Tracking down Global Chaucers

by CANDACE BARRINGTON

We have now identified Chaucers in nearly 50 country/ languages combinations:

  • Belgium/Dutch
  • Belgium/Flemish
  • Belgium/French
  • Bolivia/Spanish
  • Brazil/Portuguese
  • Bulgaria/Bulgarian
  • China/Mandarin
  • Croatia/Crotian
  • Czech Republic-Czechoslovakia/Czech
  • Denmark/Danish
  • Egypt/Arabic
  • Esperanto
  • Estonia/Estonian
  • Finland/Finnish
  • France/French
  • Germany-GDR/German
  • Caribbean/Caribbean English
  • Greece/Greek
  • Hungary/Hungarian
  • Iceland/Icelandic
  • India/Tamil
  • India/Malayalam
  • India/Marathi
  • Iran/Farsi
  • Israel/Hebrew
  • Italy/Friulian
  • Italy/Italian
  • Japan/Japanese
  • Latin
  • Mongolia/Mongolian
  • Netherlands/Dutch
  • Nigeria/Pidgin English
  • Norway/Norwegian
  • Poland/Polish
  • Portugal/Portuguese
  • Romania/Romanian
  • Russian Federation-Soviet Union/Russian
  • Serbia/Serbian
  • South Korea/Korean
  • Spain/Catalan
  • Spain/Spanish
  • Sweden/Swedish
  • Switzerland/German
  • Taiwan/Chinese
  • Turkey/Turkish
  • United Arab Republic/Arabic
  • Wales/Welsh
  • Yugoslavia/Serbo-Croatian – Serbian

How have we identified these? A surprising number have come from other Chaucerians and translators who are excited by the Global Chaucers project. Nazmi Ağıl, Yoshiko Asaka, Zuleyha Cetiner-Oktem, Michael Hill, Alex Huang, Gregory Jember, Akiyuki Jimura, Maria Kaliambou, Yiorgos Kalogeras, Júlia Képes, Ebbe Klitgård, Alberto Lázaro Lafuente, Donghill Lee, Takami Matsuda, Noriko Matsui, Tim Miller,Oya Bayiltmis Ogutcu, Huriye Reis, Sif Rikhardsdottir Jonathan Stavsky, Michelle Warren, and Gyöngyi Werthmüller are among the many scholars who have provided us with invaluable lists and leads.

I was able to fill out that initial list with the aid of the Index Translationum . While at the NEH Institute, The Centrality of Translation to the Humanities, I was introduced to this fabulous index. The first volume dates from 1932, and with few exceptions it has appeared annually since then. The print collection at University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana begins with volume 1 and continues until 1978; after that the entries are digitized and available online. It was an invaluable resource for identifying Global Chaucer we did not already know about.

Chaucer first appears in the Index in a Swedish translation by Harald Jernstrom, #1316, immediately above Agatha Christie's two Swedish translations.
Chaucer first appears in the Index in a Swedish translation by Harald Jernstrom, #1316, immediately above  two Swedish translations of Agatha Christie novels.

Established by the League of Nations in 1932, the Index had a rather modest start, a marker of the status of translation at the time. Entries in the slender, early volumes suggest that translation was not a robust enterprise. French and English vie for dominance, with German seeming to suffer still from the disgrace of defeat and the economic indignities of the Weimar Republic. And few texts were translated into (much less out of) what we would now call minority languages, such as Chinese, Polish, Arabic, Czech. In the Index, Chaucer makes his first appear in 1938 with Harald Jernström’s

Swedish translation, Canterburysägner.

Mark the huge jump in translations indexed between the end of the old series and the beginning of the new series after World War 2.
The size of the volumes marks the huge jump in translations indexed between the end of the old series and the beginning of the new series after World War II.

After World War II, translation becomes an essential enterprise of the United Nations (which replaced the defunct League of Nations), and with the 1946 volume the Index is placed under the aegis of UNESCO and the numbering system begins anew. Quickly the number of translations as well as the number of languages involved in translation expands. The print volumes stop in 1978 when the Index was computerized. Although researchers must still return to the printed indices for pre-1979 records, all computerized records (that is, from 1979 to the present) are available on a fully searchable online database.

The print volumes stop in 1978 when the Index was computerized. Although researchers must still return to the printed indices for pre-1979 records, all computerized records (that is, from 1979 to the present) are available on a fully searchable online database.

Because I first discovered this index via a link at the University of Illinois Library, I was surprised to learn that it is available at no charge to the general public through the UNESCO portal. Researchers interested in the reception of other authors and texts will find this database a valuable resource.

And Chaucerian translations remain scant until after World War II when, along with translation in general, they take off. From 1943 until the present, there are only a few scattered years when there is no non-Anglophone translation of Chaucer.

In addition to uncovering some unexpected translations—I’m absolutely fascinated by the 2006 Mongolian translation, and I’m eager to learn more about it and its translator—I noticed several unexpected patterns that merit investigation. For instance, Chaucer’s tales are steadily published in new editions and combinations of tales in the German Democratic Republic (East Germany). If book publication was as closely regulated as I’ve always imagined, then what could have been the interest in keeping Martin Lehnert’s translation of Canterbury-Erzählungen on bookseller and library shelves? Equally tantalizing are Boris Hlebec’s translation into Serbian, Kanterberijske priče, reissued in 2004 and Luko Paljetak’s translation into Croat, Canterburyjske priče, which also appears in 2004 but as a first edition.

If you have ideas about ways to study these Global Chaucers, please let us know. The Global Chaucers project will be sponsoring some collections of essays, short and long. Stay tuned for more details, and let us know if you’re interested in participating!

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