“The babbelers with their thangas vain have been” (FW 1.1.15): Translating Joyce’s multilingualism

Lecture by Erika Mihálycsa (Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj)

Erika Mihálycsa

The presentation will discuss specific problems related to the translation of multilingualism and heteroglossia in Joyce’s Ulysses, a text which forces the reader to reconceptualize language and the “literary”. Joyce’s modernist experiment, which forces the boundaries of English and is aligned with a transnational language poetics and politics, faces translation with well-nigh insurmountable difficulties and sets it the task of recreating, in the target language, defamiliarizing and foreignizing effects similar to those elicited by the original. Through a series of case studies of successive translations into Italian, German, Romanian and Hungarian I will gloss the specific difficulties of translating the intertextual and interlingual tapestry of Joyce’s text. Special emphasis will be placed on the work of the translator of the 1974 Hungarian version of Ulysses, Miklós Szentkuthy, on his creative use of multi/interlingual wordplay and portmanteaux in translating Joycean cruxes; this baroque translation, like Szentkuthy’s own modernist metafictional oeuvre, is intrinsically related to a (by now submerged) culture of Central European multilingualism. In discussing specific textual examples I will also gloss some of the strategies adopted by recent, scholarly retranslations/revisions of Ulyssesto render the text’s polyphony and restore its wealth of (multi)linguistic and cultural allusions. 


Erika Mihálycsa is a lecturer in 20thand 21th century British and Irish literature at Babeș-Bolyai University, Cluj, Romania. Her domains of research include Joyce and Beckett studies, literary theory, Modernism studies, translation studies. She has published mainly on Joyce’s and Beckett’s language poetics, Joyce in translation, Beckett and the visual arts; her articles and reviews have come out to date in Word and ImageEuropean Joyce StudiesJoyce Studies AnnualTextual PracticeItalian Joyce Studiesand elsewhere. At present she is editing, together with Jolanta Wawrzycka, a volume dedicated to retranslating Joyce in, and for, the 21stcentury (forthcoming 2019). Mihálycsa translates between Hungarian, Romanian and English; she has translated works by Flann O’Brien, Beckett, Patrick McCabe, Anne Carson, Julian Barnes and others into Hungarian; her translations of contemporary Hungarian prose and poetry have come out to date in World Literature TodayAsymptoteWords Without BordersTwo LinesMusic and LiteratureEnvoi,The Collagistamong others. Together with Rainer J. Hanshe she edits Hyperion, a biannual arts and literary journal dedicated tointernational Modernism and contemporary experimental writing, visual arts and philosophy, issued by Contra Mundum Press (New York, http://contramundum.net).

Tags: Joyce, Translation, Multilingualism, Heteroglossia, Ulysses in Hungarian, Romanian, Italian, and German
Published Nov. 12, 2018 9:02 PM - Last modified Nov. 12, 2018 9:02 PM