Translating “The List” – my experiences

During fall 2018 and spring 2019 I was engaged in translating “The List” to Norwegian. “The List” traces information related to the death of more than 36.570 refugees, asylum seekers and migrants who have lost their lives within, or on the borders of Europe since 1993. By using public display structures such as ad-boards and newspaper supplements, the visual artist, Banu Cennetoğlu, has made this information visible to people, and in many cases impossible to avoid.

We were four PhD-candidates, working closely together with a coordinator from Bergen Assembly and with Cennetoğlu. Instead of employing professional translators Banu prefers to use researchers who are engaged in migrant issues. Cathrine Tallerås, Mari Norbakk, Ørjan Skaga and myself were recruited through the IMER Junior Scholar Network. For me, who work with Roma, a transnational minority, the translation process was interesting and thought provoking; to learn about the gruesome destinies of so many people who have died while trying to escape desperate situations, because of the ignorant and often cruel migration policy in Europe.

During the translation process, the group met several times to discuss issues that came up. The most discussed questions were what terms we should choose, recognizing that many words we use are politicized. One example is the English word “deportation”. In political documents and much of the public debate in Norway the equivalent word “deportasjon” is not used. Instead one uses the term “uttransportering” (out-transportation), which does not connect with the grim history of e.g. deportation of the Jews during WWII. Needless to say, we chose the term “deportasjon” in the Norwegian translation.

“The List” has earlier been published in The Guardian and other major European newspapers, and has received a variety of both positive and negative reactions, as well as publicity. The Norwegian version of “The List”, however, was launched in a local mainstream newspaper in Bergen June 7, 2019. We eagerly waited for a response, expecting that the descriptions of the 36 570 deaths would engage, provoke and lead to a public debate. The response was overwhelming – in the form of utter silence. None of the national media picked up the news, even when encouraged. I think that says it all – that Norway is indeed a part of “Festung Europe”.

You can read more about “The list” here.

Blog post written by Kari Hagatun

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