Translating the Manifesto of Equals
These were among the questions we tackled at a series of workshops with students across King's Arts & Humanities Faculty. Between October and June 2020 the group worked towards a new, co-translated English version of Sylvain Maréchal's Manifesto of the Equals (1796), which is considered the first political manifesto and gave voice to the demands of the secret Conspiracy of the Equals led by Gracchus Babeuf. At a time when the most radical phase of the Revolution had come to a close after the fall of Robespierre, the Equals wanted to re-start the Revolution to win equality and happiness for all. The plot was discovered and its leaders, Babeuf and Alexander Darthé, were guillotined on 8 Prairal (27 May 1797).
Co-translation begins with preparing a literal translation of a given text into English that is then collectively reworked. This method enables participants with a diverse range of language skills to explore aspects that matter to them. We approached the Manifesto looking for ways of translating the language of the French Revolution into today's struggles and sensibilities.
Our original plan was for this new translation to be turned into a live performance directed by professional dramaturge Simon Hatab, but the Coronavirus crisis broke out just as rehearsals were taking place. Despite this, we were able to complete the translation work via Zoom and plan to resume activities around the performance as soon as we are allowed to meet again in person.