Guest lecture: Changing a Translation Method and Erasing Translation Theory in Ukraine in the 1930s

Oleksandr Kalnychenko
(Translation Studies of Mykola Lukash Translation Studies Department at V. N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine)

17 April 2024 (Wednesday) at 15:00 CET
Institute of World Literature SAS + online

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Meeting ID: 899 5934 9119
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The lecture will reveal the mechanism of state interference in translation matters during the Stalinism period. In the late 1920s – early 1930s, a significant number of Ukrainian scholars and literati shifted their professional interests to the field of translation. Collectively, they elaborated philologically accurate translation method (oriented towards the text to be translated). This approach (homologous translation) was theorized by Volodymyr Derzhavyn, Hryhorii Maifet and Mykola Zerov. Parallel to this, an alternative approach to the method of translation was emerging in the predominantly Communist Party environment. It was focused not on the source text, but on the mass Soviet reader, and allowed for changes, omissions, and additions. Such an approach (analogous translation) was theoretically championed by Ivan Kulyk and Oleksandr Finkel.

The emergence of philologically accurate translation was abruptly terminated in the mid-1930s in the wake of changes in national policy in the USSR and the abandonment of indigenization. The regime openly interfered not only in the selection of works to be translated but also in the method of translation itself. Suspicion and hostility towards Ukrainian translation arises in official circles, culminating in pogrom publications in which translators are accused of “nationalistic sabotage ” in the mid-1930s.  The campaign triggered plentiful relay translations as well as retranslations and revisions of previously published translations to make them as close as possible to the Russian language lexical and grammatical patterns. The vocabularies of translations were called to be purged of “archaisms,” or words harkening back to national history, and “alien” elements such as the vocabulary of Polish and German origin, which was dubbed “fascist,” and the prohibited words and other elements were called to be replaced by “internationalist” ones (Russian-derived modern vocabulary and grammar constructions borrowed from Russian).

To illustrate the ideologizing of norms and the fact that translation method may be closely related to the political regime and ideology we are going to compare the translations published in 1929-30, in which the principle of stylization translation was implemented systematically, with the retranslations of 1935-1955.

Oleksandr Kalnychenko is Associate Professor in Translation Studies of Mykola Lukash Translation Studies Department at V.N. Karazin Kharkiv National University, Ukraine, and a research fellow at the Department of Slavic Languages, Matej Bel University, Banská Bystrica, Slovakia. He is an official coordinator and co-editor of the Ukrainian version of John Benjamins’ Handbook of Translation Studies (1-5 volumes) online and in print, the Editor-in-Chief of Protey and Novyi Protey translators’ miscellanies. He is the author of more than 130 article publications,  in particular, book chapters in Translating Russian Literature in the Global Context (2024) (co-authored with Lada Kolomiyets), Translation Studies in Ukraine as an Integral Part of the European Context (2023), Translation under Communism (co-authored with Lada Kolomiyets), (2022), Translation and Power (2020), as well as encyclopedic articles, in particular, “The first comprehensive treatments of translation in Eastern Europe(1950s–60s)” in The Routledge Handbook of the History of Translation Studies (co-authored with Lada Kolomiyets), 2024). and a dozen of manuals in English-Ukrainian technical, scientific, and medical translation and textbooks and anthologies in translation history. He has edited or co-edited the re-publication of the works of Oleksandr Finkel, Volodymyr Derzhavyn, Mykola Lukash, and Hrihorii Maifet, compiled an Anthology of Ukrainian Translation Thinking of the 1920s-early 1930s, and translated 32 books of fiction.