THE CRATYLE'S BRIDGE - BETWEEN THE LINES A travel at the heart of literary traductors... between sensibility and inteligibility


The project



"The World evolves through the power of ideas in the expression of language"




This old maxim pronounced by Platon in his Cratyle’s dialogue lost neither its sense nor its ardour, and remind us the central place which have the language in our societies.


Today in front of a world where communication and travel means have constantly to push away their limits, we are the witnesses of a geographical and physical bounds’ erosion. This phenomenon brought about meetings always more plentiful even unthinkable few years ago.


But after the realization of Babel’s myth, and the languages universally scrambled and scattered, we can wonder what’s happening about our expression and communication’s means and methods?


There has always been mediators, translators, or wether legislators as we named them in the past, in order that we the Men, we discovered, we understood, and we acted together. Nevertheless at the present time of free trade agreement and decadent globalization, too often we forget the existence of mediums when one language is translated in another one. Here, we will discover one of the activities of these "knowledge and culture transmitters", namely translation; activity which inhere in the discovery of other one, in its understanding, and in the acceptance of worldwide cultural differences. Maybe, an antidote against the rising tide of xenophobia and sad culture homogenization…


In the intimacy of this journey, we will investigate the real-life experience and the activity of these language’s tamers, constantly torned between pragmatism and sensibility, and for whom resounds always the same question: how to translate the untranslatable?





                                               EMERGENCE OF A PROJECT


This project results from many meetings with persons of literary field during one year of my cinema studies in an exchange program at the University of Rio de Janeiro (From August, 2011 to August, 2012). My integration in the Image and Sound Laboratory, based within the Literature University, encouraged me to deepen my researches especially around themes of language and its interpretation. It leaded me up to question me about communication difficulties (different languages) and thus understanding difficulties.

Indeed, identity and language raise problems that I always had at heart to investigate. That’s why, after making the film documentary "Nabû o vira - lata" ("Nabû the stray dog"), movie which immerse in the heart of immigrants' life in Rio of Janeiro, I wished to continue in these researches linked to cultural exchange, and to the language as carrier of identity and means of transmission. Here, questions that follow differences of codes and languages coincide a lot with this new audiovisual project …


At the same time, the both foremost Brazilian authors of the moment - whose oldest participated in my previous documentary - maked decisions to translate several of their novels into German. These contemporary novelists post a bibliography based on human relationships. Themes which they approach are not unrelated with our own subject, namely:

.Love, impossibility of communication and uprooting for Carola (cf.Flores Azuis”, “Toda Terça” and “Paisagem com dromedário”).

.Love in an overmediatisation and overconsumption world for João Paulo (cf. “O unico final feliz of uma história of amor é um acidente”).

Furthermore, characters of their novels are constantly foreigner and/or uprooted persons who decide to meet one unknown geographical (new places) and/or social (new meetings).



                                                     Carola Saavedra



                                                     Joao Paulo Cuenca




The International Book Fair of Frankfurt, which took place in October, 2012, was the opportunity to rally all these writers and translators, Brazilians and German, around this project; with as starting point a common desire to make known respectively activities of each other and to discover the poetic of say and translation.

After debates with Carola Saavedra, Joao Paulo Cuenca, Maria Hummitzsch and Michaël Kegler, I wanted study and tell their relation, especially immersing at the heart of their everyday life. The main purpose of this work being to bring a bigger visibility to this beautiful job of translator; expérience in which for once, writers’ myteries will not the only in public eye, but really on their shadows (the translators) which have stories to tell too …


To achieve that we will lean on the roadshow 2013 of these two Brazilian authors, planned in Germany. This initiative is supported by the National Library of Brazil and Germans editors Beck and A1.

This "collective literary journey" in minibus (cf. picture flyleaf), will allow to discover intimately the translators and authors activities, and will also be enriched by the actors feelings and impressions of their everyday life during this travel.




                                               BACKGROUND AND OUTLOOK


It is clear that today, with the advent of new media and powerful invasion of Internet in our life for many of us, literature lives in a considerable change in its form of existence. In spite of the appearance of digital technology within the world of the book (E-book), literature does’nt seems ready to lose its public, on the contrary. Its impact as knowledge and culture transmitter remains fixed.

Here, the central problem of this project joined that of the translator's job, namely the understanding of the Other. Indeed, this work opens the door to a certain vision of the world given by the intelligible interpretation of a language by another one.

It’s incontestable that today few readers seem to notice the translator’s name while reading a book. On the contrary, many specialists are defending the translator as re-creator of an artwork, going sometimes so far as to appoint the translator as a writer.

