Translating Hungarian Drama for the British and the American Stage


  • Jozefina Komporaly



András Visky, stage translation, dramaturgy, collaborative creation, mise-en-scène, Foreign Affairs, Theater Y


Reflecting on my experience of translating contemporary Hungarian theater into English, this paper examines the fluidity of dramatic texts in their original and in translation, and charts collaborations between playwrights, translators and theater-makers. Mindful of the responsibility when working from a “minor” to a “major” language, the paper signals the discrepancy between the indigenous and foreign ‘recognition circuit’ and observes that translations from lesser-known languages are predominantly marked by a supply-driven agenda. Through case studies from the work of Transylvanian-Hungarian playwright András Visky, the paper argues that considerations regarding such key tenets of live theater as “speakability” and “performability” have to be addressed in parallel with correspondences in meaning, rhythm and spirit.  The paper also points out that register and the status of certain lexical choices differ in various languages. Nuancing the trajectory of Visky’s plays in English translation, this paper makes a case for translations created with and for their originals, in full knowledge of the source and receiving cultures, and with a view to their potential in performance. The paper posits the need for multiple options encoded in the translation journey, including hypothetical concepts for future mise-en-scène, and situates the translator as a key participant in the performance making process.







Thematic Cluster: English Translations from Hungarian: Expanding Genres, Deepening Approaches. Guest Ed: Peter Sherwood