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English as a Literature in Translation
 9781628925098, 9781501304538, 9781628924275

Table of contents :
Cover
Half-title
Title
Copyright
Dedication
Contents
Acknowledgements
Preface
1. Introductory Chapter
2. Lost in Translation
3. A Wandering Bigamist of Language
4. Lives in Translation
5. Migration and Mobility
6. Border-Crossing and Literary Creativity
Concluding Remarks
Bibliography
Index

Citation preview

English as a Literature in Translation

English as a Literature in Translation Fiona J. Doloughan

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc

Bloomsbury Academic An imprint of Bloomsbury Publishing Inc 1385 Broadway New York NY 10018 USA

50 Bedford Square London WC1B 3DP UK

www.bloomsbury.com BLOOMSBURY and the Diana logo are trademarks of Bloomsbury Publishing Plc First published 2016 Paperback edition first published 2017 © Fiona J. Doloughan, 2016 All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or any information storage or retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publishers. No responsibility for loss caused to any individual or organization acting on or refraining from action as a result of the material in this publication can be accepted by Bloomsbury or the author. Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Doloughan, Fiona J. English as a literature in translation / Fiona J. Doloughan. pages cm Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-62892-509-8 (hardback) 1. Literature--Translations--History and criticism. 2. Multilingualism and literature--Englishspeaking countries. 3. Translating and interpreting--English-speaking countries. 4. Language and culture--English-speaking countries. 5. Literature and society--English-speaking countries. 6. Bilingualism in literature. I. Title. PN241.D65 2015 418’.04--dc23 2015009345 ISBN: HB: 978-1-6289-2509-8 PB: 978-1-5013-3317-0 ePub: 978-1-6289-2222-6 ePDF: 978-1-6289-2427-5 Typeset by Fakenham Prepress Solutions, Fakenham, Norfolk NR21 8NN

This book is dedicated to my partner Regine Hampel who shuttles seamlessly across languages; and to my parents who encouraged me to live sin fronteras.

Contents Acknowledgements Preface 1 2 3 4 5 6

Introductory Chapter Lost in Translation A Wandering Bigamist of Language Lives in Translation Migration and Mobility Border-Crossing and Literary Creativity

Concluding Remarks Bibliography Index

viii ix 1 31 57 79 107 135 161 167 175

Acknowledgements To see the production of a book through from initial stirrings or hint of an idea to its eventual publication is neither a singular nor a solitary act but one that depends on the labour and service of others, on opportunity and serendipity as well as on the stubbornness of the writer to pursue her venture and vision despite obstacles and limitations. There are, therefore, numerous people whose contributions to the making and completion of this book require acknowledgement. While it is always invidious to select some, rather than others, for specific mention, there are a number of people without whom the project would not have got started, never mind progressed and been brought to a close. To Laura Murray of Bloomsbury Press whom I met while at a meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association in Toronto, I would like to express my sincere thanks for understanding not only what the project was about but also for rescuing it from the danger of shuttling endlessly between the literature and linguistics lists and recognizing its relevance to and for Comparative Literature. As a Canadian who had grown up in a country with a commitment to bilingualism, she was quick to see the implications. To the peer reviewers of the initial proposal, I also extend my gratitude and thanks for their insightful and constructive comments. At the Open University, particular thanks are due to my Head of Department, Lynda Prescott, in the Department of English for enabling me to enjoy short periods of Study Leave at critical moments; to my colleagues in English and Creative Writing who inevitably picked up work as a result, I extend my thanks and acknowledge their ‘invisible’ contribution. In particular, I’d like to thank Linda Anderson and Susheila Nasta for their encouragement and support in reading and commenting on a chapter. For help with formatting and preparing the manuscript for delivery, I’d like to thank my partner Regine Hampel, and for steering the project through to its conclusion, I thank Mary Al-Sayed, Haaris Naqvi and everyone else at Bloomsbury Press who contributed to the book’s production. All failures and omissions remain mine.

Preface Behind the production of every book, there is usually a story and this book is no exception. The genesis of the ideas that would eventually be put to work in the service of the current monograph actually originated in a strand of my book, published by Continuum, on Contemporary Narrative: Textual Production, Multimodality and Multiliteracies (Doloughan 2011) where I began to think about the possible consequences for writers, such as Monica Ali and Xiaolu Guo, of having access to different languages and/or cultures with which to construct their narrative worlds. I also touched on the various ways in which ‘creative’ writing becomes a kind of cultural critique in works that actively depend on a transformation of existing works (e.g. Ali Smith in Girl Meets Boy, a reworking of the myth of Iphis for a contemporary audience). Since then, my interests, both critical and creative, have crystallized around notions of translation and the ways in which many writers appear to be working with and against particular conceptualizations of the translational process in relation to creative production. The context out of which English as a Literature in Translation arose is, in some ways, an important dimension of its meaning and is certainly part of the motivation for writing it. By context, I mean to point to the changing linguistic landscape in terms of the balance of ‘English Only’ to ‘English Plus’, or from monolingualism to plurilingualism, as the new norm in many parts of the world, even as policies and practices in other areas remain resistant to the postmonolingual condition (Yildiz 2012). The question of why this might matter is one that I address in the book in terms of the potential benefits for creative practice of access to more than one set of linguistic and cultural resources. The focus of the book, which might otherwise be very diffuse, is held together through sustained engagement with aspects of translation as I seek to show the extent to which for many writers today translation (in multiple senses) has become integral to the fabric of their narratives and can be seen as an engine of critique and invention. My interest in translation, moreover, is not simply ‘academic’. As someone with a background in Comparative Literature who has watched the dismantling

x Preface

or downgrading of Departments of Modern Foreign Languages and European Studies Centres in many institutions in the UK over the past 20 years, I am concerned that what we are witnessing is a retrenchment that is out of line with the plurilingual realities of life for many in Britain today, particularly in metropolitan centres. It also goes against the grain of educational policies of ‘English Plus’ in Continental Europe and flies in the face of shifting demographics and patterns of migration around the world. Moreover, in terms of cultural capital, cognitive flexibility and creative potential, it seems to me that it is timely to think through the consequences of what has been termed Britain’s ‘linguistic complacency’. In writing this book, I hope to achieve a number of things: MM

MM

MM

to make a contribution to a debate that is already well advanced in the Americas in relation to translational practices; to point to the ways in which changing ideas about bi- and multilingualism are refracted in fiction and memoirs with a translational focus; to suggest that the term ‘narratives of translation’ is a useful way of conceptualizing works that are founded on and grounded in notions of translation.

In addition to pointing readers back to the literature that inspired it, the book seeks to flag up the very real material and cultural consequences of failure to engage at a deep level with other languages and literatures; and to understand the cognitive and creative benefits of plurilingualism for self as well as for other. Fiona J. Doloughan 3 December 2014

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Introductory Chapter

This is a book about translation and contemporary literature in English and the ways in which shifting notions of translation can be charted in literary works characterized by their focus on relationships between and among language, culture and identity and on translational processes as central to the constitution of self and other. Taking as my starting point a thoughtful and provocative article by Alastair Pennycook (2008), ‘English as a Language Always in Translation’, in which he points to the consequences of the fact that English does not in reality operate in isolation in the world today but always in the context of other languages, I want to suggest that a shift has taken place in our conceptions of translation and that this shift is reflected in writing in English. By looking at a series of case studies – from Eva Hoffman’s 1989 memoir Lost in Translation to Xiaolu Guo’s early twenty-first-century work, including her 2007 novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers as well as her recently published novel I Am China (2014), via a number of other works, across a 25-year time-span – that thematize translation and reflect on what it means to move across languages and/or cultures, I want to suggest that the prototypical notion of language as loss, and translation of self and other as a predominantly painful and traumatic experience, have given way to a greater sense of what is to be gained, both at the individual and societal levels, through access to different languages and cultures. As well as being informed by changes in attitudes to the cognitive and cultural benefits of bilingualism and multilingualism, these shifts can be seen to mirror a changing politics of language or at least a greater awareness of what is at stake in what Pennycook (2008: 43) calls ‘translingual activism’, whereby the role that English plays in the world is unsettled through recognition of the complexities and inequalities of translation and understanding of the ways in which meanings are diversified through language crossing and mixing. Inevitably, this raises questions not just for writers but also for readers

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of text where traces of the presence of other languages and cultures are part of the fabric of the work. A monolingual reader may well react differently from a bilingual or multilingual reader of an ‘accented’ English text, preferring perhaps to see linguistic inadequacies or grammatical deficiencies rather than playfulness, inventiveness or critique at work in a text that does not conform to that reader’s view of ‘standard’ English. How to evaluate the creativity of a bilingual or multilingual writer, even in the case where that writer is writing predominantly, if not exclusively, in English, becomes an issue where the institutional gatekeepers are themselves monolingual. As Sherry Simon (2012: 1), in her Introduction to Cities in Translation: Intersections of Language and Memory, reminds us: ‘Accents, code-switching and translation are to be valued for the ways in which they draw attention to the complexities of difference, for the ways in which they interrupt the self-sufficiencies of “mono” cultures.’ The ‘self-sufficiencies of “mono” cultures’ (Simon 2012: 1) may seem overdone in the present era of increasing connectivity and mobility, yet political rhetoric, in the United Kingdom, in the course of the elections to the European Parliament in May 2014, about stronger border controls, capping immigration, limiting migrants’ access to benefits, and keeping British jobs for British workers is reflective of a set of discourses that signal a closing down rather than an opening up of borders and boundaries. Such discourses characterize migrants as interlopers and scroungers who come either to deprive British citizens of jobs that are rightfully theirs or to live on welfare and housing benefit at great cost to the British taxpayer. Preserving Britain for the British and keeping it free of ‘foreign’ influence has certainly been part of this particular campaign, at least on the part of extreme right-wing parties and some Conservatives. Whereas in the past such rhetoric might have been written off as political posturing, the rise of the right-wing United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) and the election of two of its members to Parliament mean that it is no longer possible to dismiss their anti-immigration and anti-European discourse as coming from the fringes of British politics. Rather, it is, regrettably, becoming more mainstream. The political and rhetorical backdrop informing debates about immigration and Britain’s relations with the rest of Europe may appear to have little to do with contemporary writing in English but arguably attitudes to language – ‘English […] as a language that operates only in its own presence’ (Pennycook 2008: 44) – are part and parcel of the same kind of parochialism and national defensiveness. Translational writing in English, that is writing that depends on the co-presence of other languages and cultures in either a marked or non-marked



Introductory Chapter

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manner, puts pressure on ideas of linguistic and cultural stability and creates a ‘plurality of codes, a thinking through and with translation, a continual testing of the limits of expression’ (Simon 2012: 6). These ‘translational’ practices then go to the very heart of what we understand ‘creative’ writing in the twenty-first century to be and the extent to which English is seen not as a bounded and monolithic linguistic entity rooted in a particular geographic area or areas but as a relatively fluid and porous material base situated at the confluence of other languages and other varieties of English. Thus my reading of the works selected, while focusing on the centrality of issues of translation, will necessarily be set against larger societal developments, including globalizing tendencies that have permitted English to extend its reach, at the same time as increased possibilities for mobility and migration have brought diverse cultures into contact. Technological developments too have meant that it is not always necessary to move physically to another location to experience or partake of different languages or different worlds. This can be done remotely or at a distance. In addition, the fact that English is now used by more people for whom it is one of a number of languages rather than the sole language of communication allows for the possibility of a diversity of meanings as ‘English is always a language in translation, a language of translingual use’ (Pennycook 2008: 34). This ‘global traffic of meaning’ (33) has the potential to open up communicative spaces, as languages operate alongside one another and come into close contact, generating new meanings. As Pennycook (2008) points out, the traffic in meaning is neither one-directional nor does it apply only in the international or global arena. Regional and local usages of English also operate in the presence of other Englishes and in the light of other languages and often find themselves subject to evaluation in respect of some notional idea of standard English or ‘English as a language with a core’ (40). Both within the various Englishes spoken and written today and between English/es and other languages, the need to recognize the extent to which translation is at the heart of communication has never been greater. Translation, then, becomes ‘the key to understanding communication’ (40). But it is not just communication in a pragmatic sense – getting one’s meaning across – that is implicated here. Insofar as literature is a product of the cultural, linguistic and technological know-how of a particular society or group within society, it is also subject to the changes and possibilities generated by new or different conditions for social individuals. While what we understand literature to be or to include evolves in line with social changes and the affordances of new