These "acrobats of language" seem still dedicated to remain the forgotten of literary production, and it is the most important aim of this project, that tries to understand their activity intimately and carefully. To this end, we wish asserting the existence of these mediums which make our worlds intelligible, and therefore fight a too strong ethnocentric point of view of these ones.


A book speaks to us. It affects us. It allows us to travel, if and only if, we decipher the language and the musicality of it. But how this activity, which gives meaning to the reader, is realized? How not to shake the first understanding of the text in this creation exercise of language?

One might wonder, therefore, in what the writers thematics and the way they handle them urged Maria and Michaël to let discover their works? What brings us to wonder about the subjective part of their work and thus of the translation activity in general.

What place is granted to sensitive field in this activity which requires an intelligible result as closest to the first version of the text? Between science and creativity linguistic, where are the rights and duties of these "torchbearers of culture" who are constantly playing with freedom?

It’s of all these questions that we treat by following day to day the literary journey for which Carola, Maria, João Paulo and Michaël get ready.


At the 50th anniversary of Franco-German Cooperation Treaty, and in front of the growing emergence of the Latin America’s mastiff, the Brazil, exploration of communication means within this multicultural team – constituted by French, German and Brazilians - will also be the opportunity to test a daily cohabitation between three various cultures and three various ways of seeing and living the world. By observing creative emergences and social relationships, we shall confront with a possible “living together” too.


Within diversity linguistic, which continues testifying of the freedom of men in front of the world, this movie is an attempt to distance with a most ethnocentrist viewpoint that’s in many of us. It aspires to warn us from a certain form of world homogenization, and open us to the thematics of understanding of the Other and acceptance of our differences, beginning by our owns. Finally, it asserts translator's activity as a real "acrobatic exercise" being an important part of dialogue between different worlds.



                                               SUMMARY OF THE PROJECT


From March 15th to April 8th 2013, two Brazilian very famous contemporary writers, Carola Saavedra and João Paulo Cuenca, accompanied by their two German translators, Maria Hummitzsch and Michaël Kegler, as well as by searcher-professor german-brazilian Johannes Kretschmer, start a reading journey through Germany, Austria and Switzerland. From Cologne to Leipzig, and trought Munich, Vienna, Berlin, Frankfurt or still Solothurn, we will participate in this trip by filming them daily.

Thirteen steps allow us to meet interlocutors within educational institutions (libraries, schools, Universities, translators' Colleges), or during big literary event (BookFairs), festivals (Festival of portuguese speaking of Munich), and also in cultural and artistic places ("Komunales Kino" cinema of Freiburg, media libraries, bookshops).

A big van, designed for this "road movie", carry all the team. For our part, we will follow all of the steps in immersion to discover the everyday of translator's life and that of the writer.


We will discover the activities of both novelists and their respective fiction universes during the readings of their works. Theses moments will alternate thanks to interviews with more educational ambition around the careful exploration of translator's activity as singular creator of a new work.

Above mentioned writers’ themes will have a dialogue with translators problematics: understanding problems, interpretation and new-creation. Problems aroused by only one single reccuring question: how to translate the unspeakable?


Finally, we shall attempt diving at the heart of relations which become established between these two "storytellers ", the translator and the writer, to see how develops their collaboration over time as for the translation of a novel.


This project, constituted by a multicultural team (German, Brazilians, French, Chileans), is also means to tell from day to day what emanates from a collaboration and cohabitation between various artistic and cultural environments.

All along the road, in these Germanic paths, the project aim to tackle problems of meeting and "living together"; of understanding of others and collective creativity.



The van of the travel


                                               THE SUBJECT



Meetings and communication’s themes, spreaded by these two young authors, will be highlighted by read passages of their novels but also by the organisation of many debates. These will be organized and fed by several writers and professors’s invitation of both respective cultures (Brazilian and Germanic). For instance, in Berlin they will meet Thomas Brussig (German writer and specialist in German life in the GDR, author of “The Complex of Klaus”), Peter Schulz in Mainz, (Researcher and professor of Cinema at the University of Mainz – specialist of the Brazilian Film Director Glauber Rocha), Erich Hackl in Vienna (Austrian writer, specialized in Spanish guerilla, author of Abschied von Sidonie. Erzählung, Zürich 1989) and many others. These people will also contribute feeding the discussions around the central theme of this documentary: the translation. These debates will be enriched by professionals' presence of literary world (writers, translators, publishers), and professionals of other environments (film-makers, musicians, professors, researchers) during debates opened to the public.



