All posts by Natasha Ryan

Spanish Flash Fiction Competition Results

Last week we shared the results of our French Flash Fiction Competition. This week, we bring you the results of our equivalent competition in Spanish. Students in Years 7-13 were invited to submit a short story in Spanish of no more than 100 words. There were two categories: Years 7-11 and Years 12-13. We were delighted to receive almost 600 eligible entries, which covered all sorts of topics, from butterflies to the apocalypse, from a love story between two monkeys, to a personification of war. We even received a memorable recipe for Sangria!

After much deliberation, the judges have selected a winner and two runners up in each age group. The winner of the Years 7-11 category is Catherine, in Year 8, from Churchers College, and the runners up are Kasia, Year 7, Westcliff High School For Girls and Fakyha, Year 10, Nonsuch High School for Girls. The winner of the Years 12-13 category is Freya, Year 12, Aylesbury High School, and the runners up are Salome, Year 12, The College of Richard Collyer, and Alexandra, Year 13, Bradfield College. Huge congratulations to all the winners and runners up!

We would like to say a massive well done to everyone who entered. The standard was extremely high, and we were thrilled to see a vast array of topics and narrative styles which demonstrated imagination and linguistic flair. Choosing the winners was no easy feat, and we would really like to thank all of the entrants for the time and careful thought they put into their stories. Writing a story in 100 words is a tall order, and to do so in a language that may not be your mother tongue is especially commendable. Please do keep using your Spanish creatively and think about entering the competition again next year.

We’ll leave you with one of the winning entries. This one’s by Freya, in the older category, and is a beautifully subtle and delicate meditation on loss.

Pareces tan hermosa cuando duermes. Una fractura en el paso del tiempo, un rincón encubierto del mundo bullicioso, entre los árboles ondulantes y los suaves trazos de la brisa de verano. El vacío me llenó, y el silencio era casi abrumador.
Entonces sus pasos pesados atravesaron ese refugio, cada paso fracturando la escena congelada, como rascarse en una pintura. Te seguí. En silencio, en silencio, hasta que no podía aguantarlo más. Es hora de convertir esa pintura roja. Aquel silencio sofocante se rompe cuando caes al suelo, y la hierba comienza a oscurecer.
Pareces tan hermosa cuando duermes.

— Freya, Year 12, Aylesbury High School

 

FRENCH FLASH FICTION COMPETITION RESULTS

We were delighted, and quite literally overwhelmed, to receive nearly eight hundred entries to our first Flash Fiction competition in French. We asked you for a story on any subject, written in your best French, and comprising one hundred words or fewer in total. What we got was an astounding variety of creations, showcasing some immensely impressive storytelling imagination. There were spine-chilling tales of the supernatural, surreal dream-narratives, delicate character studies, and little comic masterpieces. A number of themes kept returning, among them: colours, animals, flowers, war, romance and death. There were many credible attempts at creating a cryptic plot or ending with a twist.

Our three judges, Caroline Ridler, Matt Hines and Simon Kemp, enjoyed your endlessly inventive contributions, and had a real struggle to pick our favourites. Finally, we settled on Clementine, Year 10, The Grey Coat Hospital as our winner in the Years 7-11 category, and Alisa, Year 12, Surbiton High School, as the winner of the Year 12-13 category. Congratulations to both of you, and you’ll each be receiving £100 in prize money.

Runner-up among the Year 7-11s is Maddie, Year 9, from Longsands Academy and among the 12-13s is Ben, Year 12, The King’s (The Cathedral) School Peterborough. You’ll each receive the runner-up prize of £25.

