Intentionally or unintentionally, a lot can get lost in translation and that is just what Dr. Robert Lesman’s new book “Translating Cuba: Literature, Music, Film and Politics,” explores. In the book, associate professor of Spanish examines how various Cuban texts are represented, reshaped or amended as they are translated to English.
Lesman’s fascination with the unpredictable effects of translation and extensive work in Cuban cultural history lead him to write the book. Beginning in 2018, his research included a deep look into the translation of poetry, science fiction, political and military writing, music and film. He identified a clear ideological agenda sometimes drives the translation and translators. In other works he notes indifference to important facets of a work may alter the readers experience. Many times, he noted, when an agenda does exist it is political, either celebrating or opposing communism.
“I was surprised by the extent to which a text with a given political agenda can be translated in such a way that its message gets altered. This happens, for example, in anti-communist translations of essays by Che Guevara, who was both a military and an intellectual hero of the Cuban Revolution,” explained Lesman.
Lesman is hopeful the book will appeal to academic and non-academic audiences who may have an interest in the cultural history of Cuba or the impact and power of translation.