentrate on three changeable elements of perspectivity that are pertinent to translation. Firstly, perspectivity involves something that is being viewed and something else that is not being viewed. The fact that all perspectives are reductive enables a focus on what is considered relevant at a given moment. This can either be changed by translators, or it can change through translation. For instance, Heidi Pruger chooses to change perspectives by setting her translation of Tom Leonard's 'right inuff' in Austria rather than Scotland (pp. 247/249), but perspectives on the language of 'right inuff' will change in any translation, irrespective of the translator's choices, since the language itself will change. Secondly, the phenomena in question are being viewed by somebody, such as a translator, reader, or critic. It is important to note that the viewer is always an individual, and that one individual has no direct access to another's perspective. This implies, among other things, that a translation as received by a reader or critic may be quite different from the 'same' translation as produced by the translator, and that, while the perspectives of members of a group (e.g. German readers) may overlap, they will never be entirely homogeneous. (5) Thirdly, in viewing a phenomenon the viewer chooses a vantage point, which in translation can be--to name but a few examples--source-cultural, target-cultural, political, source-linguistic, target-linguistic, or situational. For instance, it makes a difference whether 'right inuff' is translated from a Scottish or a class perspective: a translation into, say, Kanak Sprak (the German sociolect associated with Turkish immigrants) would probably be considered less appropriate to the former than to the latter.

Leonard's 'right inuff' is one example of language issues in Scottish poetry. While it is a truism to say that translation involves a change of language, the consequences of language change are far-reaching and not always obvious. One question which has generated considerable interest is whether poems from Scotland written in standard English, Scottish English, Scots and its various dialects, and Gaelic can--and should--be linguistically differentiated in translation. As will become clear, the answers are varied. (6) I shall first summarise some of the arguments put forward, and then discuss their connection with perspectivity.

Iain Galbraith laid out his plans for a translation anthology of Scottish twentieth-century poetry at a conference in 1999. His paper was subsequently published in Translation and Literature, followed by responses from four other participants. (7) One of Galbraith's concerns is the challenge posed by the heteroglossia that characterises Scottish poetry, and he calls for translators to address rather than ignore it (pp. 159, 164-66). In his response, Paul Barnaby concurs with Galbraith. He points out that twentieth-century translation anthologies featuring poems in more than one of Scotland's languages do not show a similar linguistic variety in the target texts (p. 191). The same, he argues, is true of twentieth-century translations outside anthologies, which mostly use the standard version of the target language, and sometimes a dialect or minority language, but without alternating between the two according to the language of the original (pp. 194-95). The possible reasons Barnaby gives for this lack of differentiation, which he regards as a serious defect, are the status of the translations (which may be intended as no more than an aid to understanding the originals), a homogenising view of Scottish literature, and a tendency to use 'normalising and unifying translation strategies' (pp. 191-92).

The perspective Galbraith and Barnaby take is that of Scotticists: their focus is on texts from Scotland, and they stress the need for translation to reproduce the texts' most salient features. However, different perspectives are conceivable. In most target cultures, anthologies of Scottish poetry will coexist not only with anthologies from various other English-speaking cultures as well as anthologies of British and English-language poetry, but also with anthologies from non-English-speaking countries and anthologies of world poetry. If we consider not Scottish but English-language or world poetry, does it still make sense to speak of preserving heteroglossia? An attempt to map each of the world's languages and each of their varieties onto a different variety of the same target language (German in the case of Galbraith) would clearly be futile. An alternative would be to use the same target-language variety or group of varieties--say, the dialects of Bavaria--to represent not only Scots and its dialects but also, among others, Lombard, Moroccan Arabic, Southern American English, Andean Spanish, and Taiwanese. (8) This would emphasise difference from the perspective of individual cultures (however defined and demarcated) but elide it from a global one.

To some extent, the relevance of the Scotticist perspective depends on notions of translation. What is it that we expect translation to do? Barnaby's stated preference is for translation to reproduce the heteroglossic character of Scottish poetry; but he also draws attention to the fact that other goals are possible, such as using translation to strengthen a non-standard target language (p. 195). More generally speaking, it is not the source text alone -or, more pointedly, it is not the source text--that determines what translation strategies can or should be chosen. Translation as a process occurs in a target situation, and translations as products will fulfil a function in the target culture. If a translator decides (either alone or in conjunction with an editor and/or publisher) that it makes sense for a translation to focus on the target culture, e.g. by consistently using a dialect or minority language, this is just as legitimate a choice as prioritising the source culture's perspective (9) --witness the numerous translations into Scots that are not inspired by heteroglossia in the source texts. (10) Moreover, it can be argued that a target-cultural perspective will always superimpose itself on the source-cultural one. Galbraith's Beredter Norden is a case in point.