We also selected the best of the rest for our Highly Commended category. For Years 7-11, congratulations to:

Matthew, Year 7, King Alfred’s Academy
Neelkantha, Year 7, The Perse School
Sean, Year 7, Trinity Catholic High School
Annoushka, Year 8, The Queen’s School, Chester
Ansh, Year 8, Hill House School
Jeong, Year 8, Milbourne Lodge School
Mairead, Year 8, Swavesey Village College
Jack, Year 9, The Judd School
Jasmine, Year 9, Cheltenham Ladies College
Tilly, Year 10, Colston’s Girls’ School
Giulia, Year 11, Channing School
Isabel, Year 11, Wycombe Abbey School
Jenna, Year 11, Skipton Girls’ High School
Jessica, Year 11, Wycombe Abbey School
Joshua, Year 11, City of London Freemen’s School
Lucas, Year 11, The Judd School
Nicole, Year 11, The Latymer School
Sulemaan, Year 11, St Albans School

And for Years 12-13:

Jemima, Year 12, The Henrietta Barnett School
Ella, Year 13, South Hampstead High School
Hannah, Year 12, Bryanston School
Juliette, Year 12, St Helen’s School
Eleanor, Year 12, Redland Green School
Camille, Year 12, The Latymer School
Katie, Year 12, Skipton Girls’ High School
Vikita, Year 12, St Olave’s and St Saviour’s Grammar School

We’d like to offer our congratulations to all our winners, and our thanks to everyone who entered for all the hard work and imagination you put into your stories. They were a pleasure to read, and we hope you’ll think about entering again next year. We’ll be posting the stories by some of the entrants listed here over the course of the summer, so look out for your entry in the coming weeks. First up, here are the winning stories and the runners up…

FRENCH FLASH FICTION: THE WINNING STORIES

 Here are some of the winners of our 2019 French Flash Fiction competition. The standard of entries was incredibly high, but the judges agreed that these stories were particularly outstanding in their imagination and creativity, as well as their enthusiastic engagement with the target language. Writing a complete story in under a hundred words is a tough assignment in any language. Here, in the Years 7-11 category, we have a perfectly formed narrative that will make you dream. Below, in the Years 12-13 category is a story that makes creative use of colloquial French to show a mind in turmoil, and in the winning tale, a story that takes apart the whole premise of the competition. Hope you enjoy them.

YEARS 7-11

Winner : Clementine , Year 10

Je suis le mur blanc propre d’un jeune couple chic qui veut montrer sa réussite au monde.
Enlevez ma peau: vous verrez le papier peint des années 70, orné de fleurs jaunes géantes.  Reniflez un peu: l’odeur de nicotine du papa, une cigarette toujours à la main depuis qu’il a perdu son travail.
Encore une couche; vous devriez voir le chintz de la famille qui a connu une peur constante.  Examinez de près – les tâches de brûlure de la bombe tombée en 41.
Enfin, le vert foncé d’une époque de paix; la dame toujours vêtue en noir, son visage abaissé.

Photo by Dmitry Bayer on Unsplash

YEARS 12-13

Winner: Alisa, Year 12

L’illusion littéraire

La seule acception est les simples traces noires sur le papier. J’avais toujours pensé. D’autres ont toujours essayé de construire quelque chose de plus importante de ce qu’ils étaient. En voyant ces lettres comme elles sont en réalité, nous aurions gagné plus de contentement d’elles que d’imaginer de ce qu’elles pourraient devenir. Eux, ils ne veulent pas me comprendre, comme c’est le cas avec la pipe. René Magritte m’a dit: ceci n’est pas une pipe. Je vous dirais: ceci n’est pas une conte. Ceci n’est que des mots. Vous n’êtes pas comme les autres? Vous me comprendrez?

Runner-Up: Ben, Year 12

Je pense plus que j’aie envie de vivre.

 En fait, à l’heure actuelle c’est la seule chose dont je peux être certain.
Des nuits blanches se passent sans cesse, voilées par les somnifères qui n’entraînent que la paralysie. J’y repose regardant le plafond et je hurle ton nom jusqu’à ce que ma gorge saigne.
Moi, chuis mort de trouille par l’idée de mourir, mais j’mourrais mille morts si ça signifiait que je pouvais te voir une dernière fois.

Je suppose que je ferais mieux de m’habituer à jouer le second rôle.

Tu repars.

Je bois.

Je veux pas me réveiller.

If you entered our Spanish competition you can expect to hear from us very soon!

Last chance to visit us before summer!

