Publico aqui a minha resposta às duas manifestações de Julie Boéri, já publicada no Fórum da AIIC.
Peter Naumann (firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: 25 Jul 2005 19:55
Subject: Reply to Julie Boéri
Dear Ms Boéri,
Your letter of 12 June, which was sent to me automatically, and published days later deserves an answer – above all because it concentrates, in an almost exemplary manner, the prejudices, clichés and the sometimes almost paranoid-sounding behaviors of many members of Babels.
On 16 June I asked you to tell me with whom I am dealing:
“Dear Ms Boéri,
The AIIC postmaster sent me your letter of 12 June a few days ago, and yesterday it has been published. I will gladly respond to your remarks. However, in order to be able to comment fittingly in the interests of a fruitful discussion, I must first know with whom I am dealing: with a conference interpreter whom I can address as a colleague, or with an untrained supporter of Babels whom it would be impolite to burden with technical arguments. Even after repeated perusal of your letter I have been unable to reach a definite conclusion.
In anticipation of a brief reply,
So far you have not yet answered, but I was not idle and obtained information. Your article which I quoted from http:www.euromovements.info/newsletter/babel.htm, does not say anything about you. The same article, however, was published on 20 February, 2005. in http://www/forumsocialmundial.org.br/di ... ina=Babels
. There you say that you are a “professional interpreter and researcher”. From other sources I have found out that you are still a student in Granada. I also have found out that you were a well-paid coordinator of Babels at the Social Forum in London. I have heard a lot about the chaotic organization of that event from competent colleagues. This information is so contradictory that I find it really difficult to have an idea of who you are. Possibly that goes for Babels in general.
Before I go into details of your letter, which I will quote in your curious way of writing and with your punctuation, I would like to remind you that I, in one paragraph, expressly defended the amateurs who were misused by Babels. Strangely enough, my critics, including you, did not take note of this paragraph, and therefore I will quote it again here in full. I do not really like to quote myself, because I always try to achieve unmistakable clarity. But, if you and the Babelitos do not read accurately, I must quote myself here. Thus, I also present below my defense of the amateurs, which you, as the amateurish coordinator of Babels in London, can also apply to yourself.
“Another basic reservation with regard to Babels concerns the dignity of these amateurs, hastily turned interpreters. Is it actually permissible to put a living being capable of speech and therefore intelligent (zoon logon echon, in the canonical expression of Ancient Greece) in a situation in which, for lack of education, experience, talent or other qualities, that being will utter only scraps of thought, mutilated periods, or incoherent speech? Public speech makes a speaker visible ('Speak, that I may see Thee!' Hamann, 1762) but also exposes him. A person lacking self-command should not be placed too early in the glare of the stage lights or their dimmed reflection in the booth. The consequences could be deeply mortifying. This was not taken into account by Babels and the Forum organizers. They thoughtlessly sent the babelitos to the front and to the slaughter, although they could have foreseen their charges’ miserable failure. Gross negligence is the very least with which those responsible, who hide behind the façade of the horizontality that they have made into their agenda, can – and must - be charged.”
Now about your letter.
In the middle of the letter you say: “Nous n’avons pas besoin de vos leçons, car Babels ne vous a pas attendu pour se remettre en question, pour prendre conscience de ses lacunes [...].” If we do not consider the untenable self-immunization, that only accepts criticism that has been ordered and shows a strange idea of democracy and transparency, you and Babels really depend on a tutor, as the really huge "lacunes" of Babels’ practice and your letter demonstrate involuntarily. I do not wish to take up this thankless role, here or in the future, since, in my opinion and as found by other experts, Babels hardly appears to be capable of developing and thus also not of learning, and therefore any pedagogical efforts would be futile.
In my mother tongue we say: Jugend kennt keine Tugend, Youth knows no virtue. However, I will not repay your lack of courtesy with silence or rudeness, but instead with arguments. Do not complain about it later. By arguing with you, I am after all taking you seriously.
Let us first analyze the statements in their order of appearance.
“Vous me permettrez de douter un tant soit peu de votre soucis de qualité de l’interprétation au Forum Social ou ailleurs.” Since you do not know me, and do not belong to my profession, at least not yet, you cannot dispute my concern about quality. You lack both the professional and moral authority for this.