The translations in Beredter Norden are characterised by a similar degree of heteroglossia as the originals. The majority of poems in standard English are translated into standard German, and the majority of poems in Scots, into a German or Austrian dialect. Thus, Dorothea Grunzweig translates Sheena Blackhall's North-East Scots in 'Lot's Wife' into the Swabian dialect of the Stuttgart area--
   Luikin back, she saw her maiden-sel;
   Her sma breist, warm
   In the palm o' his langin (p. 262)

   Wie se zruckguckt, sieht se ihr Madles-I;
   Ihr kloine Bruscht, warm
   In der hohl? Hand von seim Gluscht? (p. 263)--

and Heinz G. Hahs uses a synthetic dialect that he calls Rheinskotisch ('Rheno-Scots') to translate, among others, Sydney Goodsir Smith's 'In Time of Deepest Wanhope':
   In the nicht's lang sabbath there's ae leid I hear
   Mang aa the thieveless rants o demonrie,
   Daith through the fell stramash aye speaks me fair,
      Timor mortis non conturbat me. (p. 114)

   Huur in'e Nahtes lang Ge'lerm ejn Stimm ih gejn
   Mi'mang de sinnlous satanic Ge'kraj
   Hindorch sogaar den Hellenwerr spriht Daud z'mear fejn,
      Timor mortis non conturbat me. (p. 115)

In his translation of an extract from Hugh MacDiarmid's A. Drunk Man Looks at the Thistle, Dieter M. Graf draws on elements of the Palatinate dialect and combines them with standard German:
   Men canna look on nakit licht.
   It flings them back wi' darkened sicht (p. 64)

   Mensch kann nicht schaue ins nackische Licht.
   Wirft einem zuriick inne verdunkelte Sicht (p. 65).

For instance, nackische indicates a Palatinate pronunciation, while verdunkelte Sicht is standard German. Nackische ('naked') is particularly interesting because the dialectal form would usually be associated with a literal rather than a metaphorical meaning. By combining it with formal standard language, Graf establishes a new context for the dialect, as MacDiarmid did with Scots.

From a Scottish and linguistic perspective, translations such as these can be regarded as giving target readers an idea of the heterogeneity of the originals. However, as Galbraith points out in his introduction to Beredter Norden, translation into a target-language dialect will always 'add a new thread to the meshwork' (p. 23; my translation). This applies to synthetic dialects and to combinations of dialect and standard language as well as to dialects proper. With a change of metaphor, we can say that the translations also--and inevitably--create a perspective on the target language and culture. Thus, while German dialect poetry is often of the humorous and/or parish-pump type, Grunzweig's, Hahs's, and Graf's texts can be regarded as contributing to a more ambitious, albeit little known strand of dialect literature, as exploring the possibilities of writing in dialect, and perhaps even as constituting an intervention in target-language policy. Speaking of translation into Scots, John Corbett suggests that as a result of 'centuries of marginalising of Scots as a written medium', 'all varieties of Scots, local and literary, have the potential to signify aspects of Scottishness for Scottish readers', and mutatis mutandis this is certainly true of German dialects as well. As I shall show below, however, it may also be true of non-marginalised standard German. Focussing on translation into dialects and minority languages should not blind us to a wider perspective on what happens, or can happen, in translation in general.

Corbett furthermore argues that Lawrence Venuti's goal of making translators visible through defamiliarising, foreignising strategies can best be reached by means of Lallans, whose 'occasional use of archaisms, stray local forms, neologisms and calques should remind the reader that all language is artificial', drawing attention 'to the non-transparency of the intercultural contact'. (12) I suspect, without being able to cite sound empirical evidence, that this does not apply to the German context. Speaking from my personal perspective, Hahs's Rheno-Scots looks unfamiliar to me, but so does the Tyrolean dialect which Wolfgang Sebastian Baur uses in his translation of Christine de Luca's 'Glims o Origin':
   I savoured dy aerly wirds is dey cam,
   whinivver dey surprised dy mooth (p. 268)

   gikoschtn on e daina friedn werto, wi se grott kemm sain,
   poll se dain munt iworoscht om (p. 269)

I take the translator's word for it that this is actually the dialect of the Puster Valley, but would have no means of knowing if it included synthetic elements. Baur's language does not strike me as artificial, but then neither does Hahs's. My dominant impression in both cases is of foreignness--not, however, in the sense of perceiving the translation qua translation but in the sense of reading a foreign original. In other words, the effect of these translations is to make parts of the German-speaking area foreign to me, rather than letting me feel the difference of Scotland from my own culture. On a somewhat less subjective level, in a non-representative survey I conducted among Germans from different regions some respondents entirely failed to identify the dialects used by Hahs, Baur, and Griinzweig, and some others made false identifications. Neither group would have been able to tell a synthetic dialect from an authentic one.

