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Poetry Translation, Nationalism and the Wars of the Yugoslav Transition

Lookup NU author(s): Professor Francis Jones


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This study analyzes a survey of published paper and web translations into English of Bosnian and Serbian poetry. The survey spans the years 1992-2008, when both source communities were involved, often on opposite sides, in the violent conflicts that accompanied the breakup of Yugoslavia and their uneasy aftermath. These conflicts were inspired or opposed by different public narratives of nationhood and state identity, narratives based primarily on cultural heritage. Statistical analysis fleshed out by qualitative exploration of cases shows that the teams responsible for producing and publishing poetry translations – including source poets, translators, editors, web-forum members and publishers – were closely involved in these ‘culture wars’. Because of poetry’s intimate link with cultural heritage, translation teams could promote to an international audience not only poems, but also the ideologies and narratives that fed the Yugoslav conflicts, try to defuse them, or look the other way. This study further demonstrates how promoting poetry into a globalized space largely follows source-community rather than target-community agendas, though the precise agendas depend on the political and spatial allegiances of team members.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Jones FR

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: Translator

Year: 2010

Volume: 16

Issue: 2

Pages: 223-253

Print publication date: 01/01/2010

Date deposited: 16/03/2011

ISSN (print): 1355-6509

ISSN (electronic): 1757-0409

Publisher: St. Jerome Publishing


Notes: In special issue "Translation and Violent Conflict", ed. Moira Inghilleri and Sue-Ann Harding. ISBN: 9781905763238