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technologies (e.g. the networked novel), it is still the case that literature in print depends to a large extent on a particular shaping and use of its primary material: language. Increasingly, this primary material itself can be seen to consist not of some unadulterated core of English (or indeed of any other language) but to reflect already a certain multi-dimensional substance and shaping, depending on its provenance and particular blending. For as Pennycook (2008: 42) indicates, ‘this flow of languages in and out of each other is the norm across the world’. Moreover, I will argue that while not a sufficient condition for creativity, access to more than one language and/or culture can enhance creativity, given the ways in which plurilingualism can serve to extend the range of linguistic and cultural possibilities. I will also argue that what we are witnessing is a shift in attitudes to the cognitive and creative benefits of access to more than one language, even as in some parts of the English-speaking world such as the UK, there appears to be a retrenchment in relation to the politics of language. Of course, as we will see, with respect to literary texts the somewhat abstract idea of a shift in representation from a dynamic of language as loss to that of language as gain is, in reality, much more complicated and needs to be grounded in the particulars of the works under examination and contextualized in relation to the rise of English as a lingua franca, changing attitudes to language/s globally and changing patterns of migration. In this introductory chapter, I wish to set the scene for later discussion and analysis of individual authors and works by looking at some of the key ideas and areas on which an understanding of such a shift depends. This will involve reviewing some of the relevant literature in a variety of domains, including Translation Studies, English as a Lingua Franca, Applied Linguistics and Bilingualism/Multilingualism. By relevant here, I mean relevant to the focus of the book and to the object of study and enquiry. This is not a book that purports to be a specialist work of language study; rather, it is motivated by an interest in literature and the possible consequences of the fact that literature in English is increasingly being produced by bilingual and multilingual, rather than monolingual, writers. These consequences include issues of readership as well as authorship, insofar as it may be the case that bilingual readers of say Spanish and English read bilingual texts differently to monolingual readers of those same texts. Certainly, in my own case, with a level of Spanish that is high intermediate at best, I cannot claim to be able to access all the nuances of a work like Borderlands/La Frontera. If I have included it nonetheless, it is because it



Introductory Chapter

5

has been an influential work in Anglophone circles and has been written with a non-Hispanic audience in mind. In some ways, it provides a kind of test case in a book that otherwise deals with texts written almost exclusively in English, or a variety thereof, in the sense that its inclusion of Spanish alongside English passages and its embodiment of translation in a broad, as well as a narrow, sense helps to make visible and concrete some of the issues that may otherwise be glossed over in relation to a work seemingly exclusively or predominantly in English. Of course Borderlands/La Frontera is already an established work, even if at the time of publication in 1987 it was breaking new ground by mixing languages and fusing cultures in its re-articulation of the history of the Mexican-American borderlands from a lesbian Chicana perspective. However, it is a forerunner of much Chicana literature and is a kind of Bible of Chicana Studies; Anzaldúa’s influence is readily acknowledged by other Chicana writers including Sandra Cisneros, to whose work I also refer. In addition, the world of 2014 is not the same as that of 1987, 1989 or 2007 (publication dates of just three of the works I discuss); nor can work by a Chinese-born British citizen (Xiaolu Guo) be put alongside work by a writer now resident in the UK (Eva Hoffman) whose Jewish parents left Poland for Canada when she was 13 without recognition of the differences in circumstances and histories. Insofar as context is a determinant of meaning, it will be important to bear in mind the temporal and geographic components of the works in question, while framing them within the locus of the evolving argument. While I do not wish to suggest that literature can be reduced to the context out of which it emerged, I am interested in moving between close textual analysis and more distant readings that set works against a variety of contexts (not just societal but also theoretical) and permit patterns and connections to surface that might not be so clearly visible in isolation. In other words, the topics and aspects surveyed will serve as a series of lenses through which to view the works discussed in more detail in subsequent chapters. These will include: Translation and Translational Writing; The Rise of English as a Lingua Franca; and the Translingual Imagination. As a trained comparatist who has worked across disciplinary boundaries and has, at various times, taught in Applied Linguistics and Translation Studies as well as in English Literature and Creative Writing contexts, my approach is necessarily somewhat eclectic. What ties the various elements together is a focus on changing conceptions of translation alongside recognition of the diversity of writing in English today. As will become apparent, new modes

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of writing in English, partly a consequence of cultures in contact, challenge conventional ways of reading, demanding greater attention to the multi-dimensionality of text, the porosity of linguistic borders and the affordances of genre mixing and blending. The corollary of this potential for linguistic and generic pluralism is concern with what Emily Apter (2013: 43) terms ‘the self-defeating parochialism of English-only policies, and the blindness to the socioeconomic advantages of English Plus in the world economy’. For while the notion of English Plus is a reality for those who have had to acquire English as a second or additional language and who function effectively in multilingual environments or across linguistic and social contexts, there is still a resistant minority for whom learning other languages, while perhaps desirable, is seen as unnecessary, given the rise of English speakers across the globe and the seemingly privileged position of English in world affairs. Indeed, the most recent report on Language Trends 2013/14 in primary and secondary schools in England points to disparities between Continental Europe and England in terms of language learning, concluding that there is a growing gulf between ‘language education policies in this country […] and those of other advanced economies’ (123). It goes on to say that ‘English alone is not enough, either as a first language or as a second or foreign language’ (123) (http://www.britishcouncil.org/sites/britishcouncil.uk2/ files/language-trends-survey-2014.pdf). Part of what this book is exploring is the cost of failing to acknowledge the power of language/s and culture/s as material resources that underpin the development of aspects of cognition and affect and that impinge upon creative potential. The economic losses of failure to compete in the global export market, through lack of linguistic skills and cross-cultural capability, are regularly pointed up by organizations in the UK such as the Confederation of British Industry (CBI). The Education and Employers Taskforce, for example, produced a report in November 2011 in which the negative effect on exports due to what it termed language complacency was estimated in numerical terms to be between £7.3 and £17 billion in lost opportunities for investment and trade (http://www. educationandemployers.org/media/14563/ll_report_1__for_website.pdf). While these losses are not insubstantial, my concern here is with, in some ways, less tangible, but nonetheless, powerful cultural goods: the circulation of ideas, of modes of expression, of representations of human experience and of the repertoires available both socially and individually to writers as they draw on available generic, linguistic and cultural modes to construct their imaginative universes.



Introductory Chapter

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In her recent lecture in honour of W. G. Sebald, founder of the British Centre for Literary Translation (BCLT), writer Margaret Atwood spoke about growing up in rural Canada in a non-immersion environment yet being aware, through some distant French on the radio, road signs in French, bilingual cereal boxes and suchlike, of there being another linguistic universe to parallel her own. To grow up with the presence of another language around you, she maintains, is a reminder that words need transcribing and can be puzzling and that all writing is an act of translation. For Atwood, the job of the writer is not simply to stay within the bounds of (a particular) language or to use language as a tool but to try to expand the linguistic universe and to search for answers to various mysteries. As an avid reader, she had access at home to murder mysteries and science fiction; she and her brother compiled home-made books set in other universes complete with space aliens and other languages containing high-value Scrabble letters such as q, x and y. In a sense, this awareness of the presence and co-existence of other languages, including what she calls a ‘penumbra of French’, since it was Québécois and joual (‘colloquial, urban, English-inflected French’ [Simon 2012: 122]), rather than Parisian French, on her horizon, attuned her to the possibilities as well as to the mysteries of language. Nor was she a stranger to the politics of language in that one of her own books set in northwest Canada and translated by Gallimard, the French publisher, spawned discussion about how best to translate some local references and word choices. The setting, after all, was rural Canada, not metropolitan France. So, for Atwood, translators are exceedingly careful readers who, like other writers, deal in words and sometimes words without obvious meanings, both in the sense that writers may expand or complicate conventionalized word meanings and in terms of their cross-cultural and cross-linguistic renderings. At the same time, in attempting to render into another language the words of a particular writer and her universe, translators, according to Atwood, permit readers to ‘hear voices that would otherwise remain silent for us’. Of course, acknowledging the need for and the power of translators and literature in translation is not the same as making claims about ways of writing today that emerge from a translational culture or which suggest changes in the linguistic and literary landscapes. What Atwood was pointing to in her lecture, however, was the importance of understanding the co-presence of other languages and the effects, albeit sometimes subliminal, of this co-presence on writers writing in English. Arguably her interest in writing and creating other worlds through language was nourished by her awareness from an early age

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of the expressive and translational possibilities of living in other linguistic universes. In what follows, I shall chart some of the ways in which understandings of translation and translational processes have been changing and discuss how writing in English has benefited from interaction with other languages and cultures.

Translation and translational writing Within Translation Studies both in the UK and the US, there is evidence to suggest that views of translation are changing in line with real-world changes as populations shift and the ‘multilingualism from within’ (Apter 2013: 43) in countries previously perceived as monolingual becomes evident in particular cities or immigrant communities and indeed in the writing produced by members of those communities. For Susan Bassnett (2012: 15), a leading UK Translation Studies scholar, Translation Studies is now at a crossroads and needs to think carefully about its future direction in the wake of what she calls ‘innovative and exciting research’ emerging from other disciplines such as Comparative Literature and Post-colonial Studies. Pointing to a general translational turn in the Humanities, Bassnett issues a kind of a warning to Translation Studies scholars to ensure that there is engagement with transnational research and that they ‘come out of the enclave that we [in Translation Studies] have defined and controlled but which has had very little impact outside its borders’ (23). She goes on to suggest that: ‘We need new circuits, that encompass more disciplines, more ways of reading the ever-more intercultural writing that is being produced today’ (23). Here then is recognition, from a Translation Studies insider, of a changing landscape in relation to issues of translation today and acknowledgement of the challenge to Translation Studies on the part of those in neighbouring disciplines who are taking translation seriously. Bassnett seems to be suggesting that colleagues in Translation Studies must ensure that they keep abreast of these wider developments and actively engage in cross-disciplinary conversations. In similar vein, Edwin Gentzler (2011) charts the changes taking place in the Americas, including the US, in terms of understandings of what translation means and how it is effected. He suggests that all sorts of activities not previously considered to be part of a Translation Studies remit have opened up as a consequence of the fact that ‘most American nations are made up of a majority



Introductory Chapter

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of immigrants’ (122) and that ‘translation has become a necessary skill in terms of navigating the increasingly multilingual culture’ (122) in evidence in many parts of the Americas. He goes on to suggest that ‘translation is less something that happens between cultures and more something that is constitutive of those very cultures’ (123; italics in original). Looking at recent developments in both Canada and Brazil, by way of example, he sees ‘translation as a mode of cultural creation’ (128) and suggests that ‘in cultures primarily made up of immigrants, it should come as no surprise that a translation strategy of importation, adaptation and cannibalization is central to cultural formation’ (129). Translation, for Gentzler, is about the ways in which cultures-in-contact interact, appropriating some, and adapting other, aspects of cultural difference in the light of societal purposes and individual motivations. In many ways, Gentzler sees differences between current European and American realities, differences that are reflected in their differing conceptions of translation. These differences relate to the swiftly changing demographics of countries such as Canada and the US where recent patterns of immigration have meant that the cultures in contact are less likely to be European and more likely to come from parts of Asia and Latin America. In terms of the US, often perceived to be a monolingual country, Gentzler highlights the multilingual realities of life for many in the US, drawing on census figures from 2006 to evidence the fact that one in five Americans is born into a non-English or limited English-speaking household. He goes on to quote figures from a number of US cities including New York, Miami and San Francisco where figures are even more startling. He concludes that ‘the multilingual nature of the American citizenry is everywhere to be seen’ (133). Of course, the existence of an increasingly multilingual population does not mean that English, as the dominant language of the United States, does not continue to occupy a position of power in American society in relation to access to systems of government, health, education and finance. However, what is becoming apparent is that for many US citizens, English is not the only language that regulates their day-to-day existence nor is it the only language with which they identify or in which they communicate. For those who have access to other languages, translation is part of the fabric of their existence. Given the growth in populations in the US that are non-English-speaking or for whom English is an additional language, it is perhaps not surprising that a translational culture is increasingly in evidence. Indeed a recent trip to New York City (March 2014) was sufficient to impress upon me the very real changes

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taking place in parts, at least, of the US. My impression of the co-existence of Spanish and English in New York based on observations of advertising posters on the sides of buses in Spanish as well as English, of basketball players sporting tee-shirts with ‘Nueva York’ rather than ‘New York’ on them in televised games, of bus drivers able to switch from English to Spanish in response to customer need, might be viewed as anecdotal; however, it is backed up by census figures from 2006 (quoted by Gentzler 2011: 133) that show almost as many speakers of languages other than English in New York (47.9 per cent) as of English. More recent census data (2010) shows that those of Hispanic and Latino origin make up about 28 per cent of the population of New York, a not insignificant figure that translates into just over one in four. Such quantitative data can help to situate and underpin the description and interpretation of more qualitative representational changes, by establishing the existence of a changing linguistic landscape. I have suggested already that literature of whatever kind does not exist in a vacuum but rather emerges from particular societal contexts, even where it manages to move beyond them. In this sense, changing social contexts and conditions can help to shape literary and other forms of cultural production and impact upon their distribution and circulation. Enlarged understandings of what constitutes translation and the impact of translational practices on cultural production in four major cities (Calcutta/ Kolkata; Trieste; Barcelona; and Montreal) at different times from the nineteenth century to the present is at the heart of Sherry Simon’s (2012) book on Cities in Translation. What Simon demonstrates through her case studies is the fact that oftentimes the ‘confrontation of languages results in entanglements which are both conflictual and productive’ (18). Examining the shifting topographies of Montreal, for example, she looks at how different forms of Modernism co-existed in the city in the 1940s and points to the role of translation in opening up communicative spaces between otherwise separate literary and social realities. ‘Montreal is particularly striking proof that the languages of a multilingual city do not co-exist in a free-floating mélange. The flow and mingling of languages is driven by the forces of history, in the case of Montreal by the growing power of French as the matrix of the city’s cultural life’ (Simon 2012: 148). There are a number of important points here to bear in mind in subsequent discussions: one has to do with the role of history in shaping the particular contours of the politics of language in different places; another relates to the fact that linguistic fortunes change over time; and finally there is the question of separateness, co-habitation or mixing and blending.



