News – 1st November, 2005

Time to build the tower of Babel

News–1st November, 2005


In February 2005, a multilingual portal called Babelmatrix was launched on the world wide web. At present, the site offers access to outstanding pieces of Hungarian literature in the English, Czech, Dutch, Polish, German, Russian and Portuguese languages. This, however, reveals next to nothing about the ultimate objectives of the website.

The idea of the editor, Zsuzsa Votisky, was to present Hungarian literature in as many languages as possible; to create a website where readers can upload congenial translations of various outstanding pieces of Hungarian literature. She works together with outstanding translators of various languages, who decide whether a given piece has a translation in the target language we can be proud of, which truly reaches the same literary heights as the original Hungarian.

At the moment, you may choose the interface from Hungarian, English, Dutch, Portuguese and German, but the Czech and Polish interfaces will also be ready soon. After choosing the interface, you decide which European literature you are interested in, then you decide what language you want to read the literary pieces in: at present, you may choose from English, Czech, Dutch, Polish, German, Russian and Portuguese.

The original plan was to present Hungarian literature in various languages. The website gathers excerpts of the existing translations of our literature. But in the future the editors also hope to gather the other European languages on Babel, and fill up the Babelmatrix first with the literary works of small European languages, since it is the primary interest of small nations to make themselves known in other languages. Once this is accomplished, they would like the greater national literatures to join in, and then of course to open the door to places beyond Europe.

Right now, there are about 5-600 excerpts on the Babel websites, which means one could compile a 2000-page anthology out of this material if one wanted to export these goods into the Gutenberg galaxy.

Besides the original and the translation of a given work, you can learn about the biography of the author and find out what other websites deal with their biography and works. For instance, you can immediately pop over to the collections of the Digital Literary Academy, the Hungarian Electronic Library or Ilona Legeza. You may also find explanations to certain expressions unknown to you in the cultural dictionaries assembled by István Bart.

Should you like to surprise someone with, say, a love poem or a nice quotation for Christmas, you may find the given quotation with the help of our keyword search, and promptly present your Czech, Dutch, Polish or Portuguese friend with a nice piece of Hungarian literature in the given subject, in their own language.



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