Baur's translation, together with a number of others, raises a politico-cultural issue that is worth discussing in the context of perspective change. The Puster Valley straddles two countries, Italy and Austria. The Italian part, where Baur was born, is in South Tyrol, Italy's northernmost province. Beredter Norden also includes translations into (other) Austrian dialects, e.g. Viennese, as well as German ones. Thus, heteroglossia in the target texts is associated with the territories of three sovereign states. While the history of this area has been very different from that of Britain, Austria (if such a generalisation is permissible) shares with Scotland the occasional feeling of being in bed with a more or less massive and sometimes malevolent elephant. South Tyrol, which is predominantly German-speaking, was part of Austria-Hungary until World War I and was then annexed by Italy, where German is a minority language. Will some South Tyrolean readers of Beredter Norden feel a special affinity not only with Baur's translations but perhaps also with those by Austrian translators? Will some Austrian readers take an insider's perspective on translations into Austrian dialects, and an outsider's on German ones? Will some German readers from dialect-speaking areas, particularly in the south, have language loyalties different from those of readers who only speak the standard variety of German (for instance, loyalties more strongly linked to dialect boundaries)? At present I have no answers to these questions that go beyond the intuitive and the anecdotal. What seems clear, however, is that linguistic, historical, and political configurations in the German-speaking area will provide a target-cultural perspective on the translations' heteroglossia that will interact with readers' prior knowledge, as well as the editor's introductory explanation, of the source-cultural situation. To say so is not to disparage the translators' choices, but to draw attention to a productive characteristic of the workings of translation.

I have so far discussed heteroglossia in the sense of distinct varieties of a language, or language group. However, Beredter Norden includes source texts not only in English and Scots but also in Gaelic. I shall first set out the existing debate about translation from Gaelic, and then proceed to explore issues of perspectivity.

No English translations are given for the Gaelic poems in Beredter Norden, which suggests that the translators' source texts are the Gaelic originals. But while this is true in the case of Corinna Krause's numerous translations from Gaelic, Peter Waterhouse, for example, who appears in the anthology as a translator of Sorley MacLean, works from English, not from Gaelic. (13) Whether or not the omission of MacLean's own English versions matters depends on what we expect translation to achieve. For instance, if the editor's goal is to counteract the predominance of English, excluding it as a relay language may be more appropriate than including it. In his paper on plans for a translation anthology, Galbraith briefly mentions an earlier, smaller translation project involving Gaelic poetry, and speaks of 'the chutzpah and secret sense of satisfaction with which I felt permitted or empowered as mediator to pass over in silence what was in fact conspicuous by its absence' (p. 160). Similarly, Krause suggests that excluding English may 'work against the continuous "minoritising" forces facing Gaelic'. (14)

However, if readers are mainly interested in the originals and aim to grasp them through translations, the omission of English may be important for several reasons. Firstly, as Galbraith points out, omitting English might mean 'subtract[ing] an essential component of the life of the Gaelic text in the context of its real cultural constituency', namely the 'permanent state of tension with the English language' (pp. 161-62). This would seem to apply to Krause's as well as Waterhouse's translations. Secondly, as far as Waterhouse in particular is concerned, no translation simply reproduces the original. Any translator, including the author of the original, will read the source text from his or her own perspective and write the target text accordingly, opening up some interpretations and closing off others. Moreover, in his response to Galbraith, Christopher Whyte argues that a poem is inextricably linked to the language in which it is written (pp. 183, 186), which indicates that translating it will change it profoundly irrespective of who produces the translation. The importance of perspective becomes clear here: focussing on individual texts may lead to different choices than focussing on Gaelic language politics.

The authors that I have quoted so far in connection with translations from Gaelic concentrate on the option of translating without recourse to an English relay version and, more generally, on the role of English. (15) Interestingly, a question none of them asks is into what language, or language variety, Gaelic poems could be translated. In contrast to the treatment of Scots, the target language for Gaelic poems in Beredter Norden is always standard German. (16) The issue of whether another variety or another language could be used does not seem to arise. Yet it is worth looking at in the context of perspectivity.

Translating from Gaelic into standard German, either directly or via English, results in a linguistic differentiation in the target texts between Gaelic and English-language poems on the one hand, and the majority of Scots poems on the other. This makes sense for example if we take a political perspective on Gaelic: using standard German can be regarded as placing Gaelic as a source language on a footing of equality with English. It makes less sense if we take a political perspective on Scots, since the differentiation relegates the various varieties of Scots to the status of dialects, as opposed to the standard language used for English and Gaelic. (17) Furthermore, Gaelic and English are conflated in the target language. This fact should on the one hand not be overestimated: making distinct languages look more or less the same is, after all, a typical feature of translation; moreover, the source texts printed en face render the difference visible, as does the editor's introduction (p. 20). On the other hand, conflating Gaelic with the very language that threatens its existence may not be entirely unproblematic from a political point of view: if translations from Gaelic and English look more or less the same, then it is not only linguistic differences that will disappear in the target texts but also, for example, the considerable differences on the level of social power between users of these languages. Language politics can thus be harnessed not only to support but also to reject standard German as a target language for Gaelic poetry.