Introductory Chapter

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What has been established to date is the fact that within the discipline or inter-discipline of Translation Studies, both from the UK and from the US perspective, there is evidence to suggest that conceptions of translation and translational activities have broadened, not randomly or idiosyncratically, but in response to a succession of changes, both environmental and intellectual. In terms of environment, there is acknowledgement of the role of migration in helping to create linguistically more diverse nations. Of course, this diversity does not have the same consequences everywhere. We have already pointed, for example, to the distinctiveness of conditions in the US in terms of the prominence of one particular language – Spanish – and its cultural and social interaction with the dominant language – English. It is important, therefore, to register the different scales of change and interaction: the rise of English as a global language and as a lingua franca is a transnational phenomenon that has variable consequences depending on the existing national situation as well as on the international flow of all kinds of capital, including cultural capital. Intellectually, too, things have changed. As Gentzler points out, translation is less a matter of intercultural and interlinguistic transfer and more a constitutive set of activities and social practices performed on a daily basis by groups and individuals as they use the most apt resources at their disposal across contexts to make meanings: this may include code-switching and language mixing and blending. So the idea of separate and bounded languages into which and out of which one translates for specific communicational purposes no longer reflects the reality of a more porous multilingual existence for many people. In essence, it is this porosity and the ways in which languages and cultures become resources for meaning-making in literary contexts that this book is looking at. It is not that language and culture have become neutralized or de-politicized – in some cases, the opposite is true – as writers become aware of the disproportionate cultural power exercised by particular varieties of English and are determined to shake things up, either by reasserting a kind of indigeneity or displaying the groundedness of language in particular social and economic locations (e.g. among Glasgow’s working classes in the case of James Kelman) or ‘accent’ their English according to the origins, interactions and migrations of their characters (we might think here, for example, of Z in Xiaolu Guo’s novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers). Yet the kind of separation of spheres that led many writers of earlier generations to have to privilege one language over another in the interests of assimilation to the monolingual mainstream, a process often leading to a sense of loss (of identity, of an ability

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to access other linguistic and cultural realities), pain and frustration such as that experienced by Eva Hoffman in the move from her beloved Poland to the US via Canada, is less dominant today. Perhaps rather than being moored or tethered to a particular language or languages and/or working within a strong sense of opposition to the imposition of a culturally dominant language, writers are also more aware of the possibilities, as well as the constraints, of living in translation and of moving across cultures. Increasing multilingualism alongside mobility of resources and ‘the global flows of information, media, people, and technology’ (Bolton 2012: 32) as a consequence of globalization means that there is greater linguistic diversity and that the use of English is ‘juxtaposed with other international, national, regional and local languages’ (33). Individual experience ‘may be recognised as accumulative, hybrid, and residual, a mosaic that is constantly being rearranged […] and reconstructed through a web of interaction between different agents and contexts past and present’ (Chi Lok 2012: 430). In other words, language in interaction, with other languages or varieties of language or with other cultures, is constantly being remade notwithstanding conventions of usage and generic and contextual constraints. Individual modes and habits of expression while partaking of the social are constrained by it only up to a point. New ‘voices’ with distinctive sounds, patternings, rhythms and accents do emerge from institutional, cultural and social contexts that may seek to regularize or rationalize linguistic and other exchanges and transactions. Language itself is a vast and unlimited resource for creativity; the systemic constraints and functional preferences of one linguistic system may be complemented or complicated by those of another. Moreover, neither should we forget the very real matrix of interactions that take place at the level of production and distribution of texts nor the complex processes that go into their making. As well as the drafting and re-drafting undertaken by individual writers, sometimes on the basis of feedback from particular readers as well as on their own part, there is input from the various institutional and commercial interests that frame, promote, sideline or exclude particular types of literary and other outputs. These include the roles of editors and agents, reviewers and translators, as well as marketing and rights departments. Relations between reader demand and the creation of particular literary markets is a further complicated chain that, in turn, can be situated against a series of contextual factors. It is one such context that I now wish to examine in the following section, namely the rise of English as a lingua franca.



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The rise of English as a lingua franca In a British Council Publication, English Next: Why Global English May Mean the End of ‘English as a Foreign Language’, David Graddol (2006) follows up on an earlier report enquiring into the future of English written in 1997. After reviewing the main findings from his earlier report, he indicates that since its publication ‘there has been a significant – even dramatic – qualitative change’ (11) in states of affairs: ‘The new language which is rapidly ousting the language of Shakespeare as the world’s lingua franca is English itself – English in its new global form’ (11). What Graddol is getting at is the fact that the status of, and parameters for, the use of English as a language of communication in both national and international settings is changing. As the numbers of learners of English increase, alongside those who use it as a second language, the role and status of the native speaker of English in international settings can no longer be taken for granted. This is partly a question of numbers and communicational dynamics, where native speakers may be in the minority; it is also a question, in some instances, of a lack of understanding on the part of monolingual speakers of how successful communication is effected in transnational and multilingual settings where English is the lingua franca. As Graddol (114) puts it: ‘In the new, rapidly emerging climate, native speakers may increasingly be identified as part of the problem rather than the source of the solution.’ In large companies, for example, where English has become a working language, English is seen as the medium through which communication is effected rather than a culturally laden language allied to a particular nation. In addition, the aspirations of many Asian countries to bilingualism (e.g. South Korea, Taiwan) mean that native speaker models are less useful where English is a ‘shared international resource’ (115) rather than the property or prerogative of particular sets of speakers from specific countries and where bilingualism is seen as the norm rather than the exception with features of bilingualism such as code-switching recognized not as deviant or deficient but as part of what it means to work across languages. Graddol also points to the fact that there are a number of competing ‘pressures’ on English, pressures that relate to the linguistic, economic and cultural power of other nations (e.g. China, India) as well as to the fact that English itself, as a consequence of usage by multilingual speakers from across the globe, is changing and being adapted to local and regional, as well as international contexts. It is not only at the level of lexis and syntax that differences may be in evidence but also at the level of phonology and prosodic features such

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as rhythm and intonation. Graddol (117) suggests that ‘it will become expected that speakers signal their nationality, and other aspects of their identity, through English’. This is a feature of language usage that is not only apparent in the ‘broken’ English used by the main protagonist of Guo’s 2007 novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers but can also be seen in the work of Scottish writer James Kelman. As we will see in respect of Kelman, while much of his work draws upon the ‘accents’ of working-class Glaswegian men, his repertoire is larger than this. As well as representing the ‘voice’ or consciousness of a young boy (Kieron Smith, Boy) and that of a young woman (Mo Said She Was Quirky), his 2001 novel Translated Accounts, which purports to be a transcription and translation of first-hand accounts of ‘three, four or more individuals domiciled in an occupied territory or land where a form of martial law appears in operation’ (Kelman 2001: ix), engages with computational and heavily mediated language as well as pushing English to the limits of intelligibility. What Kelman may be exploring in this pseudotranslation, and the extent to which it differs from his other works, will be the subject of another chapter. In addition, as Graddol points out, English does not live in isolation in the world but of necessity engages with other languages. ‘We are now nearing the end of the period where native speakers can bask in their privileged knowledge of the global lingua franca’ (Graddol 2006: 118), he writes. In a world where English is not enough, the UK, he suggests, needs to take language learning more seriously. Those children in the UK who speak a different language at home – about one in ten – and who, by definition, are bilingual will, he suggests, have a competitive advantage in terms of jobs and mobility. Ultimately, for Graddol (65), ‘the world is in a state of transition’ and the picture is likely to remain somewhat confusing for about 10 to 15 years. However, it looks likely that ‘the realities and dynamics of the emerging new world order’ (66) will impact upon the environment in which English is learned and in which other languages such as Spanish, Mandarin and Arabic compete. More recently, linguist, writer and broadcaster David Crystal (2010: 10) has pointed out in interview that ‘in due course the linguistic character of English will be affected by the sheer weight of numbers using it as a non-native language’. Because for Crystal language is used to express the world of the people using it in the contexts in which they live, it comes to be adapted to local conditions and realities. So while English may have global reach, the manner in which it is used may vary across the globe depending on the needs and aspirations of particular users or groups of user in interaction with their environments. These



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environments, in turn, may vary for individual users depending on the extent to which they are mobile or are rooted in a particular community or region and the extent to which they interact with others beyond their immediate environment, either remotely or in person. In this sense, what English looks like and how it is used varies across local, national and international dimensions. Crystal (2010: 10) asserts that ‘we have to be aware of more variation in the language’ as it emerges from particular locations and moves across contexts and cultures. This language variation can give rise to a ‘wonderful new expressiveness’ already in evidence ‘in the creative writing coming out of Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia’ (10). For much of the world today, English exists alongside other languages and to a greater or lesser extent is shaped by their co-existence as well as by the kind of social worlds in which these various languages have come to operate and be used. The idea that a knowledge of the lexis and grammar of a standard variety of English necessarily permits understanding of a different variety of English is dispelled by Crystal who gives examples from his own experience, examples which have impressed upon him the need for cultural lexicons that allow people from different parts of the world to understand the particularities of cultural reference transmitted by a word or phrase in English (Crystal 2011: 21). Referring to ‘the global jigsaw-puzzle that comprises the English language’ (25), he argues for ‘the integration of linguistic and cultural studies, and the production of regional cultural dictionaries or glossaries’ (24). In effect, what Crystal is pointing to is the need for a kind of translation within as well as across languages in recognition of the fact that the ‘same’ English word can be used to mean different things across cultures (e.g. think of how the word ‘interesting’ in British English can often be used to imply the opposite) at the same time as there is variation in the vocabulary items used to refer to the same ‘thing’ (e.g. ‘pavement’; ‘sidewalk’; ‘footpath’). While there is by and large recognition of the co-existence of different varieties of English (e.g. American English, Australian English, Singaporean English) that correspond to the ways in which it is used and has been codified in particular parts of the world, there is ongoing debate about the status and value of ‘New Englishes’ (e.g. European English) and the kind of relationship that pertains between an overarching concept of ‘the English language’ and the various locations from which it is spoken and the different contexts in which it is used. For Allan James (2008: 98), a focus on geography in relation to new varieties of English is less relevant in an age of ‘shrunken geographical

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English as a Literature in Translation

distances, of international mobility on an unprecedented scale – linguistically largely fuelled by English’ and of international electronic communication than it might have been in the past when there was a stronger connection between a particular language and/or languages and a particular speech community. Indeed in respect of New Englishes he disputes the existence of ‘geographically correlated structural features of English’, while conceding that ‘it is possible that certain regionally associated pragmatic and discourse-level features might enter the interchange’ (98). In other words, the force or function rather than the form of utterances can vary from place to place or region to region as can ‘ways of talking’ and getting things done. Yet for James where English is used as a lingua franca in international settings, it is post-geographic and deterritorialized. Given that English is being employed by a heterogeneous group of largely non-native speakers of the language ‘as their verbal means of communication’ (98), James wishes to distinguish this situation from that of nationally accepted varieties of English established predominantly in the British Commonwealth. Indeed one of the difficulties in talking about English as a lingua franca is the fact that it tends to express different meanings. In some cases, it is used to signal the growing importance and scope of English as a language of communication across the world and is used synonymously with English as a global language or English as an international language. In other cases, it refers specifically to a situation where English is being used as the principal language of communication by a multilingual group where there is no other common language. In a lingua franca situation, there is no stable mix of languages; it is constantly changing depending on the linguistic and cultural constitution of the group. English is being ‘made’ in a dynamic sense by the particular contributions of the group as they negotiate the demands of the communicative task and attempt to realize their shared goals. The extent to which a new form of English is developing in contexts where there is either a minority of native speakers or none at all is still the subject of debate (cf. MacKenzie 2009; Berns 2009) but there is some research evidence to suggest that English may be changing as a result of these plurilingual interventions. Barbara Seidlhofer (2009: 236), one of the main proponents of English as a Lingua Franca (ELF), tries to reconcile the ‘World Englishes’ and the ELF paradigms by claiming that they are both concerned with the ‘pluricentric assumption that “English” belongs to all those who use it, and […] with the sociolinguistic, sociopsychological, and applied linguistic implications of this assumption’. The World Englishes paradigm is usually taken to



