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This dissertation examines the upsurge in the representation of translators and the act of translation in contemporary fiction. I focus on works that feature a translator or interpreter as protagonist in Latin American and Spanish literature of the past three decades. To understand translation’s increased importance in our globalized world, I argue that these “translator’s fictions” challenge the idea of fluid transnational dialogues. The depiction of fictional translators questions notions of authorship, fidelity, and professional ethics traditionally associated with translation.

The first chapter introduces the Fictional Turn of Translation Studies tracing how translators move from marginal to indispensable beings. Jorge Luis Borges’s “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote” and Rodolfo Walsh’s “Nota al pie” foreshadow two recurrent themes: the impossibility of faithfully rendering the original and the translator as a tormented struggling character. The following chapter analyzes four historical fictions: Juan José Saer’s “El intérprete” and Carlos Fuentes’s “Las dos gorillas” are set during the Spanish conquest of the Americas, while Néstor Ponce’s El intérprete and Andrés Neuman’s El viajero del Siglo take place in the early 19th century. Through a contemporary lens, translation in these works operates as a metaphor for redefining concepts of national identity and otherness shaped during earlier epochs. The third and fourth chapters present the consequences of neoliberalism and techno-modernity during the 1990s in Argentina and Spain, respectively. In the Argentinean fictions, translators function within a deteriorating publishing market where the translation is merely an economic transaction, as in Salvador Benesdra’s El traductor, Marcelo Cohen’s El Testamento de O’Jaral and Ricardo Piglia’s La Ciudad ausente. In the Spanish case, Antonio Muñoz Molina’s El jinete polaco and Javier Marías’s Corazón tan Blanco offer insights into the world of international interpreters. Interpretation is both alienating and empowering in evoking the politics of memory in contemporary Spanish society. Finally, a coda outlines future research paths on the potential of fiction to bridge the gap between translation practice and theory in the Spanish language context.

Friday, April 22, 2016 at 12:30pm to 2:30pm

Edward B. Bunn, S.J. Intercultural Center, 270, 37th and O St., N.W., Washington