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National Identity in Translation

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Edited By Lucyna Harmon and Dorota Osuchowska

Language as an essential and constitutive part of national identity is what obviously gets lost in translation, being substituted by the language of another nation. For this reason, one could perceive national identity and translation as contradictory and proclaim a total untranslatability of the former. However, such a simplified conclusion would clearly deny the actual translation practice, where countless successful attempts to preserve the element of national identity can be testified. The authors of the book focus on the possibilities of various approaches to national identity as a research subject within Translation Studies. The authors hope that the variety of topics presented in this book will inspire further research.

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Translators as Shapers of National Identity and Its Disseminators

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Abstract: National identity is represented by distinctive traditions, memories, culture, language and other elements. National identities arise and are constructed in complex and paradoxical ways and normally include elements of contiguous national identities. Translations and translators have played an exceptionally important role in constructing Latvian identity, language, culture and nation. They have been central and most influential in the Latvian literary polysystem. Translations have most often constituted the majority of texts produced and available in Latvian. Translations have been deliberately used to enhance and spread the language. Translator visibility has been low for most of history, but some translators who have been instrumental to the development of Latvian identity are well-known for their contribution.

Keywords: Latvian, identity, translation, adaptation

1 Introduction

Though national identity is usually viewed in terms of awareness of difference or juxtaposition of “we” versus “they”, many aspects of national identities have arisen and developed in contact with other languages and cultures. There are complex cultural and linguistic transfer activities that helped shaping international and national cultures in Europe. Translation has often initiated national literary traditions and even nation-building (Chernetsky 2011: 34; Kumar 2013). The Latvian nation emerged late in the 19th century, the aim of national liberation was to develop its language and culture (Levits 2012: 73–74), accordingly elements necessary for nationhood had to be imported and adapted (e.g. song festivals from Germans). This was mostly done through the translation and dissemination of borrowed ideas. The Latvian...

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