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Translations and Translation Studies in the Russian, Eastern European & Eurasian Context: Home

A Brief Overview of the Field, and A Guide to Resources for Identifying Translated Works

Tortuous paths

The history of translation from, to and in Slavic, Eastern European and Eurasian languages is long, complicated, and marked by startling reversals and a wide variety of pathways from one language to another.  The many editions of Witold Gombrowicz's Ferdydurke (1937) are a case in point, as Gombrowicz himself contributed to the Spanish- and French-language translations of his own groundbreaking novel, but the English-speaking world had to wait until 2000 for a direct Polish-to-English translation (Eric Mosbacher's 1961 translation was derived from the French and German translations).

Navigating the waters

For generations, scholars studying, using, or generating translations from or to the languages of Russia, Eastern Europe, Central Asia and the Caucasus have tested the boundaries of libraries' ability to provide reliable, easy access to materials.  In English-speaking countries, there is a massive literature going back a century or more on the problems associated with ensuring that library users are able to identify and locate the (English-lanugage) materials they need in library collections.  Dealing with materials in Russian, Romanian, Czech, Ukrainian, Tatar, Armenian, Uzbek (etc.) adds an entirely new layer of complexity to these problems.  Providing timely, authoritative answers to questions such as "Has this work ever been translated into English/French/Hungarian/etc.?", "Do you have this work in the original Polish/Croatian/Lithuanian/etc.?", or "What Macedonian/Estonian/Tajik/etc. literature has been translated into English, and when?" depends entirely on a librarian's knowledge of the available resources and on the quality of metadata provided by generations of library staff.

Librarians and scholars of library and information science are wrestling with questions of how to manage and provide various levels of access to multilingual materials in an age of mass digitization.  Some, inspired by the (debatable) success of products like Google Translate, see promise in the next generation of "machine translation" technology.  The latest research on automatic translation in information science can get extremely technical.

So whether you are researching Chynggyz Aitmatov, Isaak Babel', Zinaida Gippius, Alisa Ganieva/Gulla Khirachev, Ivo Andrić, or Aleksandr Pushkin (pictured left to right, top to bottom), the resources and strategies described on these pages should be helpful to you as you begin your inquiries.  Later on in the process (or before you begin!), please do not hesitate to contact the Slavic Reference Service.

Additional resources

This guide, obviously, is intended to address issues specifically related to translation in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.  For a more general treatment of translation and translation studies, you might want to visit the LibGuide prepared by our colleagues in the University of Illinois' Literatures and Languages Library.

The "undiscovered"

With its sprawling geography, complicated history, and linguistic diversity, the REEE region is home to far more writers, philosophers, social scientists and other thinkers than can ever find an audience in the West (and vice versa).  The Albanian authors Musine Kokalari (right) and Mimoza Ahmeti (below), for example, are quite poorly represented in anything but Albanian in the WorldCat database, which searches the catalogs of over 72,000 individual libraries around the world as of June 2013.

Something that is often neglected is the impact of translation between and among the literatures of the REEE region, rather than translations to or from Western European languages.  The study of these intraregional phenomena and influences is greatly facilitated by works such as István Käfer's bibliography of Czech and Slovak literature translated into Hungarian (A szlovák és a cseh irodalom magyar bibliográfiája a kezdetektől 1970-ig = Mad̕arská bibliografia slovenskej a českej literatúry od začiatkov do r. 1970 -- UIUC call number Main Stacks 016.8918 K119s) and I. I. Startsev's massive two-volume bibliography of translations into Russian from dozens of other languages of the former Soviet Union.

For all your REEEsearch needs

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Slavic Reference Service
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