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Literary and Cultural Relations

Ireland, Hungary and Central and Eastern Europe

Series:

Edited By Maria Kurdi

The lively, informative and incisive collection of essays sheds fascinating new light on the literary interrelations between Ireland, Hungary, Poland, Romania, and the Czech Republic. It charts a hitherto under-explored history of the reception of modern Irish culture in Central and Eastern Europe and also investigates how key authors have been translated, performed, and adapted. The work of Jonathan Swift, John Millington Synge, Flann O'Brien, Samuel Beckett, Brian Friel, Seamus Heaney, Derek Mahon and Martin McDonagh, it is indicated, has particularly inspired writers, directors, and translators. The searching analyses presented here illuminatingly reflect on the far-reaching political and social import of multicultural exchange. It is shown to be a process that is at best mutually defining and that raises questions about received forms of identity, the semiotics of genre and the possibilities and limits of linguistic translation. In addition, the histories compiled here of critical commentary on Irish literature in Hungary or of the staging of contemporary Irish plays in Hungary and in the Czech Republic, for example, uncover the haphazardness of intercultural exchange and the extent to which it is vulnerable to political ideology, social fashion, and the vagaries of state funding. The revealing explorations undertaken in this volume of a wide array of Irish dramatic and literary texts, ranging from Gulliver's Travels to Translations and The Pillowman, tease out the subtly altered nuances that they acquire in a Central European context. By the same token, it is demonstrated that Ireland has been changed by the recent migration of workers from Eastern Europe and that consequently projections of the figure of the emigrant or asylum seeker in current drama warrant scrutiny. This original and combative collection demonstrates, not only that literary exchange between Hungary, Poland, Romania, the Czech Republic, and Ireland has been prolonged, multifaceted and, above all, enriching, but also that it exposes blind-spots, and forces confrontation with issues of racism, failure of empathy and cultural misprision.

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12 | The Uses of a Disused Shed: Mahon’s Poem in Hungarian

12 |   The Uses of a Disused Shed: Mahon’s Poem in Hungarian

Extract

István D. Rácz

Discussing literary translation: from target to source

Contemporary Irish poetry can be assimilated into Hungarian culture only if good translations are available for a wide reading public. Although more and more Hungarians speak and read some English today, very few of them have the command that would enable them to read and enjoy poetry written in English. But even for those Hungarians who read English texts (both literary and non-literary) on a regular basis, good translations of poems can carry real aesthetic pleasure. My memory has inevitably preserved the Hungarian translations of a number of poems that I first read in my mother tongue, and I cannot help treating them as primary texts in my private intellectual history. Of course, one recalls Roman Jakobson’s warning that poetry is untranslatable by definition, but also his remark that the recreation of a poem in another language is certainly possible.1

This raises the question of whether the translated poem belongs to the author of the original text or to the translator. Instead of entering the debate about the death of the author, I wish to suggest that a translated poem can be read in the contexts of two life works: the poet’s and the translator’s. If the translator is a poet in her/his own right (which is almost always the case), the two ←217 | 218→contexts will form a meaningful tension, since every life work in poetry (viewed as an organic whole,...

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