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refer to a concentric circles view of the expansion of English whereby the ways in which English operates in a society relates to its membership of the Inner, Outer or Expanding Circle (Kachru 1985). Essentially, such a conceptualization tries to mirror the historical role of English as a sole or native language; as an indigenized language or the language of administration or education; and as a foreign or additional, rather than second language. The ELF paradigm tends to focus on situations where English is used as a foreign or additional, rather than as a second or institutionalized language; the borders between foreign and second language are, in reality, more difficult to determine than the categorizations would suggest. As Seidlhofer (2009: 237) points out, English is in widespread use in situations where ‘more often than not no native speakers participate’; there appears to be a conceptual gap ‘in accepting a language that is not anybody’s native tongue as a legitimate object of investigation and descriptive research’ (237). In other words, while English is attached to territories or nations, there is acceptance of the validity of studying the various linguistic features that are seen to characterize the different varieties (e.g. Malaysian English; Indian English) but there appears to be greater scepticism when it comes to the possibility of linguistic patterning and variation relative to ELF, since ELF is not anchored in particular nation states, though as Berns (2009: 194) points out, ‘Europe is an example par excellence of the Expanding Circle’, given the increasingly important role of English as a language common to multilingual groups from a variety of European nations. At the same time, English is in many instances becoming institutionalized insofar as it has become a language of higher education in countries such as the Netherlands and Denmark. For Seidlhofer the new realities of how and in what contexts English is used requires new concepts, one of which she proposes as communities of practice rather than speech communities, that is to say, a focus on situations where people are engaged in joint negotiation of meaning in contexts where they have shared goals, regardless of whether they originate from the same first language community or not. In such contexts, what is essentially an idealized concept – that of the native speaker of a language – is called into question or at the very least no longer has particular relevance. According to Seidlhofer (2009: 239), rather than trying to mimic ‘native speakers’, ELF speakers ‘use the language creatively and “subversively”’; that is to say, they use English as a resource against the backdrop of other languages in their joint repertoire, developing patterns of speech that to a certain extent are independent of ‘native

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speaker norms’ striving to successfully communicate meaning in context, while maintaining a sense of their own identities. What seems to be emerging in ELF contexts is language use that evidences ‘expressions of identities’ and a ‘sense of ownership of the language’ (240). There is continuing debate about ELF and the extent to which it is feasible to think of a European variety of English or of innovations in English as a result of usage by groups of ELF speakers for whom English is one of a number of languages and where a first language may not be shared by the group as a whole. Ian MacKenzie, for example (2012), puts these debates in the context of a dynamic model of multilingualism where there is recognition of the interaction, rather than separation, of languages. In doing so, he refers to Cook’s (1991) notion of multicompetence whereby ‘two languages are integrated as opposed to coexisting’ (MacKenzie 2012: 85). Because of the potential mutual interaction of languages, bilingual or multilingual competence is not the same as that of monolingual competence. MacKenzie (2012: 92) also recognizes that ‘the “new models of language usage” valorise language mixing or at least crosslinguistic interaction’. Summarizing the advantages of multilingualism, he points to the increased metalinguistic awareness; that is, having a greater sense of how language works, a facility that enables communication, the greater sensitivity of multilinguals to the needs of the listener and an ability to draw on compensatory strategies in the production of language when difficulties arise. In short, he cites the ‘many cognitive advantages that are now widely attributed to multilinguals, such as creative or divergent thinking, mental flexibility, superior concept formation, abstract language use, enhanced linguistic originality and playfulness, empathy, communicative sensitivity and so on’ (MacKenzie 2012: 93) as evidence that such interactions are likely to be qualitatively different from the interactions of monolingual participants. So far, there has been discussion of the rise of English in two, ultimately related, senses: first, as a language of power that has global reach; and second, as a language that, as a consequence of its spread, albeit for different reasons in different parts of the world (e.g. the Commonwealth; emerging nations) has come to be used in the absence of another language common to the group or particular community of practice as a language of communication. At the same time, the status of English or rather the values attached to or placed on English have been changing in line with its deterritorialization and the increasing sense that English does not belong to the English (or the Americans) but is the property of all who use it. Since increasingly English is being used by bilinguals



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and multilinguals, often in situations where monolingual English speakers are in a minority, the dynamics of communication is changing as is the English language itself. In addition, there has been mention of the cognitive and other advantages of bilingualism and multilingualism and of how these can feed into or affect interactions in English. What Saraceni (2010) refers to as the relocation of English is, in his view, the result of a transition effected in four interconnected stages: first, English spreads and is in effect re-routed from the West to the rest of the world; second, English is subjected to local conditions and accommodations; third, English is used to produce counter-narratives contesting and challenging Western ideology; and finally, English is felt by its new users to belong not to someone else but to themselves. English becomes a language in which they feel they can express themselves, or a part of themselves, without compromise. For Saraceni, much of the focus in ELF on distinguishing the forms and functions of English as it is used by groups of speakers who do not share a first language is misguided insofar as it tends to reproduce ideas about language and varieties of language that he argues no longer hold in that the entity we call English ‘has no ancestral home’ but is able to ‘carry and share the weight of a plurality of experiences, worldviews and inner thoughts with a multitude of groups’ (Saraceni 2010: 143). In reality, distinctions continue to be made with respect to the effectiveness and the ‘correctness’ of different ways of using English and its speakers and writers continue to be characterized according to their perceived place in the linguistic and literary hierarchy. Usages of English that are perceived as non-standard or deviant in respect of a particular norm continue to be interrogated by linguistic and other gatekeepers. Recent changes to the GCSE English literature curriculum in the UK by two exam boards can be cited as evidence of a desire, despite – or perhaps because of – an increasingly diverse student body, to ensure a degree of uniformity of experience and exposure to literary language. Arguably, these changes have had the effect of narrowing the scope of literature studied by requiring the inclusion of ‘fiction or drama from the British Isles from 1914 onwards’, thus effectively removing American texts from the syllabus. The danger is the promotion and reproduction of particular types of creativity based on national canon formation and monolingual, rather than bilingual or multilingual, models. Of course it must be recognized that much of the research on ELF has been produced in the context of spoken rather than written interactions. One of the attendant issues in reflecting on English as a Literature in Translation, therefore,

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will be an awareness of the extent to which what holds for negotiated meanings in conversational interaction can be seen to be true of writing produced by individual authors. Perhaps one of the first things to point out is the fact that while there may be differences between spoken and written language, writing is not an asocial act. Rather, as Bakhtin’s work has demonstrated, literature itself can be regarded as a secondary speech genre embedded within social and historical networks and discourse conventions. In ‘The Problem of Speech Genres’, Bakhtin (2007) looks at the primacy of the utterance in understanding how language functions and how communication takes place in the real world. He goes on to draw a distinction between primary and secondary speech genres. While the novel, for example, draws on primary speech genres such as dialogue or rejoinders, letters, diaries etc., it is, for Bakhtin, a complex cultural secondary speech genre. Utterances can be very short (e.g. a question and answer) or extend in length to multi-volume novels. Their defining feature is the fact that they anticipate on the part of the addressee some sort of response or reaction that arises as a result of what has been said or communicated. This response may not be immediate but can be delayed. In the case of a reaction to a novel, for example, it may be expressed in a later evaluation of the work by the reader or incorporated into a critical review; or it may be internalized and impact upon an individual’s future behaviour. The question of addressivity also varies across primary and secondary speech genres. A letter may be written to a clearly defined recipient (e.g. ‘Dear Peter’) or to a more generalized one (e.g. ‘To whom it may concern’); depending on the type of letter (e.g. a personal letter; a cover letter for a job application), it may solicit a particular type of response within a specified time period or be subject to no such temporal or other constraints. Regardless of the different contexts in which an utterance is made, it is shaped in relation to the speaker’s or writer’s awareness of and sensitivity to a more or less determinate addressee or addressees. The novel or the memoir or any other literary-artistic work constitutes for Bakhtin (2007: 94) a complex secondary utterance and ‘a link in the chain of speech communication’, that is to say that, in its turn, it constitutes an act of responsive understanding to prior utterances and helps to shape the contours of future responses through the manner in which it is realized in terms of style, composition and thematic and semantic focus. Since, for Bakhtin, it is the utterance that is the unit of analysis rather than say, the level of the sentence, it is legitimate to ask to what extent work written by a multilingual or bilingual writer in English is any different to that written by a monolingual individual



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in terms of speech genre or indeed in terms of the characteristics of style and composition since every new work is both individual and unique, at the same time drawing on and sometimes challenging or interrogating generic conventions and applying or re-accentuating social discourses. I would argue that while the bilingual or multilingual writer’s aim may be similar to that of other writers – to polemicize, to critique, to persuade, to evaluate, to offer an alternative vision or representation, in short to demonstrate responsive understanding of what has preceded him or her, the means by which s/he is enabled to design and realize that vision or representation is duly expanded by virtue of the plural social, cultural and linguistic resources available to him or her in the making of that utterance. By virtue of having access to speech genres across languages and cultures, the writer is likely to have a broader range of expressive possibilities. The dialogic nature of utterances ‘born and shaped in the process of interaction and struggle with others’ thought’ (Bakhtin 2007: 92) means that the forms that verbally express thought, to echo Bakhtin’s expression (in English translation) (92), on the part of multilingual or bilingual writers, are likely to be multiple and varied. It may be that the notion of ‘forms that verbally express thought’ appears too focused on relations between language and thought and does not pay sufficient attention to the social and environmental nature of language production. Rather than a static system drawn on by its users in more or less conventionalized ways, according to their purposes, language in relation to social practice is, in actuality, more dynamic and interactive than might be suggested by a view of language as residing in the mind and used to ‘clothe’ thought. In a chapter on ‘Theorizing Translingual Practice’ Canagarajah (2013) reviews models of language that have stressed its systematicity and boundedness and its location in mind rather than social context. He contrasts these with more postmodern views of language as cultural and material resources not tied to particular geographic spaces but mobile and multi-directional. He also speaks of a move from a monolingual to a translingual orientation towards language whereby ‘the values of territoriality and homogeneity’ (25) have been replaced by a ‘multilateral flow of people, things, and ideas across borders’ (26) and a more porous view of language as different languages come into contact with one another leading to different ‘patterns of interaction and communication’ (26). Such a translingual orientation does not ignore real-world hierarchies and power differentials but seeks to understand ‘how to account for successful communication and meaning-making in postmodern contexts of translingual

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contact’ (26). Such contexts cannot be presumed to be the exception rather than the rule at a time of increased migration, postmodern globalization and urbanization.

The translingual imagination With one exception, the writers treated in this book are bilingual, having lived in more than one language. The exception, Scottish writer James Kelman, is included in this volume for a number of reasons but essentially the argument about English as a literature in translation takes account of the tension between local and global influences on writing in English. As a writer who, for the most part, has focused on the creation of a particular kind of Scottish working-class consciousness reflected in his choice of syntax and lexis and his mode of narrative construction, Kelman too can be seen as a writer translating the experience of protagonists who operate in a different linguistic and cultural universe. As we will see, Kelman is also interesting in having produced a work ostensibly of a very different kind in Translated Accounts but, as I hope to demonstrate, this work too deals with issues of the mediation of experience by language, culture and increasingly technology. The alienation and sense of displacement experienced by those who strive to have value placed on their experience and mode of existence by a society often indifferent to their struggles; and a kind of obsessive search for personal and individual expression and legitimation in the midst of a fraught and duplicitous world; is the hallmark of Kelman’s work. As a Scottish writer working knowingly against the grain of an English literary tradition, he is well aware of the politics of language and culture and of what it means to be forced to accommodate to or to resist accommodation of another nation’s linguistic and cultural norms. Much has been made in the literature on bilingualism and multilingualism of the qualitative differences between living in a single language and living in more than one language. There are echoes of this in the work of literary specialists and critics driven to find ways of evaluating and engaging with literature produced by bilingual or multilingual writers. Sommer (1999: 94), for example, has pointed to the need to develop a more finely tuned critical vocabulary to treat the ever-more numerous and increasingly visible multilingual experiments that have begun to constitute ‘a significant feature of literary art’. In some ways, she suggests, bilingual creativity is a challenge to critics in terms of acknowledging



