THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN A NUTSHELL:
Source: Treaty Office Directorate of Legal Advice and Public International Law Council of Europe.
THE COUNCIL OF EUROPE IN A NUTSHELL:
Source: Treaty Office Directorate of Legal Advice and Public International Law Council of Europe.
INTERPRETING QUALITY: GLOBAL PROFESSIONAL STANDARDS?
Franz Pöchhacker, University of Vienna.
Published in: Ren W. (ed.), Interpreting in the Age of Globalization: Proceedings of the 8th National Conference and International Forum on Interpreting (pp. 305-318) Beijing: Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, 2012.
Abstract: The complex and multidimensional notion of quality is addressed here from the perspective of the professional service providers. With Bühler’s pioneering survey among conference interpreters serving as the point of departure, the importance of various quality criteria is investigated on the basis of a worldwide web-based survey conducted in the context of a larger research project at the University of Vienna. The findings, which point to a stable pattern of preferences, are discussed with regard to their generalizability on a global scale, with special reference to China and Chinese.
Ever since the profession of conference interpreting emerged on an international scale in the mid-twentieth century, the concept of quality has been a major concern in professional practice and training. Nevertheless, it was not until the 1980s that the topic of quality came to be addressed explicitly and on the basis of systematic investigation. A key role in this endeavor fell to AIIC, the International Association of Conference Interpreters founded in 1953, whose strict requirements for the admission of new members, in conjunction with a language classification scheme and detailed specifications for appropriate working conditions, served as an early paragon for quality assurance in the profession.
In a brochure addressed to would-be conference interpreters, AIIC (1982) referred to quality as “that elusive something which everyone recognises but no one can successfully define.” The ability to recognize quality was indeed demanded of AIIC members when asked to assess the performance of candidates for membership, and it was in this context that the challenge of defining quality was taken up by Hildegund Bühler in a pioneering empirical study.
The present paper reviews that seminal piece of research and reports on an effort to replicate it on a worldwide scale using state-of-the-art survey techniques. Special emphasis will be given to methodological issues as well as to the question raised in the title of this paper, that is: to what extent can the findings from the international survey be taken to reflect “global standards” for the relative importance of the performance quality criteria under study? In other words, can a global survey approach do justice to socio-culturally specific aspects of the phenomenon under study – or is there a need to take account of what we might call “interpreting quality with Chinese characteristics”?
2. CRITERIA FOR QUALITY IN INTERPRETING
The assumption that quality in interpreting is not a monolithic concept but involves more than one component can be traced back to Jean Herbert (1952), who mentioned accuracy and style as the two main concerns, suggesting that interpreters were sometimes faced with a choice between these two. Furthermore, he pointed to the role of such factors as grammar, fluency, voice quality and intonation in an interpreter’s performance. For decades, though, the relative importance of these and other criteria remained unclear.
It is widely known that the first scholar who sought to collect empirical data on the various factors that play a role in the evaluation of conference interpreting was Hildegund Bühler, an interpreter by training who spent most of her career as a scholar in the field of terminology and taught translation and translation theory at the University of Vienna. Married to an active conference interpreter, she took a special interest in the profession and conducted several studies on aspects of a conference interpreter’s work. In a pioneering effort, Bühler (1986) surveyed members of AIIC about the criteria they presumably applied when assessing the quality of an interpreter and his or her performance. For this purpose she drew up a list of 16 criteria, distinguishing between linguistic-semantic and extra-linguistic factors. The former included “native accent”, “fluency of delivery”, “logical cohesion of utterance”, “sense consistency with original message”, “completeness of interpretation”, “correct grammatical usage”, “use of correct terminology” and “use of appropriate style”, and the latter “pleasant voice”, “thorough preparation of conference documents”, “endurance”, “poise”, “pleasant appearance”, “reliability”, “ability to work in a team” and “positive feedback of delegates”.
As evident from some of the criteria in the second group, such as poise and appearance, Bühler envisaged an assessment of interpreters and interpreting in the consecutive as well as the simultaneous mode, and sought to cover such behavioral aspects as preparation, reliability and teamwork. On her one-page questionnaire, the list of 16 items was to be rated by respondents on a four-point ordinal scale ranging from “highly important” and “important” to “less important” and “irrelevant”. Responses were collected (at an AIIC Council meeting and international symposium in Brussels in 1984) from 41 AIIC members. In addition, six members of the association’s Committee on Admissions and Language Classification (CACL) filled in the questionnaire.
The most highly rated criterion by far is “sense consistency with original message”, which relates to the arguably crucial idea of source-target correspondence, but without making explicit reference to such controversial concepts as equivalence or faithfulness. Rather, Bühler’s use of the terms “sense” and “message” points to levels of meaning beyond the linguistic surface, as foregrounded by Danica Seleskovitch in her “théorie du sens” (e.g. 1977). The criterion of “sense consistency” with the original could therefore be expected to be embraced without any reservations by the conference interpreting community. Also related to these ideas is the second-ranking criterion, “logical cohesion”, which captures the requirement for the interpreter’s output to “make sense” to the audience.
Somewhat surprisingly perhaps, all other output-related aspects of performance quality were deemed less relevant by Bühler’s respondents than behavioral qualities such as reliability and thorough preparation, which were considered highly important by four fifths and nearly three quarters of respondents, respectively. Only half the respondents, in contrast, gave the highest rating to factors like correct terminology and grammar, fluency and, interestingly, completeness, with paraverbal characteristics such as voice, native accent and style appearing further down in the list.
Bühler’s seminal study proved highly influential in stimulating further surveys among interpreters and, in particular, end-users (e.g. Kurz 1993). Nevertheless, the limitations of Bühler’s small-scale study seem all too clear. Most critically, it is not known how her sample of 47 AIIC members was constituted, so it is not possible to generalize the findings to the total population. And since Bühler’s questionnaire contained no items eliciting demographic background information, nothing is known about the age, gender, working experience or language combination of this group of conference interpreters.
