Comptes rendus

Julio César Santoyo. La traducción medieval en la Península Ibérica (siglos III-XV). León, Universidad de León, Área de publicaciones, 2009, 534 p.[Record]

  • Jorge Jiménez Bellver

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  • Jorge Jiménez Bellver
    University of Texas at Brownsville

One of the most internationally renowned scholars of translation history, Julio César Santoyo, offers in his latest contribution an overview of translation practice during the Middle Ages in the Iberian Peninsula. The study is divided into six chapters arranged chronologically around the major periods of medieval translation: 3rd to 11th centuries, 12th century, 13th century, 14th century, first half of the 15th century, and second half of the 15th century. In addition to an introduction and a final remark, the book contains a foreword by Managing Editor of the University of León Press, Maurilio Pérez, in praise of Santoyo’s longstanding commitment to medieval cultural studies. Although written in Spanish, the text is frequently interspersed with quotations in Latin, Italian, Catalan, Galician, Portuguese, French and English. Except in very specific instances, no translation is provided, which will make reading difficult for those who do not have a reading knowledge of those languages, especially of Latin. Given that the book covers roughly 1300 years of translation history in less than 500 pages, one might expect La traducción medieval en la Península Ibérica [Medieval Translation in the Iberian Peninsula] to consist mainly of titles of source and target texts and names of source-text authors and target-text translators, with occasional commentary on their overall significance in their historical context. And, although at times Santoyo’s monograph verges on the simple compilation of historical data (particularly in the chapters dedicated to the 14th and 15th centuries, when the number of translations increased dramatically), it provides for the most part an outstanding critical study of translation historiography and theory of the utmost importance for Translation Studies. In the following lines, I would like to comment on five key trajectories in contemporary translation research to which this study makes an important contribution. The first trajectory is the definition of translation, which has been a recurrent topic of research in recent times, albeit from different perspectives (see, for example, Halverson, 1999; Chesterman and Arrojo, 2000; Tymoczko, 2007; St. André, 2010). In this regard, Santoyo’s exploration of “el metalenguaje de la traducción” [translation metalanguage] throughout the book should inform future redefinitions of translation that depart from the transfer metaphor embedded in the word “translation.” In the Iberian Peninsula of the Middle Ages, traducere [to translate] was indeed employed, as the first recorded use of the verb in 1015 indicates; yet it was not the only word that denoted a translation product or process. In addition to several forms derived from traducere, a whole metalanguage of interlingual translation began to develop from the 14th century (particularly in Castilian and Catalan), with neologisms such as sacar [to take out], interpretar [to interpret], tornar [to turn, to become] and rescriure [to rewrite] that problematize the assumptions couched in the standardized term “translation.” The implications of the historical emergence of such a metalanguage are twofold: while the metalanguage speaks to the conceptual reductionism of “translation” as simple translation products and processes, it also reveals the shortcomings of Western conceptualizations of translation that fail to account for the multiplicity of views that emerged in the geopolitical entity currently known as Western Europe. Closely connected to the first, the second trajectory concerns medieval understandings of translation. In this respect, Santoyo’s monograph features an excellent collection of translators’ statements on the nature and object of their activity, from the prologue preceding the first recorded translation in the Iberian Peninsula (Verba seniorum, translated by Pascasio from Greek into Latin in the 6th century) to a letter written by Maimonides in …