Literary translator: a profession

The translator's job is at the center of our documentary ambition. In what really consists this work? Work for which the main difficulty could be summarized in one question: "How translate the nonexistent?". Nonexistent in the sense that translation steers many difficulties if it doesn’t find a corresponding meaning in the language of translation.


First, the aim is enabling discovery of this activity and demonstrating its importance. Following-up these 4 characters, we show in what it consists and we try to confer it a higher respect. Because if translation aspires to make the text understandable for a reader, it becomes the expression of a one singular world vision; thus the open door for many and unsuspected discoveries.



From personal life to tranmission desire

Interviews with translators allow us to approach their process. We investigate the relation they maintain with literature and writing, to understand the origine of translation desire and transmission wishes.

For Maria Hummitzsch and Michaël Kegler, we’re going to discover their relation with Brazil as well as with the authors they translate.

Because effectively both translators post an intimate relation with Brazil: Maria finished her studies in Petropolis (city in the Brazil South East) and she often returns to this country, whereas Michaël growed up a part of his childhood in Minas Gerais (region of South-East of Brazil). Therefore it’s interesting to see the influence of their respective experiences (day to day, music, cinema) in their translator's current life.



The translator/author relation

So, we are very attentive to observe the direct relation they have with their authors. Building on these two concrete examples, our oubjective is to show the importance of the relationship they maintain and how it’s constructed: more or less fusional link, frequency of contact, examples of recurring problems …

There are several phases in the relation translator/author, and we want to present and describe them (example: reading phase, understanding phase, research phase, translation phase, writing phase).



The translator’s responsability

In this aim to delve into the heart of literary translator’s activity, our issue reflects a bigger question that of the translation of any other human production (productions of texts, visual productions, sound productions). All fields, whether they are artistic, political, educational or other, fond itself in front of a translation question from the moment the desire to share ones work embodies a transmission ambition that goes beyond cultural bounds. We can take everyday life examples as TV information subtitled or dubbed, subtitlings of movies, interpreting works during conferences, and if we go further to the written translations of all things which surrounds us, in particular commercial products that exceeded national and cultural borders.

While neoliberalism opened doors to a world without bounds, where transport and communication means push away continuously their limits, what’s the importance of translator’s work? And how these Men define themselves? Indeed, if a text translation on a bottle of milk requires pragmatism and utilitarianism, translations of literary texts, such as novels, hold a very strong sensitive and intuitive character. They pass by an irrevocable understandable movement. By observing the way translators work we will investigate the methods and means they use, and discover how they define their activity.



Questionings around translation

Translation issue raises an undeniable ethic question. Between loyalty and freedom, the translator is constantly in front of a dichotomy. The importance and responsibility underlying behind their work lead to accept it as the activity of a faithful text reproduction by another text. But is this aim not more an utopia than a real purpose to reach? How the translator could claim to recreate a true copy of the basic text while translation results in making a transposition of a language to another one. The translation process is a metamorphosis which passes through an activity of engaged sensibility, activity which isn’t different that of Man in his status as a medium; actually, it cannot be divested from the private side and orders that the translator brings into his work.

Thus, under the influence of writing, the translator’s work doesn’t aim at the exact and faithful transcription of a text. This exercise creates language in order to conceive a mirror of this text which will be understandable and sensible for the reader. Is it necessary to domesticate or to maintain the present otherness between a language and another one? To what extent we can trust the translator? And how to judge the translation work within the interstice between the understandable world and sensitive world?


In any case, the aim is fighting an ethnocentrist vision, even nationalist vision, of world by making recognized translator's job. This in the perspective to lift questioning the otherness and wonder about our tolerance in front of things which are foreign to us; Because accepting the other, doesn’t it starts by accepting our one as this other one? 



                                               THE CHARACTERS


          Carola Saavedra




Chilean writer, born in 1973 in Santiago, she emigrates in Rio of Janeiro at 3 years ago.  Trained as a journalist at the Catholic University of Rio, she has lived in several countries: Spain, France, Germany where she finished a Master in Social communication, then gets married and stays 17 years before coming back in the country of her childhood, Rio, where she currently lives.

Her work reflects questions linked to uprooting and love relationships. Often her characters are emigrants and a lot of her novels occur in undefined places. She develops a new kind of writing, by mixing styles, using audio aids, by giving a contemporary dimension at the epistolary novel and by addressing subjects like love triangle, sexuality, artistic creation, passion, encounters and missed encounters.