Some of these shortcomings were redressed in the first follow-up study on interpreters’ quality criteria, which was not conducted until some one-and-a-half decades later. Using a web-based rather than a paper-and-pencil questionnaire, Chiaro and Nocella (2004) surveyed interpreters throughout the world for whom they collected a range of demographic data, including age, gender, education, interpreting experience, geographic region and employment status. Their sample of 286 respondents was 71% female, with a mean age of 45 years and an average of 16 years experience in interpreting. Forty-four percent of the respondents were born in Western European countries, and as many had a degree in interpreting. Rather surprisingly, most of the interpreters in the sample (46%) came from the Americas, which may suggest that Chiaro and Nocella (2004) targeted professionals beyond the field of conference interpreting, the main centers of which have traditionally been in Europe. Indeed, their statement that they sent out “about 1000 invitations … to interpreters belonging to several professional associations” indicates that their target population was both smaller than the full membership of AIIC and broader in terms of affiliation. Unfortunately, the authors do not specify which professional associations their respondents were affiliated with, nor do they state explicitly whether AIIC was among them. It is therefore largely unclear to what extent the AIIC members in Bühler’s study can be compared to the interpreter sample accessed by Chiaro and Nocella.
Another problem with comparability arises from the difference in the tasks the researchers expected their respondents to perform. Whereas Bühler used a rating task for each of her sixteen criteria, Chiaro and Nocella, while using a largely similar list of items, had their respondents establish a ranking, from most important to least important. What motivated this change in research design was the view that Bühler’s respondents had proved “incapable of discriminating and were giving equal importance to all the criteria” (Chiaro & Nocella 2004: 283). While this contention seems somewhat overstated, given the sequence reflected in Figure 1, it does apply to the four or five middle-ground criteria (terminology, fluency, grammar, etc.), all of which were rated as “highly important” and as “important” by nearly half the respondents.
Chiaro and Nocella therefore had their respondents perform two ranking tasks, one for the set of nine “linguistic criteria” and one for a set of eight “extra-linguistic criteria” that differed considerably from Bühler’s original list. The results for the former are shown in Table 1, juxtaposed with an ordered list based on the percentages for “highly important” and “important” in Bühler’s study.
Table 1: Comparative Ranking of Quality Criteria
Chiaro & Nocella (2004)
||sense consistency with original message|
||logical cohesion of utterance|
||use of correct terminology|
||fluency of delivery|
||correct grammatical usage|
||completeness of interpretation|
Notwithstanding the comparability issues arising from the different tasks (and also, perhaps, from the reformulation of some of the criteria), the most striking difference between the two lists of priorities clearly concerns the criterion of “completeness”, which ranks second in the study by Chiaro and Nocella and only in sixth place according to the ratings collected by Bühler. Another significant discrepancy is seen for the importance of correct terminology, which received the third-highest ratings from Bühler’s AIIC interpreters and was ranked only sixth by those filling in Chiaro and Nocella’s web-based questionnaire.
In the face of such diverging results, and the dearth of empirical findings regarding professional interpreters’ quality-related preferences in general, there is an obvious need for further research. In an effort to respond to this need, we conducted a comprehensive survey as part of a larger research project on “Quality in Simultaneous Interpreting” carried out at the University of Vienna.
3. AIIC SURVEY
The “Survey on Quality and Role”, which was carried out among AIIC members in late 2008 (Zwischenberger & Pöchhacker 2010), combines the need for replication with the desire for innovation. With regard to the former, it was decided to follow Bühler’s choice and target AIIC as the most comprehensive professional association of conference interpreters in the world. In the interest of comparability, we also adopted Bühler’s original criteria and kept her rating task, though using more consistent wording for the four response options. The focus of our overall project (on simultaneous interpreting) and the tradition of user-expectation surveys using only output-related criteria, led us to concentrate on Bühler’s “linguistic” criteria, plus voice quality, as included in the list since Kurz (1993). Taking note of research on quality expectations published over the years, we extended the original list of criteria to include “lively intonation”, as studied in particular by Ángela Collados Aís (1998) at the University of Granada, and “synchronicity”, which had emerged as a feature expected of simultaneous interpreting by respondents in the AIIC-sponsored user expectation survey carried out by Moser (1996).
Aside from these additional criteria, and a set of follow-up questions concerning the potential variability of quality-related preferences depending on the type of assignment or meeting, the crucial innovation in this survey project was the use of a state-of-the-art approach to questionnaire administration and data collection. Like Chiaro and Nocella, we used a web-based questionnaire; unlike these pioneers, however, we were able to benefit from user-friendly software available from the open-source community.
3.1 Survey Methodology
Online surveys using web-based questionnaires emerged in the early 1990s, and a number of tools are now available which allow non-experts to design and administer surveys of one kind or another. One of the best-known providers is SurveyMonkey, a US company founded in 1999 that offers a basic version of their survey tool for free. A word of caution must be sounded, though, as some of these readily available tools do not allow the survey administrator full control over the data and the survey population. Most critically, access to the survey instruments is often provided by a link (URL) that can freely be disseminated and allows anyone to participate. This can obviously undermine the integrity of the data and thus the validity of the findings.
For our survey we therefore opted for an application that ensures controlled access as well as full autonomy in the handling of data. The software is called LimeSurvey and has been developed in the open-source community since 2003 (when it was created under the name of PHPSurveyor by Australian software developer Jason Cleeland). As its original name suggests, it uses PHP as the programming language, in combination with MySQL, a relational database management system. This software can be downloaded and installed on a server, if available. In our case, the survey application was hosted in-house on our own server at the Center for Translation Studies.
The software application has two main components: a questionnaire generator tool and a survey administration tool which, in turn, runs two separate databases – one with the e-mail addresses of potential participants, and the other with their responses. Since the two databases are not linked, the system guarantees full anonymity of the responses, whereas it allows the administrator to monitor whether a response has been received from a given e-mail address in the database. If not, the system can be used to send a reminder to those addresses from which no response has been received. For each entry in the database of addresses, the system generates a unique access token (password), which can be used only once to complete the survey. This makes it impossible to complete the survey more than once (not a major concern in our case) or to share the link with persons beyond the defined survey population.
Clearly, then, it is essential to have a defined survey population and an e-mail address for each of its members. Ten or twenty years ago, this requirement made it highly questionable whether a web-based approach could ever yield a representative sample. And even now, a web-based survey instrument will obviously reach only those who have and use e-mail.
This was also a slight limitation in our case, as some members of AIIC prefer, for whatever reason, not to have their e-mail addresses listed. Since our survey was not an AIIC-sponsored initiative, we compiled our list of e-mail addresses from the Association’s membership directory for the year 2008, ending up with over 2,500 entries. This made for an excellent sampling frame, but sampling as such would again have involved some tricky issues, such as aiming for a balanced representation with regard to regions, working languages and employment status. We therefore avoided sampling altogether and opted for a survey of the full population; that is, e-mail invitations to participate in the web-based survey went out to all 2,523 addresses in our database. All but a few members of our target group have English as a working language, so the bias of using an English-language questionnaire for respondents throughout the world should be very small to negligible.