It will have become evident by now that I am not concerned to propose normative solutions for translating poetry from Scotland, but to examine the implications of different strategies from a descriptive-analytical point of view. If I now proceed to ask what other languages or varieties, besides standard German, could be used to translate Gaelic poetry, this is not to suggest that the choice made for Beredter Norden is inadequate, but to add some further perspectives to the discussions inspired by this seminal anthology. It is true that there is no language in the German-speaking area whose cultural status can be compared to that of Gaelic in Scotland. However, as shown above, the historico-political associations of German and Austrian dialects are not congruent with those of Scots (in other words, there is no 'cultural equivalence' between Scotland and, say, Austria) without this having been considered an insuperable obstacle to translation. I shall present a number of different options for Gaelic.

If our perspective is on Gaelic as a minority language, one option could be to use Low German, which is spoken in parts of northern Germany and recognised by the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. Speakers of standard German should be able to make an educated guess at texts in Low German, but will not be able to understand them fully or with ease. Low German has a literary tradition of its own, and in an anthology such as Beredter Norden, where dialect translations are into southern or central dialects, it would enable a degree of linguistic differentiation between poems translated from Gaelic and from Scots. A much clearer differentiation would be provided by Sorbian, a Slavonic minority language (or, more precisely, two closely cognate languages) spoken in an area of eastern Germany. Both Sorbian and Low German have a long history in Germany, which has largely been a history of decline, though some efforts have been made to reverse the process. By contrast, Turkish is a migrant language which has only been spoken in Germany since the 1960s. Like Sorbian, it would need to come with supplementary German or English translations if the goal were for the majority of the target audience to be able to read at least one version of the poems. Including Turkish as a target language in an anthology aimed at the German-speaking market would strongly deemphasise source-cultural perspectives, and constitute an active intervention in target-cultural debates about the status of Turkish and migrants of Turkish origin.

Yet another possibility is mentioned by Galbraith. Discussing Tom Leonard's own English translation of 'The Good Thief', which was published in an Austrian magazine along with German translations of other poems, he suggests that in its German-language context this is in fact 'a German text whose idiom is standard English', and that 'such German English versions [...], by seeking recourse to the very language a German reader would expect to be reading translations out of rather than into, are "foreignising", visible translations'. Galbraith's focus here is on self-translation into English from Scots, but the same argument can be applied to self-translation from Gaelic. While the use of English as a target language for a German-speaking audience may appear counter-intuitive, it has the advantage of making the translations visible as such; and the concomitant silencing of German might perhaps also be associated with the pressure towards Anglicisation (or Americanisation) that pervades many areas of German society. For at least some speakers of German, English might thus create a perspective on marginalisation which would link German to Gaelic. 'As vocabulary, syntax and cultural memory come under pressure from English, dominant languages are simply experiencing what minority languages have been experiencing for many centuries', notes Michael Cronin. (19)

Finally, the idea of representing Gaelic by any one language could be abandoned, as it has been in the case of Scots and English. While, as mentioned above, varieties of Scots in Beredter Norden are usually translated into a German, Austrian, or South Tyrolean dialect, there is no one-to-one mapping. For instance, Scots poems by Violet Jacob, Marion Angus, and Helen B. Cruickshank are translated into standard German by Ulrike Draesner (pp. 37-49); and Raoul Schrott translates one poem in standard English--Ian Hamilton Finlay's 'John Sharkey in Rousay'--into an Austrian dialect (p. 183). If this were a general strategy, for poems in Gaelic as well as Scots and English, then the resulting multilingualism would be oriented towards the anthology as a whole rather than towards individual source texts or languages. What such a strategy has in common with the others discussed here is that it will create a target-cultural perspective on multilingualism which will blend with, or superimpose itself on, the perspective(s) adopted by source-cultural readers.

