Thursday, February 21, 2013

Rosalía Translators – Interview with Anna-Marie Aldaz

This year marks the 150th anniversary of the publication in Vigo of Rosalía de Castro’s Galician Songs, the cornerstone of modern Galician literature and recently published in English for the first time in Erín Moure’s translation by Small Stations Press and Xunta de Galicia.

To celebrate this fact, we have conducted interviews with the editors/translators of the three anthologies of Rosalía’s Galician and Spanish poetry available in English. These are Poems (1991), edited and translated by Anna-Marie Aldaz, Barbara N. Gantt and Anne C. Bromley; Selected Poems (2007), edited and translated by Michael Smith; and The Poetry and Prose of Rosalía de Castro (2010), edited and translated by John P. Dever and Aileen Dever. A fourth anthology, now only available second-hand, is Poems of Rosalía de Castro (1964), edited by Xosé Filgueira Valverde and translated by Charles David Ley.

We start with Anna-Marie Aldaz, who kindly agreed to answer the following questions:

What made you want to translate work by Rosalía de Castro?
While attending an American Literary Translators Association (ALTA) conference, my friend and colleague Barbara Gantt and I came across an announcement by the State University of New York (SUNY) asking for submissions for its series Women Writers in Translation. After some discussion, we decided that Rosalía de Castro would be an excellent candidate because we felt that she was too little known in the English-speaking world.

How difficult was it to find a publisher? Who made the initial contact, you or the publisher?
We submitted our proposal to SUNY, where it was met with great interest by the series editor. Even so, it took time and effort to clear the path to acceptance.

There were three of you translating this book. How did you share the workload?
After selecting the poems we wanted to translate, Barbara and I divided the task. We met frequently to read each other’s translations and revise them. When we were finally satisfied with our versions, we asked another friend, the poet Anne Bromley, to read and critique them. After a discussion of her suggestions, we came up with what would be the final version.

Which edition of Rosalía de Castro’s texts did you use?
The edition we used – Rosalía de Castro, Obras completas. 7th ed. (Madrid: Aguilar, 1982) – was the latest one available at the time we worked on the poems (the late 1980s). It includes the original selections by Victoriano García Martí and additional ones by Arturo del Hoyo.

What were the main criteria you used in your selection?
Since our main aim was to make Rosalía better known in the English-speaking world, we chose relatively short, mostly lyrical poems from her three major books (Cantares gallegos, Follas novas and En las orillas del Sar), hoping this sampler would illustrate her innovative style, pervasive moods and recurrent themes.

Was there a difference between translating texts from Galician and Spanish?
The Galician texts were at times linguistically more challenging, but we felt that many of the poems Rosalía wrote in her native language best captured her most intimate thoughts and deeply felt emotions.

Did you receive any input from the publisher – did they comment on the translation or did they limit themselves to publishing the book?
We did not receive any comments on the translation. However, since our book was part of a series, there were definite guidelines regarding the format. This meant that, much to our chagrin, our book could not be a bilingual edition.

What kind of reception has the book received? How well has it been distributed?
Though overall favorable, the initial critical reception was fairly low-key, but some recent studies have seen our book as groundbreaking. Around 250 libraries hold a copy and, given that SUNY had the foresight of digitalizing our book soon after its publication in 1991, the book can also be accessed online from over 500 libraries worldwide.

What place do you think Rosalía de Castro occupies in world literature today?
It is gratifying to see that Rosalía’s stature has continued to increase steadily over the years and that she is now rightfully recognized as one of the outstanding figures in world literature.

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