You ask: “Pourquoi ne vous insurgez-vous pas contre le bénévolat qui assure l’interprétation dans les commissariats, les tribunaux, les hôpitaux, etc. dans les pays où la profession de l’interprète social n’est pas reconnue?” The answer is very simple: because this was not the subject of my contribution to the discussion. The subject was Babels’ fiasco in Porto Alegre, and also the constitutional susceptibility of Babels to fiascos. The subject was the misuse of voluntary activities, consequently damaging the reputation of our profession, the selling out of established standards of quality and disregard for the participants’ interest in communicating at the 5th World Social Forum.
You do not know how often in almost twenty-six years I have worked voluntarily. I would say the same for the colleagues I have mentioned. Already for this reason you cannot accuse me of placing the quality of my colleagues whom I mentioned as an example above the fate of destitute immigrants and asylum-seekers. You simply have not understood this passage. I only mentioned my colleagues to show what ”unalienated interpreting – interpreting with a human face” means. Although Babels prides itself so much on its human quality, amateurs (except from a few born interpreters who may exist) produce exactly the contrary, to wit, an incoherent discourse. An activity that by its very nature is demanding, such as interpreting, requires professional qualification. In very rare cases it is innate, mostly however, it still requires years of education and practice. If we subtract the really qualified professional interpreters who work at Babels and represent the best traditions of our profession (I do not know what their percentage is, in the interest of transparency, Babels should indicate this), and also the few born interpreters, Babels is not qualified to carry out the task it has assigned itself. The good will of the “bénévoles” is not sufficient. Your colleague Maria, on 2 June wrote: “we are all just members doing our best”. Possibly, but your best is not good enough. To the contrary of what you suppose, I do not live in a “tour de marbre”, but am very sorry for the fate of the “minorités grandissantes”, who fall into the hands of immature amateurs, who in turn are coordinated by incapable ‘horizontal’ networks, in other words, by uncoordinated networks. In this way the “minorités grandissantes” fall from the frying pan into the fire.
“Espérons que partout où l’injustice fait rage, il y ait des iniciatives de bénévoles”: Here, for once I can agree with you. However, I cannot agree with your monopolizing the “responsabilité sociale”. This is clear proof to the Manichean world view of Babels. In your youthful inexperience, how would you know that professional interpreters, even when, or precisely when they belong to associations, are on principle against volunteer work? The history of our profession shows that this is not true. Of course there are people among us who only think of their career. However, this is true for all professions, and is no reason to equate conference interpreters with money-grubbing Foreign Legionnaires. You will hardly be able to deny that demanding work is paid accordingly. The talk of “tarifs irresponsables qui remplissent le portefeuille d’une minorité et font le malheur d’une majorité “, in this sense is an irresponsible phony argument that is not useful for the discussion. You are implying an original relationship between the high fees of professional interpreters and the poverty of the majority. But you do not offer the reader any proof of this. You are hardly in a position to do so. Let us look at your case. You were a member of a three-person organization team of the London Forum, and got the four-month job that paid 8000 pounds through a commercial advertisement. For an inexperienced student or budding interpreter, that is certainly quite a high sum. If we consider that you did not have any experience as chief interpreter or as consultant interpreter, this money would have been better employed by the directors of the Forum, and by the horizontal, in other words headless network Babels, by employing an experienced, possibly retired consultant interpreter. You did not find anything wrong with taking this payment. What now gives you the moral right to speak of “tarifs irresponsables” of professional interpreters?. Or are you working with two measures, according to the phrase: Quod licet Babelo, non licet populo, in a free quotation of Quod licet Iovi, non licet bovi?
"Ce que vous ne semblez pas comprendre c’est que les communautés de traducteurs, interprètes, linguistes, journalistes, qui participent à Babels, Traduttori per la pace ou autres, créent des alternatives dans un espace où votre bible du marché n’a pas sa place.” Allow me to quote myself once again. “The criticism of commodities and commodity-shaped thinking at which the Forum, understandably, is continually aiming not only requires panel and plenary speakers who attempt to 'emerge from their self-[or externally-] imposed immaturity'(Kant), but also linguistically and intellectually mature interpreters.” From where did you get your “bible du marché “? Clearly you are not referring to me but to some fiction.