The survey instrument as such, developed in a painstaking process within our project team, was comprised of three parts. One of them (Part C) focused on the issue of conference interpreters’ self-perception of their role. While certainly relevant and related to the issue of quality, this part of the study is discussed elsewhere. Another part (Part A) elicited demographic and socio- professional information, including employment status, AIIC region, age, gender and working experience. Part B of the questionnaire was devoted to the relative importance of quality criteria and essentially consisted of an array-type item listing the eleven criteria and offering four response options (“very important”, “important”, “less important”, “unimportant”) as well as a “no answer” option for each criterion.
3.2 Survey Findings
A total of 704 AIIC members worldwide participated in the survey, which was active for 7 weeks from late September to early November 2008. This highly satisfactory response rate (28.5%) gave us a sample that, in many ways, closely matches the profile of AIIC members in general. Thus, the average respondent in our survey is 52 years old and has been in the profession for 24 years. By the same token, the male–female ratio of 1 : 3 (76% women) is as typical of the overall membership structure as the predominance of freelancers, who make up 89% of our sample.
The ratings (“very important”, “important”) for the eleven criteria are summarized in Figure 1.
Figure 1: Ratings of Quality Criteria (n=704)
The findings shown in Figure 1 reflect a distinct pattern of priorities. In part, the sequence of criteria matches that found in previous studies, especially the user expectation surveys initiated by Kurz (1993). This concerns the two top-rated criteria, “sense consistency with original message” and “logical cohesion of utterance”, and the criteria that generally attract the lowest ratings of relative importance, such as “pleasant voice” and “native accent”. Much more so than Bühler’s study, our survey also yields a clear order of priorities for the four output-related criteria that are sandwiched between the ones at the top and at the bottom of the list: fluency ranks as an undisputed number 3, followed by the correct use of terminology and grammar, with completeness ranking even lower. This is in line with Bühler’s findings, but – again – in stark contrast with those of Chiaro and Nocella, whose ranking had completeness as the second most important criterion of quality. The reasons for this discrepancy may have to do with the composition of the survey population in Chiaro and Nocella’s study: Given the sizeable share of interpreters in the Americas, completeness may have been valued more highly because these respondents would likely be working also in court and other legal settings. However, in the absence of more detailed information on the respondent profile, such speculation is impossible to substantiate.
With regard to the top three quality criteria in the opinion of AIIC members, our survey yields a clear result: While “sense consistency” and “logical cohesion” remain undisputed at the top, “use of correct terminology” is substituted in third place by “fluency of delivery”. Differences between our results and those of Bühler (1986) arise mainly at the lower end of the list, where “appropriate style” receives higher ratings than “pleasant voice” and “native accent”. The ratings for the newly introduced criterion of “lively intonation” closely match those for “pleasant voice”, which may be a sign of conceptual overlap, even though care had been taken to avoid that by placing intonation well ahead of voice quality in the list.
In all, the views of AIIC members concerning the relative importance of output-related aspects of quality have been shown by our survey to be relatively stable. While our replication of Bühler’s study has shown the pattern of priorities to be largely consistent over time, the comprehensiveness of our full-population survey, which reached experienced conference interpreters in AIIC “regions” throughout the world, could also lead us to claim broad geographical coverage and thus a high degree of consistency on a global scale. It is here, though, that our critical reflection, as suggested by the question mark in the title of this paper, must begin. For there are several issues that make it doubtful whether these ostensibly robust survey findings can be considered “global”.
4. GLOBAL STANDARDS AND CRITERIA?
In raising a few problematic issues, I should begin by acknowledging that the term “standards” is rather broad and potentially misleading; what I mean here specifically is the pattern of more or less relevant output-related quality criteria for simultaneous interpreting as seen from the perspective of the providers of that service – the perspective of “the profession”, for short.
And how global is that profession? Clearly, conference interpreting can be considered an early example of a truly international twentieth-century profession. This is reflected in the membership of AIIC, which is not initially based on a territorial principle but open to practitioners in any country, whatever their choice of professional domicile. It is an international association of individuals from all over the world that has grown from a few dozen members in 1953 to nearly 3,000 in nearly 100 countries today.
This coverage is impressive, and yet we need to be cautious when extrapolating from an AIIC survey to the interpreting profession worldwide. One reason is that even with close to 3,000 members, AIIC by no means includes every professional conference interpreter in the world. According to the AIIC website, there are 29 members in China. By comparison, there are 73 in Austria, my tiny home country with roughly 8.4 million inhabitants.
What is worse, it is not even entirely clear how a “conference interpreter” is to be defined. Some would place the emphasis on university-level training (which would be problematic for countries with a different interpreter-training tradition, such as Japan); others might focus on proficiency in both of the main working modes (consecutive as well as simultaneous interpreting), and others again could focus their definition on the setting in which these interpreters work, that is, conferences – or (as a 1984 working definition proposed by AIIC would have it) “conference-like situations”. In defining an interpreter, we would probably want to use all of the above features, but none of them may be “necessary and sufficient” to set hard-and-fast boundaries for the concept of a conference interpreter.
With regard to settings and fields of work, we must also acknowledge that the profession of conference interpreting is stratified, or that there are different markets, with a high-end including the multilingual international organizations (known as the AIIC Agreement sector) and a more local market in which assignments typically involve bidirectional interpreting. Where this is done in consecutive, it becomes difficult to distinguish conference from liaison interpreting if one does not go by the number of participants in the interaction – or by the fee.
Mindful that we may only have captured a certain – though undisputably relevant – segment of the overall population of conference interpreters in our survey, we are complementing our work by satellite surveys in various national contexts, including the Czech Republic, Germany, Italy and Poland. By surveying the members of national interpreter associations in their (A) language, we are hoping to see whether the AIIC findings will be corroborated for the more national conference interpreting markets. In one of these country-based surveys, 107 members of the German Association of Conference Interpreters (VKD), out of the 323 who had received an invitation to participate, indicated their quality-related preferences along largely similar lines as the AIIC population (see Zwischenberger 2011). The four top-rated criteria remained the same, but “completeness” exchanged places with “correct grammar”. The latter may have to do with the types of meetings in which the respondents usually work: completeness may seem more important in highly technical specialist conferences and negotiations, whereas standards of grammatical correctness may be somewhat lower among interpreters who typically work also into their B language.
