Alison E. Martin and Susan Pickford, eds., Travel Narratives in Translation, 1750-1830: Nationalism, Ideology, Gender. Abingdon and New York: Routledge, 2012. Pp. 232. £85. ISBN 9780415539944.

Alison E. Martin and Susan Pickford's edited collection Travel Narratives in Translation, 1750-1830: Nationalism, Ideology, Gender is a timely and important contribution to the continued growth of Translation Studies and catches the zeitgeist currently emerging in the field of Romantic-period studies concerning the significance of translation as the means of inter-cultural, literary and socio-political exchange. The work covers the period 1750-1830 as it 'was one of the most sustained and intense periods of cultural transfer through travel writing in translation' (7), with travel writing one of the most widely read genres of the time.

Metaphorical associations between notions of travel and translation are readily constructed. It seems the most obvious analogy to be made when thinking about translation is that of a journey between source and target texts and, by extension, source and target cultures. As Martin and Pickford point out, the history of translation studies is replete with associative investigations based largely in conceptions of translation as travel, either physically or metaphysically. However, the editors firmly define their terms, framing the collection against such travel/journey paradigms and arguing that the development of understanding 'translation and travel in purely metaphorical terms' is what their study seeks to counter (2). Consistent with pre-eminent translation scholar Susan Bassnett's championing of specificity, the editors have constructed a collection of examinations of '"actual practices" and protagonists at work in translating travel literature' (2), their stated aim being to explore 'how travel writing was translated across the best part of a century, by ranging across major European Languages' (mainly French, German and Spanish) (7).

Organised into three sections, 'Translation, Identity, and Ideology'; 'Extra-European Travel Writing and Translation'; and 'Women and Translation', the chapters explore particular instances of travel writing in translation. The first section examines the ways in which non-fictional travel writing affected the consciousness of national identity in Europe. These include Clorinda Donato's account of the work of Marc-Antoine Eidous, a contributor to the force of French cultural hegemony in the early part of the eighteenth century; a chapter by Jeff Morrison showing how German writers had begun to undermine this hegemony through translation and importation of the foreign through classical models; Anthony Ozturk's analysis of Carbonnières rendering of Williams Coxe's 1779 travel book on the state and politics of Switzerland, showing how translation can be used to interrogate the source text in ways which promote the translator's visibility; and the section's final chapter by Immaculada Tamarit Vallés: an account of the ways in which liberal adaptation and creativity can be applied by the translator according to perceived reception, in this case the ways in which the Spanish readership of the translation of Alexandre de Laborde's travel writing on Spain (from the French source text) influenced translatorial choices as to portrayals of national identity.

Beginning with Vladimir Kapor's fascinating account of Johann Reinhold Forster's 1772 translation of Bourgainville's Voyage autour du monde (1771), showing the translator's agency in the creation or recreation of the public image of the originating author, the book's second section addresses representation and sometimes misrepresentation of source subject and source text according to the translator's politico-literary purpose, disclosed or otherwise. Carl Niekerk's chapter continues with the Voyage round the World, as translated by another Forster, Georg. The piece is complimented, in its attention to the representation of the exotic other, by the section's concluding chapter on Freidrich Ludwig Langstedt's travel writing on India, in which Chen Tzoref-Ashkenazi shows a complex network of British and German ideological influence at work.

The book's final section covers an area currently the focus of increased critical attention, particularly in Romantic studies, that of the role of women writers, translators and translated, in the long eighteenth century. Susan Pickford's chapter on Anne Plumptre's 1813 translation of François Pouqueville's Voyage en Morée, à Constantinople, en Albanie et dans plusieurs autres parties de l'empire othoman (1805) succeeds in drawing out some of the concerns currently under scrutiny in relation to the work of women translators, sometimes regarded as mere automatons, undertaking the mechanical transcription of a creative male originating authorship. Pickford offers, not only a further name with which to populate the growing canon of women contributors to Romantic-period translation, but also a study of the ways in which translation could be used as a means to inscribe a creative authorial voice, thereby mediating cross-culturally and intra-culturally.

There is, as Martin and Pickford suggest, much work to be done and the scope of this collection is concentrated within Western Europe, offering perhaps a too-limited geo-political field from which to draw conclusions as to translation on a wider scale. However, the depth of analysis and the complementary thematic structure which frames the collection combine to provide an exemplary contribution to the translation groundswell and to the growing awareness of the complexities of the process, offering useful stimulus for further research. Research in which, given the current interest in Romantic translation, scholars of travel writing, translation, Romanticism, and other areas may continue to cross paths, proving the mediatory aspect of translation as a concept in itself.

Paul Hague, University of Wolverhampton

Refbacks

  • There are currently no refbacks.