Translation Theory Lab

Translation Theory Lab Frei zur kommerziellen Nutzung.

False Friends/Falsche Freunde: Uljana Wolf

The Translation Theory Lab is free and open to all translators, near and far, working in any language pair, who have an interest in the background questions, the theory and ethics of translation. The Translation Theory Lab is an online-meeting via Zoom from 6.30pm to 8pm, organised by the Goethe-Institut in Glasgow.

For this Translation Theory Lab season, we are going all the way back to the beginning and are asking the primordial question with which translators, translation theorists and philosophers have to grapple: What is translation?

“in the beginning, though, or at the start, what art, what sort of sound, of silence: listen, when they begin the beguine, when’s that?”

… begins Uljana Wolf’s False Friends, in Susan Bernofsky’s translation from German. And as well as pondering the beginnings of translation, it makes us question where we situate boundaries: boundaries between original text and translation, boundaries between author and translator, boundaries between one language and another. Can these “false friends” ever be more than friends, or do they sometimes even become enemies?

This season, we are inviting you to get philosophical and discuss the poetics of translation through texts by German poet, translator and essayist Uljana Wolf, who will be joining us for the second session in the series.

We’ll be reading her chapbook Falsche Freunde, in Susan Bernofsky’s English translation False Friends (Ugly Duckling Press, 2011) (out of print, but available to read in full in both English and German online), an alphabetical “DICHTionary” (from German for poetry, “Dichtung”) of prose poems on false friends in English and German. From the publisher’s website: “At any given moment, each of these words might be used with German in mind, or English, or both. Other times these “friends” do not appear explicitly in their poems but instead remain standing behind them with suitcases full of etymology and misread linguistic maps. In the encounters between these words, mistranslation or misunderstanding is perceived as a program to generate poetry, a space of constant transfers and a playful plea for the irritations of translation in a world more and more defined by a globalized language and culture.”

The core reading will be supplemented by a selection of Wolf’s (prose) poetry, alongside essays on translation practice and resettling in another language, by German-to-English translator Susan Bernofsky and German-Japanese author Yoko Tawada.

You can register your interest free of charge on Eventbrite (you will find a direct link on the relevant event page below) or join our Facebook group. The events are free to attend.

You might also be interested in our Translators’ Stammtisch which focuses on practical translation questions and discusses participating translators’ translation projects-in-progress.