Next Wednesday and Thursday we see the final open days before the summer holiday. These open days are taking place across almost the whole university, with most colleges and departments opening their doors to meet prospective students and their parents, carers, companions, or teachers. Here’s what you need to know…

WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?

Many students find that attending an open day is the best way to get a feel for the university. These events are opportunities to find out information about the various courses Oxford offers, discover the college system, perhaps go on a few college tours, ask the tutors and current students any questions you might have, and learn about fees and funding, and the application process.

HOW DOES IT WORK?

The university is made up of different colleges and departments, as well as central bodies. Colleges are your home when you’re in Oxford: some of your teaching is likely to take place there, and you would live in college for at least part of your degree. Colleges are small, supportive environments where you can study, socialise, and feel part of an intimate community. Facilities often include: accommodation, a dining hall or cafeteria, a library, tutors’ teaching rooms, music rooms, laundry rooms, and a common room (known as the JCR). Departments are where your subject is based e.g. ‘Modern Languages’. Some of your teaching will take place in the department, and there is usually a departmental library.
The great thing about the July open days is that all the colleges and most departments are open to prospective students at the same time, so you can really get a feel for the different constituent parts of Oxford University. Departments will be running talks on the courses they offer, and on admissions, which will often take place in the morning. Colleges will also be offering talks and tours of their grounds, as well as opportunities for parents to talk to college staff, and for you to find out more about funding opportunities, adjustments made for disabilities, and the welfare system.
Every department and college will have a slightly different way of running their open days and will have different things on offer. Information on topics like bursaries, career pathways, admissions, options for mature students and options for international students will also be available centrally at the Examination Schools. It’s really worth doing some planning in advance and identifying a couple of key talks you would like to attend or colleges you might like to explore, as the city gets very busy on open days and you’ll find yourself pressed for time. That said, you can often just wander in on an open day if a particular college catches your eye.

Full the full list of talks and tours offered across the University, see the open day guide.

 

WHEN?

The open days are on Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 July.

There will be different timings for different departments and colleges. The Modern Languages programme is available here. We’ll be running formal talks on Medieval and Modern Languages at Oxford at 10.30-11.30 and 2.30-3.30 (the afternoon talk is a repeat of the morning). You don’t need to book for these: we’ll be letting people in on a first-come, first-served basis so just make sure you arrive in plenty of time.

We’ll also be running a drop-in session from 11.30 to 12.30. This is your chance to ask the tutors any questions you might have about the degree.

WHERE?

Everywhere! The open days really do take place all across central Oxford: you’ll probably find that you cover a fair amount of ground as you explore. If you’re not fully mobile, you might consider planning your route between colleges and departments quite carefully using the open day map, and it could also be worth contacting the departments or colleges you would like to visit in advance so that they can advise you about accessible entrances to venues. Oxford’s Access Guide is available here.

The Modern Languages events will take place at The Taylor Institution (number 22 on the map) on St Giles. This building is also the home of our Modern Languages library, and library tours will be running between 9.15 and 10am, and between 12.45 and 2pm.

TRAVEL TO OXFORD

Open days are very busy events and the city sees a high volume of traffic, as well as more congestion on trains and bus routes. Parking in Oxford is extremely difficult. If you are planning to drive to Oxford, we would suggest you use the park and ride facilities and allow plenty of time for your journey. There’s lots of travel advice for open days available here. Helpers will also be stationed at the Park and Ride, and the Railway station to offer advice. You might be able to benefit from help with the cost of travelling to an open day. See here for more information.

WHERE CAN I FIND MORE INFORMATION?

You can find out all about the Oxford open days on the university’s website. We’d love to meet any prospective students and their parents, carers, or teachers at the open days. If you can’t make it this time, there will be a final open day on Friday 20 September. And if that’s also not an option for you, we’re always happy to answer questions from prospective students – get in touch at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk.

Why Marx is relevant in the 21st century

This post was written by Kate Osment, a first-year student in German at St Anne’s College. Kate tells us a little more about studying German at Oxford and why Marx is still relevant today.

