We are developing the social individualist meta-context for the future. From the very serious to the extremely frivolous... lets see what is on the mind of the Samizdata people.

Samizdata, derived from Samizdat /n. - a system of clandestine publication of banned literature in the USSR [Russ.,= self-publishing house]

Spread the word

“Second translator of Amanda Gorman’s Joe Biden inauguration poem dumped”, reports the Times.

A fresh controversy over translations of the poem read out at President Biden’s inauguration has erupted after a Catalan man said that his version had been rejected because he had the wrong “profile”.

Amanda Gorman’s five-minute poem, The Hill We Climb, was initially commissioned to be translated by Victor Obiols, a 60-year-old Catalan poet and musician. Five thousand copies of the version by Obiol, who has translated works by Oscar Wilde and William Shakespeare, were set to be brought out by the Catalan publishing house Univers by April 8.

However, Ester Pujol, of Univers, told the Catalan newspaper La Vanguardia that the author’s US agency had subsequently expressed a preference that the translation be done instead by “a woman who is young, an activist and a poet, with experience as a translator and, preferably, African American.” Gorman is 23 and black.

How many African-Americans speak Catalan – at all, let alone to the level required of a professional translator? How many Americans speak Catalan? Most translation agencies insist that their translators work into their native tongue because it is very rare for anyone to gain a command of a second language equal to that of their first. Why do Ms Gorman’s US agents value the nationality of their translator above their having Catalan as their mother tongue? Even if we assume that the only reason Gorman’s agents specified “African-American” was that they have set their autocorrect with that as the replacement for “black”, there still cannot be many people who fulfil all those criteria. There are not many black Catalans. Experienced translators of any race are not likely to be young.

The Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld, 29, resigned as translator of Gorman’s work in the Netherlands after criticism that she was not black.

Despite the precedent, the Catalan poet was taken aback by the publisher’s decision. “If I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, black, and a American of the 21st century, then I cannot translate Homer either because I am not an eighth-century BC Greek,” he said. “Nor could I have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.”

17 comments to Spread the word

  • Stonyground

    How fucked in the head do you have to be to be constantly obsessing about this kind of stuff? Non of it matters. These are people who have no actual problems at all. In the past there were genuine injustices that the dedicated activist could get angry about and campaign against. Their activism had a genuine positive effect. Today’s activist has nothing real to be active about and is left having to just make stuff up.

  • Natalie Solent (Essex)

    I would put it even more strongly, Stonyground. How fucked in the head do you have to be to be so obsessed with this stuff that you repeatedly intervene to stop your own message from being spread?

    Mind you, the same phenomenon has been known to occur on our side. I heard tell of a guy who had such strong views about intellectual property rights that he wouldn’t tell anyone about his beliefs unless they paid him a fee.

  • X Trapnel

    As the Indian nationalist agitator Pandit Baba said to English-public-school-educated, and self-confessed poor-Hindi speaker Hari Kumar, in “The Jewel in the Crown”:

    Why must you speak in the language of your oppressors?

    Why, Amanda? Are your publicists as picky about who translates your stuff into Hausa, Igbo or Yoruba? No?

  • The Left is devouring itself. Yum yum 😊

  • It was Robert Conquest who noted that, while George Orwell correctly deduced that the totalitarian socialist credo would include

    War is Peace
    Freedom is Slavery
    Ignorance is Strength

    he somehow unaccountably omitted to foresee they would also demand we agree that

    Rubbish is Art

    I’ve read worse poems – and not just by Vogons – but it really doesn’t require translation into Catalan by persons of any categorisation.

    The communist poet Pablo Neruda, when not arranging the getaway of attempted killers of Trotsky or using the fear his communist connections inspired to intimidate people into giving him ‘presents’, wrote poems, one of which (chosen by a fan) I once read in translation – and felt it would have to have lost much in translation for the original to make me think his reputation was not acquired from party hacks and/or in the same way as his presents. I haven’t thought of that in years – but when I read Amanda’s poem, something recalled Pablo’s to my mind.

  • Mr Ed

    I’ve read worse poems – and not just by Vogons

    Vogons are, at the end of the day, the sort of people who enforce secondary legislation such as ‘covid’ restrictions, without being ideological, just because they want to go along with things. They are an essential component of any tyranny. They provide the mechanism, socialists provide the motive.

    We should not have either if the human race is to survive itself.

  • Zerren Yeoville

    “I heard tell of a guy who had such strong views about intellectual property rights that he wouldn’t tell anyone about his beliefs unless they paid him a fee.” (Natalie Solent (Essex) March 13, 2021 at 7:21 pm)

    Sounds like they may have been referring to the late Andrew J Galambos.

  • I heard tell of a guy who had such strong views about intellectual property rights that he wouldn’t tell anyone about his beliefs unless they paid him a fee.

    I thought that was a joke. Certainly made me laugh.

  • Phil B

    “[A] guy who had such strong views about intellectual property rights that he wouldn’t tell anyone about his beliefs unless they paid him a fee”

    You forgot signing a non disclosure agreement too before hearing the words of wisdom.

  • Rowdy

    So who’s going to translate her screed into English?

  • Katy Hibbert

    I could translate it into double dutch but there’s no need.

  • Horace Dunn

    The original poem is certainly thin stuff.

    They could solve all these problems by using an online auto-translation service. The result would hardly be more maladroit, in terms of scansion and syntax, than the original.

    Likewise, the content of the poem – its predicable message and general soppiness – is unlikely to suffer.

  • staghounds

    I would be very surprised if there were 5000 only-Catalan speakers who would read it all the way through by choice.

  • staghounds


    “Prohibited Employment Policies/Practices

    Under the laws enforced by EEOC, it is illegal to discriminate against someone (applicant or employee) because of that person’s race, color, … sex (including gender identity, sexual orientation, and pregnancy), national origin, …

    The law forbids discrimination in every aspect of employment.”


    What the Agency did is unlawful and Mr. Obiols has a very good claim to both actual and statutory damages.

    I’m sure the EEOC will be all over this.

  • staghounds

    OOps I accidentally elided age over 40, another unlawful basis of discrimination. That makes a four way exacta.

  • Snorri Godhi

    If only African-American women can appreciate the nuances, then i am not going to waste time reading it.

  • Paul Marks

    Just as Election Rigging has consequences, and the Biden-Harris regime is doing terrible things every day, so also the Frankfurt School of Marxism (with its strange interpretation of Marxism as being about race, gender and sexual orientation – but still “exploitation” and “oppression”) has consequences.

    If “whiteness” truly is evil (as the, mostly white, Frankfurt School Marxists teach) then how can white people translate the words of a noble black person, without contaminating these words with their white evil?

    And what of someone who is white, male, and heterosexual – JOSEPH BIDEN. By all the “principles” of the Frankfurt School Mr Biden should be destroyed.

    The United States military are being taught “Critical Theory” Frankfurt School Marxism right now – perhaps they will come for Mr Biden at some point.

    I remind readers that most institutions, government and Corporate, strongly support the insane doctrines of the Frankfurt School.

    This will not end well.