Translating the World. Socio-translation Studies According to Alicja Iwańska

Ewa Rajewska


The article focuses on cultural translation and its ethical consequences according to Alicja Iwańska (1918–1996), a Polish sociologist and writer. In her book Świat przetłumaczony [The Translated World] (1968) Iwańska uses the figure of the translator-traitor while trying to translate Mexico conquered by the Spanish to Poland ruined by the Nazis and Stalinists—the book was the literary aftermath of her fieldwork on the culture of the Indian Mazahua of a secluded Mexican village. The scientific aftermath of the same research was her anthropological monograph Purgatory and Utopia. A Mazahua Indian Village of Mexico (1971). The first book, written in Polish, was described by the author as “a fictionalised account”, and a “literary output”; the second, written in English, was designed as “relatively free from the interference of extra-scientific emotional elements”. For Alicja Iwańska, before the Second World War a philosophy student under Władysław Tatarkiewicz, translating a culture is an ethical problem; the complex relations between truth, falsity and fiction in intercultural translation are coupled with the issues of expressibility in a specific narrative (literary versus scientific) and a specific language (Polish versus English). Iwańska’s books, read again 50 years after their creation, seem to be a forgotten link of Polish translation theory.

Słowa kluczowe: Alicja Iwańska, Translation Studies, sociology, cultural translation, ethics of translation, Mexico

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