Translations from Modern Greek in the 19th century

The history of the translation of literary works from Modern Greek into European languages (except in rare cases such as Romanian, as noted above) begins during the 19th century. Throughout the century, the number of translations was rather low and, until the 1950s, editions were sporadic. The Greek Revolution and subsequent War of Independence from the Ottoman Empire (1821-1832) aroused European interest in Modern Greece. This new interest was framed by a strongly romantic philhellenism influenced by the classical tradition (Vasiliadis 16-17).

During the 19th century, Greek literary production was mainly focused on popular and ethnographic creations, influenced by European Romanticism and the development of a Greek national consciousness (Politis, Alexis 21-40). The first translations from Greek were thus mostly popular songs, patriotic poems and war chants. The most important work of this early period is probably the Chants populaires de la Grece moderne edited by Claude Fauriel in 1824-1825. Translations of these songs into Balkanic languages were done within the framework of a common (Byzantine and Ottoman) past (Vasiliadis 17). Apart from popular verse, the learned poetry of the Heptanesian literary school attracted some attention, especially the works of Dionysios Solomos, the so-called national poet of Greece.

One novel-length story was particularly popular during this period: Loukis Laras (1879), by Dimitrios Vikelas (1835-1908). This historical novel brought events from the War of Independence into powerful focus and sparked the new Greek prose of the last two decades of the 19th century (Merry 456). It was translated into more than ten languages in the 1880s and was the first novel to appear in Iberian languages (Catalan in 1881 and Spanish the following year). Various factors led to its success, including the literary theme, the author’s connections in Western Europe and his personal relations with competent translators (Vasiliadis 18). Vikelas’s short stories were also popular and widely translated into German, French, English, Serbian, Italian and Spanish, among others.

 
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