In 1879, Daniel Defoe’s popular novel The Life and Strange Surprizing Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1719) flows from the workshop of the world into the contours of an archipelagic space in a series of accumulation and extraction: its compression into a “useful” and “entertaining” pedagogical work in Joachim Heinrich Campe’s German translation Robinson der Jüngere: Zur angenehmen und nützlichen Unterhaltung für Kinder (The new Robinson: Agreeable and useful entertainment for children, 1779/1780); its ethico-moral conversion into Spanish language through Tomás de Iriarte’s El Nuevo Robinson: historia moral, reducida á dialogos para instruccion y entretenimiento de niños y jovenes de ambos sexos (The new Robinson, a moral story, reduced into dialogs for the instruction and entertainment of children and young people of both sexes, 1789); and in Ang Bagong Robinson: historiang nagtuturo nang mabubuting caugalian, na guinauang tanungan nang icatuto at icalibang nang manga batang babayi,t, lalaqui (The new Robinson, a story that teaches good conduct, that has been made into a question and answer form so that girls and boys can learn and be entertained, 1879), Joaquin Tuason’s religious investment and explication, commissioned and published by Dominican Colegio de Santo Tomas as the second novel introduced to Tagalog-speaking Philippines.
The spatiotemporal transformation of Robinson Crusoe during the rift between colonization and industrialization provides a watershed in apprehending a number of historical and contemporary conjunctures and disjunctures by looking into the textual turns and twist of a pedagogical container. As the inertia of the colonial world’s knowledge system breaks into the streams of exploratory capital, the relay of fragments crystallizes before seeping through the colonial subject’s social ground. In Tuason’s earnest and faithful translation of Iriarte’s work, the original text’s functional intention—as what some scholars described as “a miniature history of human development” according to “bourgeois individualism”—had been changed into an encyclopedic storytelling of religious virtues. The Tagalog translation reinforced the censorship that Iriarte had initially performed, in which the use of simple, childish and informal language, linguistic style and tone was altered to privilege “horrible formalism,” “complex grammatical constructions,” “learned words,” proper modes of address and scientific facts. Tuason’s attempt for cultural sensitivity and context specificity, however, confounded Robinson Crusoe with his footnotes, insertions, deletions, and other explicatory annotations—conjuring a delirious yet convenient comparative study of Europe and the Philippines, and ultimately producing a catholic pedagogical model of “living in a deserted island.” [...]
*Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts, and Contaminations is indebted to the seminal work and thinking of scholar and activist Ramon Guillermo on translation. Guiding the formation of the proposal is Guillermo's Themes of Invention, Help, and Will: Joachim Campe’s Robinson der Jüngere in Tagalog and Bahasa Melayu Translations (2014).
Image: Cropped section of the cover of Defoe's Robinson Crusoe (1719). Source: Wikimedia Commons.
Renan Laru-an is the second Encura curator-in-residence at Hangar (Barcelona, ES), in association with Curators’ Network.
Hangar is a centre for art research and production located in Barcelona, Spain. Hangar’s mission is to support visual artists and other cultural agents during the different moments of their art production processes as well as to contribute to the best development of their projects. Hangar facilitates equipment, facilities, production assistance and a suitable context for free experimentation and knowledge transfer. Hangar is located in the Poblenou neighborhood in Barcelona and in a mid 19th Century that was originally designed for the textile industry. At present, and after the centre was extended to the adjacent warehouses, the buildings used by Hangar cover a total surface of 2,600 m2.