The Cultural Poetics of Intellectual Resistance during the Military Dictatorship in Greece (1967-1974): Translation Regained

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This paper provides an analysis of the cultural poetics of resistance against the Greek military junta by focusing on translation as an indicative gesture of intellectual resistance to the regime, and an encrypted challenge to its authoritarian strategies of censorship and control. I will argue that literary translations were representative of the way in which ideas were circulated under the junta. In order to discuss the interaction of multiple codes within the translated texts of the time and their reception, I will use two examples: M. Proust’s In search of lost time, translated by P. Zannas during his imprisonment by the junta, which became a cultural phenomenon in its own right, generating a debate that the regime was unable to control, and the translations of J.L. Borges’s poems and short stories, published in influential literary journals of the time and hailed by the rising dissident literary movement as a strongly political, innovative literary hybrid. These translations and the paratextual features which accompanied them were the means by which publishers and translators introduced codes for communication that encouraged readers to interact with texts, rather than simply interpret them. Readers did not fail to identify and decrypt these codes. Bearing in mind that a translator acts as a mediator between an inaccessible text and a reader who seeks access to it, both examples reveal that Greek intellectuals chose to translate texts reflecting on experience, memory and the nature of time, themes that allowed them to establish a discussion about liberty and the power of free thought under the dictatorial regime. In that sense, translation during the junta can be interpreted as a transparent gesture of cultural resistance. Therefore, translation emerges as an important shaping factor of the discourse of resistance, associated with both intellectual and popular dissidence in Greece between 1967 and 1974.

Keywords: Greek Military Dictatorship/Junta (1967-1874), Cultural Poetics, Intellectual Resistance, Literary Translation, Marcel Proust, Jorge Luis Borges
Stream: Literature, Literary Studies
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
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Christiana Mygdali

DPhil student, Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages  (Modern Greek)
College: Christ Church, University of Oxford

Oxford, UK

I was born in Athens in 1981. I studied linguistics in the University of Athens and Translation in the Hellenic-American Union and the European Centre of Literary Translation in Greece. I completed the MSt in European Literature and am currently working towards a DPhil on Greek translations during the junta at Christ Church, University of Oxford. My postgraduate studies are supported by a scholarship from the Greek State Scholarship Foundation. A contributor for the literary magazine PHRASE, I have also published literary translations from Spanish in the Greek literary journal TO DENTRO and articles on cultural poetics in Greece under the junta in the journal PORFYRAS.

Ref: H08P0501