The project launching workshop : general conclusions
The "Translations, Writings, Libraries" Workshop took place with the frame of the "Etats généraux culturels méditerranéens" organised in Marseille organised within the frame of the French Presidency of the European Union, on the 4th and 5th of Novembre 2008. We propose here after the conclusions as produced by the working group of this workshop, which is the launching event of the "Translating in the Mediterrean" project.
"Within a collegial structure that paved the way for a long-term project, the "Translations, writings, libraries" workshop, run by Ghislaine Glasson Deschaumes, proved fruitful and positive, in spite of considerable organisational problems. Besides the unexplained, and regretted, absence of certain colleagues who had actually confirmed their participation well in advance, as well as recurring operational and communicational difficulties, the proceedings were hampered by the absence of translation from, and into, Arabic, which is a precondition for any programme with Euro-Mediterranean aspirations.
In spite of these drawbacks, the workshop produced some highly constructive results, and prepared the ground for a substantive project on translation in the Mediterranean region, with the introduction of ideas regarding libraries that will be more systematically explored in due course. (Following last-minute cancellations, this part of the programme could not be developed as fully as originally planned.)
Starting in 2009, a number of ground-breaking initiatives will be taken, in the framework of the "Translating in the Mediterranean region" project, along with a regional plan involving libraries.
The conclusions, compiled by Hélène Bouchardeau and presented by Sofiane Hadjadj during the final plenary session, resulted from a joint elaboration process carried out by the participants at the end of the workshop.
Before going on to discuss a concrete action programme, the participants agreed on the following principles.
1. Languages are not just vectors of functional communication, but also of culture. They enrich worlds, and are in turn enriched by them. Translation must therefore be conceived of in the broadest possible frame of reference.
2. Translating contributes to the development and deepening of language. It is not information that is to be translated, but rather works; the point being to contribute to the advancement of knowledge through translation.
3. It is people, not cultures, who enter into dialogue.
4. Translation does not take place on neutral ground, but against a backdrop of power relations. The Mediterranean region is a theatre of conflict, and translation is a way of mediating disagreements. There can be no debate without a confrontation of differences and disagreements.
5. Any approach must take into account the specificities and shared problems of each language, and each context, whether local, national or other.
6. Translation and its relationship to knowledge should be linked to the overall objective of societal development.
7. The "Translations, writings, libraries" workshop provided an exceptional opportunity, as part of the Etats Généraux Culturels Méditerranéens, for discussion among experts and others who are actively concerned with problems which do not tend to be given a hearing elsewhere. The participants called for this dynamic to be pursued, as a way of connecting up different types of experience that have hitherto been fragmented, isolated, uncoordinated.
In concrete terms
1. The "Translating in the Mediterranean region" project embodies a collective concept of networking, inventory, coordination and development that gives different groups a common cause in the form of strategies and groundbreaking initiatives. It provides a fitting response to a need, a deficiency.
2. The key issue is the creation of an inventory, an overview to be revised independently on a yearly basis by a network of flexibly-coordinating partners. It will be concerned with the quality rather than the quantity of the works translated (in literature, the human and social sciences, the theatre), and also the people (individuals and translation groups, research centres, institutes, libraries, foundations, etc.), specific contexts, existing support for translation, the socio-cultural history of translation and its different definitions – not forgetting the question of audiences. It will be an integral part of a cumulative approach that involves conserving archives and achieving a perspective on translations and works from the past. It will above all be qualitative in outlook, and its role will include the interpretation of results, with a view to putting forward recommendations and proposals. The audiovisual realm, for its part, could be explored on the basis of existing Euro-Mediterranean structures, or those that emerged during the Etats Généraux Culturels Méditerranéens.
3. The "Translating in the Mediterranean region" project aims to offer translators and other interested parties a forum for encounters and collective work, both on thematised subjects and on authors.
4. It will develop an epistemology of translation in the Mediterranean world, in particular by consolidating research networks and backing studies in areas of knowledge that have not yet been explored.
5. It will promote the distribution of translated works, notably by taking into account the role of libraries, and their potential for stimulating cooperation across the Mediterranean region. It will seek to stimulate a desire for translation among the general public.
6. It will lead a drive to structure the publishing sector. It will also act on market trends, and thereby on the conditions in which translation takes place. It will favour contacts between publishers willing to pool their efforts to produce high-quality translations, and to make them more readily available. Booksellers will hopefully be brought into a subsequent phase of the process.
7. The project will contextualise translation in relation to the new media, and will use modern communication techniques to bring information, works and collections to the public's attention.
8. Initiatives coordinated by Transeuropéennes may be taken in 2009, supported by a follow-up group including participants in the Marseille workshop, for example:
- the launch of the aforementioned "Translating in the Mediterranean region" inventory;
- the first working group to further cooperation among publishers across the region;
- the first thematic collective workshop;
- an encounter coordinated by the Institut du Monde Arabe, on the subject of "Libraries and translations".
In conclusion, the participants in the workshop called for a mobilisation of the authorities (international, regional, national and local), the different foundations and private-sector bodies, and all those interested in working on the objectives and pilot projects set out in Marseille on 4 and 5 November 2008. This is indispensable to the circulation of works based on reflection and imagination in the Mediterranean region."