One of my favourite things about studying German at Oxford is the philosophy module in Hilary and Trinity (Easter and summer) terms. Over the course of eight weeks, we dissect the writings of famous German-speaking philosophers like Kant, Nietzsche, Freud (yes, he came up with more than the Oedipus complex), and of course Marx and Engels, looking at their arguments and the rhetorical devices they make them with. It’s challenging and fascinating generally, but out of these thinkers, the one who’s intrigued me most is Marx. Revered and reviled in similar measure, he’s worth reading because of the massive impact his ideas had on international 20th-century politics as well as the fact (which I think gets overlooked too often) that he’s just such a good writer!

Much of modern distaste for Marxism comes from a misunderstanding of what it actually is, so I’ll take the time here to say that Soviet Russia was Marxist in name only. Although a ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’ is widely seen as a Marxist goal, Marx believed this was only a step on the way to the perfect society, in which there’d be no social class distinctions – hence no class conflict – and no state. He thought there’d be no need for one, as he saw governance and law as an expression of the morality of the ruling bourgeoisie, forcibly imposed on the majority. The proletariat would – could – not rule in this way, because they’re the vast majority, so their interests are those of humanity collectively.

Marx

Marx argued that communism wasn’t just desirable, it was bound to happen. This stems from his theory of historical materialism, which Engels called his friend’s greatest ‘scientific discovery’. The argument is that all developments in human culture are driven by development of the forces of production. ‘The hand mill gives you society with the feudal lord, the steam mill society with the industrial capitalist.’ Capitalism only replaced feudalism because technological development made feudal society, with its guilds and protectionism, untenable. Communism would likewise replace capitalism because ever-more frequent crises of over-production would eventually drive profit down to nothing. Human history’s a story of class conflict caused by this evolution of productive forces, Marx believed, and because capitalism needs this evolution, the bourgeoisie will bring about their own destruction.

Of course, over-production doesn’t seem to lead to capitalist profits falling, and an accurate description of historical materialism is as a philosophical, not scientific, theory. But an end to bourgeois rule must’ve seemed possible in the 1840s when Marx and Engels wrote Das kommunistische Manifest, the same decade as Vormärz (the German workers’ revolution of 1848). And a world in which ‘the free development of each is a condition for the free development of all’ would certainly be preferable to one where six-year-olds work with dangerous machinery for 11 hours a day. Plus, the only thing that’s changed about that state of affairs is that it doesn’t happen in Western Europe any more. Anti-capitalist critiques remain necessary.

(If you’re interested in reading more about Marxism, I’d recommend Marx: A Very Short Introduction by Peter Singer, Why Read Marx Today? By Jonathan Wolff, and All That Is Solid Melts Into Air by Marshall Berman. And Naomi Klein’s No Logo is an invaluable critique of capitalism at the turn of the millennium.)

Babel Translation Competition – the winners

Back in February we brought you news of an exciting translation competition being run by the Creative Multilingualism Programme, in connection with the exhibition at the Bodleian Library on ‘Babel: Adventures in Translation’. We are now pleased to share the winners of this competition.

Magical Translation
The task was to create a modern version of Cinderella in any language  with an English prose translation. We received some fantastic entries in this category which played cleverly with the Cinderella story, adding twenty-first-century twists like Cinderella losing her luggage tag instead of a slipper, or being tracked down by the prince using social media. The best of these stories engaged with the question of Cinderella’s identity, manipulating the traditional tale to reflect on issues like Cinderella’s sexuality, her race, the prince’s gender identity, or the role of feminism in fairytales.

The overall winner of this task was fifteen-year-old Alice, whose version of the story, written in Spanish, sees Cinderella transported to the streets of Buenos Aires and dreaming of a football career…

