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Translating the Postcolonial in Multilingual Contexts

Judith Misrahi-Barak
Srilata Ravi


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2 A Kumara by any Other Name: Literary Translation in the Polynesian Pacific

3Looking at examples from works by indigenous writers from the Polynesian triangle (New Zealand and French Polynesia), this article examines the complexities of literary translation from English to French (Patricia Grace) and from French to English (Chantal Spitz) for an extremely diverse readership (not merely Pacific-based but European and American as well). Examining a number of concepts from Paul Bandia’s recommendations concerning postcolonial African fiction and its heteroglossic practices, the author suggests that there are other questions we should be asking, in addition to whether to smoothe the heteroglossic into homogenised translations.

4How does the translator make decisions? Who will be reading these translations? How might the translations contribute towards forming—and informing—a ‘community of readers’, with shared cultural awareness? While this knowledge is to some extent already available to certain Pacific readers, and while the translator has a number of strategies at his or her disposal to provide greater clarity, it is likely that anyone outside the region will benefit from added information.

5Charlotte BAKER

6 ‘Translated from Gikuyu by the Author’: Ngūgī wa Thiong’o’s Self-Translation of Wizard of the Crow

7Ngūgī wa Thiong’o wrote Murogi wa Kagogo in Gikuyu in 2004, and published the English version, Wizard of the Crow, in 2006, announcing on the title page that the novel is ‘A translation from Gikuyu by the author’. The complex interplay of languages in Ngūgī’s self-translation is central to understanding the novel for two main reasons. Firstly, Ngūgī’s dictator novel depicts the political, economic and social intricacies that have characterised the postcolonial African state and, as stories and realities collapse into one another, the reader realises that the eponymous Wizard of the Crow is the embodiment of the writer in postcolonial society. Consequently, the play of languages in the text raises questions about the role of the writer in the face of dictatorship. Secondly, the reader is invited to question the status of the translated text in light of Ngūgī’s advocacy of writing in indigenous languages. The author of a literary work must first make a choice of language and then consider how the language will be used. When that work is, in turn, translated, this raises another set of questions about the status of the text, as well as the status of the translation. My interest here then, is not in the similarities or dissimilarities between Murogi wa Kagogo and the English version, but instead Ngūgī’s preoccupation with the question of language in Wizard of the Crow and the text’s critical status as self-translation.

8Lynn BLIN

9 Mother Tongue-Mother’s Tongue — The Lost and Found of Translation in Amy Tan’s Two Kinds

10Though the question of translation in Amy Tan’s novel The Joy Luck Club has been treated by several critics, the process itself of translation is never developed. Through an analysis of ‘Two Kinds’, taken from the novel, I will demonstrate how Tan, who holds a Masters degree in Linguistics, works with language in order to translate the high context Chinese culture of Chinese born Suyuan as it enters in conflict with the low context culture of her daughter, Jing-mei.

11After examining some of the criticism waged against Tan, we will look more closely at how the translation of the Chinese culture is subtly woven in to the narrative through Tan’s careful choice of language. This dexterity enables her to render what Jean-Jacques Lecercle has termed ‘the remainder’—the part of language that goes beyond all theory. For Lawrence Venuti, for a translation to be a success, the remainder, which in fact is the culture of the source text, must be present. Working also with Benveniste’s theory of language, we will see how both mother and daughter, receiving each other in translation, reveal what is lost in the act of translating, but also what is found.

12Catherine GILBERT

13 (Mis)Leading Paratexts: Translating Rwanda for the West

14Rwandan women’s testimonial literature provides us with invaluable insights into the horrors of the genocide in Rwanda and the ongoing struggle of living with its aftermath. Yet we must remember that these testimonies are presented to the Western reader in a mediated form. In a postcolonial context, collaboration continues to play an important role in the writing of testimonial literature. The published testimonies of Rwandan women genocide survivors are no exception, with the majority of the existing texts being written in collaboration with a Western author. The paratextual materials (prefaces, introductions, afterwords, etc.) are often the site of information about the collaboration, and also act as ‘cues’ which prepare the reader before reading the narrative itself. This article will consider paratexts as a translational tool, showing how Rwandan women’s published testimonies have undergone a process of cultural translation that focuses on the target culture. Focusing in particular on the testimonies of Berthe Kayitesi, Esther Mujawayo and Yolande Mukagasana, this article explores the crucial role played by the paratextual framing in determining how the testimonies are received by the Western reader and the implications of this for the shaping of the survivor’s story. Through an examination of the different types of textual framing employed in the publication of Rwandan women’s narratives, this article argues that the use of such paratextual material ultimately presents the texts as culturally ‘other’, highlighting the continued hierarchical nature of postcolonial relations between Rwanda and France, and between Africa and the West more generally.


