CFP: Translating the Holocaust

Conference dates: June 15-16, 2013 at Trinity College Dublin

CFP: TRANSLATING THE HOLOCAUST Papers on a variety of questions and topics relating to the challenges of translating literature about the Holocaust from one language into another are invited for a two-day conference on “Translating Holocaust Literature” planned for 15-16 June 2013 at the Trinity Long Room Hub, Trinity College Dublin.

Topics may include but are not limited to the following: Comparative literature approaches; Translating Holocaust literature and cultural theory; Interdisciplinary approaches; Un/translatability; Translation Theory and Holocaust literature; Translating Holocaust literature into German; Translating Paul Celan, W.G. Sebald, etc.; Poetic licence of the translator; Translating poetry about the Holocaust; Self-Translation of Holocaust Literature; Legal issues. Send all proposals and inquiries to


La nostra lingua manca di parole per esprimere questa offesa, la demolizione di un uomo – Our language lacks words to express this offense, the demolition of a man. (Primo Levi, If this is a Man)

If any language lacks the words to express the experience of the concentration camps, how can the unspeakable ever be represented? How can it be translated into another language? Martin Heidegger’s discussion in his Parmenides lectures from 1942/43 of translation as an act of Übersetzen implies crossing the river in the field of lethe, of concealment and forgetting, to the other side, an area where the truth may emerge from concealment and forgetting. Yet in Primo Levi’s memoir the act of translating in the sense of re-presenting the experience of the Lager to relatives and friends back home in the unlikely case of survival becomes a collective nightmare. It reflects one of the worst fears for life after the Lager, that of a prolonged isolation with his memories, an apt image ultimately for the impossibility of translation. Levi’s translating the camp experience to himself as a surviving witness is an act filled with a similar tension to that contained in the after-life of an original text in its translation in a different language. If translation as representation cannot do justice to the original experience how can the translation of a Holocaust text into another language ever do justice to its original? As challenging as the translation of Holocaust literature into other languages may be, it can be facilitated by an acute awareness of debates and cultural theories surrounding genocide. Ultimately, such translation into other languages may be able to reveal dimensions of the original that would remain dormant, buried, if the original were not translated.

Dr. Peter Arnds
Director, Literary Translation Programme and
Comparative Literature Programme
5065 Art Building
Dublin 2, Ireland

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