Jack Guy, CNN, March 12, 2021
Victor Obiols, whose previous work includes Catalan translations of William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, told CNN Thursday that the commission was initially approved by Gorman’s representatives, but they later decided he wasn’t right for the job.
Although Univers has not yet responded to CNN’s request for comment on its decision, Obiols said Gorman’s representatives were looking for “someone matching the profile of the original writer.”
“I think this is a reflection of the dynamics of muting or not promoting what is politically incorrect,” he said, explaining that the Barcelona-based publisher informed him of the decision after he had delivered the translation.
Gorman is the US youth poet laureate and was one of the breakout stars of US President Joe Biden’s inauguration, where she read “The Hill We Climb.”
The publisher’s decision comes shortly after Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld handed back a commission to translate Gorman’s work, following a backlash from critics who questioned why a White writer had been chosen to translate a Black writer’s work.
Obiols told CNN that he thought the decision to revoke his commission was down to the pressure of US social movements.
“I understand the political dimension of the decision,” he said. “I feel solidarity with women and Black people.”
Ananya Jahanara Kabir, a professor of English at King’s College London, told CNN Thursday that translation “is a way to carry across experiences that are private, intimate and products of specific histories and cultural experiences, into another sensibility.”
Deep historical injustices against people of African heritage, and their continuing repercussions, mean it isn’t easy to choose translators for Gorman, Kabir said.