Comptes rendus

Anthony Cordingley and Céline Frigau Manning, eds. Collaborative Translation: From the Renaissance to the Digital Age. London, Bloomsbury, 2017, x, 260 p.[Record]

  • Marie-Alice Belle

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  • Marie-Alice Belle
    Université de Montréal

The collaborative dynamics of translation projects have attracted a good deal of critical attention over the last few years. Some scholars have examined them from a historical perspective, with Belén Bistué’s groundbreaking Collaborative Translation and Multi-version Texts in Early Modern Europe (2013), and other recent volumes (e.g., Pender, 2017). Others have approached them from a conceptual point of view—sometimes even suggesting that translation be considered the ultimate paradigm for collaborative writing (see Alfer and Zwischenberger, 2017). Ethical and political issues have finally been brought to the fore by critics interrogating the overtly consensual discourse that often accompanies the practice, especially in digital environments (see McDonough Dolmaya, 2011, 2014; Jiménez Crespo, 2017). All three aspects are represented in the collection of essays edited by Anthony Cordingley and Céline Frigau Manning, thus making it a most timely contribution to current research in the field. The volume is based on papers given at the conference La traduction collaborative organized in 2014 by Cordingley and Frigau Manning as part of a research project at Université Paris 8. The editors offer to approach the translation process as the “creation of a negotiated, dynamic text over which [translators] have only provisional authority” (p. 2). In their excellent introduction, they convincingly argue that “the potential of collaborative translation as a critical concept lies not [only] in its drawing attention to the different roles played by actors in a process, but in its capacity to complicate our assumptions about translation” (p. 24). Accordingly, they address the conceptual complexities raised by the notion of “collaboration” as applied to the translation process. Their suggestion is to adopt a “relational definition” of collaborative translation (p. 3) as a way of interrogating, and ultimately debunking, the myth of the solitary translator, which is itself modeled on dominant modern discourses of singular authorship. The way they historicize and contextualize discourses on collaboration offers an extremely useful introduction to recurring questions in the volume regarding translators’ individual or social identities, their relations to authors and to institutional authorities, and the importance of viewing translation as a multi-layered and iterative process, in constant interaction with technologies and wider cultural and linguistic ecosystems. The volume is divided into three parts, the first being consecrated to historical perspectives on collaborative practices, while the other two are respectively devoted to author-translator relationships and to the impact of technical and socio-political environments on collaborative practices. In the first essay, Belén Bistué revisits Leonardo Bruni’s foundational treatise De Interpretatione Recta (c.1424), focusing wittily on the “incorrect” (p. 33), collaborative way to translate implicitly rejected by Bruni. Collaboration based on translators’ respective language skills and fields of expertise had long been the norm in medieval and early Renaissance practice—especially in contact zones with the Arab world. It is against this historical backdrop that she examines how Bruni’s treatise “negotiates an exclusive state for the individual-translator model and for the single-version text” (p. 34). In so doing, she uncovers discursive “blind spots” in Bruni’s argument, whose attempt to offer a “unified understanding of translation” collapses as discourse becomes disconnected from practice. Bistué’s final invitation to “incorporate the forgotten practice of collaborative translation” (p. 45) in current histories and theories of translation reads as a compelling preface to the volume as a whole. In the next chapter, Françoise Decroisette examines her participation in a collective project to translate forty plays by the Italian eighteenth-century playwright Goldoni into French. Noting that in the case of drama, “translators are never alone, even if they happen to translate alone” (p. 49), Decroisette suggests calling the translation process ...