En las calles sucias de La Boca, Buenos Aires, Cinderella Muños trabajó incansablemente por su madrastra y sus dos hermanastras. “Trabaja duro y agradece” le dijeron a ella. A Cinderella siempre le encantó el fútbol y soñaba jugar para su equipo local: Boca Juniors, a pesar de siendo una niña. Sus padres tenían boletos de temporada, sin embargo, tristemente cuando murieron, los boletos fueron entregados a su madrastra. Cinderella tenía prohibida ver algún partidos. A pesar de eso, su amor por fútbol nunca se detuvo y en las calles de La Boca practicaría todas las noches. Cinderella fue devastada perderse la victoria de Boca Juniors en las finales de la Primera División contra Plate River. Mientras se sentaba tristemente en las escaleras, vio un sobre de oro que contenía tres entradas para una fiesta para celebrar la victoria. Su madrastra se las arrebató como quería que sus hijas conocer el famoso futbolista: Jorman Campuzano. se vistieron de azul y amarillo (los colores del equipo) y salieron, dejando a Cinderella completamente sola. Estaba muy triste mientras ella pateó su fútbol por las calles oscuras. En la fiesta, Jorman miró fuera la ventana y él estaba asombrado por la curiosa figura quien dominó la hábil patada del arco iris. Se impresionó aún más y pronto se unió. Cuando el reloj golpeó a las doce, ella escapó, dejando atrás su fútbol, ​​con el nombre: Cinderella Muños. Poco después, Jorman la encontró y la invitó ella probar para el equipo, y desde ese día, ella nunca más tuvó que ver a su madrastra o hermanastras.

In the dirty streets of La Boca, Buenos Aires, Cinderella Muños worked tirelessely for her stepmother and two spoilt stepsisters. “Work hard and be grateful” she was told. Cinderella always loved football and dreamed of playing for the local team, Boca Juniors, despite being a girl. Her parents owned season tickets however, sadly when they died, these tickets passed to her step mother Cinderella was forbidden to watch any matches. Despite this, her love for football never ceased and in the streets of La Boca she would practice nightly. Cinderella was devastated to miss Boca Juniors’s victory in the Primera division finals against Plate River. While she sat sadly on the steps she noticed a golden envelope which contained three tickets to a party to celebrate the victory. Her step mother snatched them away as she wanted her daughters to meet the handsome footballer Jorman Campuzano. They dressed in blue and yellow (the team colours) and set off, leaving Cinderella all alone. She felt very lonely as she kicked her football along the dark streets. Up at the party, Jorman looked out the window and was amazed by the curious figure who mastered the skilful rainbow kick. He became ever more impressed and soon joined in. As the clock struck twelve she ran off leaving behind her football with the name: Cinderella Muños. Shortly after, he found her and invited her to trial for the team, and from then on never had to see her step mother or sisters again.

To see other winners and highly commended entries in this task, check out the page on the Creative Multilingualism website here.

Fabulous Translation

The task was to create a fable – an animal story with a moral – in any language with an English prose translation. The fables we received were wide-ranging and hugely imaginative. Stories were written in French, German,  Italian, Irish (Gaelic), Korean, Spanish, and Yoruba. We read tales about foolhardy frogs leaping on the heads of crocodiles, a jealous rat envying a peacock’s beauty, dogs looking for love, a dolphin betraying its mother’s trust, and a crow going head-to-head with an eagle. The strongest stories in this task were filled with vivid imagery, linguistic courage, and showed a willingness to engage thoughtfully with the structure and purpose of the fable genre, often illustrating complex morals with subtle simplicity.

The overall winner of this task was thirteen-year-old Clémence, who wrote a poignant and visually striking fable in French about the consequences of not preparing for winter.

‘Un hiver long et froid’

