A public call for the immediate destruction of the unauthorized translation of 'Zong!'

A public call for the immediate destruction of the unauthorized translation of 'Zong!'

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Eve Lucy Yeates started this petition to Benway Series and

We, the undersigned—representing an international cross-section of literary organizations and translators, publishers, writers, poets, editors, educators, scholars, readers and creative practitioners—petition Benway Series with the following demands, in support of M. NourbeSe Philip’s requests to destroy the flawed Italian translation of her work Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng which heretofore have been refused.

The demands are as follows:

  1. DESTROY EXISTING COPIES / INITIAL PRINT RUN: Benway Series must immediately recall and destroy all existent copies of their Italian mistranslation of Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng, and agree to produce and circulate no further digital or physical copies and put in writing that this translation is heretofore a closed matter. 

  2. REMOVE WEBSITE CONTENT: Benway Series must remove the catalog listing and book page for the unauthorized Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng translation from the Benway Series website, as well as any images of the unauthorized translation.  Furthermore, Benway Series must remove all defamatory statements and misrepresentations of both NourbeSe and the events that have transpired surrounding this flawed translation. 

  3. ISSUE A PUBLIC APOLOGY: Benway Series must publicly apologize to M. NourbeSe Philip not only for neglecting to involve her in their translation of Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng but for their subsequent persistence in defending their breach, and appropriating the terms of Black and decolonial anti-oppression action to denounce Philip for defending her own work.

This set of demands is in response to a deep violence that runs rampant across literary and academic organizations, and which represents a continued legacy of white appropriation of Black Artists’ intellectual property, labor, and vision. 


THE HISTORY OF BENWAY SERIES’S FLAWED ITALIAN TRANSLATION OF ZONG! AS TOLD TO THE AUTHOR BY SETAEY ADAMU BOATENG


Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng by M. NourbeSe Philip, published in 2008, is a work that honours the memory of 150 enslaved Africans on board the slave ship Zong, who were murdered by drowning in 1781 for the express purpose of allowing the ship’s owners to collect insurance monies.

—In May 2016, Renatta Morresi, a white Italian translator, contacted M. NourbeSe Philip by email to say she was interested in doing an Italian translation of Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng.  Philip advised her to first contact the publishers, Wesleyan University Press (WUP) for permission. Philip heard nothing more from Ms. Morresi or WUP.

—Five years later, on June 11, 2021, Philip received an email from Benway Series congratulating her on the publication of the Italian translation of Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng.  The translators and publishers, all white, did not once engage Philip, a Black author, in their flawed translation of her original work.  

—The translation fails to observe the central organizing concept and principle of the original work, and is in breach of Philip’s moral rights as an author, as well as in breach of the International Federation of Translators’ Charter which states that the translator as “secondary” author is required to “accept special obligations with respect to the author of the original work.” 

—Philip’s placement of the words on the page is such that each fragment, word or cluster is seeking the space above to breathe as a reparative and recuperative strategy for the Africans who were murdered on board the Zong.

—This flawed translation, nevertheless, has been funded by the Canada Council for the Arts, which failed to do due diligence regarding funding a project that was not in compliance with the Council’s own mandate of being “committed to advancing racial equity and social justice” as outlined in their Statement on Racism and Violence.  

—-Benway Series is a bilingual press and yet Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng is the only book in their catalogue that is only in Italian.

—-Benway Series has refused Philip’s persistent requests to recall and/or destroy the flawed translation of Zong! as told to the author by Setaey Adamu Boateng, and have accused Philip of racial essentialism; tribalism; authoritarianism & totalitarianism; North American linguistic privilege & colonialism.  

Please follow the blog Set Speaks on NourbeSe’s website, www.nourbese.com for additional context, correspondence, statements about this situation as well as future posts. If you do not already, please follow NourbeSe’s social media accounts on facebook, twitter, and instagram to find past and future updates about this situation.

Sincerely, 

The Undersigned

 

0 have signed. Let’s get to 1,500!
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