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Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics

 

The Phoebe Taylor Prize – June 2022

This year, the newly-introduced Phoebe Taylor prize for outstanding work in Spanish Translation was awarded to Ruby Morris of Queens’ College for her translation project on an early collection of stories, El trueno entre las hojas, by the Paraguayan author Augusto Roa Bastos. 

Like Phoebe’s own project on the poetry of Mario Benedetti, Ruby’s translation project returns to a very fertile period in Latin American writing in which experiments in representation were closely tied to popular resistances to military dictatorship. It opens with a detailed introduction to Roa Bastos’ oeuvre, which Ruby situates between the narrativa de la tierra, Latin American indigenismo and later experiments in writing by the authors of the “Boom”. Ruby then identifies significant commonalities with the early works of Cuban author, Alejo Carpentier, and with the works of Mexican author, Juan Rulfo, in particular, underscoring how all three interface myth and history, realist and popular-oral forms. Ruby then discusses one of the most significant challenges of translating Roa Bastos’ collection: how to recreate Roa Bastos’ own balancing of Guaraní and Jopara elements – which serve as indices of local forms of resistance to the “translation” of the landscape into resource and capital – with more standard Spanish elements, and with realist form.  

Resisting the urge to leave the former elements untranslated, Ruby makes impressive reference Roa Bastos’ broader critique of ethnography, particularly in his magnum opus, Yo, el Supremo. She offers excellent solutions here aimed at maintaining El trueno entre la hoja’s oral-aural qualities too, along with its mimicry of musical rhythms (the polka in particular), and blending of different sociolects. If this accomplished introduction shows demonstrable engagement with the technicalities of translation, the translation is itself fluent, and could, with little tweaking, form the basis of a published translation of this as yet untranslated work. 

We are immensely grateful to Phoebe’s family for supporting the department’s students, and for helping us honour the work of brilliant young scholars like Phoebe and Ruby, who use the Translation Project as a way of putting their language skills and finely-tuned literary sensibilities to highly creative ends. 

Rory O’Bryen 
(UTEO in Spanish and Portuguese)
01-07-2022