Un jeune Cacatoès a huppe rouge se positionna sur la branche la plus haute du grand chêne. Son plumage était d’un des plus majestueux et sa huppe d’un couleur cramoisi. Son regard lumineux faisait scintiller la foret pleine de végétation. Ou, c’est ce qu’il croyait. Ses parents cacatoès pépiait sans cesse de leurs fils précieux.
En bas, dans l’un des trous les plus sombre vivait une petite famille d’écureuil roux. Leur fourrure était toute douce, comme les nuages et portait un point d’interrogation tout doux pour une queue. Ils étaient silencieux et rapides, travaillait dur et s’organiser. Leurs petites moustaches repairaient le vent tourner au nord, symbolisant l’arrivée de l’hiver, un hiver sombre et froid.
Le plus jeune écureuil regarda le haut du grand chêne avec intérêt. Il n’avait jamais récupéré les noix là-haut, celles qui était les plus juteuse. L’idée lui monta à la tête. Quel mal ferait t’il d’essayer. En plus l’hiver s’approcha de plus en plus, il fallait faire des récoltes.
‘Mais que fais-tu là-haut petit écureuil.’ Lui chanta le cacatoès.
‘Et toi, tu n’as pas fait tes provisions’ réponds l’écureuil.
‘Moi, je suis trop beau et intelligent pour telles taches ! L’hiver viendra quand ça me chantera !’
‘Toi tu te crois sorti de la cuisse de Jupiter mon pauvre. La neige et le vent te changera les idées.’
L’hiver arriva sans même dire un autre mot. La famille écureuil se tenait au chaud autour de la grande réserve lorsque la famille cacatoès, on ne les distinguer presque pas avec la neige nacrée.

Photo by John Torcasio on Unsplash

A young red crested cockatoo positioned himself on the highest branch of the large oak. His plumage was one of the most majestic and a crimson colour. His glowing eyes made the forest full of vegetation glitter. Or, that’s what he believed. His cockatoo parents constantly chirped about their precious sons.
At the bottom, in a dark hole, lived a small family of red squirrels. Their chestnut fur was soft, like clouds, and had a question mark for a tail. They were silent and fast, hard working and organised. Their little moustaches sensed the north wind coming, symbolising the arrival of winter, a dark and cold winter.
The youngest squirrel looked up the large oak with interest. He never collected the nuts up there, the ones that were the juiciest. The idea rose to his head. What harm would it do to try. In addition the winter was coming and provisions where needed.
But what are you doing up there little squirrel?” Sang the cockatoo to him.
And you, you have not yet made your provisions” answered the squirrel.
‘I am too handsome and intelligent for such jobs! Winter will come when I want it too! ‘
‘You believe yourself to have come out of the thigh of Jupiter my poor. Snow and wind change your ideas. ‘
Winter arrived without even saying another word. The squirrel family kept warm around the great reserve unlike the cockatoo’s family, we hardly distinguish them against the pearly snow.

You can read more of the highly commended fables here. Well done to all the winners and many thanks to everyone who took part! Some of the winning stories will be on display this Saturday, 15 June, at the Oxford Translation Day. This is a day full of translation events, which are free to attend. You can find the full programme here.

If you are near Oxford and your thirst for translation has not yet been quenched, do consider going along – and be sure to check out the winning Babel stories while you’re there.

Career profile: the civil service

This week we bring you another career profile by a recent graduate. Elena, from Somerset, studied French and German at Wadham College and graduated in 2011. She now works at the Department for Transport as Head of Drones Policy & Legislation. Here, Elena tells us more…

In my year abroad I did an internship with a German MP in Berlin and at university I’d always been interested in politics, volunteering and trying to improve things around me. After I graduated that led to 2 years working for Student Hubs and Hub Commercial Ventures, the charity and social enterprise company behind Oxford Hub and the Turl Street Kitchen. That taught me a lot about grassroots working and campaigning, and following that I joined the Civil Service Fast Stream. I was put on a series of placements across Government, and also a secondment to Shelter the housing charity. I worked on a range of interesting projects, from tax policy to military procurements, and eventually ended up working for the Transport Secretary of State’s special advisers. After that I specifically requested an EU-related role and was given a role coordinating the UK’s response to the EU Aviation Strategy. I used my languages quite a bit in this role, making friends with my French and German counterparts in particular, when I attended EU workshops on policies and negotiations. I also got to participate in a 2 week Commission-run training course, where they introduced Member State civil servants to the EU. My favourite session was one with some European Commission interpreters where we all got to have a go at interpreting a live speech.

Photo by Karl Greif on Unsplash

After this, I moved onto another role in the Aviation team – I now lead the team doing policy & legislation for the leisure and commercial use of drones in the UK. It’s a new emerging technology and poses quite a challenge to regulators because of it. As well as developing and implementing new UK legislation for drones, we do a lot of international work on it, including feeding into new EU rules in this area. I’ve occasionally used my languages then, although sadly not as much as I’d like.