The conclusion to be drawn from these findings for the Chinese context is clear: In order to find out about the views on quality held by Chinese conference interpreters, a survey of this kind would be needed. We cannot claim that our AIIC Survey, which included only eleven respondents who indicated Mandarin as their A language, covers conference interpreting in China.
With a view to such a survey, two fundamental design issues need to be considered: One is how to define the population – and to access all or a random sample of its members by e-mail; and the other concerns the criteria to be evaluated. The first problem was tackled in a survey study by Setton and Guo (2009), who were keenly aware of the difficulty, if not impossibility, of drawing a representative sample of the country’s population of professional interpreters (and translators, for that matter). For example, the 62 respondents in their study, which centered on Shanghai and Taipei and included only 27 who mainly worked in interpreting rather than translation, had an average age of 35 years (compared to 52 in the AIIC sample). What is more, over 80% of the respondents were not affiliated with any professional association. Most of the respondents were reached via lists of alumni of interpreter training programs and lists used by recruiters.
No less challenging than defining and accessing the population is the issue of the criteria to be used in the survey instrument. They should presumably be offered to respondents in Mandarin, so they would need to be translated. As acknowledged by Bühler (1986) and investigated in depth by the Granada team in so-called “contextualization studies”, in which they asked respondents about their understanding of a given criterion (and found widely diverging interpretations), the criteria themselves are poorly defined. What is more, some of them, such as intonation, may play a different role in a tonal language like Mandarin Chinese. Indeed, linguists formerly held that Chinese had no intonation to speak of. While this is no longer the case (e.g. Kratochvil 1998), the specifics of intonational patterns and functions have yet to be fully understood – and applied to research in interpreting studies.
All this brings me to a mixed conclusion. Despite advances in technology which have enabled us to carry out a “global” survey on quality criteria, our findings, though seemingly robust, are still patchy, and I have tried to point out why filling in the picture for China is a difficult challenge. On the other hand, the conference interpreting community in China has been developing fast (cf. Setton 2011), and the same holds true for the community of interpreting scholars, as evident from the highly successful National Conference series. There clearly is ample reason to assume that state-of-the-art survey research of the type presented in this paper will soon be conducted in China on the issue of quality and other topics, extending and deepening our understanding of conference interpreting as a global profession.
AIIC (1982) “Practical guide for professional interpreters”. Geneva: International Association of Conference Interpreters.
Bühler, Hildegund (1986) “Linguistic (semantic) and extra-linguistic (pragmatic) criteria for the evaluation of conference interpretation and interpreters”. Multilingua, 5 (4): 231-235.
Chiaro, Delia & Nocella, Giuseppe (2004) “Interpreters’ perception of linguistic and non-linguistic factors affecting quality: A survey through the World Wide Web”. Meta, 49 (2): 278-293
Collados Aís, Ángela (1998/2002) “Quality assessment in simultaneous interpreting: The importance of nonverbal communication”. In F. Pöchhacker & M. Shlesinger (eds.) The Interpreting Studies Reader. London/New York, Routledge, 327-336.
Herbert, Jean (1952) The Interpreter’s Handbook: How to Become a Conference Interpreter. Geneva: Georg.
Kratochvil, Paul (1998) “Intonation in Beijing Chinese”. In D. Hirst & A. Di Cristo (eds.) Intonation Systems: A Survey of Twenty Languages. Cambridge: CUP, 417-431.
Kurz, Ingrid (1993/2002) “Conference interpretation: Expectations of different user groups”. In F. Pöchhacker & M. Shlesinger (eds.) The Interpreting Studies Reader. London/New York, Routledge, 313-324.
Moser, Peter (1996) “Expectations of users of conference interpretation”. Interpreting, 1 (2): 145-178.
Seleskovitch, Danica (1977) “Take care of the sense and the sounds will take care of themselves or why interpreting is not tantamount to translating languages”. The Incorporated Linguist, 15: 7-33.
Setton, Robin (ed.) (2009) China and Chinese. Special Issue of Interpreting, 11 (2).
Setton, Robin & Guo, Alice Liangliang (2009) “Attitudes to role, status and professional identity in interpreters and translators with Chinese in Shanghai and Taipei”. Translation and Interpreting Studies, 4 (2): 210-238.
Zwischenberger, Cornelia (in press) “Quality criteria in simultaneous interpreting: An international vs. a national view”. The Interpreters’ Newsletter, 15 (2011).
Zwischenberger, Cornelia & Pöchhacker, Franz (2010) “Survey on quality and role: Conference interpreters’ expectations and self-perceptions”. Communicate! Spring 2010. http://www.aiic.net/ViewPage.cfm/article2510.htm (accessed 25 January 2011).
Brian T. Gold, Chobok Kim, Nathan F. Johnson, Richard J. Kryscio and Charles D. Smith Department of Anatomy and Neurobiology, Magnetic Resonance Imaging and Spectroscopy Center, Sanders-Brown Center on Aging, Department of Statistics, and Department of Neurology, University of Kentucky, Lexington, Kentucky 40536, and Department of Psychology, Kyungpook National University, Daegu, 702-701 South Korea
The Journal of Neuroscience, January 9, 2013.
CRÓNICA DE UN VIAJE:
“ Hace unas semanas los estudiantes del MIC emprendimos un viaje de cuatro días al centro neurálgico de la interpretación en Europa (y, por qué no decirlo, de las cervezas y el chocolate). Hicimos la maleta meticulosamente, con cuidado de no olvidar la grabadora, la libreta, los cascos o el disfraz de intérprete. Sin embargo, nada ni nadie podía prepararnos para lo que nos esperaba en aquel lugar.
El lunes a primera hora de la mañana cruzamos el control de seguridad del edificio Albert Borschette para pasar una jornada en la Comisión Europea conociendo a distintas funcionarias del SCIC y practicando la interpretación consecutiva. Sorprende la cantidad de altos cargos ocupados por mujeres, aunque en un ámbito como la interpretación lo contrario sorprendería incluso más. Para rematar el día, cuatro valientes voluntarios se sometieron a un simulacro de examen de acceso a la UE con un tribunal de lujo en el que estaban las jefas de las cabinas española, alemana y una intérprete de cabina inglesa del equipo de formadores del SCIC. Incluso los meros espectadores estábamos como flanes, pero dejaron claro cuál es el nivel del MIC de La Laguna. Lo más destacable del día fueron las caras que se nos quedaron al echarle un vistazo a la documentación que nos dieron para la reunión del Consejo de la UE que interpretaríamos al día siguiente en cabina muda.
