Speaking memory: How translation shapes city life.

Author:Chamberlain, Julie
Position:Book review
 
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Simon, Sherry. (Ed.).

Speaking memory: How translation shapes city life. Montreal and Kingston: McGill-Queen's University Press, 2016. 314 p.

ISBN 9780773547889

Translation between languages is not an inherently beneficial and harmonious process. It rarely takes place between actors who are equally positioned in relation to power. As Sherry Simon suggests in the introduction to this volume, translation is often implicated in conflicts and tension, and at times it is driven by violent and suppressive forces. Speaking Memory: How Translation Shapes City Life explores the ambiguities and complexities of translation in urban contexts. Cities are approached as "fields of translational forces" (Simon, this volume, p. 4) that feature mediations, negotiations, and competitions between languages, and thus between people and memories of history. This intersection of language and the city is at the core of this volume edited by Simon, a professor in the French Department at Concordia University in Montreal. The "translational city" is a focal point, which Simon defines as the city that has heightened awareness of language because of its linguistic histories and constellations. However all cities are considered translational fields, and the appearance of cities as historically and culturally diverse as Atlanta, Sao Paulo, and Dublin reflects the range of cases that are explored in the volume. Speaking Memory leaves the definition of translation open, and contributors from comparative literary studies, media studies and geography each offer their own readings in relation to urban space and claims-making.

The book's thirteen chapters are organized in three parts. The first, Landscapes of Memory explores the translational histories of Eastern European cities through the literary works of local authors. Visiting Vilnius, Trieste, and Prague, the authors explore competition and cooperation between languages as they have been spoken and written, along with histories of naming and re-naming in fraught and often violent political and cultural processes. Part Two: Moving Fault Lines of the Global City shifts focus onto technologies of communication, including the mobile phone, the video chat, the radio station, the novel, and the refugee claim interview. The capacity of...

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