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what may be specific to a bilingual aesthetics and finding a language to discuss ‘the complexity of more-than-one’ (103). Indeed her 2004 book Bilingual Aesthetics: A New Sentimental Education sets out the need for the development of a pedagogy in language arts and literature that seeks to train students to appreciate, rather than feel anxious about, an aesthetic that depends on the workings of more than one language. Post 9/11 Sommer is aware of the dangers of a politics of difference that either stresses the relativity of cultures without seeking to make judgements or evaluations or that holds up ‘otherness’ as being somehow menacing and threatening. For Sommer doubleness or double-consciousness is a feature of the postmodern world in which we find ourselves and therefore needs to be acknowledged and made a virtue of; ‘doubleness’, she writes, ‘doesn’t allow the meanness of one thought, one striving, one measure of value’ (Sommer 2004: 182). She suggests that it is actually good for democracy to have other ‘irritant’ voices calling into question what has been naturalized in a culture through the use of a dominant language, a language that presumes to be either culturally neutral or to stand for a particular preferred set of values. From this perspective, she argues, it is monocultural dreams that are ‘a greater threat to democracy’ (184) than the interruptions, evasions, wit and creativity of bilingual/multilingual language games. The kinds of creativity afforded by bilingualism and multilingualism in relation to arts beyond the linguistic has been considered in a recent issue of the International Journal of Bilingualism (April 2014) that focused on multilingualism and the arts, both literary and non-literary. As the introduction makes clear, connections between the arts and multilingualism are ‘extremely diverse and have yet to be explored or categorized in any comprehensive manner’ (Gardner-Chloros 2014: 95); yet, increasingly, it appears as if multilingualism has effects on creativity and cognition in general (95). The extent to which these effects are recognized and valued may well be variable depending on the society in question (e.g. one committed to bilingualism as opposed to one anxious to protect or safeguard a particular language) and on the location of the particular multilingual individual within that society (e.g. a refugee; an international student; a wealthy businessman). For while multilingualism ‘is now a global phenomenon’ (Kramsch 2008: 316), it is important to take into account its social and cultural dimensions and the ‘power differential between languages and their speakers’ (316). Attention has also been given to what happens when moving across or

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residing between languages. In the context of individual, as opposed to societal, multilingualism, for example, Kramsch (2008: 316) has pointed to the need to ‘take into consideration the painful issues of legitimation, entitlement, deand reterritorialization, and the complex experience of people living across languages that each have [sic] different symbolic values’. In this regard, she suggests, research on multilingualism can enhance the study of particular ‘national’ literatures and vice versa. Taking by way of example a reading of a short story published in German by Kafka in 1917, she shows the kind of layered meanings that can be understood from a multilingual perspective in relation to Kafka’s concern with ‘the existential entrapments of language’ (319) and the extent to which his focus on metamorphosis reflects aspects of his multilingual identity. Broadening the discussion out to other examples (e.g. Kundera), she points to the multilingual person’s acute awareness of provincialism where provincialism, following Kundera (2007: 31), is understood to be ‘the inability (or the refusal) to imagine one’s own culture in the large context’; and to a situation where a deterritorialization of languages and cultures has begun to take place (Kramsch 2008; italics in original). As particular languages or language combinations cease to be easily equated with particular territories or nation states and as multilingual speakers and writers increase in number across the globe, there is, as a result, a potential multiplication in ‘the ways of making meaning by having languages fraternise, colonise, hybridise, and infiltrate one another in ways that were absolutely taboo only a few decades ago’ (330). The question of the meanings generated by bilingualism and multilingualism and by the ‘choice’ of writers to work in one language rather than another, to work in more than one language or to mix languages is a complex one that finds different responses according to the histories and locations of the writers and their positioning in the societies in which they reside or through which they move. It is also a question of readership and of the ways in which the works are framed and circulated. Taking by way of example two writers who ‘belong to an ethnolinguistic minority and write in a language other than their mother tongue’ (Tannenbaum 2003: 8), Tannenbaum looks at the implications of language choice on the part of Tahar Ben Jelloun, a Moroccan-born writer educated in both Arabic and French who moved to Paris and wrote in French, and Sayed Qashu, an Israeli-Arab who writes in Hebrew, while having Arabic as his mother tongue. Tannenbaum shows how for both writers their choice of language (French in the case of Ben Jelloun, Hebrew in the case of Qashu) can be seen to allow them a certain critical distance from their cultures



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of origin – Muslim, traditional societies with Arabic as their mother tongue (12) – at the same time giving them the opportunity to ‘criticize the ruler or the colonizer’ (18). For Tannenbaum, writing in a second language can be seen ‘as a new mode of comprehending the environment’ (23), and translingualism, whereby writers move from a first (L1) to a second (L2) language ‘as a form of expressing absence’ (23) in the sense that the presence of the other language always haunts the text, even where it is not an explicit subject of discussion. Of course it must be remembered that it is not always entirely clear which language constitutes the L1 in a situation where multiple languages are a feature of daily life: George Steiner, for example, claims to be trilingual and equally at home in English, French and German (cited in Kellman 2000: 9). The notion of a primary language or ‘mother tongue’ in multilingual households is perhaps a more complicated one than it may appear. In his survey of writers who have worked in languages other than their mother tongue, Steven Kellman (2000) focuses in his introductory chapter on famous translinguals (e.g. Conrad, Kafka, Dorfman) and gives a sense of what characteristics distinguish them from their peers in terms, for example, of being ‘consummate technicians’ (10) or of an ability to exploit ‘the expressive possibilities of different languages’ (14). He divides translinguals into two groups: the ambilinguals – those, such as Beckett, Nabokov and Kundera, who have written important works in more than one language – and monolingual translinguals – ‘those who have written in only a single language but one other than their native one’ (Kellman 2000: 12). In the latter category, he includes Conrad, Soyinka, Rushdie and Stoppard, all of whom left one language behind to write in another. Kellman (2000) goes on to generalize about the effects of translingualism in literary writing before looking in more detail at some specific cases. In this connection, he points to translingualism as a distancing technique, something which of course can be viewed either positively or negatively. For some writers a new language may prove liberatory and free them ‘from the tyranny of a specific syntactical structure’ (28) or set of well-worn words or familiar turns of expression and habits; for others the absence of a familiar linguistic repertoire embedded in a primary or significant culture may lead to a sense of loss. As we will see, in Eva Hoffman’s case, where exile was not voluntary but enforced – she was a teenager when ‘her apprehensive Jewish parents’ (17) left Poland and headed for North America – the usurping of Polish by the English of her new environment and a yearning for what she had left behind was keenly felt. For Hoffman, the Polish life that she had previously enjoyed was organically linked

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to the language in which up to her departure she had articulated her experience. Life in an unfamiliar place, surrounded by foreign sounds and rhythms, left her feeling as if her world had collapsed; her longing for what she had left behind was intense and, to begin with, English seemed unequal to the task of rendering the totality of her experience. Yet as Evelyn Ch’ien (2004) argues, linguistic practices have been changing and a new literary theory is required to keep pace with those practices. While there are overlaps and points of convergence between some of the premises and practices covered in Weird English and the changing dynamics I seek to outline here, there are also a number of differences of emphasis. By and large Ch’ien examines the situation in the United States in relation to writers who have arrived there from elsewhere starting with the celebrated example of Nabokov and ending with the work of Junot Díaz; she is also interested in the extent to which Post-colonial theory has provided an alternative way of reading and looks at the work of both Arundhati Roy and Salman Rushdie in relation to alternative designs for the novel and usages of English. Her thesis is that what she terms the weirding of English has a long history but that recent literary print culture reflects an engagement with the transcription of oral language back into literary form and that polycultural writers are consciously appropriating hybridity. For Ch’ien (2004: 4), ‘weird English constitutes the new language of literature’ and ‘brings new literary theory into being’. While I would not wish to contest the view that the ways in which English is being used in literary and other texts today is expanding the potentials of the language and that this is often a consequence of the co-presence, either explicit or implicit, of other languages and cultures, I see this trend in relation to a nexus of influences: changing social realities; changing attitudes to the bilingual and multilingual ‘condition’; broadened conceptions of translation and what it means to move across languages and cultures; and an ongoing tension between local practices and global traffic. In addition, while post-colonial readings may serve as a critical lens for some writers and texts (e.g. Anzaldúa; Kelman), they are not appropriate to all. While the politics of language is still a relevant concern today, perhaps even more so in a world where English has become a notable lingua franca, there is arguably a changing emphasis in the status of English and the values attached to it as the dominant language of communication. In other words, English itself is evolving and is in many cases being de- and reterritorialized; in any case, it can no longer be taken for granted as the property of a particular nation or nations and it is being used increasingly in multilingual settings. English, I wish to argue, is



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increasingly a literature in translation in that it is often used in the presence of, and under the influence of, other languages. What translation means and what is involved in the translational process is itself open to further discussion and a broader remit. In the context of the present discussion, I mean to refer to the ways in which writers draw on all the linguistic and cultural resources at their disposal and combine them in ways appropriate to their creative purposes. While fear of sanction by a monolingual minority or by particular types of literary or linguistic gatekeeper continues to be an issue, as does the question of readership and types of reading public (monolingual; plurilingual), there is evidence to suggest that English is indeed in transition. Torres (2007: 76), for example, picks up on Ch’ien’s 2004 notion of weird English in relation to a discussion of the strategies used by Latino/a writers in the US in code-switching between Spanish and English, remarking that the ‘strategies they use lend themselves to multiple readings and levels of accessibility’. While at one end of the spectrum, it may simply be a case of incorporating a few italicized words of Spanish in context into an otherwise English text, in other cases writers may refuse accommodation of the monolingual reader through, for example, provision of a glossary or a translation of the Spanish into English but opt instead for more extended uses of bilingual text, including code-switching, a practice likely to favour the bilingual reader. What Torres (2007) refers to as radical bilingualism may consist of literal translations from Spanish into English as well as neologisms in addition to code-switching practices such that the richness and nuances of the text become accessible only to those who are fluent in both languages. In this sense, what is considered weird or transgressive is relativized and becomes a marker of bilingual identity. As an artistic choice or part of a bilingual aesthetic, the co-existence of languages or ‘the multiple ways in which Spanish is seeping into English language prose texts’ (Torres 2007: 92) helps to flag up the reality of languages in contact for many in the US and brings to the fore the porosity of the boundaries between them. Rather than being read as necessarily deficient, the ability to cross linguistic and cultural boundaries is increasingly being recognized as a legitimate extension of a heterogeneous artistic practice. In the course of subsequent chapters, I shall be adopting and adapting the various focal lenses introduced in this introduction with a view to highlighting a number of dimensions of the work of writers whose cultural and linguistic location, or more accurately locations, have resulted in a concern with translation and the politics of language. As we will see, there are a number of

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‘takes’ on these, and related, issues that will emerge across the various case studies. The choice of writers has been motivated: as far as possible, I wanted to examine writers who have hailed from different parts of the globe (e.g. Poland, Argentina, China) even if they have settled in countries where English has been the dominant or official language (e.g. the United States, England). I was also conscious of not wishing to tread a lot of the terrain that has already been examined in relation to specifically post-colonial writers where issues of dominant and minority languages, the adoption or rejection of the language of the colonizer, alongside issues of power, ‘voice’ and cultural translation have been considered usually in an Anglophone, Francophone or Lusophone setting. While arguably some of the writers I treat (e.g. Gloria Anzaldúa; James Kelman) can be said to fit a post-colonial paradigm, this is not the case with other writers represented here (e.g. Xiaolu Guo), although a writer such as Ariel Dorfman is supremely aware of the power differentials between parts of North and South America and in his own trajectory had to come to terms with the hegemony of (American) English. While I would see Hoffman as writing in a postmodern vein, or at least being conscious of postmodern tendencies, I do not, unlike Browdy de Hernandez (1997) consider her a post-colonial writer, even if writing is, for Hoffman, like many other writers, a space of struggle and contestation of taken-for-granted views of reality. The contribution that I hope to make relates to what I argue is a changing dynamic in representations of what it means to move across languages and cultures. Specifically, I review this changing dynamic – from loss to gain – in the light of a number of contextual phenomena that inform it, such as increased mobility and changing patterns of migration; increasing recognition of the value of bilingualism and multilingualism in terms of cognitive flexibility and enhanced creativity; and the rise of and challenges to English as a lingua franca. These representations are neither random nor wayward but, to varying extents, reflect and interrogate conditions present more broadly in the worlds out of which they emerge. All the works I treat foreground the problematics of translation in a broad sense and ask questions about what it means to live in more than one language at the end of the twentieth and into the twenty-first centuries. They also ask questions about what it means to write in English today from a location of English Plus and what it means to read in translation where the parameters of ‘texts in translation’ may not always be clear or, more accurately, may be differently understood by the monolingual and the bilingual or multilingual reader. In this sense, this book is as much about modes of reading as



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ways of writing, though the two are not entirely separate in that particular ways of writing may demand or at least presuppose particular ways of reading; conversely, a writer often guides, instructs or directs a reader or supposed set of readers in particular ways. In Kelman’s 2001 Translated Accounts, for example, explicit reference is made in the Preface to the (fictitious) construction of the ‘translated’ narrative/s by anonymous multiple translators and by means of computer mediation. Guo’s latest work, I Am China (2014), is also explicit in addressing processes of translation in relation to modes of interpretation insofar as the story unfolds as the translator works through the documents she has been sent by a publisher and supplements her translations with other contextual discoveries. The reader learns to piece the fragments together while understanding that s/he is following in the footsteps of the translator who acts as cultural and linguistic intermediary in plotting the story. Translation becomes a mode of storytelling and of writing; literature in English the product of a process, either overt or covert, of translation.