Para bien o para mal, no pudimos asistir a ninguna reunión con tintes más políticos así que el martes y el miércoles los pasamos viviendo en nuestras propias carnes lo que es estar en cabina durante una reunión técnica, rebuscando entre los documentos el párrafo exacto que estaban leyendo los delegados y quedándonos fascinados con el trabajo de los intérpretes de esas reuniones. La verdad es que por mucho que se diga de las reuniones de pesca y de la gallineta nórdica, no podemos subestimar la dificultad de una reunión sobre la armonización de los niveles de ruido de los vehículos. Tuvimos la suerte de conocer a Paco, intérprete del SCIC que hizo de guía turístico por el edificio Berlaymont y nos llevó a tomar una cerveza con varios intérpretes que nos contaron de primera mano cómo es formar parte del SCIC.
El miércoles por la tarde, tras un día de cabina muda en el Consejo de la UE, en el tren hacia Luxemburgo pudimos disfrutar de un rato de descanso, muchas risas y alguna que otra sorpresa.
Finalmente, el jueves pasamos el día en el Tribunal de Justicia de la UE, donde tuvimos la oportunidad no sólo de presenciar una vista oral, sino también de ser testigos de las prestaciones de los intérpretes que trabajaron solamente para que los estudiantes del MIC pudiésemos escucharlos. Comprobamos que, a pesar de ser la misma profesión, el trabajo que realizan los intérpretes de la Comisión Europea, o del Consejo Europeo, y los del Tribunal de Justicia de la Unión Europea es completamente diferente.
El viaje fue una oportunidad para conocer el funcionamiento de diferentes instituciones europeas desde dentro, para escuchar de boca de sus intérpretes cómo es la profesión, para tener nuevas perspectivas, ver la interpretación desde un punto de vista distinto y para darnos un empujón de cara a las semanas de formación que nos quedan. Y por qué no, para disfrutar de las tormentas de nieve que tanto escasean en Tenerife.
Los alumnos del MIC queremos dar las gracias a los intérpretes del SCIC y del TJUE por su paciencia y aguante, y, a Lourdes, Marlene y Julia, por organizar y coordinar este viaje”.
Nuria Campoy, alumna del MIC, promoción 2012-13.
More info about this project in the great interview originally published in The Interpreter Diaries to Sophie Llewellyn Smith:
It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Speechpool!
If you’ve been following the SCIC Universities conference in Brussels over the past few days, you may have already heard the big news: Speechpool, the dynamic, collaborative, multilingual website for interpreters to exchange practice material, has just been officially launched. When I first caught wind of this project in January, I knew that this was something that my readers would want to hear about, so I got in touch with Sophie Llewellyn Smith, the founder, to find out more. Here’s what I learned:
MH: Sophie, you have just launched Speechpool, a speech-sharing website for interpreters. Could you tell me a little bit about what it has to offer?
SLS: Speechpool will offer interpreting students, graduates and practising interpreters a forum to upload practice speeches and view other people’s. The idea is to create something truly collaborative in the form of a multilingual website and a Facebook page.Many students already give each other practice speeches in class, or in groups outside of class. It wouldn’t be too much of a stretch to record these speeches on a laptop, video camera or tablet computer, and allow others to benefit from them. If everyone gets involved, we could very quickly build up a large and dynamic bank of video clips.
MH: How did the project come about?
SLS: I spent several years as an interpreter trainer at the University of Leeds. Every year students would ask for good sources of practice material. Our main message to them was that they should prepare well-structured speeches for each other and practise in groups outside of class. Gradually we came to the idea of uploading audio files onto a file sharing website. We still had a problem with source language, though; sometimes our students were looking for speeches in a particular C language, but there was no native speaker of that language on the course. It occurred to me that students around the world were probably doing exactly the same thing. Surely it would make sense to pool all that material and make it freely available to everyone?
I have been working hard since last summer with a web developer to create a suitable website, and I have been very fortunate to receive financial backing from the NNI (National Network for Interpreting) in the UK, and a lot of help and goodwill from students and alumni of many interpreter training institutions. Now that the basics are in place, we are gradually working on adding more language versions to Speechpool, and starting to build up our stock of speeches!
The idea behind Speechpool is nothing new, but I hope the scale and ambition of the project and the features available on the website will make it a very useful and widely used resource.
MH: What target group do you have in mind? Are there any prerequisites that have to be met by those who’d like to become involved?
SLS: The website was designed with conference interpreting students in mind, but if the project is successful I would expect that other groups might take an interest, for example graduates wanting to maintain their skills or prepare for a test, practising interpreters trying to add a new language, interpreter trainers looking for material to use in class, or even language learners. It is also possible that the content of Speechpool might be of interest to public service interpreters, who make up a large proportion of the interpreting market in some countries and who don’t always have access to material (or even to training!).
We have set some limits on users who would like to upload material. This is to try to ensure that the speeches are of an adequate standard. You will need to be an interpreting student, graduate or practising interpreter to upload content, and you will need login details.
MH: Walk me through the website. How does it work?
SLS: First of all, I should say that the interface is multilingual, i.e. there will be parallel versions of Speechpool in English, French, Greek, and dozens of other languages. If you want to watch a speech in Hungarian, you simply go to the Hungarian version of the site (you can navigate from the home page).
To find a speech for interpreting practice, you will use a search function which allows you to search by topic (agriculture, finance, health etc.) and/or keyword. We hope this will allow users to refine their search and find the most relevant speeches.
To upload a speech, you will need to fill in an upload form with details of topic, keywords and links to background material. In order to avoid the site collapsing under the weight of massive video files, we have set it up so that speeches are actually uploaded to YouTube, then embedded in the Speechpool site. This means users will have to create a YouTube account.
For those who have concerns about privacy, YouTube allows you to adjust privacy settings to ‘unlisted’ so that the speech is only visible to those who have the link. It sounds rather complicated, but once you have a YouTube account, it’s really very quick and easy. We have counted on the fact that the new generation of interpreters is very comfortable with modern technologies, YouTube, Facebook and the like.
MH: What features or functions does Speechpool offer users?
SLS: The website has a few interesting features. First of all, when you have watched a speech, you can leave comments about it. You could even leave a link to your own interpreting performance (on YouTube) and ask for feedback from another user.