- Paisagem com dromedário (novel, Companhia das Letras, on 2010 - Translated into German and French - Rachel de Queiroz Price, young category author) - Flores Azuis (novel, Companhia das Letras, on 2008 - APCA Price of the best novel) - Toda terça (novel, Companhia das Letras, on 2007 - Elected as best novel by the Association of Art critics of São Paulo - Finalist of the Literature Price of of Jibouti (Translated into German) - Do lado de fora (tales, 7Letras, 2005)

Chosen among 20 best young Brazilian authors by the edition 2012 of British magazine Granta.


          Joao Paulo Cuenca




Brazilian writer, João Paulo Cuenca was born in 1978 in Rio of Janeiro. Formed in Economics at the UERJ (State University of Rio), he begins his literary way by writing in "Folhetim bizarro" (1999-2001), a blog of dialogues on Internet. At the same time, he starts writing his first novel “Corpo Presente”, and is called to publish it by the edition Planeta in 2003. He participates in numerous literary Festivals (Bookfair of Madrid, festival Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, International Bookfair of Peru, and Writing currents in Portugal). Then, he is chosen between the most promising 39 authors of Latin America at the World Book Festival of Bogota in 2007. Besides, he continues to write columns in various Brazilian newspapers (Revista Imprensa, Jornal do Brazil, O Globo), and he is cultural commentator in programs of Globo News and Estudio i (Brazilian national tv channels). In 2012, the publishing house Ya published “A ultima madrugada”, where he tries to draw a subjective map of Rio through a collection of chronicles published between 2003 and 2010 in Brazilian newspapers. They tackle alternately the time and the death, within an acid diagnostical of contemporary life and solitude. All his works deal with human relations in a contemporary context of overconsumption and overinformation, where submerged of images we try to live, to be and to love.

Works: - A ultima madrugada (Ya, in 2012) - Corpo presente (Planeta, in 2002 - Translate into German) - O dia Mastroiani (Act, on 2007 - Translate into Italian and Portuguese) - O unico final feliz de uma historia de amor é um acidente (Companhia das Letras, in 2010 - Translated into German, Spanish and Portuguese)


Chosen among 20 best young Brazilian authors by the edition 2012 of British magazine Granta.


                           Maria Hummitzsch




German translator of Carola Saavedra, Maria was born in 1982 in East Germany. She studied translation, African cultures and Psychology in Leipzig, Lisbon and Florianopolis.

Since 2011 she dedicates to translate Portuguese and English. She is particularly the translator of Beatriz Bracher, Carlos Shroeder, Helen Walsh and Shani Boianjiu.

In 2012, she obtains the Johann-Joachim-Christoph-Bode grant of the German Bottom for the Translation, besides a grant of the Translation European Middle College Direction of Berlin and of the Translators College (Straelen).


She lives in Leipzig with her daughter.


                           Michaël Kegler




German translator of João Paulo Cuenca, Michaël was born in 1967. He spends his childhood between Liberia, Brazil and Germany (in the region of Oberhessen). He completes his military service within psychiatry sector of the University hospital of Giessen where he continues working some years.

Afterward he registers at the Griessen University and the Frankfurt University in agrarian Sciences, English philology, Latin American literature and History.

Then he works in the bookshop of the publisher Teo Mesquita of Frankfurt, and begins to dedicate himself to the translation further to his participation in an office with Ray-Güde Mertin.

Since 1999, he translates literature of Portuguese language countries, in particular: José Eduardo Agualusa (Angola), Pauline Chiziane (Mozambique), Joao Paulo Cuenca, Luiz Ruffato and Michel Laub (Brazil).

Journalist since 2001, he becomes manager for a literature website about countries of Portuguese language (


He lives with all his family in Hofeim – close to Frankfurt.


Johannes Kretschmer


Born in Brazil in 1961, Johannes Kretschmer live in Argentina and Urugauay during his childhood. He went into Germany at 11 years with his parents and his sister.  He stayed there until the age of 30, when a strong will to get back to the South American culture made him chose Brazil as future of his life. Professor of German literature and translation in the German area, he is also professor of exile literature in the area of Brazilian literature as well as literature theory in Bachelor's and Master's degree at the Federal University of Fluminense (Rio de Janeiro). Translator (German-Portuguese, Portuguese-German) of lots of works and particularly the works of Goethe and Kafka, he is doctor in compared literature at the University of Rio de Janeiro, and obtains a doctorate in Roman and Germanic Philology at the University of Freiburg in Germany. He is also coordinator of the agreement between the UFF (Federal University of Fluminense) and the National Library of Brazil concerning translation and dissemination of Brazilian literature. He focused on the exile theme and developed numerous social and cultural projects which the aim of cultural intermediation between Brazil and Germany.