2

Lost in Translation

Within the context of a book aiming to explore a shift in the ways in which ‘narratives of translation’ construct a sense of the pains and gains of life in another language, Eva Hoffman’s 1989 memoir Lost in Translation is surely an exemplar of a sustained meditation on the deracination and profound sense of dislocation that occurs when one is removed at an impressionable age from a familiar location that speaks of home, and is thrust into an alien, difficultto-penetrate world. The very titles of the individual sections in this slice of life history – ‘Paradise’, ‘Exile’, and ‘The New World’ – reflect the dynamics of expulsion from paradise and focus on the subsequent experience of exile, alienation and loss prior to an eventual accommodation to a new set of linguistic and cultural circumstances, a coming to terms with a ‘bifocal vision’ (Hoffman 1998: 213) of the world. Indeed, it is a sense of being ‘consciously of two worlds’ (163) that will characterize Hoffman’s experience of life in Canada and the US, as she navigates the New World from her Old World perspective and tries to make sense of what she finds. The term ‘narratives of translation’ is one I am using to refer to works – specifically, in this context, novels and memoirs – that plot a story of transformation and adaptation as their protagonists grapple with an encounter, whether voluntary or enforced, with another culture and render for the reader a sense of what it is like to inhabit and negotiate a space of linguistic and cultural difference (for fuller discussion of ‘narratives of translation’ see Doloughan 2015). As we will see, despite individual differences in the specifics of the imagined or remembered histories and social circumstances of their narrators (cf. Browdy de Hernandez 1997), at the level of representation of the dynamics of loss and gain and of the stages of the journey through which the main protagonist passes, such narratives have much in common. This commonality relates to the processes of transformation that the narrator-protagonists undergo in their new situation and to their double-consciousness as participant-observers in

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and of a new culture. The work of many writers who have crossed linguistic and cultural borders is marked by a sense of the ultimate contingency and relativity of particular linguistic and social systems (cf. Sommer 2004), even if to begin with they struggle with the seemingly naturalized differences and the question of fitting (or failing to fit) a new paradigm or set of conditions. Translation becomes a mode by which those who move across languages and cultures engage with and operate in the world such that there is an attempt to find equivalence across systems or alternatively recognition of the incompatibility or untranslatability of difference. Notwithstanding commonality at the level of themes and the persona of the narrator, differences of emphasis will emerge across the chapters in this book with respect to the dynamics of loss, where one language and/or culture is seen to displace another or impinge negatively upon it, or on the dynamics of gain whereby it is the very co-existence of languages and cultures in contact that permits a particular vision and/or aesthetics. Similarly, differences will emerge in relation to the politics of language and in the extent to which the writers under scrutiny demonstrate in their work an accommodation to linguistic and stylistic norms in English and the extent to which they inflect English with other accents and see it as one of a number of legitimate representational resources. Part of what this book is charting is a change in the ways in which processes of adaptation to another culture are represented: this has less to do with giving up the old to fit in with the new and more to do with learning to capitalize on the co-existence of two or more languages and cultures, increasingly viewed in the literature and by society at large as valuable resources in a more mobile and inter-connected world. Within this shifting terrain, Lost in Translation represents a prototypical example of a work infused with nostalgia for an irrecoverable past lived in another language in a different country. The journey towards accommodation of a new reality embedded in a different linguistic and cultural system is charted by Hoffman in terms that foreground the labour required and the sense of loss and uncertainty experienced by the main protagonist over time. Despite the gains made, it is labour and loss that are uppermost. Remaking oneself in a new environment and in a new language is depicted as a painful experience requiring grit and determination. The advantages of the bicultural, if not fully bilingual, condition – Eva’s Polish recedes as her English improves – are somewhat overshadowed by the consciousness of loss. While the relative balance of loss and gain is not constant throughout the memoir and there are



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moments of triumph, the work, as a whole, is most articulate in respect of a kind of melancholy that pertains in the wake of something not willingly dispensed with or given up. Vancouver, the city to which she moves with her parents shortly after arrival in Montreal, Canada, remains for Hoffman the place where she ‘fell out of the net of meaning into the weightlessness of chaos’ (151), an expression that conveys Eva’s sense of lightness of being, of not being sufficiently grounded, once removed from the safety net of a language able to meaningfully segment her reality and structure her world.

Exile, longing and belonging As early as the second page of her memoir Hoffman (1998) introduces the reader to a concept resistant to easy translation from one language and setting to another. It is tȩsknota, loosely translated as nostalgia but which Hoffman tries to render more precisely as ‘a word that adds to nostalgia the tonalities of sadness and longing’ (4). Her removal from her old familiar world to the strange new world she inhabits brings in its train ‘a whole new geography of emotions’ (4) and sets in motion a recurring theme, that of an absence that can hurt (4). While absence is usually felt following the withdrawal or denial of something (or someone) no longer there or available, the young Eva almost anticipates a sense of loss during her final days in Cracow as she wanders round the city, sometimes with friends, sometimes alone: ‘Ordinary streets’, she writes, ‘become luminous with the light of loss’ (88). After departure, on board the Batory, the ship that takes Eva and her family to Canada, she has moments of nostalgia: a glimmer of sun on the waves, for example, can cause a ‘discomfiting, longing feeling. Tȩsknota’ (91). Hoffman is aware that her experience of exile is not unique; nor is she the first to feel a sense of loss and nostalgia. She muses on the sources and effects, literary and otherwise, of nostalgia. Her older, more mature self understands the provenance of such feelings and how they serve to protect and defend the self as well as to cause pain: she speaks of how time stops ‘at the point of severance’ (115) and how the past is ‘made more beautiful by the medium in which it is held and by its stillness’ (115). Instead of looking outwards, pain causes her to look inwards. She almost courts her melancholic disposition as evidence of a particular kind of European sensibility. In this regard it is instructive to bring Hoffman’s sense of melancholy into

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a broader frame. In an article on ‘Romantic Exile and the Melancholia of Identification’, Kari Weil (1995: 112) discusses ‘the Romantic privileging of certain forms of marginality’ and looks at two instances of a kind of cult of melancholia in nineteenth-century France comparing and contrasting two examples by Chateaubriand and Madame de Duras. In doing so, she links an ability to ‘accommodate loss and leave the past behind […] to the possibility for performing new identifications and concurrently for disidentifying with former positions’ (114). She also points to the interest in contemporary theory in themes of exile, marginality and alienation in relation to the construction of identity and processes of identification. Her focus is on consideration of the reasons why some subjects in exile are empowered, or represented as such, and able to fashion an identity while others are silenced. The examples on which she dwells, Chateaubriand’s René and Madame de Duras’s Ourika, point in particular to differences of gender and race in relation to empowerment in exile but to this we might add class as another potential source of difference. While nineteenth-century French representations of melancholy, characterized as ‘the psychological counterpart to exile’ (Weil 1995: 112) and in terms of ‘an uncertain and ambivalent relationship to one’s past’ (113), are not the same as modern migration stories, the question of the privileging of certain positions of marginality over others (cf. Bhabha 2010: 236–42) and of ‘who gets to choose to “pass”, for whatever physical, psychological or political reasons’ (112) remains pertinent to Hoffman’s memoir, given her inscription of her story within an exilic tradition where some manage more successfully than others to find a location from which to construct a plausible future. While in some ways she sees previous immigrant Mary Antin’s story as foreshadowing her own, she nevertheless differentiates her own experience of emigration from that of Antin’s successful and apparently less painful assimilation. In addition, Hoffman’s focus on the shades and tonalities of nostalgia in adding sadness and longing to a sense of loss seems to combine the melancholy of exile and nostalgia for a lost past. In this sense, at least retrospectively, Hoffman is inscribing her experience within a tradition: she points to Nabokov’s rendering of his childhood ‘in the glorious colors of tȩsknota’ (116); she mentions Czeslaw Milosz as a writer who cherishes his youth ‘with the special tenderness reserved for objects of love that are no longer cherished by others’ (116); and she refers to Milan Kundera as a writer who understands the unbearable lightness of being that comes when a person is no longer anchored to a solid or recognizable reality and becomes unmoored. Indeed, there are



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interesting parallels between Kundera’s musings on nostalgia in Ignorance, his 2002 novel that thematizes the pain of exile and uncovers the myth of return to a homeland, and Hoffman’s embedding of reflections on tȩsknota within her narrative. In other words, within Hoffman’s memoir there are traces of a degree of self-consciousness about her experience of exile and awareness of her subject position as an Eastern European with particular cultural values, both inherited and acquired. Ultimately, despite her misgivings, Hoffman is successful in coming to terms with her status as a largely assimilated immigrant, even if that legacy is the bifocal vision that is bequeathed to her. For she does manage to perform new identifications (Weil 1995: 114) and to create a present – ‘I am here now’ (Hoffman 1998: 280) – which is not rendered false or emptied of meaning by the weight of the past. Twenty years after her departure from Cracow she is standing in a New York apartment at a literary gathering and recognizes that she fits in and feels comfortable: ‘I know all the issues and the codes here’ (169), she writes. Hoffman sees herself as a modern professional woman, a product of the post-war years: ‘one of a new breed, born of the jet age and the counterculture, and middle class ambitions and American grit’ (170). Yet alongside this recognition of having come a long way in relation to her beginnings in the New World, she is conscious of the legacy of her experience of exile: she knows from the inside just how relative things are, how they could have been otherwise. The journey to a sense of accommodation, however, is not entirely smooth. Elsewhere, Hoffman muses on how, unlike the aristocratic Nabokov, who seems to rise above the exilic condition, she remains bound by sociological categories: ‘a Jew, an immigrant, half-Pole, half-American’ (198). Between fits of immigrant rage at her outsider status, she feels distanced from society, like an anthropologist observing the signs of life around her (209). At the same time, she is acutely aware of the dangers of remaining on the outside and understands the need to translate herself ‘without becoming assimilated’ (211) or absorbed by the New World. Such a difficult task of translation demands patience and care. Lost in Translation, then, is a tale of migration from Poland to North America from the dual perspective of an adolescent and older adult who undergoes a difficult process of adaptation to a new language and culture but whose trajectory nevertheless proves successful insofar as she reaches educational and professional heights well above the average, studying as an undergraduate at Rice University, Texas, graduating with a PhD in English Literature from Harvard University and writing articles for The New York Times. Yet for all that,

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there is a clear consciousness of what has been lost in the process and an ability to articulate this loss in terms that allow the reader to understand the pain of separation, from a place where one is known and where one fits in, to a place not of one’s choosing where a sense of dislocation and alienation are keenly felt. The feelings of belonging that Eva experiences in Cracow are not just a product of place but depend on a sense of connectedness: she is at one with her environment and feels connected to family and friends. The Polish language, as the only one she knows, before her departure, seems entirely adequate to the job of allowing her to express her needs, wants and wishes as a child and young adolescent. What Hoffman experiences and what she describes so eloquently in Lost in Translation is a sense of the way in which a particular language (Polish in her case) appears to relate to and be embedded in a particular culture, set of behaviours and ways of thinking about the world. When the almost umbilical cord between and among these areas is broken, by virtue of dislocation, the drive to acquire a new set of linguistic and cultural behaviours creates a kind of schism leaving the individual to negotiate a divided self. Lost in Translation tracks the various stages through which the young Eva goes in her subsequent transformation from Polish adolescent to a ‘hybrid creature’ and ‘a partial American, a kind of resident alien’ (Hoffman 1998: 221) with aspirations to become a New York intellectual. The stages of her journey are marked by her relationship to language and by her increasing ability to make connections at a deep level between the language she hears, reads and employs and her evolving understanding of the world around her and her place within it. One of the things that bother Eva when she first arrives in the New World is her sense of the arbitrariness and contingency between signifier and signified where in the past she had experienced their necessary connection. In learning English, she has to re-establish these connections in the context of her new environment. As a child who reads a lot, she depends on books to ‘capture the essence of reality’ (28). In effect, she uses the act of reading to sharpen her perceptions of the world by broadening her vocabulary as well as her vision: ‘the more words I have, the more distinct, precise my perceptions become’ (28–9). But reading isn’t just a visual or a conceptual experience; it is an almost synaesthetic experience whereby language is tasted and tested: ‘Sometimes, when I find a new expression, I roll it on the tongue, as if shaping it in my mouth gave birth to a new shape in the world. Nothing fully exists until it is articulated’ (29).