One of the important features of the site is that speeches won’t be graded for difficulty by an outside authority. Instead, the users themselves will vote on the perceived difficulty of the speech (a bit like the TripAdvisor site where you can vote on hotels or restaurants). This cumulative assessment by users will give each speech a ‘star rating’ for difficulty. When you search for a speech, you will be able to sort the results by star rating, but also based on whether the speech is recent, or very popular.
We very much hope that users will upload high quality speeches, but to address any quality problems we have created an alarm button. If you watch a speech and feel there is a significant problem with sound or image quality, or the quality of the speech itself (i.e. its content) you will be able to click on the alarm button and send an email to the site administrators to have the speech removed.
We see Speechpool as an interactive site where users can meet, chat, and ask for feedback or help. To encourage interaction between users, we have created a Speechpool page on Facebook. The idea of this page is that users can ask for a particular speech. For example, you might post: ‘please could someone prepare a speech about EU fisheries policy in Portuguese?’
To make the material uploaded to the site even more useful, we are asking users to include two links to relevant background material, and we are working on a way to allow uploads of transcripts and glossaries.
MH: What languages, topics, and interpreting modes will the speeches cover?
SLS: I confess I have taken a maximalist approach here. I can’t vouch in advance for what the speeches will cover, because it depends on who gets involved and uploads speeches; but the website is designed to accommodate speeches suitable for consecutive or simultaneous, a wide range of topics, and a truly vast number of languages. We are currently working on versions of the Speechpool site in the EU23, Chinese, Japanese, Arabic, Russian, Croatian, Turkish, Icelandic and Macedonian. After that, we’ll see!
I should add that I expect Speechpool will include speeches given in a range of accents, including non-native accents. Many interpreters are called upon to interpret English, or French, or any other language, spoken in an unfamiliar accent or by someone who is not a native speaker. The Speechpool site is designed to offer speeches of this type; there will be an indication of whether the author of the speech is a native speaker, and what sort of accent he or she has. One of the exciting things about this project, to my mind, is that it could bring together interpreters from all over the world. Just one example: students from Ghana, Cameroon and Mozambique have volunteered to prepare speeches.
MH: There are already a few speech repositories available on the internet. What added value does Speechpool offer?
SLS: There are pros and cons to every speech bank. They serve different purposes.
In a sense, Speechpool isn’t ground-breaking: there are already speech banks on the internet set up by students to practise together. They tend to be small-scale and to use audio files. Some of them are short-lived; they grind to a halt when the founding students graduate. And at least one has been taken over by pornographic spam posts, unfortunately! Speechpool can offer something on a much larger scale: very wide language coverage, video clips, and hopefully more permanent!
Of the larger scale speech banks, some offer ‘live’ recordings of political debates or speeches only, while others are libraries of various speeches that were not prepared specifically as pedagogical material for interpreter training. The SCIC/EP repository (author’s note: access to this repository is restricted to selected users) offers a mixture of speeches, some of them recorded live in Parliament, for example, and some of them prepared by trainers as pedagogical material.
The idea behind Speechpool, on the other hand, is that it should largely contain speeches prepared by students for students (or at least by interpreters for interpreters), in video format. All the material will be original. There won’t be any video recordings of politicians’ speeches or parliamentary debates. There will be minimal ‘policing’ of the site, and users will be responsible for posting high quality content. If everyone joins in, it will be a very dynamic resource with a rapid turnover and a large number of speeches.
I see Speechpool as a more interactive site than many speech banks, and the Facebook page is a nice opportunity for users to chat and make requests. The fact that users will vote on difficulty is another distinguishing feature.
All in all I suppose the added value I see is that Speechpool allows students to take responsibility for their own learning, but with a much wider pool of partners than might otherwise be possible. In an idealistic way, I see Speechpool as a way of bringing the different strands of the interpreting community together and creating something genuinely collaborative for the common good. And I very much hope we’ll avoid obscene spam messages!
MH: It all sounds very exciting! Do you see any potential pitfalls for this project?
SLS: Well, like any other collaborative project, the success of Speechpool will depend on its users. It will be interesting to see whether people are altruistic enough to make the project work; if no-one uploads speeches, the project won’t take off.
MH: Is the Speechpool site already up and running? Can people already use it to view and upload speeches?
SLS: The short answer to this is yes. We are busy testing the site, and some speeches have already been uploaded. The English, Greek and German versions are available, and we will be rolling out the other languages gradually. I expect the next few versions to include Italian, Spanish, French and possibly Hungarian and Macedonian.
MH: Where can my readers find out more?
SLS: I presented the project at the recent SCIC Universities Conference on 22nd March, and my presentation is available in the archive. A short clip introducing Speechpool has also been prepared by DG SCIC. The project was also featured in a recent video interview for the interpreting blog A Word in Your Ear.
As I said earlier, Speechpool also has a dedicated Facebook pageFacebook page. Click ‘like’ to receive regular progress updates and to become part of the Speechpool community. You can also follow Speechpool on Twitter (@Speechpool).
Most important of all, why not visit the site? You will find it at speechpool.net.
MH: How can people get involved in Speechpool?
SLS: The most important message I want to get across is that Speechpool will be free to use (though not to run…) and easy to access once you have login details, but the success of the project will depend on users!
If you can help us translate the content into another language, please get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org. More importantly, if you think this is a useful resource for interpreting students and you plan to view speeches and use them for interpreting practice, please upload a few speeches first!Speechpool is totally based on the principle of ‘scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours’. So get involved! Prepare a speech, upload it onto YouTube, and ask for your Speechpool login details. We’ll be happy to oblige!
“The internationalisation of English has begun to provoke a two-fold enervation. In many societies, imported English, with its necessarily synthetic, ‘pre-packaged’ semantic field, is eroding the autonomy of the native language-culture. Intentionally or not, American-English and English, by virtue of their global diffusion, are a principal agent in the destruction of natural linguistic diversity. This destruction is, perhaps, the least reparable of the ecological ravages which distinguish our age. More subtly, the modulation of English into an ‘Esperanto’ of world commerce, technology, and tourism, is having debilitating effects on English proper”.
George Steiner “After Babel”, 1973.