                                               THE ANNEX


Maria Hummitzsch’s statement

Authors as translators are above all, beings of written words, of non-existent worlds… and at the same time completely real inside books.


Translator’s work requires tranquillity, some concentration and inspiration. This inspiration as for me comes from books, but not only. The experiences I make, my ideas and concepts exchanges, my conversations with other clear and awakened heads; and especially what I live.

My work depends on this life there, the real-life which we are living. There where we see the world, observe and absorb colors, smells, voices, noises, sounds, movements and links between people, are so much important. It’s about all these things which cannot be described, everything that happen without words. This silent part of the world and of ourselves can only be captured and shown by an audiovisuel form. And it’s exactly this side which I would like to reveal thanks to this documentary.

I would like to thwart the usual image which we have of the translator: sit in front of his/her desk, isolated, a big forgotten, stranger. I wish to reveal the human side of them, very active and curious, alive side, the translator who needs to be « switched on » to be able to produce again.


As for theoretical aspects of translator’s work, there are already many papers which describe the importance of reading again and again to perfect. But in my opinion, we are in front of an affair of totality; in front of a sum of inspirations which I need to reconstruct a world living with words.

This movie which shows two authors and their two translators - of whom I am member - will allow us to reveal the social side of our work in the same way as the hidden side that we don’t talk about because seeming less professional - the time of less spectacular, less performative moments: hours waiting on the steps of an old minibus, catching the rain in a strange city, having coffee together in a gas pump, seeing the other one sleeping, laughing or still crying.

I really commit to give a real image of miles aspects which make this work of literary translator so special; work which day after day doesn’t stop enriching my life.



                                               THE TEAM


                Maëlys Meyer - The director





Authir director, Maëlys Meyer was born in 1987 in Blanc-Mesnil (France). Fascinated by the themes of immigration, language and culture clash, she continues to research in these areas after having directed Nabû, a documentary film of 52 ' about immigration in Rio de Janeiro and with the issues of language, communication, memory and identity. (Trilingual French, Portuguese, Spanish). She has already worked with Carola Saavedra in her last documentary and has an in depth knowledge of Brazilian literature. She also worked with Johannes Kretschmer for the translation of the dialogues of her film (French and Brazilian version of Nabû). She has a technical education in media & audiovisual (BTS audiovisuel) with a specialty in Image – Studio M, and a Master degree in Film Studies at the University of Lyon II.

Exhibition of “Nabû the stray dog” at the International Literature Festival of Paraty in 2012.



               Samuel Lévy-Micolini - The sound engineer





Sound engineer, Samuel was born in 1980 in Saint Foy lès Lyon (France).

Meetings and journey’s lover, he begins his technical studies in IUT (University Institute of Technology) in genius engineering, to continue at the University of Bristol UWE where he obtains a Bachelor in Science of Music Systems Engineering after three years of an English-speaking program. Violinist since his childhood, he takes advantage of his musical knowledge and his work in a band to put his technicality at the service of very diverse musical groups, from classic to rock, from electro music to hip-hop, from salsa to opera.

His meetings brought him to work in many audiovisual and multimedia projects; live captations, sound systems, clips in live, shootings of fictions and reports/documentaries (Film short or not, French and foreigner).


At present:


Sound system of the band "Very Big Experimental Orchestra" managed by Grégoire Gensse.

Fiction preparation as sound engineer in Algeria for the French-Algerian cinema.

Violinist in a French song group "Kielho ", and is forming a group of sound engineers in Lyon.


Last projects:


- La fille publique directed by Cheyenne Carron Lien Internet vers la page Allociné du film

- Pêche mon petit poney, 43 ', directed by Thomas Riera (autobiographical Documentary) - France 2012) Lien Internet de la bande annonce du film "Pêche mon petit poney" 


Aloïs Butin - The operator image

Maëlys Meyer

Young director, Maëlys Meyer was born in 1987 in Paris (France - Blanc-Mesnil). Fascinated by the themes of immigration, language and culture clash, she continues to research in these areas after having directed Nabû, a documentary film of 52' about immigration in Rio de Janeiro and with the issues of language, communication, memory and identity. She... See more

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COURAGE, vous allez y arriver. Tout est question de motivation et d'opiniatreté ! Vous avez du talent, c'est l'essentiel ! Bises N
Que la valse continue!
full support !