The notion of culture has come up several times in my discussion of language --predictably, since language is part of culture. (20) In the following, I shall examine some aspects of culture which do not relate primarily to perspectives on language. Raoul Schrott's translations provide a good starting point. Irrespective of whether he translates into standard German or into a Tyrolean dialect, he sets the texts in Austrian geographical and cultural contexts, as with Don Paterson's '12:00: Dronley':
   August 20th, 1998, and when I say Dronley, I mean more specifically
   351/336 on OS Pathfinder map 338. Meet me in the deciduous part of
   the forest, but take the east approach, via Bridgefoot and
   Templelands. (p. 382)

   2oster august 1998, und wenn ich Eichholc schreibe, meine ich
   genauer gesagt D 14/15 auf der karte des Osterreichischen

   Alpenvereins Nr. 38. Treffen wir uns im sommergmnen teil des
   waldes, aber von westen her uber die Platte richtung Fliess, an der
   engstelle der Via Claudia, (p. 383)

This translation of cultural aspects might be seen as begging the question of what remains Scottish about Schrott's text. The question makes sense from the perspective of a definition of Scottish poetry that focusses on Scottishness as a concern with national identity. However, as a number of critics have pointed out, this is only one among many possible approaches to literature. (21) Schrott's translation focusses on other aspects, including, perhaps, the notion of physical, cultural, and psychological landscapes and the search for a fixed point to provide a sense of orientation. These aspects may not bear the hallmark of Scottishness, but then there is no reason why they should.

The context of Schrott's poem is explicitly Austrian. In other cases, such as Franz Josef Czemin's translation of Edwin Morgan's 'The Coin', cultural references are more ambiguous:
   The obverse showed us Scotland, and the head of a red deer; the
   antler-glint had fled (p. 158)

   die seite zeigte welches land? von welchem tier
   den kopf? ein schnabel, abgewetzt, hielt glanzlos dicht (p. 159)

When I first read this translation, I assumed that the unspecified heraldic bird which replaces Morgan's stag was the Austrian eagle. My assumption was mainly based on the fact that Czernin is Austrian; in other words, the perspective I took was biographical. I was later surprised to see that Galbraith regarded the same bird as 'the device of an "ill-starred" German "respublica"', (22) However, this interpretation makes sense as well, since Germany's coat of arms, like Austria's, displays an eagle. And while Czernin's specification that the coin is one Groschen seems to point towards Austria--this was the lowest Austrian denomination in the pre-euro period, and the obverse did show an eagle--the term Groschen can also be applied to a number of German coins (with different obverses). The text allows various, and multiple, perspectives. In fact, if we think of the golden eagle and the groat coin, Czernin's translation might even be seen as including Scotland as well as Austria and Germany.

A feature of translation is that perspectives may change even if translators do not actively change them. The place names in Sorley MacLean's 'Creagan Beaga' provide a good illustration:
   Tha mi dol troimh Chreagan Beaga
   anns an dorchadas liom fhin
   agus an rod air Camus Alba
   'na shian air a' mhol mhin. (p. 106)

   I am going through Creagan Beaga
   in the darkness alone
   and the surf on Camus Alba
   is a sough on smooth shingle. (23)

   Ich gehe durch Creagan Beaga
   in der Dunkelheit allein,
   und auf Camus Alba die Brandung
   ist Atem uber weichem Stein, (p. 107)

The Gaelic place names in the original form a seamless whole with the rest of the text. In MacLean's English translation, Scottish readers will presumably recognise them as belonging to Scottish culture, while readers from, say, South Africa, as well as German readers of Peter Waterhouse's version, are more likely to class them as foreign. As Galbraith reminds us in his introduction, names will change in translation even if the spelling remains the same, since both their pronunciation and their associations will be different in the target culture (p. 21). In other words, source and target readers will take different perspectives on the 'same' names. This also applies to target-cultural names--W. S. Graham's 'The Last Lesson', from 'Johann Joachim Quantz's Five Lessons' (pp. 128-29), is a case in point. Quantz was an eighteenth-century flutist and composer, and a flute teacher to Frederick II of Prussia. Not all readers of Bernhard Robben's translation will recognise the name, but even those who do not will associate it with the German-speaking area and (on the strength of Johann Joachim) with an earlier epoch.

Identifying textual elements as pertaining either to the source culture or to the target culture may appear an overgeneralisation, and from one point of view it is: while most German readers who have heard of Quantz will acknowledge him as part of the musical history of Germany, some may not agree that the court of Frederick II belongs to the same culture as their own twenty-first-century social environment. However, as Heidrun Witte points out, in delimiting cultural units it is important to take into account the level at which and the purpose for which we are analysing a cultural phenomenon. (24) Speculating about Scottish and German readers' linguistic and cultural associations with the name, Johann Joachim Quantz, an altogether different issue from asking about the relationship between eighteenth-century Prussia and contemporary Germany. Another caveat may be more pertinent: membership in either the source or target culture does not in itself determine whether readers will take an insider or an outsider perspective on the text. In the case of MacLean's 'Creagan Beaga', for example, some Scottish readers may decide that Gaelic place names are not a relevant part of the culture they would call their own, whereas some German Celtophiles may identify with them. The concept of insider and outsider perspectives therefore needs to be differentiated. More than one level of analysis must be considered here. Celtophilia is an attribute of individuals, but since our reception of a foreign culture is always to some extent shaped by our own culture, (25) the 'national' level plays a role as well. The insider perspective adopted by a German Celtophile will be distinct from that of a native of Raasay.

