The Catalan translator for the poem, which the American writer Amanda Gorman read at the inauguration of US President Joe Biden, says that his assignment was withdrawn because he had the wrong “profile”, reports the British “Guardian”.
Victor Obiols had been commissioned by a publishing house in Barcelona to translate the poem “The Hill We Climb” into Catalan. After Obiols was done with his work, the publisher announced that he was not the right person for the job. “They told me that I was not qualified to translate it,” Obiols told the AFP news agency. “They didn’t question my abilities, but they were looking for another profile that had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably black.”
Gorman, a 23-year-old African American woman, was widely acclaimed for reading her poem “The Hill We Climb” at Biden’s inauguration on January 20. The poem was inspired by the attack on the US Capitol and touched on how democracy “can never be permanently defeated”. Among other things, Gorman addresses the importance of a “skinny black girl” reciting to the president. She was the youngest poet ever to recite at the presidential inauguration.
The translation in times of identity politics is “a very complicated topic that cannot be treated lightly,” said Obiols, who will receive his fee despite the cancellation. But he also expressed incomprehension: “If I cannot translate a poet because she is a young, black woman, an American of the 21st century, I cannot translate Homer either, because I am not a Greek of the 8th century BC. Or Shakespeare couldn’t have translated because I’m not a sixteenth-century Englishman. “
Obiols said he didn’t know whether the rejection came from the commissioning publisher or Gorman’s agent.