Organisation of the Book
The book is divided into four parts. Part I comprises methodological and sociohistorical overviews of literary translation practice and theory. Part II focuses on product-oriented research, and Part III focuses on reception and process-oriented research in literary translation. Part IV proposes a blueprint curriculum for an MA in African literary translation. The chapters call on African translation studies to move towards a more central position internationally, and on translation research to acknowledge and incorporate new ways of viewing literary translation in the light of African postcolonial and decolonising developments.
The collection begins with an overview of literary translation in Africa by Paul Bandia (Chapter 1), in which he describes African literature as a ‘translating literature’ and translation as being at the heart of African literary production, and articulates the main divisions and developments marking the field of literary translation in Africa. As a result, there is a distinction between what Bandia terms pre-writing and post-writing translation. The first refers to a form of intercultural writing in which the African writer expresses himself and his worldview through the medium of a colonial language, manipulating that language for his own creative purposes, while the second resembles the traditional practice of translation, in which an African text is transferred into a foreign, usually international, language.
Part I continues with a discussion by Libby Meintjes in Chapter 2 around the prickly question of translator ethics in literary translation in order to provide an ethical framework for literary translators. The practice of translation is imbued with an awareness of the decolonial aesthetic which challenges the normative framework of Western aesthetics, recognising and nurturing more diverse ways of writing. The chapter draws on traditional translation scholarship, philosophy, hermeneutics and literary criticism, and explores how ethical issues relate to conceptual conundrums such as untranslatability and foreignisation. As part of this quest, the study builds bridges linking translation studies to a variety of other disciplines.
Serena Talento in Chapter 3 explores an area of translation studies that has largely been neglected by both African and international scholars: literary translation historiography. Drawing on Bourdieu’s field theory and Casanova’s (2002) concept of consecration, she investigates the phenomenon of literary translation into Swahili through a sociological lens, introducing a new field that contains abundant opportunities for further research. In doing so, she reflects on methodological and theoretical implications of mapping African historical contexts and interrogates the application of theoretical assumptions developed in European contexts to literary historiography in Africa. Talento argues for transnational and transcultural approaches to literary histories, and for the greater presence of Africa in international translation studies.
Part II begins with Chapter 4, where Judith Inggs develops a systematic methodology rooted in critical discourse analysis in order to explore the ideological and cultural repackaging of two contemporary South African young adult literary works for French and German target markets: Michael Williams’ Crocodile burning (1998) translated into French as Le ventre du crocodile by Valérie Morlot (Williams 2004), and Kagiso Lesego Molope’s The mending season (2005) translated into German as Im Schatten des Zitronenbaums by Salah Naoura (Molope 2009). Inggs finds that publishers and translators cluster South African texts into a homogenous group, emphasising the distance between source and target text readers and simultaneously creating an image of South African young adult literature that ignores the existence of multiple literatures in a multilingual context. The proposed methodology can be applied to a variety of texts and paratexts, and is intended to inspire further research into the transfer of South African literary texts into a variety of linguistic and cultural contexts in a much larger project.
In Chapter 5, Juan Miguel Zarandona focuses on the Spanish and Catalan translations of two contemporary Indian-African diasporic autobiographical postcolonial writers, namely Achmat Dangor (b.1948 in Johannesburg) and Moyez Vassanji (b. 1950 in Kenya) in the context of their reception in Spain. Using a parallel corpus comprising Dangor’s novels The Z Town trilogy (1990), Kafka’s curse (1997) and Bitter fruit (2001), and Vassanji’s novel The in-between world of Vikram Lail (2003), and their translations. Zarandona demonstrates that both writers incorporare a combination of Indianness and Africanness in their writings, thereby providing further evidence for the hybridity of African literary texts, but finds that whereas the Spanish translators exoticise their translations, the Catalan translator prefers domestication.
In Chapter 6, Ella Wehrmeyer constructs a new model to explore the old question of translating culture-specific items. Building on Karan (2014) within a descriptive translation studies framework, she constructs a model for the systematic mapping of a text’s linguistic-cultural constellation, arguing that the multicultural character of contemporary African literary texts precludes binary domestication versus foreignisation labels. Using a parallel corpus to map the linguistic-cultural constellations of a Zulu praise poem Izibonga zikaDingana (transcribed and collated by Stuart in 1929) and Deon Meyer’s (2011) contemporary Afrikaans novel 7 Dae and their English translations, Wehrmeyer proposes that the success of a literary translation lies in its ability to create a coherent and not too unfamiliar cultural landscape.
Eleanor Cornelius and George de Bruin explore in Chapter 7 the growing phenomenon of self-translation by African authors. Using Toury’s three-phased methodology for descriptive translation studies, the authors examine omissions and additions in SJ Naudé’s English translation “Lost” (from his Alphabet of birds 2015) of his short story “Los” from Alfabet van die voids (2011). They find that Naudé allowed himself authorial freedom in his translation, and conclude that self-translations do not differ markedly from translations for which the translator is not the original author. The study provides a basis for the further study of self-translation and the different forms it may take.
