In more recent work by a younger generation, we find a growing concern with life in Africa today unrelated to anything European. These are primary and recurring themes in both Ken Bugul and Werewere Liking, in whose worlds there is an everpresent emphasis on the position of and attitude toward women, which we find in much African fiction, but particularly and certainly not surprisingly in the work of female authors.
Fictitious accounts, faces and murmurings of a nearby imaginary, of a past-present that rebels against the intrusion of a new abstraction. From the Arabic?
From collo- de Jager 95 quial Arabic or from feminine Arabic; one might just as well call it underground Arabic. I could have listened to these voices in no matter what language, nonwritten, nonrecorded, transmitted only by chains of echoes and sighs. It leaves women with nothing but one another, and other women are then the only ones with whom and upon whom she can begin to experiment with the sound of her own voice.
It is this that becomes the ultimate challenge for the translator of her work: the silences between the lines, the pauses between the notes, the downcast eye between the open gazes, the quiet that follows the death of a woman of earlier generations and lies between it and the birth of her greatgranddaughter who will water and tend the centuries-old memory of woman. The amputation of memory also leads to silence, for how can you speak of what you do not remember?
And who are we, who can we be, if we do not have the memory of where we came from, what our culture is, who we are individually and collectively as people? We must then become what we are told we should be, because we have no other information on which to rely and base our growth.
Liking consciously and with great pain excavates her memory, digging like an archeologist for the experiences she had lived without at the time, comprehending their significance, and by doing so she constructs her life as an adult woman, finding deeper wisdom with every exhumed piece, a wisdom she then relays to her own children and grandchildren.
It is a lovely collection of women who form a trinity of marvelous, stern but compassionate, smart, courageous, and humorous models, although certainly not without flaws of their own. The question of female subjugation — whose permanent companion is silence — is ever-present in many literatures. The themes of expected obedience, submission, and resulting silence are everywhere in the work of Djebar, Liking, and Ken Bugul.
And when the female character resists, whether she does so quietly or revolts openly, she enters a dangerous world, colliding with established mores and patriarchal domination, risking rebuke, banishment from the family, or exile. And often cannot say it. That, too, is the mission of the literary translator: to tell the reader of a different language and culture what the author of the original text hides away, what she must say, and where she is.
In conclusion, a few words about what I have learned, and what has, indeed, been revealed to me on a personal level through the act and art of translation. Almost twenty-six years ago, on our first date, my husband and I attended a political meeting. Not until I began to translate African literature did I realize how right he had been. Coming from three generations of Dutch colonialists in Indonesia, where I was born and spent my first decade, reading the work of African authors was truly a revelation for me.
On some level I had always known the evils colonialism had wrought, but hearing the personal voices of these writers and the characters they had created, the pain before, during, and after colonialism became brightly illuminated, a burning torch in what was until then mostly a fog of my own childhood memories, and I felt compelled, feel compelled, to bring those voices to a wider audience through the also-political act of translation.
My translation work, however, will go on as long as 98 FLS, Vol. XXXVI, my head and hands keep functioning, bringing both the voices and their silences to a different and broader audience, being a link in the chain. I have also learned a great deal about what it means to be a woman and for that feel deeply indebted to the work of Bugul, Djebar, and Liking. Fetching it to me with full hands; How could I answer the child?
I do not know what it is any more than he. I guess it is a uniform hieroglyphic, And it means, Sprouting alike in broad zones and narrow zones, Growing among black folks as among white Bugul, Ken. Le Baobab fou. Marjolijn de Jager. Chicago: Lawrence Hill Books, Afterword by Jeanne Garane. Charlottesville: University of Virginia Press, La Folie et la mort.
Riwan ou le chemin de sable. Crystal, David. English as a Global Language. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, Gainesville: University Press of Florida, Diop, Boubacar Boris. Murambi, le livre des ossements. Paris: Stock, Fiona McLaughlin. Murambi, The Book of Bones. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, Djebar, Assia. Paris: Des femmes, Women of Algiers in Their Apartment.
