Cliché and Ketman: Post-Truth and Delicate Translation

Library Meeting Room aka Pillow Room

Open to the public

/ Thursday


As internationalism fades and world leaders praise the "principle of sovereignty," the media that convey international communication consolidate the algorithms that give them their forms. Though violently conflicting ideologies in this environment should yield violently differing forms of expression, technology congeals the languages of actual enemies into virtual twins. This, as always, is very evident in the politics and practice of translation. Google Translate and its kin force language into set forms, and subtleties meant to convey authorial complicity get spiced and diced into many different packages. Underneath lies the fact that when all communication is publication, authors of all types frequently must protect themselves with the sheen of false complicity—"ketman" in Czesław Miłosz's famous Cold War essay.

This seminar will present how delicate translation is transforming communication and communicators. Taking in 20th century translation culture, we will look at concrete examples in Russian, English and other languages that show how this new discourse serves to undermine even postmodern theories of translation.

Walker Trimble ’97 is a senior lecturer at St. Petersburg State University, Russia.