There are several ways to overcome the problem of communication between people who speak different mother tongues. None of these ways is ideal. One solution, obviously, is that one of the interlocutors speaks the language of the other. Problems may arise: the knowledge of the language may not be adequate, one side is making a concession and the other has an immediate and significant advantage, there are possible political implications, it may be difficult to apply in multilateral diplomacy, etc. A second possibility is that both sides use a third, neutral, language. A potential problem may be that neither side possesses full linguistic knowledge and control, leading to possible bad misunderstandings. Nevertheless, this method is frequently applied in international practice because of its political advantages. A third formula, using interpreters, is also very widely used, particularly in multilateral diplomacy or for negotiations at a very high political level – not only for reasons of equity, but because politicians and statesmen often do not speak foreign languages.
So, which language is the diplomatic one? The answer is not simple at all. To start with, there is no single diplomatic “lingua franca” that could be inscribed in the above-mentioned catchphrase. In the past there were periods when one language or another served as a common, widely-used means of inter-state communication, although usually limited to certain geographic areas or political groups of countries. Such a role was played by Acadian (Asyrian-Babilonian), by literary Chinese, by Greek “koin`e” (a mixture of dialects, based mainly on Ionic and Attic), and later by mediaeval Greek, then Latin, Arabic, Turkish, and yet later by Spanish, Portuguese, Russian, Italian, Dutch, German, French, and recently, more and more, by English. Very often attempts have been made to impose one language or another, with the argumentation that it is “clearer”, “more flexible”, “more expressive”, “more eloquent, subtle or refined”, “most suitable for international negotiations”, etc. The mere fact that historically such a role has been taken in turns by so many languages proves that linguistic or semantic reasons are not decisive. On the contrary, it can be said that the dominant role of one language or another in diplomacy has resulted from the political, strategic, economic, cultural or other domination of one power or another in international relations.
J. Kurbalija and H. Slavik, Language and Diplomacy, 2001.
UN TIEMPO PARA RESISTIR Y OTRO PARA RECORDAR
Todos los recién nacidos crecen en un mundo que se acaba de crear para ellos, un abigarrado paraíso sin serpiente. En cuanto tienen un mínimo uso de razón descubren cosas, asuntos y personas que son tan nuevos como ellos mismos, descubren reflejos en los muros, figuras que se parecen como dos gotas de agua, secuencias de efectos, el día y la noche. El mundo es siempre un mundo de estreno para los recién llegados.
Cuando descubren que hay tal cosa como un pasado, que el mundo no ha sido siempre así sino que el mundo varía, cambia y se transforma, ya es demasiado tarde. En cuanto el adulto se percata de que hubo, años atrás, un tiempo pasado, inevitablemente le parece haber perdido algo porque descubrir el pasado es comenzar a ver el presente como un envejecimiento del mundo anterior. Aunque parezca paradójico, desde el punto de vista del adulto el hoy es más viejo que el ayer. De pronto el presente deja de ser fresco y vigoroso porque tiene ya los caracteres de lo que viene de muy atrás. No es que “cualquiera tiempo pasado fue mejor”, como escribía con tanta melancolía Jorge Manrique, es que en cuanto concebimos un mundo en tiempo pasado ya hemos cubierto de ceniza el tiempo presente, le hemos marcado arrugas y cicatrices.
Este proceso es fatal e incontrovertible. Vivir es ir produciendo pasado y sin él la vida sería imposible porque carecería de sentido, nos volveríamos locos. Es más, sólo los locos pueden vivir en el puro ahora. Gracias a la invención del pasado logramos hacer llevadero el dolor y la decadencia del presente de un modo continuado que comienza mucho más temprano de lo que parece. En compensación, el gozo, el deleite, la fruición suspenden el presente y el pasado, los reúnen en un instante único sin sucesión. El placer nos saca de nuestras casillas y nos permite vivir fuera del tiempo, de modo que al placer más democrático lo llaman “la pequeña muerte”. También el extremo dolor nos saca de quicio: el torturado vive en un instante que no tiene pasado ni futuro y se sostiene sobre una tensión mortal.
Los niños actuales ven a sus padres pasear por la casa hablando solos con un adminículo pegado a la oreja. Les ven por la noche sentados frente a un emisor de imágenes coloreadas. Oyen voces sin cuerpo y cuando se fijan comprenden que están saliendo de una cajita metálica con botones. Las calles son ríos tempestuosos de hierro y gases. Los alimentos, incluida el agua, llegan envasados y por lo tanto nunca más serán substancias. Para ellos una parte considerable de la experiencia se enciende y se apaga a voluntad con un gesto de la mano. Cuando descubran que todo eso fue en el pasado, será porque su mundo presente no tiene misterio. Habrá comenzado otro ciclo de costumbres y técnicas y las pasadas se habrán cubierto con un velo poético, como para nosotros las palomas mensajeras o el telégrafo.
Edmund Gosse recuerda que, en su infancia, lo más codiciado era la pastilla de acuarela color carmesí con la que su padre, biólogo marino que estudiaba e ilustraba los moluscos de Cornualles, adornaba sus acuarelas. Aquel carmesí estaba hecho de cochinillas parasitarias machacadas, como las que en la actualidad aún se cultivan en Lanzarote, y era tremendamente caro. Si el niño se portaba muy bien, su padre le dejaba dar una diminuta pincelada de carmesí en la lámina sobre la que trabajaba. Esto lo escribe Edmund Gosse en una biografía inmortal, cuando ya podía comprar carmesí a un precio normal en las tiendas de suministros para bellas artes de Bloomsbury.
Estamos condenados a amar lo que ya ha sido, lo que fue, simplemente porque ya no es. Todo lo que ya no es tiene el carácter fijo, inalterable, profundo e inquietante de las obras de arte, porque las obras de arte, hasta hace pocas décadas, eran puro pasado cristalizado. Yo he visto llegar las barcas de pesca, al atardecer, a la playa de Vilasar, cargadas hasta la borda. Una vez encalladas en la rompiente, los marineros las empujaban arenas arriba sobre largas vigas engrasadas. Nunca podré arrancarme de la memoria el crepúsculo marino, los peces vivos saltando sobre las cestas de anea, los pescadores descalzos empujando las embarcaciones y cantando rítmicamente para ir todos a una. Esa escena no volverá a existir nunca jamás. Es la imagen detenida de un mundo que entonces era nuevo para quien lo vio y ahora es tan lejano que parece no haber existido jamás, como un paisaje de Poussin.
