The End of Translation as we know it. Disturbing translatability in the work of Vicente Huidobro

Gys-Walt Van Egdom

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingMeeting abstract (Book)


In his manifesto 'Creacionismo', author Vicente Huidobro states clearly that universality and translatability are explicit aims of creationist writings (1924). Given the fact that poetry is not only often seen as the expression of the most individualistic emotion, but generally seen as the clearest example of untranslatability (of literature in particular and language in general), this goal unavoidably generates some attention from the field of Translation Studies (Balderston 1990). An analysis of universally translatable poetry have offered insights in what linguistic features are conceived of as '(un)translatable'. These insights have been challenged by means of an evaluation of the function of translatability in the poetics of Huidobro, and the frailty of this notion has consequently been demonstrated by a comparison of creationist writings and their translation(s) (Devos forthcoming; Van Egdom forthcoming).

In this contribution, we would like to re-open the debate on the essence of translation. Ever since Gideon Toury (1995) entered the debate of essentialists, the discussion on the essence of translation has been brought to an end by stating that history reveals inconstestably that translation 'is' what can be 'called' a translation. Since the mid-nineties, this pragmatic killer phrase has foreclosed almost every notion of essence.

In spite of Vicente Huidobro's the flagrant failure to write translatable and universal poetry, the creationist writings bring home the need for a fundamental debate on translation, since it weakens the arguments of Gideon Toury. The structure of the fundamental question is double in this case based study is. On the one hand, we will investigate whether a socio-historical conception of translation can ever reach a high degree of consistent. On the one hand, we will pose the question: will it be possible to bring the 'multiplitude' of socio-historical conceptions of translation down to a minimal understanding of the essence of translation?
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationUnknown
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jul 2012
EventUnknown -
Duration: 14 Jul 2012 → …


Period14/07/12 → …


  • translation
  • translatability
  • literature
  • avant garde
  • huidobro


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