I already discussed Babels’ need for instruction above, and it becomes increasingly clear as I continue to read your letter. So let us now look at your advice:
“Mettez en pratique vos proverbes Monsieur Nauman “Cordonnier, mêle-toi de ta pantoufle!: qu’AIIC s’occupe de son business et que Babels s’occupe de ceux qui ont besoin d’elle dans le cadre du Forum.” Once again, you did not read carefully. I received the cue for the proverbs from a member of Babels, who is not a babelito, but an experienced conference interpreter, Jorge Melo Alarcón (Concepción/Chile). He ends his report on his experience with the following nice Spanish refrán: Pastelero a tus pasteles. I simply added other Western European and the Brazilian equivalent, of course for the purpose of agreeing, because Babels, as I have learned to know it and as other specialists report, and conference interpreting have nothing to do with each other. The Manichean world view that you share with Babels, is expressed again in the following correlations: ‘AIIC- business’ and ‘Babels – ceux qui ont besoin d’elle dans le cadre du Forum’. Since your letter, three reports have already been published by AIIC members who turned away from Babels in disappointment (Mercedes Conde and Pablo Narbona) or did not join Babels from the word go (Charo Baquero). They confirm my perception of Babels. I should mention that I am not a member of AIIC, and for this reason mentioning AIIC in this sentence and in the next one is not permissible. As a “researcher” that you claim to be (http://www
. Euromovements.info/newsletter/babel.htm), you could have looked it up in the AIIC Online Directory – and you would not have found me. I do not know the colleagues who have participated so far in this discussion, and they do not know me. Despite this, we have reached the same results. That should really set you to thinking.
”On a pas besoin, ni envie que vous veniez nous organiser, merci bien!” You have a pressing need for someone to organize you, even if you deny it. But have no worry, I will not take on this Herculean task.
“Cependant, permettez-moi encore une fois de douter de votre capacité à être neutre dans la cabine ou ailleurs, c’est d’une naïveté croustillante, surtout quand on voit comment vous traduisez Babels en insultes (ce qu’AIIC n’a pas pensé bon de censurer d’ailleurs).” Like Maria (2 June), Alberto Prieto (in viewtopic.php?t=425
on 3 June), Conxi Mollà (3 June), and other babelitos, you are always talking about “insultes”. I would like to inform you that I wrote about my own observations, and referred to the observations of other colleagues who are capable of judging.
“Insultes”, “essai calomnique”, "slanderous article” (Liz in viewtopic.php?t=425
on 3 June), “ the article is offensive in itself”(Liz, 3 June), “diffamatory article”(Maria, 2 June) are labels that I must reject. If amateurs were to say this, I could still understand. But when Maria and Alberto, who call themselves professional interpreters, and you and Conxi Mollà, as just budding interpreters or students argue this, I doubt your capacity to judge interpreters technically.
On the other hand I can also understand your reaction. The great Austrian writer, Karl Kraus (1874-1936) created the following aphorism: What does not hurt is also not true (Was nicht trifft, trifft auch nicht zu). What he means is the relationship between truth and being hurt. Truth is often felt to be disagreeable and hurtful, like this time by you and your colleagues. That is, however, no reason to accuse those who tell the truth of injurious and offensive intentions. Those who behave in this way remind one of the kings who had messengers killed when they brought bad news.
“Cette culture que vous étalez comme de la confiture avec vos citations savantes, ainsi que votre définition de l’interprète, ça sent le billet de dollar à plein nez, l’élitisme, l’arrogance et le mépris. Mettez à jour vos lectures avec Bourdieu, Derrida, Foucault, ça devrait éclairer votre lanterne.” This philistine aversion against the European tradition does not suit you. What do you have against the ancient definition of man as a “zoon logon echon”, which precisely Babels should always keep in mind? What do you have against Kant, Hamann, Marx, Gramsci? You recommend that I read Bourdieu, Derrida and Foucault. They are not unknown to me, I would be the last to reject their significance. But they would not exist without the authors that I mentioned and the traditions they represent. After all, what do you have against the definition of interpreter, which in fact does not make any claim to originality? Allow me to quote myself, once again: “However unwelcome this may be to the ideologues of militancy, they must understand that the political views of good conference interpreters are irrelevant to an assessment of the standard of their work. Good interpreters are attentive listeners, spectators of world history, and able to put their speakers, as well as themselves, into perspective. Without this ability to distance themselves and treat matters objectively they could not interpret properly, i.e., they could not place themselves at the disposal of a succession of speakers with varying world views and always retain their credibility.” The founding fathers of our profession, Jean Herbert, André Kaminker, Hans Jacob, Constantin Andronikof and others would certainly agree with this definition. Can you really not think of anything better to say than “ça sent le billet de dollar à plein nez, l’élitisme, l’arrogance et le mépris”? Think it over again. And give me your definition of interpreter. I assume that you want to make interpreters into Party comrades. People follow one orientation or another, they have this or that preference, love this and hate that, why should it be any different in our divided and antagonistic society? When you interpret, though, you must take distance. That is the only way to gain credibility.