A languages degree hasn’t been essential to any of the work I’ve done since I’ve left university. But it gave me skills I’ve used ever since. My time studying French & German gave me excellent writing and communication skills, which is crucial in the civil service, given how much we do is written. It also gave me an appreciation for different and wider perspectives, and the difficulties of communication, which has helped me immeasurably in dealing with challenging situations and interactions. Finally, although language skills haven’t been a requirement of any job I’ve worked in yet, it might well be in the future. There are lots of civil service jobs that do require language skills, and this seems likely to increase as the UK civil service grows its EU and international expertise post-Brexit. Having language skills will increase the number of jobs open to me.

German Classic Prize – ‘Der Sandmann’

Earlier this month, the Oxford German Network launched their third annual ‘German Classic Prize’. This is an essay competition for sixth formers (those going from Year 12 into Year 13 over the summer), which is designed to explore and celebrate a different ‘classic’ German text each year.

This year, the prize focuses on E.T.A. Hoffmann’s ‘Der Sandmann’ (1816) – one of the most captivating short stories in German literature and a masterpiece of Gothic fiction. Hoffmann’s eerie and mysterious tale centres on a young, impressionable student called Nathanael, who becomes convinced that he is pursued by a shadowy figure called Coppelius. Filled with Doppelgänger, mechanical dolls, alchemistic experiments, inexplicable fires, uncanny optical toys, and misaddressed letters, ‘Der Sandmann’ explores the power of the imagination as it erupts into a dark obsession.

The Oxford German Network is offering free study packs to Year 12/ Lower Sixth students who wish to take part. You can find more details about this here – be sure to request a study pack by midday on 10 June 2019.

In connection with this prize, the Oxford German Network has also produced a fantastic video podcast series about the text. One of these videos forms part of a special tie-in with our Virtual Book Club.

The episode below is a discussion between doctoral student, Karolina, and three undergraduates about an extract from Hoffmann’s short story. The full story is available here, and the extract under discussion begins ‘Seltsamer und wunderlicher’ and runs until ‘nicht anzufangen.’

Virtual Book Club returns to French

The Virtual Book Club is back, and this episode features a discussion of a text in French. Here, Junior Research Fellow, Macs, talks to undergraduates Isobel and Hector about a short extract from Rachid Boudjedra’s Topographie idéale pour une agression caractérisée (Paris: Denoël, 1975, pp. 173-4).

They consider questions such as:

  • What is the style of this passage? Is it difficult to read and understand and if so, why?
  • Is there a relationship between the style and what’s happening in the excerpt?
  • What kinds of translation take place in this passage?
  • How does the protagonist respond to the image of the lotus? Is it right to say that he’s reading the advertisement even though he’s supposedly illiterate? Is he misreading it? What would a “correct” reading of this advertisement look like?
  • What language skills are required to read a map or an advertisement?

If you would like to be sent a copy of the text so you can follow the discussion, please email us at schools.liaison@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk

The next episode will be on German, and will be a special tie-in with this year’s German Classic Prize. Stay tuned…

Fabulous Translation

This week on Adventures on the Bookshelf we’re continuing our exploration of the exhibition ‘Babel: Adventures in Translation‘. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at the Cinderella story and how it has been transferred and adapted across cultures. This week, we’re thinking about how to translate fables.

You probably know that a fable is a short story that aims to convey a moral, usually involving animals. Famous examples include ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’, ‘The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse’, and ‘The Hare and the Tortoise’, to name but a few.  Such stories have been popular since ancient times, and can be identified in many different traditions, including Aesop’s ancient Greek fables, and the Sanskrit Panchatantra, which are among the world’s most translated texts. These stories have enjoyed an enduring popularity and are still widely told today.

Although we might think of these stories as being primarily for children, they were originally written for adults in order to promote a moral message. But, of course, when it comes to translation, that raises all sorts of questions: how far is it possible to transfer a moral framework between different cultures and communities?; why are animals afforded such a key role in fables, and do animals have the same associations across the world?