16 Seuls ou la palette intermédiale du traducteur

17Comment dire l’indicible ou traduite l’intraduisible? Dans Les Lieux de la culture, Homi Bhabha met l’accent sur les enjeux de la traduction selon une optique postcoloniale. Il va même jusqu’à suggérer la création d’un espace ‘interstitiel’ où l’on peut faire face à la perturbation de l’énonciation en faisant appel au processus d’interprétation dans un lieu intermédiaire qui rend encore plus nécessaire le besoin d’interpréter. Ce concept (d’interstitialité) trouve toute son ampleur dans la pièce Seuls de Wajdi Mouawad. Cette pièce, écrite dans l’entre-deux des médiums, expose une traduction théâtrale comme un art dans l’espace et dans le temps, avec tous les éléments qui constituent l’expérience esthétique et intermédiale d’une œuvre d’art totale: corps, peinture, couleur, structure tactile, matérialité, etc. Nous tenterons de montrer les enjeux de cette traduction performative qui donne naissance à un élément intermédiaire qui n’est ni le texte, ni la représentation, mais le texte représenté. Écrire/traduire à partir d’autre chose que la langue tient ainsi d’un acte d’insoumission où l’écriture aura le rôle de guide pour dresser un pont entre le visible et l’invisible, le dicible et l’indicible, le traduisible et l’intraduisible.


19 N’Zid? Zid!: Mediterranean Archives and Postcolonial Translation in the Time of Amnesia

20My contribution to this volume interrogates the time and space of postcolonial translation through two items, read through the lens of a Mediterranean archive. The first is Algerian novelist Malika Mokeddem’s 2001 novel N’Zid. The second object is Frantz Fanon’s multilingual passport, located at the Institut mémoires de l’édition contemporaine (IMEC) archive in Normandy. Published in French and not formally translated, N’Zid is a novel requiring translation— between desert and sea, North and South Mediterraneans, Arabic and French, the decolonial and postcolonial, the space of the archive, and memory and forgetting, in what I am calling the time of amnesia. Memory and forgetting are times of translation for both objects, one floating in Mediterranean space, the other buried in a French archive. The archive necessitates translation, perhaps a very specific kind of translation. Fanon himself becomes translated and strangely silenced in the archive, located at the polar opposite coordinates of his political life—Algeria translated back into Normandy/metropolitan France. A curious burial. Fanon and his passport, as well as N’Zid are chronotopes in the Bakhtinian sense. Bakhtin calls a chronotope ‘the intrinsic connectedness of temporal and spatial relationships that are artistically expressed in literature’ (84). Both objects will be mapped out, recovered naufrages in a space-time specific to the Mediterranean pasts and postcolonial afterlives.


22 Translations, déplacements et transferts interculturels: ce que les bruissements des mémoires font aux littératures de La Réunion

23Les départements d’outre-mer offrent un rapport particulier aux langues et aux relations qu’elles entretiennent. Dans le cas de La Réunion, la cohabitation profondément inégalitaire entre français et créole, ravalé au rang de ‘langue régionale’, privilégie le français et fait du créole une langue minimisée, interrogeant la nature proprement postcoloniale de cette situation. Comment traduire, dès lors, au sein d’une langue, ou bien une langue, ‘qui n’en est pas une’, dont la graphie n’est pas fixée et qui elle-même est habitée par les bruissements de toutes les autres langues et de toutes les mémoires déchirées qui la constituent? Certains textes proposent des réponses différentes à cette question et parmi eux des traductions et autotraductions comme Zistoir Kristian, Mes-aventures. Histoire vraie d’un ouvrier réunionnais en France de Christian (1977) ou Les Limites de l’aube, La Borne bardzour (1988), autotraduction d’Axel Gauvin. Il existe aussi des propositions d’entre-deux linguistiques comme Narlgon la lang (2002) de Carpanin Marimoutou ou le recueil poétique en français Passage des Lémures — En pays Mafate (2003) de Nicolas Gérodou hantés par les mémoires indiennes et malgaches. Nous observerons comment les formes de la traduction, de la fidélité à l’adaptation, voire à l’invention d’une langue, redéfinissent les contours d’une nation diasporique où tout est ‘translation’, déplacement, négociations culturelles mais aussi, souvent intraduisible et ‘untranslability’ (Apter).


