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Christine Lombez

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The translation of literary works is one of the most certain ways of opening oneself to other writing traditions, instating dialogue between cultures. However, this dialogue can turn out to be biased when the activity of translators is carried out in a politically confined landscape oriented by ideological intention. In these conditions, what “Other” does one import into the target language? How, for whom and for which objective? The period of German Occupation of France (1940-44) emphasizes these problematics in an exemplary way. In addition to obvious political and economic repercussions, the four years during which France was subject to the law of the Occupier had a great impact on the cultural life of the country: it was effectively a question of Fascist Germany bringing defeated France to heel following the 1940 armistice and imposing a new order, based on national-socialist ideals, with in the foreground and through the medium of translation into French, the massive introduction of German authors into the “official” editorial marketplace (itself wholly or partly controlled by German capital).

Actually, the Occupation years witnessed (in France and also in a francophone country such as Belgium) a very keen interest in literary translation. In the media of the time (whether official or dissident), not only the works to be translated but also the way to do so and the choice of (sometimes rather controversial) translators were discussed on a very regular basis. In collaboration with an international team and grounded on extensive bibliographic data (mostly unpublished so far), this research project aims at investigating an important area of French (and francophone) literary history which has, to date, never been systematically explored.

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