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Travel and Translation in the Early Modern Period.

Travel and Translation in the Early Modern Period. Ed. by Carmine G. Di Biase. Amsterdam: Rodopi, 2006. Pp. 290.

This stimulating collection of new essays is dedicated to Luigi Monga, the man responsible for coining the term "hodeoporics" to describe travel literature. The breadth of subjects covered here, with a geographical reach extending beyond Europe to embrace the New World, a chronological span covering at least two centuries, and a host of obscure dignitaries such as Konrad Grunemberg and Leo Africanus, alongside betterknown figures such as Erasmus, Luther and Milton, forms a suitable tribute to both the dedicatee and his interests.

The aim of the volume, according to editor Carmine Di Biase, is to shed further light on "what exactly is the relationship between travel and translation" (9). To judge from the contributions, this relationship mostly falls into one of two categories: analogy, i.e., ways in which translation and travel resemble each other; and causality, i.e., ways in which travel may give rise to translation. With regard to the former, several contributors note the way in which travel invariably involves some form of translation, while translation itself is often figured in spatial terms, e.g., traveling towards a foreign language and bringing home the translated text as reward. Anthony M. Cinquemani, in his essay on Milton and Petrarch, goes further in listing a series of equivalences between traveler and translator: both perceive and create meaning, bring to bear preconceived ideas on the object of their attentions, and are themselves modified by it. With respect to the latter, causal category of relationship, Erika Rummel, in her discussion of Erasmus, points out that travel can provide the translator with access to local resources and partnerships, which often encourage the production of new translations. The need of the traveler to "put food on the table," as the publisher's blurb on the back cover of the volume puts it, is also a material cause of translation by travelers; here again Erasmus provides a suitable example, since, according to Rummel, he "used translations like American Express checks, to be cashed in whenever there was a need or an opportunity" (51).

Such observations would apply to the relationship between travel and translation in any era of history, and the subject has been studied in depth from a more synchronic viewpoint by Michael Cronin and Loredana Polezzi in recent years, as well as by anthropologist James Clifford. What this collection offers that is new in this regard, in line with Monga's own interests, is its temporal terms of reference, which add a dimension to the debate hitherto found perhaps only in the work of Mirella Agorni.

Such historicization raises a host of diachronic issues. To return to Erasmus, for example, the translations he produced as a result of contact with new resources encountered while in England were from Greek into Latin, and hence linguistically had little to do with the country to which he traveled. The diminishing importance of Latin and concomitant rise of the vernacular, in fact, form the unifying themes of the first four essays in the collection, and are ascribed by Khoury to the incipient emancipation from the Catholic Church, which tapped into a rise in nationalist fervor that in turn increased the demand for translation (99-100). The remuneration of travel-inspired translation also reflects significant developments over the course of the period. Erasmus's translations, for instance, accrued income for him as a result primarily of patronage, unlike the much more commercially aware position of sixteenth-century translator/traveler and trader John Frampton, who, according to Beecher, engaged in translation for any of three different reasons: to promote English trade endeavor; as an act of industrial espionage against the Spanish; or to tap into the burgeoning book trade at home.

Several contributors note the translators' and travel writers' problematic relationship with the truth; here too the analysis throws up significant diachronic issues. Hosington, for example, notes how "both traveler and translator may feel constraints to 'tell the truth', the former by recounting accurately what he or she has seen and experienced, the latter by searching out the greatest possible equivalences" (148), and shows how William Barker bucks this trend by introducing original, fictitious elements to his translation of Domenichi's La nobilta delle donne. Developments such as these are linked astutely by Aercke to early theories of the novel, and the relationship between the two disciplines and more obviously creative forms of writing is explored in the final section entitled "Towards Art and Parody."

Such insights constitute the volume's main claim to originality, and more in-depth discussion of them would have been desirable, although the contributory and exploratory nature of the volume clearly made this aspect impractical. Nonetheless, more focused definition of the two key terms, in particular translation, would have been helpful. For instance, for the purposes of this volume, translation appears to comprise activities ranging from lexicography to intertextuality and plagiarism. Di Biase, in the most theoretically sophisticated contribution to the volume, links translation to the condition of exile in applying Said's theories to the life and works of the Florios; however, the "essential link" he posits is established only by narrowing the scope of "travel," and simultaneously broadening the definition of "translation" to include broadly cultural as well as linguistic activity. Khoury goes as far as to say that "there is only translation" (91), while Zhiri's essay on Leo Africanus forms perhaps the most cogently argued challenge to the limits of translation as such. Such strategies are of course justified in the light of recent developments in translation studies, but a general introduction addressing such issues, with Di Biase's essay used instead as a conclusion, might have improved the balance of the volume, which at times lacks in depth what it offers in breadth. More rigorous proof-reading would also have helped. An interesting introduction to a new field of study, then, which leaves considerable scope for more rigorous, monographic analysis in the future.

David Gibbons, Milan, Italy
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Author:Gibbons, David
Publication:Annali d'Italianistica
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jan 1, 2006
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