A white, Catalan translator who had been commissioned to work on transcribing National Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gormans inaugural poem said Wednesday that he has been removed from the role because he did not have the right profile.
Agence France-Presse (AFP) first reported that the translator, Victor Obiols, said he had been asked three weeks ago by Barcelona publisher Univers to translate Gorman’s praised poem, The Hill We Climb, into Catalan, which is spoken in both Spain and Andorra.
However, Obiols, who AFP noted has translated works by William Shakespeare and Oscar Wilde, said that after he completed the translation, Univers was told by the U.S. that he was not the right person.
“They did not question my abilities, but they were looking for a different profile, which had to be a woman, young, activist and preferably black, the translator said.
Obiols, who is from Barcelona, said it was not clear who in the U.S. contacted Univers about his fitness for the role.
It is a very complicated subject that cannot be treated with frivolity, he told AFP. But if I cannot translate a poet because she is a woman, young, Black, an American of the 21st century, neither can I translate Homer because I am not a Greek of the eighth century BC. Or could not have translated Shakespeare because I am not a 16th-century Englishman.
Gorman, a 23-year-old Black woman, in January became the youngest inaugural poet in U.S. history when she recited her work at President Bidens inauguration ceremony.
A print edition of her poem, which partially addressed issues of race and reconciling the countrys history with slavery, has been accepting preorders online and will officially be released later this month.
Obiolss removal comes a little more than a week after AFP reported that Dutch writer Marieke Lucas Rijneveld had resigned as a translator for Gormans poem after receiving backlash that a Black translator was not chosen instead.
Rijneveld, who identifies as non-binary, became the youngest winner of the International Booker Prize last year for their novel “The Discomfort of Evening and stepped down after tweeting that they were shocked by the uproar, surrounding their involvement in the translation.
Rijneveld upon announcing their resignation said that Gorman’s team “has made it known that they still stand behind” them as the choice of translator, adding that it would have been a “great and honourable assignment” to translate Gormans poetry.
“I had poured all my love into translating Amanda’s work, seeing it as the greatest task to keep her strength, tone and style, Rijneveld said. However, I am well aware that I am in a position to think and feel that way, where many are not.”