Translating Others, Discovering Himself: Beckett as Translator
This paper examines the work of Samuel Beckett in the light of his early work as a translator of the works of other writers. In his translations for Negro: An Anthology (1934), the Anthology of Mexican Poetry (1958), or commissioned translations for journals such as “This Quarter”, early pre-figurings of Beckett’s own thematic and linguistic concerns abound. Rarely viewed as more than acts of raising money for himself, Beckett’s acts of translation, examined chronologically, demonstrate a writer discovering his craft, and developing his unique voice, unencumbered by the expectations of originality. This essay posits that Beckett’s works, with their distinctive voice and characterisation, owe much to the global perspective he gained through translating across cultural, continental divides, as well as experimenting with form, which became a staple of Beckett’s own work. Without formal training or theoretical grounding in translation, Beckett utilises the act of translation as a means of finding himself, revisiting it as a means of shaping his own unique literary voice.
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