Translations from Modern Greek in the first half of the 20th century

Having briefly dealt with the translation of Modern Greek literature during the 19th century, we shall now turn to the changes that took place during the first half of the 20th century. The following two sections address various differences found in translation trends among (groups of) languages and compares the number of works with those of the previous and, in certain cases, the following period.

As mentioned above, translations of Modern Greek literature into any language during the first half of the 20th century were sporadic and few, as in the 19th century. The number of literary translations published between 1900 and 1949 was 238, which is not much higher than the 172 works published between 1850 and 1899. European languages of translation also increased from 15 to 19, including Portuguese for the first time. However, when Western and Eastern European lan- guages[1] are considered separately, a relative decrease in translations into Western European languages can be noted (see Table 1). This means that, as a rule, the net number of translations into Western European languages either remains stable or decreases, while the opposite is true for Eastern European languages.

Table 1: Percentage of translations into Western and Eastern European languages



Western European Languages



Eastern European Languages



The most prominent increase among Eastern European languages has to do with Romanian, which jumps from 5.81% to 25.63% of translations, mostly based on narrative and newer poetry (discussed below). Other important languages of translation such as French or English drop slightly from 29.07% to 28.57% and from 11.63% to 10.08% respectively, with an increase in the total number of works (from 50 to 68 and from 20 to 24, respectively). The share of German, another important language in the second half of the 19th century, falls significantly from 25.58% to 13.03%, while its net number of publications shrinks from 44 to 31.

The two Iberian languages that published Modern Greek literary translations between 1850 and 1899 show dramatic decreases. The percentage of Catalan translations falls from 5.81% to 0.41%, from 10 works published in the first period to just one in the second. The case of Spanish, although less dramatic, is similar: a reduction from 3.49% to 0.84%, i.e. from six works published in the first period to two in the second. In other words, only three titles of Modern Greek literature were published in either Spanish or Catalan during the first half of the 20th century.

Table 2 shows, in the first two columns, the data already discussed together with the other languages into which at least one translation of Modern Greek literature was produced. For comparative purposes, the third column shows analogous data for the second half of the 20th century. A wide variability can be noted: after decreasing, Spanish increases again; Catalan shrinks and then reaches some stability, while Portuguese, appearing for the first time in the first half of the 20th century, experiences an important increase.

During the first two periods, the bulk of translations are produced in “strong” languages. The four main languages of translation in the second half of the 19th century (French, German, English and Bulgarian) and in the first half of the 20th century (French, Romanian, German and English) make up approximately three quarters of the total number of translations. This trend changes in the third period, when the four main languages (German, French, English and Spanish) make up about half of the total number of translations. The third column in Table 2 also includes other Iberian languages which do not appear in previous periods: Basque, Asturian and Galician.

Table 2: Proportion of translations into European languages in three different periods




French (29.97%)

French (28.57%)

German (18.38%)

German (25.58%)

Romanian (25.63%)

French (18.35%)

English (11.63%)

German (13.03%)

English (11.72%)

Bulgarian (5.81%)

English (10.08%)

Spanish (7.85%)

Catalan (5.81%)

Dutch (4.62%)

Romanian (6.77%)

Romanian (5.81%)

Bulgarian (3.36%)

Russian (5.53%)

Spanish (3.49%)

Italian (3.36%)

Italian (4.39%)

Swedish (2.91%)

Swedish (3.36%)

Bulgarian (3.81%)

Danish (2.33%)

Russian (1.26%)

Dutch (3.15%)

Italian (1.74%)

Danish (0.84%)

Swedish (2.26%)

Serbian (1.74%)

Spanish (0.84%)

Turkish (2.24%)

Finnish (1.16%)

Finnish (0.84%)

Portuguese (2.15%)

Hungarian (1.16%)

Croatian (0.84%)

Danish (1.96%)

Russian (1.16%)

Albanian (0.84%)

Serbian (1.93%)

Dutch (0.58%)

Serbian (0.84%)

Macedonian (1.55%)




Catalan (0.42%)

Slovene (1.38%)

Czech (0.42%)

Norwegian (1.24%)

Hungarian (0.42%)

Albanian (1.13%)

Portuguese (0.42%)

Catalan (0.86%)

Finnish (0.83%)

Croatian (0.66%)

Polish (0.55%)

Hungarian (0.52%)

Czech (0.28%)

Ukrainian (0.14%)

Estonian (0.06%)

Basque (0.06%)

Icelandic (0.06%)

Asturian (0.03%)

Galician (0.03%)

Armenian (0.03%)

Georgian (0.03%)

Luxemburgish (0.03%)

Lithuanian (0.03%)

(Iberian languages are highlighted in shades of grey)

The following are the translations of Modern Greek literature in the Iberian Peninsula (i.e. to Spanish, Catalan and Portuguese) in the first half of the 20th century:

  • 1900 Catalan: Un recort [sic] by Dimitrios Vikelas (original title: Avapvnan^) 1917(?) Spanish: La hermana fea by Dimitrios Vikelas (original title: H aa^n^n aSeXffj)
  • 1941 Spanish: El jardm de las rocas by Nikos Kazantzakis (original title: О BpaxoKnnoq)
  • 1947 Portuguese: A grande jornada by Ilias Venezis (original title: To vovpepo
  • 31328)

The only translation into Catalan, the short story Un recort [sic], can be categorised within the trend that started in 1881 with the publication of Loukts Laras (discussed in the previous section) and ended in 1900. It had, in fact, been translated into Spanish (presumably also by Antoni Rubio i Lluch) and included in the collection Novelas griegas (1893).

Dimitrios Vikelas was clearly the leading author of the first 50-year period and continued to enjoy a certain importance at the beginning of the 20th century. On the contrary, the novel El jardtn de las rocas by Nikos Kazantzakis (1883-1957) is a piece of contemporary literature first published in 1936 by an author who was not yet well-known when the translation was published (1941) but would become one of the most popular Greek authors in the 1950s. The fact that the novel was first published in France (appearing in French before Greek) probably accounts for this early translation into Spanish. The first known translation of Modern Greek literature to Portuguese (Agrande jornada) is also a piece of contemporary literature, as the novel was first published in 1931.

The number of translations is clearly too small to justify a statistical analysis. In the following sections, therefore, they have been grouped with the translations produced in other European languages. Still, the data obtained from the analysis can help pinpoint reasons for the decrease in Iberian translations.

  • [1] European languages were loosely divided into these two categories. The Western language group comprised Catalan, Danish, Dutch, English, Finnish, French, German,Icelandic, Italian, Norwegian, Portuguese, Spanish, and Swedish. The Eastern languagegroup comprised Albanian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Czech, Hungarian, Romanian, Russian,Serbian, Slovenian, Ukrainian.
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