Conversation with Gina Apostol and Harold Augenbraum on “Translation/Transnation: Translation as a Critical Practice for Writing a Nation in Transit” – Translate Midwest

Conversation with Gina Apostol and Harold Augenbraum on “Translation/Transnation: Translation as a Critical Practice for Writing a Nation in Transit”

On March 12, 2021 (3-4pm EST) the public was invited to a book talk between Harold Augenbraum, editor, translator, and former executive director of the National Book Foundation, and award-winning author Gina Apostol.


The conversation revolved around Augenbraum’s translations of the novels Noli me tángere and El filibusterismo by Philippine national hero José Rizal, and Apostol’s The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, which won the 2010 Philippine National Book Award and has recently been republished in the US. Apostol is also the author of Insurrecto, which has been included in the list of the ten best books in 2018 by the magazine Publishers Weekly.

Using the novels Noli me tángere (Touch Me Not) and El filibusterismo (Subversion) of Filipino national hero José Rizal as their starting point, Apostol and Augenbraum participated in a virtual conversation about “Translation as a Critical Practice for Writing a Nation in Transit.” The Noli and Fili, as Rizal’s novels are popularly called in the Philippines, were written in the late 1800s in Spanish, a language no longer spoken by a majority of Filipinos, yet are widely credited as the two foundational novels of the Filipino nation.

Both Apostol and Augenbraum have written about these novels, albeit taking different approaches. Augenbraum was the translator of the most recent English-language versions of the novels, which follow Spanish-Filipino mestizo Juan Crisóstomo Ibarra y Magsalin as he rediscovers the country of his birth at the cusp of a revolution. The Noli’s teeming local color gives way to the darker, more subversive themes in the Fili with the arrival of a mysterious jeweler named Simoun.    

On the other hand, Apostol weaves Rizal into her novel-in-style-of-memoir The Revolution According to Raymundo Mata, the 2010 winner of the Philippine National Book Award for Fiction. Readers learn about Rizal through the eyes of the titular 19th-century revolutionary, Raymundo Mata. Apostol bookends Mata’s memoir with forewords, afterwords, and footnotes from fictional critics (a nationalist editor, a neo-Freudian psychoanalyst critic, and a translator, Mimi C. Magsalin). By rewriting and incorporating Rizal and the violence of the Spanish colonial era into a new narrative, Apostol adapts Rizal–or translates him, as the case may be–into a new story for a new readership. The story continues in Apostol’s Insurrecto, one of the ten best books in 2018 according to Publishers Weekly.  

Apostol’s novels and Augenbraum’s translations are available for online purchase at Literati Bookstore

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