Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Notes on Translating the Revolutionary Rhetoric

In this blog I have complained before about the difficulty of translating President Maduro’s discourse, without having him sound like a North Korea news agency press release. Here are some criteria I try to stick with in my translations.

The official government rhetoric, including public media, increasingly uses general, all embracing, categories to refer both to followers and enemies. Terms such as “El Pueblo,” “Burguesía parasitaria,” or “Derecha fascista,” call for pretty straight forward translations and are not much of a problem. There is no point in trying to sweeten these terms, they are simply dehumanizing rhetorical strategies that construct social types of differentiated good “us” against the evil “them”.

The term “apátrida,” roughly meaning “without a fatherland” is more problematic. It was used often by Chávez, and now by Maduro, to refer to the alleged lack of loyalty of the Venezuelan opposition. An apátrida is an un-Venezuelan, local ally of foreign powers, and a traitor. Apátrida, as used in Venezuela, has much more negative connotations than simply being a stateless person. In this blog I leave it untranslated.

Patria in itself is also a difficult term. Etymologically it is closer to “fatherland” in English, but fatherland is not often used in English and it further seems to have a militaristic authoritarian ring to it, so translators often prefer the more neutral “homeland” (although “homeland security” also has a militaristic sound), or “country”. I use “fatherland” because I try to be honest with the speaker: with patria Maduro wants to imply things like Bolivar, the Independence War, the military glories of the Venezuelan army, etc., when he says patria; he is not thinking of something neutral, such as el país.

The translator of the Agencia Venezolana de Noticias seems to be struggling with some of these same issues. In yesterday’s AVN’s note in English, “Homeland” and “Fatherland” are interchangeably used for “Patria.”

Chavismo, basic force to lead the 21st century homeland
Caracas, 12 Nov. AVN.- Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro reaffirmed Tuesday that Chavismo will be the fundamental force that will continue guaranteeing sovereignty and independence during the 21st century.
"Chavismo will be the fundamental force to lead the homeland throughout the 21st century," Maduro said at international workshop Orinoco Oil Belt, carried out in Caracas.
Venezuela has undergone a huge transformation during the last 20 years, Maduro said. Besides, he recalled that at the end of the 2oth century Venezuela found its way: the Bolivarian Revolution, headed by Commander Hugo Chavez.
"The end of the 20th century marked the generation of men and women who are heading the fatherland... Venezuela was looking for a way and found its way, the path of making a revolution," Maduro added.
The Venezuelan President said the statements during the workshop that is attended by 18 international companies that are working with this country in the Orinoco Oil Belt.
In the event, President Maduro called on foreign companies to work in the country "with the possibility that these investments favor Venezuela's development and profits according to the law."

 AVN 12/11/2013 14:14

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