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Cinema Babel

Translating Global Cinema

2007
Author:

Abé Mark Nornes

Cinema Babel

Uncovering the vital role of interpreters, dubbers, and subtitlers in the global traffic of film

In this wide-ranging work, Abé Mark Nornes examines the relationships between moving-image media and translation and contends that film was a globalized medium from its beginning and that its transnational traffic has been greatly influenced by interpreters. Nornes—who has written subtitles for Japanese cinema—discusses such topics as the translation of film theory, interpretation at festivals and for coproductions, and “talkies,” subtitling, and dubbing.

Cinema Babel is a remarkable book, providing a solid and essential history of translation in cinema, as well as an indispensable model for a new kind of global film studies.

Eric Cazdyn, author of The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan

The original foreign film—its sights and sounds—is available to all, but the viewer is utterly dependent on a translator and an untold number of technicians who produce the graphic text or disconnected speech through which we must approach the foreign film. A bad translation can ruin a film’s beauty, muddy its plot, and turn any joke sour.

In this wide-ranging work, Abé Mark Nornes examines the relationships between moving-image media and translation and contends that film was a globalized medium from its beginning and that its transnational traffic has been greatly influenced by interpreters. He discusses the translation of film theory, interpretation at festivals and for coproductions, silent era practice, “talkies,” subtitling, and dubbing.

Nornes-who has written subtitles for Japanese cinema-looks at the ways misprision of theory translations produced stylistic change, how silent era lecturers contributed to the construction of national cinemas, how subtitlers can learn from anime fans, and how ultimately interpreters can be, in his terms, “traders or traitors.”

Cinema Babel

Abé Mark Nornes is professor in the departments of Screen Arts and Cultures and Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Michigan. He is the author of Japanese Documentary Film (Minnesota, 2003) and Forest of Pressure (Minnesota, 2007).

Cinema Babel

Cinema Babel is a remarkable book, providing a solid and essential history of translation in cinema, as well as an indispensable model for a new kind of global film studies.

Eric Cazdyn, author of The Flash of Capital: Film and Geopolitics in Japan

As a translator and polyglot, Nornes is well placed to write Cinema Babel, a book about translation, film-theory writing, dubbing, and subtitling. Once again his subject glitters and twists on the page like a shoal of fish. Nornes is such a good writer and thinker that his book is as playful as the subbing and dubbing he envisages.

Sight & Sound

Readable and accessible, this is an engaging, ambitious work.

Choice

Nornes is nothing if not thorough in his research, while drawing on his own experience as a festival programmer, translator, teacher, and filmgoer. The result is a rich, fascinating, wide-ranging study of a subject. Nornes is a fluent, witty writer and a good, knowledgeable story teller, making Cinema Babel an engaging read.

Society of Writers, Editors & Translators Newsletter

Cinema Babel deserves to be read for its masterful overview and unbuttoned polemic.

The Japan Times

As he chooses his phrases carefully and writes with amazing clarity, it can be assumed that Nornes takes careful consideration of the meaning of his own words. An amazing amount of research must have gone into Cinema Babel, which proves Nornes has an intimate understanding of his field. This is an excellent insight into the history of film making as a global concept.

M/C Reviews

This is a book that has been badly needed for some time and one that will surely be widely welcomed within both film studies and translation studies, where works that throw a rope across the chasm between the two fields are in short supply. . . . Nornes is forceful and uncompromising in his call to arms.

Translation Studies

Nornes’s book will stand as a landmark in bringing the full range of issues surrounding audiovisual translation to a wider audience.

The Translator

What is refreshing about Cinema Babel is the author’s careful placement of film translation within a framework that recognizes both historical and theoretical demands.

American Studies

Cinema Babel

Contents

Acknowledgments

Introduction: Translating Traffic

ONE Interpreters with Attitude:The Traders and Traitors in Our Midst
TWO The Circulation ofIdeas: Trafficking in (Mis)Translation
THREE Voices of the Silents
FOUR Babel—the Sequel: The Talkies
FIVE For an Abusive Subtitling
SIX Loving Dubbing: The Translator as Ventriloquist

Conclusion: Genesis

Notes

Index