Tuesday 15th of June 2021

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The Born-Translated African Novel in English, translation, and the space of and for African literature

Marco Bagni, Università di Modena e Reggio Emilia pdf_icon_30x30


marco.bagni(at)unimore.it


Abstract: African authors of English expression have experimented with self- and pre-emptive translation. African novels that foreground and narrate multilingualism in English prose anticipate a characteristic of the born-translated novels of today’s globalized market of literature. As the realities of the circulation of “global” literature are governed by the same logics that have prevented the development of a market for the circulation of African literature in African languages, writing in English represents a near-necessity for the African writers of the former British colonies. Through the born-translated novel in English, African authors have explored ways of mediating the need for authenticity with the demands of the publishing market. Starting as a diatribe on the language of literature in the early 1960s, the African debate on language interrogates the social and political role of the writers and their art and thus transcends the domain of literature. Translation, in both its capacities as trans-cultural practice, and necessary condition for an expanded readership, is at the heart of this debate and plays a key role in defining a space of and for African literature. Against the background of the language debate, this paper discusses different approaches to the representation of Africa in and through the English language. Reference is made to Achebe’s African Trilogy novels, Ken Saro-Wiwa’s Sozaboy and Uzodinma Iweala’s Beasts of No Nation.

 

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