A Catalan translator says his translation of a poem recited at the President Joe Biden’s inauguration was shelved after he was told that, being a white male, he had the wrong ‘profile’ to translate a black female poet.
Víctor Obiols, a renowned English-Catalan translator, said his Spanish publisher refused to use his already completed translation of Amanda Gorman’s poem ‘The Hill We Climb’, ostensibly because his skin color and gender were not appropriate for the task. Barcelona-based publisher Univers said they commissioned the translation to Obiols because they considered him to be the best qualified. Obiols is well-known for translating the works of Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde into Catalan.
However, after the translation was already finished, Univers was contacted by Gorman’s US publisher, Viking Books, and asked to find a translator who is a woman and an activist, preferably of African American origin, instead.
“They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably Black,” Obiols told AFP.
According to Spanish media, Univers editor Ester Pujol said the US publisher has every right to put any conditions in place, describing the demand as “perfectly acceptable.”