Letters on Liberty: Translation as Liberation

Battle of Ideas festival 2022, Sunday 16 October, Church House, London


Open debate has been suffocated by today’s censorious climate and there is little cultural support for freedom as a foundational value. What we need is rowdy, good-natured disagreement and people prepared to experiment with what freedom might mean today. Faced with this challenge, the Academy of Ideas decided to launch Letters on Liberty – a radical public pamphleteering campaign aimed at reimagining arguments for freedom in the 21st century.

In her Letter – Translation as Liberation – author and senior lecturer Vanessa Pupavac argues that translation is the truest form of altruism – a process through which we express our human sociability across language borders. Finding creativity in the difficulties of communication across language and time barriers, she argues that the layers of meaning provided by different types of translation give freedom and life to a work.

Vanessa and respondents explore the world of translation. Is translating a text more than simply copying meaning into another language? How have different translations and methods changed the way we view key texts and ideas throughout the ages? How does modern translation fit into contemporary concerns about cultural appropriation – should white translators be trusted with black authors’ texts, for example? And in a climate of suspicion around free speech, does communication matter more than ever?

Dr Marie Kawthar Daouda
lecturer in French language and literature, Oriel College, University of Oxford; author, L’Anti-Salomé

Dr Shirley Lawes
researcher; consultant and university teacher, specialising in teacher education and modern foreign languages; Chevalier dans l’ordre des Palmes Académiques awarded

Dr Vanessa Pupavac
translator; associate professor, School of Politics and International Relations, University of Nottingham; author, Translation as Liberation

Sabine Beppler-Spahl
chair, Freiblickinstitut e.V; CEO, Sprachkunst36; author, Off-centre: how party consensus undermines our democracy; Germany correspondent, spiked