My final example of cultural issues is a rather ambiguous one, Ulrike Draesner's translation of Kathleen Jamie's 'The Queen of Sheba'. Jamie's poem revolves around the double function of the queen as a mythical or historical figure and as part of an English-language phrase: since Scotland has 'invoked her name / just once too often' (p. 366), she actually travels to Scotland; a crowd assembles to see her, and
   Sure enough: from the back of the crowd
   someone growls:
      whae do you think y'ur?

   and a thousand laughing girls and she
   draw our hot breath
      and shout:

   THE QUEEN OF SHEBA! (p. 372)

The editor provides notes on a small number of poems in Beredter Norden. In his introduction to the notes he points out that, while some names and concepts in the anthology may be unfamiliar to a German-speaking audience, the majority are easy to research if readers feel the need of an explanation (p. 415). He does not gloss 'The Queen of Sheba'; and it does seem reasonable to assume that most target-language readers will either know about the mythical figure or be able to find out the relevant facts. However, the phrase on which the poem is based does not exist in German. If the rhetorical question was glaubst du denn, wer du bist? ('who do you think you are?') comes with a suggested answer at all, the most common one will be der Kaiser von China ('the emperor of China'). This opens up a variety of possibilities for reading Draesner's translation.

Draesner follows the linguistic surface of the source text rather closely, from the opening 'Schottland, du hast ihren Namen / jetzt einmal zu oft angerufen' (p. 367) to the triumphant conclusion
   Tatsachlich: von hinten irgendwo aus der Menge
   schreit einer:
      wos moanst'n, wer'd bist?

   und tausend lachende Madchen und sie
   --heiss holen wir Atem
      und rufen:


Some target readers may be familiar with the English phrase, though it is unlikely to come up in English lessons at school. A few of those who do not recognise the phrase might perhaps extrapolate its meaning from the question wos moanst'n, wer'd bist?--but a non-representative survey of mine suggests that many will not, and that this will affect their understanding of the text. In order to conduct relevant research, they would have to be aware that they are reading a literal translation of an idiomatic phrase. Since this, again, is possible but not likely in the absence of obvious linguistic incoherence, many will face the challenge to actively construct a perspective from which to make sense of the poem.

One possibility would be to focus on the laughter and assume that the girls and the queen find it amusing to answer a metaphorical question literally. This might then be taken to indicate that (some) Scots have a sense of humour different from that of target readers. The poem's opening lines, in which Scotland is said to have invoked the queen's name too often, would fit in with the ending because both could in this interpretation be seen as describing behaviour that does not correspond to target-cultural conventions. Another possibility would involve focussing on the capitalisation of the final line: this might be taken as an indicator of the queen's importance to Scotland, which in turn would explain why Scots invoke her name.

I shall not elaborate on the variety of conceivable readings, and their closeness or otherwise to my own interpretation of the original. Nor am I concerned with whether the literal translation was a deliberate decision on Draesner's part or whether she simply failed to recognise the English phrase (either explanation could be true, but this is not relevant to how her text works). The point I want to make is that Draesner's translation, in contrast to the other examples discussed here, does not offer a perspective which could be called source-cultural and/or target-cultural. It will not give target readers an idea of how Jamie's poem could or would be read in Scotland, nor does it superimpose a German perspective on the Scottish one. What it does is establish the need for a perspective, and assign the task of achieving one to readers. But while creating a perspective is always an active and individual endeavour that involves readers as well as translators and (other) authors, in this case they may fail to find an aesthetically satisfying solution. This may result either in a 'visible' translation exemplifying the inaccessibility of the foreign text, or in an 'invisible' translation reflecting negatively on the original.

In conclusion, I shall return to MacDiarmid and use an extract from his Drunk Man, translated by Dieter M. Graf, to illustrate some of the perspectives taken and not taken in my exploration of perspective change. I hope that referring to another text example, rather than simply providing a traditional-style summary on a more abstract level, will help to make the issues discussed more immediately accessible.
   The thistle canna vanish quite.
   Inside a' licht its shape maun glint,
   A spirit wi' a skeleton in't. (p. 64)

   Die Distel kann nicht ganz verschwinne.
   Im Lichte drinne ihre Form musz glimme,
   1 Geist sein in ihm steckt: 1 Skelett. (26) (p. 65)

To return to the first element of perspectivity described at the outset of this essay, what are the phenomena that I have included in and excluded from my view? Most obviously, I have explored options for dealing with heteroglossia and multilingualism in translation as well as their implications for the target culture (in the case of the Drunk Man, Graf's use of elements from a German dialect that is not known for a tradition of 'serious' poetry), aspects of the source and target cultures pertinent to the texts (the thistle as a symbol of Scodand), and various notions of translation (from a reproductive to an interventionist function). Two examples of phenomena that I have not discussed for reasons of space are concepts of Scottish literature (27) (all of which would be reasonably sure to include MacDiarmid) and the literary dimension of the source and target texts (e.g. the Drunk Man as a major contribution to both Scottish and modernist literature).