25 The Emergence of Postcolonial Translation in Literary New Orleans

26Louisianan fiction has consistently represented society as multilingual and multicultural as well as divided by class, race and gender boundaries. Two 19th century works, in particular, exemplify this in ways that suggest problematics of translation that can be fruitfully explored from an examination of Louisiana’s colonial history and a postcolonial perspective focused on ‘bordering’. This notion was first proposed by Naoki Sakai (2010) and, through a postcolonial and translational reading of The Grandissimes: A Story of Creole Life (1899) by George Washington Cable and The Mysteries of New Orleans by the German immigrant Baron Ludwig von Reizenstein (1854-1855), this study will explore how useful 21st century border theories are for a deeper understanding of earlier multicultural contexts. Since both novels are set in New Orleans, this essay confines itself to the analysis of 19th century society in that city. An examination of the central role played by translation in intercultural negotiation leads to considerations of issues related to the concepts of border, bordering, culture, nation and language. Within a theoretical framework drawn from recent scholarship in the field of translation studies, this paper argues that 19th century authors were well aware of the postcolonial conditions—porous borders between languages and identities; need of or resistance to translation; continuity within discontinuity—present in New Orleans and used various strategies to evoke these in their writings as a venue for an expression of social criticism.

27Delphine MUNOS

28 From The Stranger to The Outsider: The different English translations of L’Étranger, the Postcolonial Reception of Camus’ classic, and the Memorialization of Camus in Post-Imperial France

29A French writer born on North African soil and a pied-noir who both opposed the O.A.S. and the F.L.N., Albert Camus has always enjoyed a problematic status in post-imperial France. Taking its cue from Mona Baker, who argues that ‘translators (...) play a crucial role in both disseminating and contesting public narratives with and across national boundaries’, this essay explores the various English translations of L’Étranger and situates them in relation to different epochs of reception of Camus’ classic, both in France and abroad, with a special focus on prevailing interpretations, in each of these phases, of the relationship between Camus and his native Algeria.

30If my initial aim is to discuss the relative invisibility of the French Algerian colonial background of L’Étranger in pre-1990s English translations of the novel, I also wish to examine the problematic ways in which the growing influence of the postcolonial paradigm in a post-1990s Anglophone context has brought L’Étranger’s colonial background centre stage, with the paradoxical result, not of elucidating, but of obscuring the most incisive colonial and postcolonial aspects of the novel. Finally, I wish to show that Sandra Smith’s recent translation of Camus’ classic creates a web of new meanings that participate in opening a space through which the protagonist of L’Étranger can be seen both as an ‘outsider’ and an ‘insider’ to French Algeria—a space that might reach backward and forward, with a potential for complicating the pieties of early post-colonial readings of the novel and of post-imperial France alike.

31Yolaine PARISOT

32 Fragments de ‘ce livre qu’on ne peut lire qu’en rêve’ ou l’imaginaire de la traduction dans le roman haïtien

33À partir de la relecture que fait Homi K. Bhabha de la métaphore benjaminienne du vase et de la conception de la traduction comme ‘fragments d’un même langage plus grand’, nous nous proposons de montrer comment la situation linguistique d’Haïti induit, dans le corpus romanesque, un imaginaire de la traduction qui participe véritablement d’une ‘dissémination transnationale de la culture’. Nous analyserons d’abord la scénographie que le genre de la lodyans offre, dès le début du vingtième siècle, d’une parole populaire clivée par le partage linguistique créole/français. C’est en effet dans cette transcription littéraire d’une pratique orale, largement occultée par le roman indigéniste, que puisent les écrivains de l’époque ultra-contemporaine pour passer du roman des ‘hommes traduits’ (Rushdie) à la fiction transnationale. Ainsi nous pencherons-nous ensuite sur des œuvres singulières mais convergentes: dans The Dew Breaker et Brother, I’m dying de la romancière anglophone Edwidge Danticat, comme dans Ballade d’un amour inachevé du francophone Louis-Philippe Dalembert, la réflexion linguistique revêt une dimension politique où le ‘noyau de l’intraduisible’ (Bhabha) rencontre le nœud de l’impossible à dire. Dany Laferrière recourt, quant à lui, à d’autres stratégies qui relèvent moins de l’hétérolinguisme que de la fictionnalisation d’un discours épilinguistique. Celle-ci fonde la théorie littéraire déployée dans L’Art presque perdu de ne rien faire, où la traduction d’un précédent roman en coréen inspire, non plus le livre à venir, mais le ‘livre qu’on ne peut lire qu’en rêve’.