In Chapter 8, Bulelwa Nokele uses a discourse analysis framework to explore emotive conceptual metaphors in Nelson Mandela’s Long walk to freedom (1994) and its isiXhosa translation Indicia ende eya enkulule-kweni (Mandela 2001), thereby addressing a gap in research on isiXhosa conceptual metaphors. Nokele contends that translation problems dealing with conceptual metaphors arise from linguistic, sociocultural or ideological differences between languages. She finds that while most of the English conceptual metaphors could be translated directly into isiXhosa, the translator occasionally incorporated specifically isiXhosa conceptual metaphors even when the ST did not use a conceptual metaphor.
The multilingualism prevalent across most of the continent has resulted in hybrid languages in which writers draw from their own multilingual background. In Chapter 9, Celina Cachucho examines the translation of hybrid language and indigenous words (hallmarks of postcolonial writing) in Mia Couto’s novel A varanda do frangipani (1996), using a descriptive translation studies framework. Cachucho explores Couto’s systematic hybrid constructions and the cultural nuances behind his choice of indigenous Mozambican words, but finds that while the translator actively argues for retaining the source words, in practice the translation is mainly domesticated. Cachucho argues that domestication destroys the raison d’etre of postcolonial texts like Couto’s, but that in the African context, economics eventually undoes ideology.
In Chapter 10, Amechi Akwanya uses Michael Riffaterre’s model of textual generation to explore Igbo proverbs in Chinua Achebe’s novels, thereby addressing the proposition above that African writings in the colonial languages are a form of pseudo self-translation. Akwanya finds that in Achebe’s novels, Igbo proverbs are not simply references to the external cultural tradition, but function as the matrix underpinning the novel, and that Achebe creates plot by simultaneously expanding and problematising the proverbial matrix. He contends that the novelist engages in a unique form of translation, namely translating the “frozen discourse” of Igbo proverbs into a sequence of events in the colonial language, thereby making the proverb come alive as a dynamic experience.
Part III begins with Chapter 11, in which Monica Rius-Piniés examines the translation and reception of Maghrebi literature in Spain with the aim of establishing why this literature is little-known by Spanish readers and what is selected for translation and publication. Taking into account both the historical context and the significance of women writers, the chapter provides an important and insightful look at the relationship between Moroccan and Spanish literature, including works written in French, English and Arabic, and their translation into Spanish and the other official languages of Spain.
The reception of West African drama translations in Cuba during the 1970s, produced as a result of a government-initiated project aimed at the dissemination of African literature in Spanish, is the focus of Rocío Anguiano Pérez in Chapter 12. The anthology of drama texts entitled Teatro africano (Ladipo et al. 1975) includes six plays (five in French and one in Yoruba) set in different periods of African history, featuring female characters playing leading roles against oppression and corruption in a male-dominated world. Anguiano Pérez finds that the Spanish translations gain didactic and ideological functions, demonstrating the power of literature to transform social structures.
In Chapter 13, Use Feinauer and Amanda Lourens use a critical discourse framework to identify linguistic markers of power in email correspondence, and to explore power relationships between agents (author, translator, revisers, editors, proof-readers) in the translation of three Afrikaans novels into English. They find that the translator and the ST authors are the leading role players, whereas the revisers, editors and proof-reader play more supporting roles. Their study contributes a novel way of mapping social power relations between agents, and demonstrates the value of mining archival material to bring to light real-life collaborative processes.
In Chapter 14, Felix Awung explores how social factors and the structure of the African literary field of a particular period influenced the actions of the publisher and the translator as the principal agents involved in the translation of Ferdinand Oyono’s (1956) Une vie de boy into English, using Bourdieu’s social theory (1993) to analyse interview data. Awung finds that the agents’ African roots contributed significantly to the translation process, but that limitations of experience beyond Southern Africa hampered the translator’s understanding of the nuances of the text. He concludes that translation agency is highlighted in the interdependent relationship existing between the agents involved, but constrained by the context in which they operate.
Finally, in Chapter 15, the only chapter in Part IV, Christopher Fotheringham addresses challenges in developing a curriculum for literary translation at Master’s level in a multilingual African classroom that is not language-specific, caters for different levels of interest and knowledge, takes into account the dynamics of canon formation, and prepares students for a book market in the African context. The proposed curriculum views twentieth-century literary theory through the lens of contemporary approaches to literary translation concerning the ethics of representation, postcolonial translation studies, and translator invisibility. This framework is applied to readings of canonical and innovative African prose, poetry and drama, focusing on form, meaning and voice.