Pero mi padre no acudía al desembarco de los pescadores porque para él carecía de novedad. Por el contrario, recordaba, y así nos lo contaba, cuando de niño se bañaba en esas mismas aguas y los peces que ahora había que ir a buscar en alta mar los tenía él al alcance de la mano en unas aguas transparentes habitadas por miles de seres plateados que ni siquiera huían del bañista. Nosotros (decía), los niños nuevos, ya no habíamos conocido el mar prístino y salvaje de cuando él era niño. Cada generación ha conocido un mundo más puro que el de la siguiente generación. Y sin embargo el mundo es siempre igualmente puro para el recién nacido, porque la pureza del mundo es el recuerdo.
Bien puede darse que una época sea objetiva o razonablemente nefasta. Da lo mismo. En cuanto se convierta en pasado se esfumarán los ácidos corrosivos, la maldad intrínseca de cada instante, y se adonizará. Así oía yo hablar a mis tíos y abuelos sobre la guerra civil. Un tiempo espantoso, años de muerte e insoportable necedad. Sin embargo, ellos recordaban aquellos días en el frente, con el frío gélido, el horizonte estepario y el rancho escaso, como años magníficos de su vida y se diría que estaban dispuestos a regresar. Incluso las mujeres que se habían quedado en la ciudad y luchaban todos los días por la supervivencia, recordaban entre carcajadas el conejo criado en el balcón que luego nadie quería sacrificar a pesar del hambre. El tiempo pasado sólo conserva su maldad para quienes lo cultivan en el presente y lo quieren mantener vivo y maligno. Los mercaderes de la venganza, por ejemplo.
Y no es imprescindible ser un niño. Yo he paseado por el Museo del Louvre cuando ya era adulto y aquellos tesoros comenzaban a llamar mi atención, completamente solo y oyendo el crujir de los tablones de madera del suelo como una música fantasmal. Y recuerdo deambular por aquellos museos vacíos, silenciosos, cargados de una vida poderosa, en los que cien miradas te escrutaban desde los muros, como los arqueólogos deben de recorrer las tumbas recién abiertas en Mesopotamia o Irak. El aire de esos lugares tiene un frío propio, un aroma de líquido encerrado en un pomo durante siglos y que al destaparse te devuelve lo que alguna vez respiraron los más antiguos, su aire, su aliento resucitado.
En un casi desconocido Hemingway recién publicado en España (“Sobre París“, Elba), el muy joven escritor muestra su faceta de artista a los veintitrés años, porque ya es capaz de recordar un lugar en el cual sólo el pasado tiene la belleza de lo inalterable, a pesar de haber vivido allí la destrucción y la muerte. Fue en Schio, durante la Primera Guerra, “uno de los lugares más hermosos de la tierra”. La pequeña aldea del Trentino, apoyada en los Alpes, formaba parte de su experiencia del dolor y la desesperación, pero no por eso dejaba de ser “un lugar maravilloso para ir a vivir cuando terminara la guerra”. Hemingway era demasiado artista como para no construir adecuadamente el recuerdo, de manera que regresó una vez concluidos los combates para encararse con el presente. Lo encontró todo reconstruido o a medio reconstruir.
“Una ciudad reconstruida es mucho más triste que una ciudad devastada”, escribe entonces, en el presente, cuando es ya forzoso que el pasado cristalice en una imagen bella e imborrable. “Un pueblo arrasado en tiempos de guerra siempre (tiene) dignidad, como si hubiera muerto por una buena causa (…) De todo ello ahora sólo quedaba una nueva y fea futilidad”. La tremenda injusticia de este juicio, desconsiderado hasta la crueldad con quienes precisan una nueva morada después de haberlo perdido todo, es la prueba perfecta de que para mantener un pasado es imprescindible cubrir de ceniza el presente. Y la memoria, la potencia creativa de la memoria, es por completo amoral y egoísta.
La construcción del pasado es una construcción del deseo y el deseo es egoísmo puro. Todo lo que para nosotros es significativo de nuestra infancia y juventud no es sino una proyección de los deseos que no pueden cumplirse en el presente, en la madurez o en la vejez. Como fruto del deseo, en efecto, “cualquiera tiempo pasado fue mejor”, y es imposible no creerlo así, porque entonces nos quedaríamos sin deseos, los cuales suele decirse que tienden al futuro cuando es todo lo contrario, siempre tienen la forma del pasado. Es importante, sin embargo, ser consciente de que ese pasado deseado en forma de futuro, es una ficción, es un poema, es un arte que conmueve nuestros más escondidos apetitos.
Ahora que la turbulencia del tiempo ha tomado la forma metafísica del dinero en su estado más abstracto, me pregunto cómo será cuando se convierta en el pasado de alguien. Así, por ejemplo, ¿cómo recuerdan los homosexuales aquel tiempo en que parecía que iban a morir exterminados por el SIDA? Algunas novelas, como la magnífica “The Hours“, ya han comenzado a convertir en un pasado luminoso el tiempo de aquella muerte universal y monstruosa. Incluso aquel tiempo horrible puede comenzar a verse ahora como un pasado en el que tanto sufrimiento hizo posible el heroísmo, la entrega, la amistad absoluta, el rescate de tanta humillación, el manantial de una nueva dignidad. En aquel tiempo el destino había tomado la forma de una plaga asesina, ahora tiene la forma de la ruina. ¿Cómo lo verán aquellos que sean hoy tan jóvenes como para no percatarse de que ésta es una materia privilegiada para el recuerdo? Los años de la ruina llegará un día en que sean aquellos en los que algunos vivieron lo mejor de sus existencias.
Tiendo a creer que también entonces, dentro de veinte años, los que ahora son jóvenes recordarán los años de la ruina como aquellos que les obligaron a tomar decisiones, a emigrar, a descubrir otros países menos agónicos que el nuestro, los que les dieron la oportunidad de empuñar su vida con audacia y decidir por sí mismos en lugar de obedecer consignas, los que dieron nacimiento a tantas ideas e iniciativas que se pusieron en marcha gracias a la penuria, los que acabaron con la sumisión a las burocracias, las ideologías arcaicas y el gregarismo.
Eso será dentro de veinte años, cuando ya sea una forma de pasado. Mientras tanto, mientras sea un presente sin pasado, tiene la forma de la negación misma de la vida. Se trata, como siempre, de resistir hasta que podamos exponer esta penuria en la peana del recuerdo y transformarlo en deseo, por extraño que ahora nos parezca. Entonces nos habremos salvado, aunque muchos estaremos criando malvas.
Félix de Azúa nació en Barcelona en 1944. Doctor en Filosofía y catedrático de Estética, es colaborador habitual del diario El País.