As far as the second element of perspectivity, the viewer, is concerned, the perspective I have taken is mostly that of an academic with a background in both Scottish Literature and Translation Studies, but on occasion I have also reported my personal experience as a reader (which in the case of Graf's translation would include my familiarity with the Palatinate dialect). In addition, I have--from my own perspective--quoted the editor and other critics at some length, and have speculated on how the target audience might read the translated texts. In some instances, I have supplemented my speculation by discussions with potential readers. Viewers whose perspective I have not covered include the translators (for MacDiarmid, Graf's own reading of the text and aims in translating it) and the publisher (for whom this hefty and multilingual volume must have been a major venture).

Thirdly, numerous vantage points chosen by different viewers have played a role in my analysis. The overarching one has been my functional approach to translation, which can accommodate different translation strategies depending on the goal(s) pursued (e.g. Graf's rhymed dialect-cum-standard poem as part of Galbraith's heteroglossic strategy, but also a possible poem entirely in standard German emphasising the status of MacDiarmid's Scots as a language, or a heavily annotated prose version as an aid in reading the original). In this context, I have also drawn attention to the importance of the level at which we view a phenomenon (e.g. Graf's text as part of Beredter Norden or as part of world poetry translated into German). Individual vantage points have ranged from source-cultural to target-linguistic, from political to biographical ones. What has also emerged is the possibility of a lack of perspective, which challenges readers to create one (in the case of Graf's text, some readers may not be aware that the thistle is the national emblem of Scotland, and on a lower level, many may find it difficult to even parse the last line quoted above). Other vantage points that could have been explored are the situational one (how did the real-life situation in which Graf wrote his translation affect the text?) and the gender one (for instance, why have the majority of poets in Beredter Norden, including MacDiarmid, been matched with translators of the same sex?). One of the advantages of thinking about translation in terms of perspective change is that this concept serves as a constant reminder of the multiplicity of possible approaches.


(1) Beredter Norden: Schottische Eyrik seit 1900, ed. by Iain Galbraith, transl. by Richard Anders et al. (Berlin/Horby: Rugerup, 2011). Page references to this volume will appear in parentheses in the text.

(2) See Hans J. Vermeer, Grenzen ausloten: Terminologische Skizzen, Part 2 of Translationen: Grenzen abschreiten. Erweiterte vorldufige Vorlesungsmanuskripte (Germersheim: FTSK, 2008/ 2009), pp. 231-39 (online:, and Versuch einer Intertheorie der Translation (Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2006), pp. 416-28.

(3) Vermeer, Grenzen ausloten, pp. 232-33 (my translation).

(4) Vermeer, Grenzen ausloten, pp. 233-35.

(5) For a detailed examination of this aspect of perspectivity in translation, see Vermeer, Versuch einer Intertheorie, pp. 416-28.

(6) The extensive literature on multilingualism and literary translation mostly focusses on fiction, plays, films, and other multimedia genres. Poetry seems to have attracted less attention in this context, though as will be seen, Scottish poetry is a notable exception.

(7) See Translation and Literature, 9.2 (2000): Iain Galbraith, 'To Hear Ourselves as Others Hear Us: Towards an Anthology of Twentieth-Century Scottish Poetry in German', pp. 153-70; John Corbett, 'World Scots and the Global Culture', pp. 171-74; Roderick Watson, 'The Double Tongue', pp. 175-78; Christopher Whyte, 'Translation as Predicament', pp. 179-87; Paul Barnaby, 'Three into One: Twentieth-Century Scottish Verse in Translation Anthologies', pp. 188-99 (also available online: catalogues/boslit/3into1). All further references will appear in parentheses in the text. For the published anthology, see also J. Derrick McClure, 'Approaches to Translation in Iain Galbraith's Beredter Norden', in Scotland in Europe / Europe in Scotland: Links--Dialogues--Analogies, ed. by Aniela Korzeniowska and Izabela Szymanska (Warsaw: Semper, 2013), pp. 58-70, which was unfortunately not available to me at the time when I wrote this essay.

(8) For Taiwanese, see Manfred Malzahn with Joseph Yang, 'Strange Bedfellows: The Languages and Literatures of Scotland and Taiwan', in Terranglian Territories: Proceedings of the Seventh International Conference on the Literature of Region and Nation, ed. by Susanne Hagemann (Frankfurt am Main: Lang, 2000), pp. 57-64.

