Blog is on hold for the month of July, for the best of reasons: holidays!

I will resume blogging in August.

Waiting for that, look what I found:

Ruth Roland, “Interpreters as Diplomats“, University of Ottawa Press, 1999.

No scholar with an interest in the nitty-gritty of diplomatic relations can fail to be fascinated by the role of interpreters. Professionnal interpreters are one thing; diplomat-interpreters/diplomat-translators are another. Some diplomats take to new lands, countries and populations with a specific, peculiar hunger. They want to understand what is going on, and not only that: make others understand, sometimes act as bridges. In a way all diplomats are interpreters/translators, but some of them are just better armed to do that: they know, and they care more about the language, the customs, the people. They feel a greater sympathy (in the latin sense) than others. Diplomat-interpreters are a different type of men (and women) than the writer-diplomats, figures that Renaud Meltz describes while describing the most famous of them, Alexis Léger/Saint-John Perse). In a way they are better diplomats, more aware of the context they work in. On another hand, their “specialization” can make their work more complex. A diplomat should keep a degree of detachment from his country of residence, in order to remain what he or she is: the representative of another country’s interest.

When you study historical characters, you inevitably come to like some figures and dislike others. I have always liked diplomat-tranlastors; for example Maurice de Coppet, who popped into my researches on 1920s Franco-Nordic relations (French envoy in Ethiopia, then Finland: two countries of which languages he managed to learn during his mandates). Their desire to relate to, understand the countries they were sent to, and the efforts they consented to in order to do so, have always seemed to me a profoundly human, humble way to deal with the “Other”. This is a particular way to deal with the diplomatic conundrum.

But enough now: holidays!

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