35 Maryse Condé’s Translations Translated: On the British-Guadeloupian South Africa of Story of the Cannibal Woman

36As a Guadeloupian, i. e. post-colonial but non-South-African writer, belonging to no South African cultural or linguistic group, Maryse Condé is in some ways better equipped than local writers to figure post-apartheid South Africa and its place in the world. While Condé throughout her oeuvre gives a scathing critique of the touristic gaze, Histoire de la femme cannibale (2003)—her novel set in South Africa featuring a Guadeloupian woman dealing with the death of her British husband—itself has at times a rather touristic feel. The 2015 Man-Booker International Award shortlist, featuring Condé as one of the ten finalists, was announced at the University of Cape Town in South Africa on the same campus where, and at the same time when, the RhodesMustFall movement was protesting the university’s continuing colonial legacy. In this 2015 political moment, Condé’s Histoire de la femme cannibale, together with her first work, also set in Africa, Hérémakhonon (1976), resonate particularly well—better perhaps than it might have done had it delivered a more ‘faithful’ rendering of 2003 Cape Town. The meaning of the post-colonial and the post-apartheid is often conflated by Condé, but in ways conducive to and echoed by contemporary South African politics, especially at a youth and student level.

37Tobias WARNER

38 Enacting Postcolonial Translation: Voice, Color and Free Indirect Discourse in the Restored Version of Ousmane Sembène’s La Noire De...

39Ousmane Sembène encountered a host of financial, logistical, and bureaucratic problems during the production of La Noire de... (1966). This essay studies how those difficulties forced Sembène to make changes to the voices of characters and to the color of the film stock. Due to funding difficulties, the main character Diouana is played on-screen by the Senegalese actress Thérèse M’Bissine Diop but in the soundtrack the performance is that of the Haitian actress and singer Toto Bissainthe. Sembène also had to cut a short sequence in color because he lacked the proper accreditation to direct a feature film. I compare the widely available print of the film with a version recently restored by the Archives françaises du film. My argument is that La Noire de... foregrounds its own constraints to transform them into meditations on translatability, postcolonial subjectivity and the limits of authorial expressivity in film. I analyze Sembène’s use of voice and color as examples of free indirect discourse. Established understandings of free indirect discourse in cinema by Gilles Deleuze and Pier Paolo Pasolini frame the mode as transcending the distinction between character and camera. But La Noire de... uses free indirect discourse in a different way, to make the viewer feel the challenges of producing the film. Drawing on this expanded notion of free indirect discourse, I show how Sembène deploys both voice and color to thematize a further limitation he faced—the fact that he was not (yet) able to make a film in an African language.

40Julia WATERS

41 Rewriting Mauritius’ Pasts: Ananda Devi’s Postcolonial Self-Translation

42The Mauritian writer, Ananda Devi, once described the experience of translating her own French-language novel, Pagli, into English as ‘liberating, even exhilarating’, as compared with the more constrained, faithful practice of translating another writer’s work. Indeed, Devi goes so far as to assert that the English-language version of Pagli ‘is more of a rewriting than a translation’, so explicitly signalling the creative liberties that she takes with source text and culture. This article seeks to overcome the critical neglect of Devi’s fascinating self-translation, by exploring the many striking divergences—both stylistic excisions and narrative additions—between source and target texts, occasioned, at least in part, by the novel’s new, Anglophone Indian readership. It investigates, in particular, how Devi’s extensive additions of new material, particularly relating to questions of slavery and anti-black racism, seek to rewrite dominant national narratives which foreground Indo-Mauritians’enduring diasporic links with India. Exploiting the creative freedom offered by self-translation, Devi’s English-language, Indian-published Pagli represents the author’s attempt to confront, and thereby begin to overcome, the deep and enduring divisions caused by Mauritius’s dual ‘crimes fondateurs’ of slavery and indenture. As our analysis of Ananda Devi’s rewriting of both her own text and, with it, of Mauritius’s past demonstrates, the author’s ‘liberating and exhilarating’ self-translation destabilises and refutes the traditional binary opposition between ‘original’ writing and derivative translation, revealing the many, creative and political ways in which meanings shift with language and audience.

© Presses universitaires de la Méditerranée, 2017

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