Retranslating Ireland: orality and authenticity in French and German translations of Blasket Island autobiography

Carol O'Sullivan

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


This essay considers the treatment of elements of oral literature in translations of two well-known Irish autobiographies, Tomas O Criomhthain's An t-Oileanach (The Islandman), first published in Irish in 1929, and Muiris O Suilleabhain's Fiche Blian ag Fas (Twenty Years a-Growing) first published in 1933. Both texts are heavily marked by the oral tradition of Irish narrative, as storytelling was the principal means of literary transmission on the Blasket Islands. The German translation of The Islandman by Heinrich and Annemarie Boll and the French translation of Twenty Years a-Growing by Raymond Queneau were both carried out from the Englsih translations. This essay considers how this double translation impacts on the oral features of the texts, concluding that there is a marked parallelism in the treatment of orality in the texts in that the English translations of the books, by Robin Flower (The Islandman) and George Thomson and Moya Llewellyn Davies (Twenty Years a-Growing) show a much greater sensitivity to the oral features of the texts, which manifests itself in a more radical deformation of the conventions of written English, than do either the French and German translators. The essay goes on to consider how the different stages of translation of these texts are coloured by notions of authenticity and how these perceptions of authenticity shape the visual presentation of the texts.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslating others. Vol. 2
EditorsT. Hermans
Place of PublicationManchester
PublisherSt. Jerome Publishing
Number of pages12
ISBN (Print)1900650851
Publication statusPublished - 2006


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