Between Silence and Re-narration: Translating Signs of Belfast’s Urban Space

in Silence in Modern Irish Literature
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Concentrating on the German, French, and Spanish translations of Robert McLiam Wilson’s 1996 novel, Eureka Street, this chapter explores the challenge of translating aspects of Belfast’s urban signs into different cultural environments and the forms of silencing that arise in the process. Urban spaces in Belfast have been marked by a specific “mural language” relating to the political conflict in the city from the late-1960s, often taking the form of acronyms with coded sectarian meanings. These acronyms are central to the action of Eureka Street. Understood only by different sections of the local Belfast population, this secret language appears hermetic to the outside observer. Dealing with the inscriptions on the city’s walls, translators face the difficulty of communicating these political and religious acronyms—the meaning of which is already hidden in many cases—to the readership of a target culture in which they carry no meaning at all. The chapter shows how the silences of the acronyms in the original English-language version of Eureka Street are consequently doubled in the translated versions.

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