Afterword by Clarisse Zimra. Paperback ed.
Frost, Robert. London: D. Nutt, Liking, Werewere. Paris: Publisud, The Amputated Memory. New York: The Feminist Press: Mallon, Thomas.
Boileau, welke commissie een sterk Gallicaanse inslag had. De schrijver zette het werk voort onder dezelfde titel in een andere vorm: La connoissance du monde, voyages orientaux. Here, within the context of the city of Quebec, this poetry will be entirely at home — and will hardly have the surprise value that they offer on the shores of the Pacific Ocean. In en was dit werk al herhaaldelijk ter sprake gebracht. XXXVI, my head and hands keep functioning, bringing both the voices and their silences to a different and broader audience, being a link in the chain.
Minh-ha, Trinh T. Le Bel Immonde. Before the Birth of the Moon.
New York: Simon and Schuster, Neruda, Pablo. Extravagaria: A Bilingual Edition. Alastair Reid. London: Cape, Rabassa, Gregory.
New York: P. American Center, Steiner, George.
After Babel — Aspects of Language and Translation. London: Oxford University Press, Thomas, Chantal. This study analyzes how the self-translator and translator alike deal with various linguistic and cultural realities presented by African languages upon translating them into French and then into English. Most critics have claimed that the opposite is true — that French as a language of the colonizer is one that the African writer has been forced to accept.
As Kwaku Gyasi claims, the early African writers started to write in the languages of the colonizers without considering all the implications involved in the use of such languages.
In the zeal to destroy the stereotypical images of Africa and to project their African world view, these writers may have considered the colonial languages as mere tools or means to achieve their objectives. One writer who clearly challenges all of these assumptions, however, is Cameroonian novelist and playwright, Werewere Liking, whose works in French resemble no Western forms of fiction and whose language and registers are highly distinctive.
Self-taught in French as an adult, Liking had been immersed during her youth exclusively in the language, rituals, traditions, and teachings of her native Bassa culture of Southwestern Cameroon. Gyasi further claims: [ According to each individual writer, the European language in Africa is given different hues and shades. Through her writing and self-translation, Liking essentially engages in the act of redefining African orality. Liking may have found less creative freedom in Cameroon because she was indeed too close to home — that is, translation as cultural production simply could not be as widely appreciated for several reasons.
According to Conteh-Morgan then, we can say at the very least that all Cameroonian spectators are not sharing in the same experience and understanding of the play, and to another extreme, some may even find the aestheticization of a sacred ritual offensive FLS, Vol. Her performance art has less readily been labeled sacrilegious; indeed, it has been praised for being highly innovative.
Gyasi offers an explanation as to what contributes to this success: Even though the African writer uses symbols and metaphors that touch on a real African situation to reflect or express an idea, he or she also goes beyond a particular time and place because, by writing in a foreign language, the final product is invested with meanings that apply in varying degrees to different people and societies. Therefore, not only does Liking successfully transform her work into written form, but she translates it, for the most part, into Bassainfused French.
The thought of yet another person tackling an English translation that remains faithful to these already intricate linguistic and cultural nuances is seemingly a daunting task for even the most experienced translator. Obviously, the translator of English is using as reference a text that has been translated initially into French by Liking.
Similar to what Liking has done in French, the translator of English must also convey all the cultural nuances of the African text within the limitations of what is possible in English, which in turn may differ from what is feasible in French. Linguists Vinay and Darbelnet identify some of the potential problems in translating from French to English alone; namely, taking into account differences in the two languages regarding metalinguistic information of message 29 , situational equivalence 39 , and cultural lacunae Gyasi also posits that translators of African texts have a Toman tendency to adhere too closely to the tenets of translation theories developed in the West, which may result in a translation that gives primacy to the European languages that the African writer has so fiercely sought to subvert in the act of writing The Francophone African Text Furthermore, as both writer and translator, Liking obviously has an advantage over the translator of English, who, as an outsider to the initial work, has less linguistic freedom.