(9) The idea that the function of a translation is paramount in deciding what translation strategies to use comes from so-called skopos theory, a theory of translation developed by Hans J. Vermeer. Some papers by Vermeer in English can be found in his Ausgewahlte Vortrage zur Translation und anderen Themen: Selected Papers on Translation and Other Subjects, TransUD: Arbeiten zur Theorie und Praxis des Ubersetzens und Dolmetschens 13 (Berlin: Frank & Timme, 2007).

(10) For translations into Scots see e.g. John Corbett, Written in the Language of the Scottish Nation: A History of Literary Translation into Scots, Topics in Translation 14 (Clevedon etc.: Multilingual Matters, 1999); Frae Ither Tongues: Essays on Modern Translations into Scots, ed. by Bill Findlay, Topics in Translation 24 (Clevedon etc.: Multilingual Matters, 2004); and J. Derrick McClure, 'European Poetry in Scots', in Scotland in Europe, ed. by Tom Hubbard and R. D. S. Jack, Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature 7 (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2006), pp. 89-104.

(11) John Corbett, 'Now You See 'em: The Visibility of Scots Translators', Cadernos de Traduao, 1.4 (1999), 111-26 (p. 124) (also available online: index.php/traducao/article/view/5528/5022).

(12) Corbett, 'Now You See 'em', pp. 116 and 123. Corbett makes a very similar point in his response to Galbraith. See also Lawrence Venuti, The Translator's Invisibility: A History of Translation, 2nd ed. (London/New York: Routledge, 2008; first published in 1995), and The Scandals of Translation: Towards an Ethics of Difference (London/New York: Routledge, 1998), in particular Chapter 1.

(13) See Barnaby (p. 197) and Corinna Krause, 'Gaelic Poetry in Germany', in Scotland in Europe, ed. by Tom Hubbard and R. D. S. Jack, Scottish Cultural Review of Language and Literature 7 (Amsterdam/New York: Rodopi, 2006), pp. 15 3-68 (p. 154).

(14) Krause, p. 159.

(15) See Galbraith (pp. 160-63), Krause (pp. 154-64), and Whyte (pp. 181-84).

(16) Galbraith, Krause, and Whyte seem to agree by implication with Derrick McClure's dictum that '[a] poem in standard English, or Gaelic, can ceteris paribus be translated non-controversially into standard French or German.' A Gaelic poem can of course be so translated; but as I shall show, this decision may have a potential for controversy that McClure does not discuss. See J. Derrick McClure, 'Scottish Literature on the International Scene: Evidence from the National Library's Bibliography of Scottish Literature in Translation', journal of Multilingual and Multicultural Development, 32.4 (July 2011), 387-403 (p. 394).

(17) Even a synthetic variety of German such as Hahs's will probably be perceived as a dialect because there is no cultural context in which to identify it as a language.

(18) Iain Galbraith, 'Scottish Poetry in German: Paradox, Transaction, Context, Superstition', Scottish Studies Review, 9.1 (2008), 79-100 (p. 85).

(19) Michael Cronin, 'The Cracked Looking Glass of Servants: Translation and Minority Languages in a Global Age', The Translator: Studies in Intercultural Communication, 4.2 (1998), 145-62 (p. 151).

(20) See Vermeer, Versuch einer Intertheorie, p. 171 and passim.

(21) See e.g. Christopher Whyte, Modern Scottish Poetry (Edinburgh: EUP, 2004), in particular Chapters 1 and 2.

(22) Galbraith, 'Scottish Poetry in German', p. 83 (emphasis mine). Czernin's translation appears in Beredter Norden, but was first published in an earlier anthology, and it is to this that Galbraith refers in his 2008 piece. See Intime Weiten: XXV schottische Gedichte, ed. by Iain Galbraith, intro, by Ken Cockburn, transl. by Franz Josef Czernin et al., Transfer 70 (Vienna/Bolzano: Folio, 2006), p. 43.

(23) Somhairle MacGill-Eain / Sorley MacLean, Reothairt is Contraigh: Taghadh de Dhain 1932-72 / Spring Tide and Neap Tide: Selected Poems 1932-72, transl. by Sorley MacLean (Edinburgh: Canongate, 1977), p. 152.

(24) Heidrun Witte, Die Kulturkompetenz des Translators: Begriffliche Grundlegung und Didaktisierung, Studien zur Translation 9 (Tubingen: Stauffenburg, 2000), pp. 56-60.

(25) See Witte, pp. 77-78.

(26) In German, the numeral and the indefinite article are pronounced the same. The numeral is probably a formal device like the use of instead of and in some English-language poems.

(27) Galbraith discusses this point at some length in his introduction (pp. 7-15).

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Author:Hagemann, Susanne
Publication:Scottish Literary Review
Article Type:Essay
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Mar 22, 2014
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