Below, we’ve included a worksheet that was designed for visitors to the exhibition. However, you do not need to have seen the exhibition to undertand it. Take a look at some of the discussion points raised, including, intriguingly, the surprising study that found that children who were told the story of ‘The Boy who Cried Wolf’ were actually more likely to lie after hearing it! You can right click and open the images separately to see a bigger version, or access a pdf here.

Remember, the exhibition runs until 2nd June – do pay a visit if you can!

Brazil Week

This week’s blog post was written by Franklin, a second-year student in French and Portuguese from scratch. Here, Franklin tells us about this year’s ‘Brazil Week’…

In Week Six of Hilary Term every year, the Portuguese Sub-faculty organises ‘Brazil Week’, a series of free events – talks, performances and film screenings, to name just a few – which are open to members of the University and local community. The aim: to raise awareness of the richness and diversity of Brazilian culture. Events, though organised from within the Modern Languages Faculty, are designed to underline the wide variety of disciplines in which aspects of Brazil and Brazilian life are being researched: politics, history, theology, anthropology and sociology, for example. Each year promises to be an engaging and exciting week, and this year’s Brazil Week – whose theme was ‘Brazil Now’, in light of the election of Jair Bolsonaro to the presidency – was no exception.

The week began with a focus on film. On Monday evening, St Peter’s – one of the more than 30 colleges that comprise the University – hosted a screening of Flávia Castro’s Deslembro, a film that explores themes of identity and memory through the lens of the experiences of its teenage protagonist, Joana. The following day, we welcomed Dr Maite Conde, Lecturer in Brazilian Studies at Cambridge University, who spoke about her recently published book, Foundational Films: Early Cinema and Modernity in Brazil. Maite’s book discusses the reception of cinema in Brazil in the early twentieth century and explores how early films sought to represent cities, such as Rio de Janeiro, in a similar vein to European capital cities, notably Paris, and her talk was particularly insightful for final year students studying Brazilian cinema.

Photo by Davi Costa on Unsplash

Later on Tuesday, in what was perhaps the standout event of the week, the Brazilian writer and activist Anderson França gave a talk which touched on his 2017 collection of crônicas, Rio em Shamas (or ‘Rio in Flames’). Attended by students and staff of the University and members of the Portuguese and Brazilian communities in Oxford, Anderson’s talk highlighted the reality of growing up in Rio de Janeiro, how tourists don’t see the real Rio, and the precariousness of the political situation in Brazil.

A theatre workshop for students with the actor and director Almiro Andrade on Wednesday morning marked the halfway point. In it students were able to discuss ways of staging two canonical Brazilian plays, Auto da Compadecida and Morte e vida severina, both of which are studied in first year. Later that day, St Peter’s hosted a well-attended seminar, organised by postgraduate Andrzej Stuart-Thompson, for all those doing research into aspects of Brazil. Thursday saw the University’s Latin America Centre host Maria Lúcia Pallares-Burke and Peter Burke, who delivered a lecture on the influential Brazilian sociologist Gilberto Freyre, whose work all Portuguese undergraduates come across at some stage in their studies, and, just as it started, the week drew to a close focussing on cinema, with a roundtable, chaired by Professor Claire Williams, involving three specialists in Brazilian cinema.

Overall, the week was a great success, spotlighting the vitality and diversity of Brazilian culture and showcasing the breadth of research focussed on Brazil being carried out at Oxford. Brazil Week is one of many opportunities that students of Portuguese can get involved with to expand their knowledge of the Portuguese-speaking world and be introduced to cutting-edge research. Other events that the Sub-faculty organise include the Research Seminar, which regularly welcomes academics from around the world to speak about their latest work. This year, we have had talks entitled ‘Lima Barreto: An Afro-Brazilian Crusader’, ‘Memórias íntimas marcas: post-war transnational dialogues in Angolan art’ and ‘Critical futurities and queer-disabled existence in Mozambican, Ugandan and Zimbabwean political cultures’ amongst many more, reflecting the global nature of Portuguese as a language and the richness and vibrancy of the cultures of the Lusophone world.