Translating Trakl: James McAuley’s Encounter with the Cultural Other


  • Jean Page University of Lisbon



translation, influence, travel, lyric


Translation theorist Laurence Venuti has written how a translator, in “a Romantic transcendence” can lose “his national self through a strong identification with a cultural other.” TS Reader, 20) Australian twentieth-century poet James McAuley’s reading and translation of the early twentieth-century Austrian poet Georg Trakl presents a significant literary encounter. Cosmopolitan by nature, McAuley, as a young poet, had been drawn to, and translated, the German language lyric poet Rainer Maria Rilke (1875-1926). Few of McAuley’s translations of Trakl are included in his Collected Poems(1971 and 1994); they appear in a separate posthumous collection (1982) and in his essay “The Poetry of Georg Trakl” (1975). This article offers a literary appreciation of McAuley’s translations and his commentary on Trakl’s imagery, prosody, symbolism and world view which McAuley described, borrowing Baudelaire’s term, as “a landscape of the soul.” It considers the hypothesis of translation as travel. Drawing on Harold Bloom’s theory of influence it examines McAuley’s encounter with Trakl in his late work, translations and poetic dedication (“Trakl: Salzburg,” 1976) written after visiting Salzburg in 1973. A comparatist approach traces Trakl’s influence, the discovery of affinities or parallel paths with the earlier poet who might be considered, in Bloomian terms, to be McAuley’s “gnostic double.”     

Author Biography

Jean Page, University of Lisbon

Jean Page is a Researcher at The University of Lisbon Centre for English Studies (ULICES). In 2018 she completed her doctoral thesis on the successive voices in the poetry of James McAuley. She completed a Master of Arts degree in Australian literature on the poetry of John Shaw Neilson at the University of Sydney. Her research interests include poetry and short fiction, from Australian and other English-language postcolonial literatures, studies in identity and spatiality. She participates in international and national conferences on Australian literature and has published in their journals. She works with ULICES’ research project Representations of Home in Literature and the Visual Arts (RHOME).