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For English to signify, it has to be built up word by word, expression by expression and enter the new lexicon that Eva establishes and fills with meaning, even as her Polish begins to recede. The first momentous decision is taken when she decides to write a diary, given to her by a friend, in English rather than Polish. ‘Polish is becoming a dead language, the language of the untranslatable past’ (120). The past is embedded in and attached to another country. Yet in writing in English Eva experiences a kind of schism: she finds she cannot use ‘I’ but takes to talking about herself in the second person. In doing so, she objectifies herself and creates another identity: that of the writer. ‘When I write, I have a real existence that is proper to the activity of writing – an existence that takes place midway between me and the sphere of artifice, art, pure language’ (121). There are a number of things to note here: her consciousness of a writing self as being different from an experiencing self; and her awareness that using English, as a language she is in the process of acquiring, creates an additional distance between experiencing self and refracted perceptions. This double distance serves to transform subjective experience into the product of an observing consciousness through the artifice of writing. Hoffman is also aware that her ability to fit into society or be less marginalized will depend on her ability to make the right sounds, both literally and metaphorically. Language, then, becomes a ‘crucial instrument’ (123) in her integration or assimilation at a time when the expectation was that immigrants would assimilate, assuming the language and adopting the dominant mores of their new country. It is not until years later at a point when Hoffman is teaching the literature she has come to love that she senses that she has got beyond the surface of words to their very core. She is ‘back within the music of the language’ (186), as she reads T. S. Eliot’s ‘The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock’ in preparation for a freshman English class and understands that she has got beyond analysis and intellect to a place where she is attuned to the rhythms and sonorities of the language. This is a breakthrough moment, as is the scene with which the memoir ends where in a garden in Cambridge, Massachusetts, with her friend Miriam, she recognizes the exact fit between the flowers she views and the words she utters to name them. In this, she has come full circle from the match between the words and world of her Polish childhood to the fitting alignment of word and its referent in the New World. The difference, however, lies in the fact that the adult Hoffman has come to understand the way in which languages are filled with meaning in a relational rather than in an absolute or essential sense. As Fanetti (2005: 418)

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puts it: ‘Her approach to language has become more discerning, if no less avid. Rather than devour it all, she wants to know it deeply, to explore the relationship – profound for its very dynamism – of signifier and signified. In such a position of flux resides the energy of potential.’ In some ways, Hoffman has had to remake her identity from the building blocks of a new language in the different context of life in the New World. It is an identity, however, that avoids the rigidities of a fixed order in a particular location. For as Fanetti (2005) argues, Hoffman finally moves away from a focus on binaries (here/there; past/present; happiness/nostalgia; being/becoming; original/translation) to a sense of the potentials of ‘existing in the space between rigid constructions of culture and identity’ (418; italics in original). Through her education and Americanization, she has come to accept, if not value, a more postmodern sense of self, one constructed in and through the discourses that she employs and therefore subject, over time, to change.

Resistance and accommodation The extent to which Hoffman is critical of an assimilative drive or accepting of her assimilation is subject to debate. Fachinger (2001), for example, sees Hoffman as re-inscribing the American immigrant success story, notwithstanding attempts in her memoir to distance herself from the kind of successful assimilation story with which she credits Mary Antin, an earlier Jewish immigrant from Eastern Europe, as having produced. For Kellman (2000: 76–7), Hoffman presents herself rather as ‘a child of a postmodern entropic universe in which heroic energies are dissipated’; she ‘lacks Antin’s linguistic innocence’ (81) and understands that ‘linguistic systems are not interchangeable’ (81). In coming to North America at a different cultural moment from that of Antin, Hoffman arrives in the shadow of the Holocaust, and is shaped by a different set of writing conventions and reader expectations. Fjellestad (1995: 134) too sees Hoffman as a child of her time and characterizes Lost in Translation as a ‘postmodern autobiography written by a Central European étrangère’ [sic]. Language acquisition, according to Fjellestad (139), is shown to be ‘a carnivorous process’ that marks and changes Eva, turning her into someone else. Eva herself describes the process of acquiring a voice in another language as one of invasion by the voices of others; she is possessed by them and remade ‘fragment by fragment’ (Hoffman 1998: 220). As we



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will see in subsequent chapters, such extreme representations of language acquisition and of the ways in which the body of the learner is entered or violated by others is not unique. The main protagonist in Xiaolu Guo’s 2007 work A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers will reach a point in her trajectory when she resents the symbolic violence done by the imposition of a language foreign to herself and will momentarily reject colonization, if not cannibalization. The difference will reside in the extent to which Guo’s protagonist resists assimilative tendencies and insists on inflecting English, sometimes to humorous effect, with the structures and rhythms of Chinese in contrast to Eva’s assumption and appropriation of the American voices whose modulations, intonations and rhythms she found attractive and worthy of imitation. For Mousley (2012), the manner in which Hoffman’s autobiography articulates the texture of loss is supremely human and allows readers, regardless of culture, to relate to it and to understand the strength of Hoffman’s attachment to her native Poland, her sense of detachment from Canada, perceived as a place of exile, and her eventual re-attachment to place as she recognizes the virtues of where she finds herself in the narrative present in the United States. It is through the specificities of Hoffman’s situation recalled and recollected rather than the abstractions of the exilic condition that the reader understands the difference between living cultural difference and being aware of its existence (my italics). ‘Hoffman’s persistent concern’, he writes, ‘is with how well language expresses us, as well as how well we express it, and how richly it allows us to know and realize ourselves’ (Mousley 2012: 111). In this sense the term language memoir employed by Fanetti (2005: 406) seems apt to describe Hoffman’s book, since language is indeed central to her concerns and development in a number of respects: as a material expression of thought embedded in particular cultures; as a finely tuned instrument whose rhythms and tonalities perform a sense of self; as a relational object in a network of other associated objects. As a would-be classical pianist when she left Poland to her assumption of an identity as a writer, Hoffman relates strongly to symbolic systems and to the discipline required in ‘mastering’ them to a degree which permits a kind of unconscious agency. By this, I mean to indicate the extent to which linguistic control as a product of labour and self-consciousness becomes ‘naturalized’ and permits the performance of a particular identity. In Hoffman’s case, identity is premised on her successful acquisition of the cultural and linguistic codes prominent in her intellectual and social circle.

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Identity as politics; identity as inheritance In ‘Traveling Cultures’, originally delivered as a paper at a conference in 1990, before forming part of a series of essays in the collection Routes: Travel and Translation in the Late Twentieth Century, cultural anthropologist James Clifford sets out a possible agenda for a comparative cultural studies into the twenty-first century. Noting differences between the worlds inhabited by anthropologists such as Malinowski and Lévi-Strauss and the methodologies they employed with states of affairs, concerns and preferred methods in the late twentieth century, Clifford (1997) reviews notions of ‘dwelling’ and ‘travel’ in relation to ideas of ‘the local’, the ‘regional’ and ‘the ‘global’. In the printed Discussion section following the essay, there is a response from Clifford to a question by an interlocutor, a section of which is worth quoting, since it bears on differences and interactions of relevance to discussion of Hoffman’s memoir: cultural/political identity is a processural configuration of historically given elements – including race, culture, class, gender, and sexuality – different combinations of which may be featured in different conjunctures. These elements may, in some conjunctures, cross-cut and bring each other to crisis. What components of identity are ‘deep’ and what ‘superficial’? What ‘central’ and what ‘peripheral’? What elements are good for traveling and what for dwelling? (Clifford 1997: 46)

The idea of cultural identity as something that is passed on or inherited through an ‘originary’ culture as opposed to something that is accreted and assumed over time in whatever cultural and political environment one happens to dwell is one that Hoffman experiences differently at certain moments of her trajectory. As an adolescent forced to leave Cracow, her ‘natural’ habitat, the young Eva feels as if she has been torn from an environment with which she identified and with which she felt there to be a close fit between ways of being and ways of living. Language could be said to be a way of fixing that cultural reality in place or alternatively might be seen as cementing the links between place and a sense of (Polish) middle-class Jewish identity. In Canada, this sense of a natural linkage between word and world, between self and familiar others, is challenged as the various elements of the equation are replaced by new, unfamiliar and largely incomprehensible ones. In leaving Cracow behind, where Eva felt herself to be an ‘insider’, even if the reality for her Jewish family may well have been different, what she now experiences in



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Canada is a sense of being on the ‘outside’ of society since she must learn a new set of cultural codes and modes of expression. Because her sense of self is tied up with her Polish inheritance and life experience to date, she feels as if she must translate herself into the new culture or rather the new culture is, to a certain extent, translating her, that is to say turning her Polish self gradually into an English or Americanized self. Her ‘authentic’, naturalized Polish self has been invaded by or is gradually displaced by another emergent self that is the product of living in translation. She has been culturally and linguistically displaced and must now learn to dwell in a world experienced as alien before a degree of familiarity is constructed through accretion and habit. In asking questions about what gets lost and what remains when one moves across cultures or what happens when elements of cultural life are taken out of one context and removed to or inscribed in another, where they collide or intersect and interact with elements of and from different cultures, Clifford is asking the same kind of questions as Hoffman in her memoir. As a cultural anthropologist in a postmodern era, Clifford’s concerns may be differently articulated and contextualized to those of Hoffman, writer and essayist, yet interestingly Clifford’s remarks on ‘Traveling Cultures’ were first made a year after publication of Lost in Translation and Hoffman at times uses ethnographic language and images as a way of articulating her understanding of the cultural bumps that she experiences. In talking about her attempts at balancing the demands of acculturation against the need to hold on to a certain resistance to complete cultural assimilation – difference at close quarters, she writes, can appear as ‘an element of violation’ (210) – she describes herself variously as ‘an anthropologist of the highly detached nonparticipant variety’ (131) or as a participant-observer of another culture whose codes she is trying to decipher, and explicitly links the roles of anthropologist and immigrant: But how does one bend towards another culture without falling over, how does one strike an elastic balance between rigidity and self-effacement? How does one stop reading the exterior signs of a foreign tribe and step into the inwardness, the viscera of their meanings? Every anthropologist understands the difficulty of such a feat; and so does every immigrant. (Hoffman 1998: 209)

And just like Clifford, whose subtitle to his book links translation and travel, Hoffman links ‘mass migrations and culture collisions and easy jet travel’ (209) to processes of translation (211). But there is another suggestive link here that relates to conjunctions between

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‘roots’ and ‘routes’: the fixity of being in a particular place where one has roots; and the ‘routes’ that one takes in travelling or in reaching a particular destination. While the young Eva has the feeling of having been cut off from her roots in terms of language and culture, she finds another route into selfhood in the translational space she is forced to create. In this sense translation has to do with the ‘in-between frontier space where migrant and minority identities are found’ (Wilson 2011: 236–7). In recounting her journey of cultural translation, Hoffman also acts as a kind of mediator for the reader who while not necessarily familiar with both cultures can understand Eva’s plight as she navigates a new cultural and linguistic landscape. Exploration of rootedness in relation to culture or the extent to which cultural and linguistic identity is assumed through displacement and travel is also a theme of Diego Marani’s New Finnish Grammar translated by Judith Landry and published in 2011 by Dedalus Books. It tells the, in some ways, tragic story of a man who turns out to be an Italian, Massimiliano Brodar, but who is believed to be Finnish because of the presence of a jacket with a Finnish name sewn into it and a handkerchief bearing the same initials. Discovered on a Trieste quay and taken on board a German hospital ship, the man awakens in great pain, amnesiac and unable to communicate. Thus begins a slow recovery during which he undergoes a rather tortuous process of language acquisition and acculturation first under the direction of Doctor Friari, originally from Finland but living in Hamburg and then in Helsinki where he is taught Finnish by Pastor Koskela. New Finnish Grammar is a meditation on what it is that anchors us in and to the world and on the role of language in permitting us to feel at home. Sampo Karjalainen, as the man is known, struggles to feel at home in Finnish and learns one day quite by chance that the name he has adopted and believed to be his own is in actuality that of a warship. ‘The identity I had built up for myself with so much difficulty crumbled away in an instant’ (177), he writes. Yet after emerging from the anguish of this discovery, he decides nevertheless to go to the front and fight for Finland, since he feels he owes ‘this country everything’ (181). On learning of his mistake in believing Sampo to be Finnish, Doctor Friari muses on the fact that he accepted a label – something relatively superficial in effect – as proof of identity (185). What, in their different ways, each book is exploring is the nature of relations between language and culture and the formation of identity: the extent to which culture is embedded in an ‘originary’ or first language or is acquired as a kind of contextual accretion linked to, but not totally dependent on, language. In some



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ways, Eva’s acculturation seems to depend on her acquisition of language to a very high level; at the same time, part of the conflict she feels in her adolescence relates to the different ways in which Polish and American English seem to ‘slice up’ and talk about the worlds in which they are embedded. Her crisis of identity – she eventually has psychotherapy and undergoes a talking cure – is overcome or at least ‘put to bed’ through accommodation of her ‘different’ selves to her new circumstances and recognition that her status will always be that of a bifocal individual. The situation in New Finnish Grammar is not quite the same: Sampo is beaten up and left for dead; he goes into some kind of coma, as a result of which he loses a sense of who he is and where he hails from. He has to relearn how to communicate but he is obliged to do this in Finland because he is believed to be of Finnish origin. In effect, he loses his ‘real language’ (Marani 2011: 180) as a consequence of memory loss following an accident: ‘It slipped away, together with my blood, that night on the wharf in Trieste’ (180). In spite of the ‘tragic’ mistake that forces Sampo to assume the identity of a Finn, he appears sanguine about his mistaken identity and sense of loss: ‘A whole life lived inside a wrong name makes it the right one, turns falsehood into truth’ (180). He is conscious too of the care that has been given him by Doctor Friari and others and feels that ultimately he owes a duty to Finland and the Finnish for having taken him in. And so he decides to go off and fight for Finland and die as a Finn (181). Identity here is secured for Sampo through choosing to assume the name that he bears and to make it his own: ‘On the cross which they will place upon my grave, the name I bear will at last be mine’ (181). Identity and nationality are sealed through fighting for a country unto death. What New Finnish Grammar explores in a rather extreme form is the construction of identity from outside the self through acquisition of language and aspects of culture that help anchor the language in place. Sampo becomes a Finn by virtue of will and discipline; at the same time traces of a previous existence or life in a different language remain and curtail his ability to feel totally at ease with the world. There is, then, something uncanny about this doubleness.

