A translator from Spain, Victor Obiols, was selected to provide a Catalan translation of the poem “The Hill We Climb” by Amanda Gorman. Once he had completed his translation of the viral poem, he said that the publisher rejected his work, saying that they wanted a translator who was “a woman, young, activist and preferably black.”
As reported by BBC News, “Victor Obiols, whose previous work includes translations of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, was asked to translate Gorman’s poem and a foreword by Oprah Winfrey into Catalan several weeks ago.”
“But the editor of Barcelona publisher Univers told Spain’s Efe news agency on Wednesday that after the translation was complete, the company received a request from the US group Viking Books for the work to be carried out by a female activist with African-American origins, if possible,” the report also stated.
This followed after Dutch translator Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, who is “outspoken on issues including gender equality and mental health” and “identifies as non-binary and uses the pronouns they/them”, stepped down after Janice Deul said that the choice of a white translator was “incomprehensible.”
“I’m not saying a black person can’t translate white work, and vice versa,” Janice Deul stated. “But not this specific poem of this specific orator in this Black Lives Matter area, that’s the whole issue.”
“[Gorman] is someone who’s into slam poetry and slam poetry is about flow and rhythm. When you don’t know that, the whole form will have a different meaning and rhythm.”
While speaking with the AFP news agency, Victor Obiols stated “They told me that I am not suitable to translate it. They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and referable black.”
“But if I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, black, an American of the 21st Century, neither can I translate Homer because I am not a Greek of the eighth century BC. Or could not have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-Century Englishman.”
“It is a very complicated subject that cannot be treated with frivolity,” Obiols continued.
As reported by The Guardian, ” Obiols said the publisher had promised to pay him for the work nonetheless.”