“Merci bien pour vos conseils de formation dans les Grandes Écoles d’Interprétation quand nous savons tous qu’elles ne fabriquent que des machines à interpréter pour le marché alors que d’autres écoles forment, dans l’ombre, des interprètes pour la société, des interprètes-citoyens conscients de leur responsabilité sociale.” Chère mademoiselle, you are falling back into Manichaeism, you are again usurping virtue. Was you are saying about the Conference Interpreter Schools is completely wrong. Many graduates from the main institutes may only think about the market, many syllabi may be oriented mainly to the needs of industry, trade and official policies. It would be idle to deny this. Despite this, the Institutes above all impart techniques, and where people with a lot of experience teach, an attitude. Whoever knows the technique and takes the attitude that is appropriate to interpreting, basically can perform any job in this field, as long as he learns the specific demands of each. Who does not do so, already fails as far as technique is concerned. There is neither progressive interpreting nor reactionary interpreting. There is only good or bad interpreting.
In the memoirs of Hans Jacob, whom I already cited twice in my article, there is interesting information about one of the first interpreters at UNO, George Sherry, who was discovered by Chief Interpreter Colonel Léon Dostert at the first Post-War Conference of the Union Internationale des Télécommunications, in Atlantic City. Hear Jacob: “One of the young beginners in Atlantic City was George Sherry, who is now certainly the best Russian-language interpreters of the United Nations. He gained recognition through his translation of the speeches of the sarcastic, venomous Vishinsky, who knew how to value his interpreter although he knew that Sherry was a militant Anticommunist journalist. The Soviets at all big conferences and in all international organizations, of which they are members, are quite indifferent as to whether translators and interpreters are emigrants or not. What they care about is the quality of their work, the trustworthiness of the translation.” (Kind meiner Zeit, Cologne, 1962, p. 282).
You sign your letter ”Julie Boéri. Auteur de l’article que vous critiquez dans votre essai calomnique et que vous avez été incapable de comprendre du haut de votre arrogance et corporatisme.” Read the paragraph in my article once again, more carefully, and you will see that my remarks are only about that citation. The criticism of arrogance is unjustified (unless you put arrogance in the same boat as defending the classical standards of quality and fighting amateurism), that of “corporativism” is quite ridiculous, since until now I have never belonged to an association, but I would never deny the importance of associations.
Since you are explicitly moralizing, I would like to include here explicitly a political remark. Politics was not my primary topic, but Babels and, lately, the immanent amateurism of the leaders of the World Social Forum and Regional Forums have a clearly political dimension that at its center and in its consequences is undemocratic, and thus conservative, and in some places even reactionary. Anyone who wants to change the world must become competent to do so. This also goes for interpreters and for the organization of teams of interpreters.
Now I have commented on your letter in detail and, as I see, looking back, have taught you a short lesson on careful reading. I will summarize the commentary in three pieces of advice, although you did not ask me for any, which you and several other Babels members who have spoken so far, urgently need in spite of this, and you will get them free of charge – which certainly comes unexpectedly for you – here in the AIIC discussion forum.
(1) You should read my article more thoroughly before you answer me. Being able to read thoroughly, and listen well, in fact – forgive me for being trite, something you will certainly already have heard at your university in Granada, - is an essential preliminary condition for successful interpreting. He who cannot or does not want to hear, also cannot interpret. You cannot or do not want to hear, at least you did not understand my article. Reading your letter gives one the impression that you are not referring to it at all, but to another completely different text. You mount the barricades – and do not shoot at the bourgeoisie, at Imperialism, the original creators of misery in this world, but at a paper tiger. With this you place yourself at the scene but do not hit the target, me. Also it is not necessary to have great courage to shoot at a paper tiger.
