For the Western academic, translation seems to be almost always about losing or diluting the ‘essence’ that the original work had. With the postcolonial school thought gaining momentum in translation studies, such a misconception is often questioned. With his translation of Lorca’s The House of Bernarda Alba, associate professor of Northeastern University Antonio Ocampo-Guzman exemplifies on how translating a text according to the contemporary times can, in fact, result in a gain.
Originally written in Spanish, Lorca’s play is a story that addresses female discrimination and oppression in the twentieth century, what maybe seen as a precursor to the feminist movement today. With absolutely no male characters, the play is exclusively about female repression. By keeping this crux intact to reach out to the audience on the now popular movements on women’s rights, Ocampo-Guzman is able to strike a chord with the audience.
Ocampo-Guzman has used other means to suit the times as well, one of them being his complete removal of all punctuation marks. When asked about this, he responds that punctuation restricts the text to rules and restrictions and makes the actors comply by how they should speak out a line. With the new freedom that a lack of these gives, not only can the actor bring in his own interpretations but also reinvent the language that he is speaking. What is being posited here is not to put up a play that showcases Lorca’s ideas rather, a voice for each actor to walk onto the stage and make it their own.
What such a translation of an old text shows is the plethora of possibilities that could be unveiled with an appropriation of the text into contemporary times. If such a ‘manipulation’ of the original is acceptable, is a topic to be debated and deliberated upon.
N Malavika Mohan