Words Without Borders for March: Translations of Galician Writings

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Since 2008, writes co-guest editor Scott Shanahan at ‘Words Without Borders,’ translation from Spain’s Galician language has doubled.

A monument to pilgrims of the Camino de Santiago in Galicia. Image – iStockphoto: Jano Calvo

By Porter Anderson, Editor-in-Chief | @Porter_Anderson

Also relative to Spanish today: The Spanish-language counterpart to the Banipal Magazine of Modern Arab Literature is now digitally available

Shanahan: ‘A Hard-Headed Refusal To Give In’
While translator and co-guest editor Scott Shanahan at Words Without Borders magazine this month works well in his introductory essay to stress that Galician is neither a dialect nor a transcription of Spanish or Portuguese, the Galician region in northwestern Spain is known this year for its decree that the coronavirus COVID-19 vaccine is compulsory for all 2.7 million inhabitants.

Fines for non-compliance are reported to range from €1,000 to €60,000 (US$1,193 to $71,589), The Local reported late last month, and Spain on Sunday (March 14) marked the first anniversary of its original state of emergency declared for the pandemic’s assault.

Galicia is much better known, of course, as the end point in the Camino de Santiago at the cathedral, a World Heritage Site in the region’s capital, Santiago de Compostela.

Shanahan writes that the term morriña is frequently translated as homesickness but is closer to something like estrangement.

“From what Galicians feel estranged is a question with no single answer,” he writes, “but the pursuit of something like one has become a deep well of Galician literature, past and present.

Scott Shanahan

“It certainly binds together the eight pieces in this month’s issue, which we can read as a survey of botched, aborted, or deferred attempts to connect or reconnect, with distant parents, with forgotten friends, or even with a sense of existential certainty—or even, when all else fails, one’s own livestock.”

For those who know the Portuguese saudade, he points out, there are obvious parallels in a sense of longing.

Happily, more Galician literature may be crossing our paths in the future. “As reported in Spain’s oldest operating newspaper, the bilingual Spanish-Galician Faro de Vigo,” Shanahan writes, “foreign translation of Galician literature has doubled since 2008.

“In the past five years especially Galician presses have nearly doubled their presence at the larger literary book fairs as well, in Bologna, Guadalajara, Buenos Aires, and Frankfurt, thanks in large part to language promotion initiatives financed by the regional government.”

Jacob Rogers

But there’s a timeliness, too, to the arrival of this month’s focus, coincidentally related to the ongoing pandemic’s presence and its still-daunting challenges. “Altogether,” Shanahan writes, “the selections in this month’s issue imagine a universe of too many hopeless questions, of an endless host of desires wandering around in search of a one true heading.” That air of unspecific, erratic discomfort and pining sounds curiously familiar, doesn’t it?

Just as compelling is Shanahan’s observation of the Galicians that “Theirs is a hardy, hard-headed refusal to give in, and there is nothing more Galician than that.”

Shanahan is joined by Jacob Rogers as guest editor in this issue produced by Eric MB Becker, and Rogers was Words Without Borders’ 2019 Poems in Translation Contest winner with Alba Cid, whose work appears amid the month’s selections.

A timing note: The 2021 Poems in Translation competition is accepting entries from translators until April 16, and more information is here.

In the March Edition of ‘Words Without Borders’

The lead artwork on the March issue of ‘Words Without Borders’ is Joseba Muruzábal’s ‘Leiterofilia II.’ Oil on canvas. Image: By permission of the artist and provided by Words Without Borders to Publishing Perspectives

Alba Cid

The Coronavirus in Spain

Since becoming one of the hardest hit markets in Europe in 2020 Spain  overall has gone on to rank eighth in the world for caseloads today (3,183,704 in a population of 47 million).

It stands at 10th in the world for coronavirus deaths (72,258), per the Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center update at 5:25 a.m. ET (0925 GMT).

An article in Murcia Today reports that more than one million COVID-related fines have been issued in Spain since the start of the pandemic, most for non-compliance with lockdown orders.

Today (March 15), per a report in The New York Times, Catalonia—like Galicia in the north but on the eastern side of Spain—will allow more residents to travel across the region, with stores being allowed to open on weekends.

As we reported recently, publishers in Spain have seen the deepest lockdowns a strong indicator of rising readership, with  57 percent of Spanish readers say they read at least one time per week during confinement.


More from Publishing Perspectives on ‘Words Without Borders’ is here, and more from us on translation is here. More from us on the Spanish market is here.

More on the coronavirus COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on international book publishing is here.

About the Author

Porter Anderson

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Porter Anderson has been named International Trade Press Journalist of the Year in London Book Fair's 2019 International Excellence Awards. He is Editor-in-Chief of Publishing Perspectives. He formerly was Associate Editor for The FutureBook at London's The Bookseller. Anderson also has worked as a senior producer, editor, and anchor with CNN.com, CNN International, and CNN USA, and as an arts critic (National Critics Institute) with The Village Voice and Dallas Times Herald. He co-founded The Hot Sheet, a newsletter for authors, which now is owned and operated by Jane Friedman.

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