Before you hurry to count me among your enemies, you should consider that I have great sympathy for the motivations that underlie the World Social Forum. I made this quite clear in many places in my contribution to discussion. Already for this reason, judgments such as “Du haut de votre tour de marbre”, “votre bible du marché”, “ça sent le billet de dollar à plein nez” are inappropriate. Read my contribution to the discussion once again. If you really are an interpreter, or want to become one, and if besides this you do not want to be exposed to the suspicion of functional illiteracy, which appears to be the general characteristic of many amateurs at Babels, you will take back these opinions.
(2) The first piece of advice logically results in the second, which one cannot say enough to future interpreters: Before opening your mouth, switch on your brain. Hopefully your teachers will already have told you this but you did not take this into account in your letter. If you had read my contribution carefully, you would not call it an “essai calomnique”. Where you fantasize that there is slander, you find observations. I can prove what I wrote. I observed Babels in Porto Alegre, and above all I listened to it, studied it in the canonical writings sedimented in the excited, often aimless chatting in http://www.Babels.org
. My statements are statements of fact. These are not only my statements, in fact, but also those of other colleagues. In my contribution I cited only Maricruz González Cárdenas (Quito) and Jorge Melo Alarcón (Concepción/Chile. I could have cited others too. In the discussion Mercedes Conde (Paris), Charo Baquero (Seville) and Pablo Narbona (Brussels) eloquently confirmed these statements.
(3) A fruitful discussion can only take place if one gets involved in the issue, not about people who represent this or the other issue. What issue brings us together with all our differences? The conviction that our world must be changed, if we do not want to destroy it completely, and thus be destroyed. If Babels prescribes this issue for itself, it should not concentrate on Peter Naumann. You too should not. So argue ad rem, not ad hominem. That is the only way that you will manage to make a contribution to overcome the discussion style that characterizes Babels: It is not free speech and reply, but rather a conventicle of the self-righteous, in which consensus is presupposed from the word go - and precisely for this reason no reasonable discussion or learning are possible.
I wrote the answer above weeks ago, here I am answering your communication of 3 July, in which belatedly you DID NOT answer my question which I formulated in very simple terms out of consideration for Babels. I do not yet know whether you did not answer it because you are incapable of doing so or on purpose.
You continue to insist on the comfortable argument of insults (“artículo que insulta a los miembros de Babels”). I assume, therefore, that you are not a professional interpreter, since a colleague would never be able to misunderstand my arguments so badly.
If you blame the failure of Babels on the lack of organization of the World Social Forum, you should not have worked with the WSF. I have the impression, however, that this argument too is not accurate and would not withstand a closer examination.
With your selective choice of citations, you distorted Charo Baquero’s contribution to the discussion. You have not noticed that this colleague, who is close to WSF, did not enter Babels for reasons that are not easy to refute. Charo Baquero also refers to many reports from disappointed colleagues, who had already worked for Babels. Do not base yourself so much on the professional interpreters who join Babels. Those who understand their business will not want to be directed by amateurs.
Precisely because of its complexity, interpreting at a social forum can only be organized by experienced conference interpreters. You yourself, in London, proved that amateurs or beginners at interpreting cannot coordinate a complex event. The WSF would have required an experienced consultant interpreter, not beginners, and much less amateurs. Your criticism of Walter Keiser, Phil Smith and myself in the third paragraph is not specific. The statement: “La acción política está en otros aspectos” is not further justified. However, the statement that Babels cannot be discussed in the AIIC Forum is not acceptable. There can be discussions wherever honestly arguing people with specialized knowledge meet. To judge from the results seen so far, certainly better in the AIIC Forum than in the Babels Forum.
Instead of answering my question in the next to last paragraph, you avoid it and accuse me again of being arrogant. In this I see a further indication of your lack of knowledge of the nature of interpreting. Even if you are a budding interpreter you have a lot to learn. For the rest: of course I read between the lines, my detailed answer to your letters should certainly prove that sufficiently.
The recommendation “tendrá que aprender otros modales”, according to the considerations above, flows from a projection mechanism which you share with many members of Babels. You demand of me the manners you lack. Consider my answer as the expression of a courtesy that I believe I owe you. And do not remove yourself too fast from the discussion (“pongo fin a mi contribución a este debate”). That would be childish, although it would correspond to the age of Babels, and would also not be in the objective interest of the “minorités grandissantes“ whose advocate you claim to be.
With due thanks to my colleague Hedy Lorraine Hofmann for the English translation