The location of culture The experience of migration, issues of nationality or ‘nationness’ and the dissemination of particular discourses is the subject of a chapter in Homi

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Bhabha’s influential book, The Location of Culture, first published in 1994 with multiple reprints. In relation to his chapter on ‘DissemiNation’, he states his aim as follows: ‘What I am attempting to formulate in this chapter are the complex strategies of cultural identification and discursive address that function in the name of “the people” or “the nation” and make them the immanent subjects of a range of social and literary narratives’ (Bhabha 2010: 201). In some ways, both Lost in Translation and New Finnish Grammar can be read as literary narratives concerned with ‘complex strategies of cultural identification’. Hoffman is concerned with what it means to be Polish or American or a New York intellectual; through his depiction of Sampo, Marani explores what it means to be Finnish and to have access to shared historical, literary and linguistic reference points. Moreover, Hoffman notes the difference between a kind of collectivity in Poland and American individualism, values and types of identity ultimately constructed by a range of discursive strategies embedded in social, political and literary works. While Hoffman’s narrative of a life in a new language primarily relates her own story, it is a story told nevertheless against the backdrop of other stories of migration, some providing models to adopt, adapt or resist (e.g. Mary Antin; Vladimir Nabokov; Milan Kundera) in relation to the job of fitting in to a new society and learning a new language. In addition, Hoffman shows awareness, both here and elsewhere, of the ways in which individuals are primed in particular ways by the societies in which they live. In Exit into History, for example, a work that followed Lost in Translation and relates an account of journeys made through the New Eastern Europe, that is post-1989, Hoffman acknowledges growing up ‘in Poland under the aegis of Communism – the force that had provided or inflicted, the ruling narrative on a large region of the world for more than four decades’ (Hoffman 1994: ix). Indeed, she inscribes countries, cultures and societies as organisms, the parts of which, ‘to some extent, reflect the whole’ (xiv). In other words, individual stories can be set against cultural and societal histories. Likewise, while Marani’s fiction focuses on a single protagonist, this protagonist’s situation is solidly embedded within a rhetorical and discursive network aimed at creating a sense of his insertion into Finnish life at a particular period in history – the years of the Second World War – and explores ‘nationness’, exile, and what it means to be, or rather to become, Finnish. Through Sampo Karjalainen’s situation, presented to the reader in a mediated form, via the edited and annotated manuscript that Dr Friari finds, we encounter the process of language acquisition and follow Sampo’s struggle to acquire a sense of being



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grounded in a culture. In effect, it is Friari who reconstructs the story drawing on the narrative ‘scraps’ (9) he finds and ‘coaxing’ them ‘to yield up something that they were struggling in vain to tell’ (Marani 2011: 9–10). The use of the word ‘scraps’ is particularly interesting here in the light of what Bhabha (2010: 209) has to say about narratives of nationhood: ‘The scraps, patches and rags of daily life must be repeatedly turned into the signs of a coherent national culture, while the very act of the narrative performance interpellates a growing circle of national subjects.’ While Friari is signalling the fact that Sampo’s manuscript contains fragments of the everyday (vocabulary items and declensions, as well as observations), he is also indicating the extent to which a story outline emerges from these pages, a story that is of language acquisition and of identity formation within a particular cultural and national context. Bhabha’s context is an attempt to understand the process of writing the nation in modern society. In this he distinguishes between the ‘pedagogical’ and the ‘performative’ whereby the pedagogical relates to an ongoing authority provided by tradition and the presumed legitimacy and continuity of the past, while the performative relates to the ways in which narrative performs the conflictual and processual aspects of identity formation among ever-more heterogeneous subjects. It is possible to read New Finnish Grammar as a work that performs the making of a Finnish subject; but this is a Finnish subject with a difference, one who is finally conscious that his name belies his ‘real’ identity, an identity now lost except for ‘traces’. At the end of a (literally) pedagogic process by which he is taught Finnish grammar and learns to situate the language in relation to the Kalevala, a nineteenth-century work of epic poetry compiled from a collection of legends, originally transmitted orally and then written down, and considered to be one of the most significant works of Finnish literature, he assumes the mantle of Finnishness. For Bhabha (2010: 215), ‘the very condition of cultural knowledge is the alienation of the subject’ insofar as ‘the subject has to split itself into object and subject in the process of identifying its field of knowledge’. Both Sampo and Hoffman become observers/ethnographers of the cultures in which they find themselves and to which they strive at intervals to belong. They translate for themselves and for others their consciousness of cultural difference. For Hoffman, this difference is rooted in her knowledge of and identification with another language and culture, a sense of prior belonging disrupted by present contingencies. In Sampo’s case, levels of knowledge and affect are much less

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conscious, since his past has been consigned more or less to oblivion following his attack and amnesia; nevertheless, the traces that remain of a prior existence serve to disrupt a sense of continuity. Sampo’s anguish is a reflection of a kind of radical disjunction or untranslatability at the heart of his existence.

The myth of the great return In some ways, Hoffman’s Exit into History serves as a companion piece to Lost in Translation, since it provides an account of journeys made to the New Eastern Europe following the collapse of communism. While Lost in Translation is a memoir relating her personal journey from East to West, Exit into History endeavours to chart the changes that appear to have taken place in parts of the former Eastern bloc as a consequence of political and social change. Hoffman’s travels through Central and Eastern Europe (Poland, Czechoslovakia, Hungary, Romania and Bulgaria) involve meetings with a variety of people, across a range of social, political and economic domains, whose stories and insights she weaves into the fabric of the book alongside her own observations, meditations and deliberations. While in many ways a less personal book than Lost in Translation, insofar as it charts political and social changes in what she refers to as the New Eastern Europe, it nevertheless reflects Hoffman’s own assessments and perspectives as she reports and evaluates what she hears and sees and sets it against her own experience. To read Exit into History as a kind of sequel to Lost in Translation and as a meditation on ‘return’ is authorized by Hoffman herself when she explicitly makes a connection between the two works by suggesting that every immigrant ‘has a second, spectral autobiography’ (Hoffman 1994: 36), which, in her imagined history, would have seen her involved in oppositional politics in Poland. Inspired by the emergence of a new intellectual, politically active, post-revolutionary élite in Poland, she is drawn back to her homeland to find out how this new vanguard is meeting the challenges of the Post-Communist era. Throughout the book, there are moments when she tries to imagine the different course her life might have taken, had she remained in Poland or grown up in a different set of circumstances and under a different regime. This alternative version of her life, while not foregrounded, nevertheless haunts the pages of Exit into History as she constructs a sense of ways of being and living in Eastern Europe before, during and after Communism. Perhaps it is moments of



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transition that invite speculation of alternative realities; it may also be the case that Hoffman’s return to Poland sparks a sense of what might have been. I am using the word ‘return’ here in a number of senses: to signal a journey back to and re-acquaintance with a homeland, held over time in imagination, even as the motivation for that journey is ostensibly recognition of the tremendous changes to which Poland, and other countries of Central and Eastern Europe, have been subject in the interim; I am gesturing as well to the supplementary notion of the great or mythic return from long, arduous travels or a period in exile; and I am alluding to notions of the unconscious or the ‘return of the repressed’ insofar as part of Hoffman’s assimilation to the New World has depended on her surmounting or overcoming her exclusive attachment to the Polish language and culture. In other words, the two texts bear reading in relation to one another, the more so since they both thematize notions of transition and movement: in the case of Lost in Translation the focus is on the problematics of acculturation and acclimatization from the perspective of a particular social individual; Exit into History, on the other hand, revolves around moments of national transition and accommodation to a changing political, social and economic landscape. One is a personal history mapped against awareness of societal constraints and affordances; the other an account of changes effected at the level of whole societies from the perspective of an informed observer whose insider-outsider status permits her to act as a kind of cultural mediator or translator between East and West. Given that the first two chapters in Exit into History relate to two journeys, made within a year of one another, to Poland, which Hoffman describes as ‘an elsewhere that was once my home’ (Hoffman 1994: 1), it can be seen to represent a return to her homeland or to a once familiar culture and, as such, represents a kind of comparative cultural encounter. This comparative dimension functions both at the level of temporality (e.g. the Poland of ‘then’ and ‘now’) and at the level of geography (e.g. implicit comparisons with the US and explicit comparisons between and among the various Central and Eastern European states). As someone who was born in and spent her childhood and early adolescence in Poland, but who has been Americanized to a large degree through subsequent experience and education, Hoffman is in a position to make such comparisons. She is, at the same time, both an insider and an outsider in the sense that her formative years were spent in Poland, a country that continues to preoccupy her, even as she adapts to life in the New World. In addition, by virtue of her ability to speak Polish and a little Russian and to draw on her network of friends

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and acquaintances from her homeland and beyond, Hoffman is able to access a range of people and places that might not have been so readily available to a complete outsider, though it is interesting to note that for many of the actors in the book she largely represents the West and asks ‘American questions’ (44). Yet, when a group of American journalists with whom she has been talking at the Marriott hotel in Warsaw, complain about ‘what an impossible, dreary place Poland is’ (49), Hoffman feels ‘surprisingly defensive, surprisingly implicated’ (49), testimony to the fact that she still has some kind of emotional attachment to her native Poland. The return also represents a glimpse into what might have awaited Hoffman had she remained in Poland, rather than have travelled with her parents to the New World. Indeed, there are a number of moments in Exit into History when she refers to the fact that there are bifurcation points in people’s lives and that the route they take may be attributable as much to chance or to circumstances as to fate. In Romania, for example, she gets to know Pavel, a former member of the Securitate or secret police and a man who reminds her a bit of her father. In listening to his story about his move away from the Communist Party and the ‘reconstruction of his internal world’ (289), she reflects on how ‘Pavel’s could almost be my alternate family history’ (281). This sense of being haunted by another possible path, one dictated by or a product of the circumstances in which one finds oneself, mirrors Hoffman’s notion of the double vision that is characteristic of the immigrant experience. In an interview in 2003, the context of which was publication of her novel entitled The Secret, Hoffman explicitly refers to the impact of immigration on her character and mind-set: Immigration made me see that I was the person I was because I grew up in certain circumstances and in a certain way and that I could be a completely different person if I were determined by other circumstances and culture. That is, I understood that to some extent I was constructed and that led to a great deal of self-alienation or detachment. (Webster 2003: 769)

What Hoffman seems to be stressing here is the fact that double consciousness is a product of the immigrant experience and that immigrants are particularly sensitive to the relativity, even arbitrariness, of cultural practices, behaviours and situations that might otherwise be naturalized or viewed as aspects of a determinate system. They are sensitive too to the interaction between environment and the construction of self. What her journey to Eastern Europe



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brings to the fore is the fact that within particular societies (e.g. in totalitarian states), history may circumscribe or limit the realm of the possible for people depending on their social, economic and political location. As a Jew growing up ‘in a desperately poor, semiliterate family’ (Hoffman 1994: 281), Pavel may not have had much choice in terms of his political affiliations at a particular historical moment, the interwar years, with the rise of Fascism and its opposite number Communism, viewed as providing a kind of bulwark against Fascism. Hoffman describes Pavel’s attraction to the Communist Party as a ‘combination of chance and proclivity’ (281), echoing her sense of human choice and action as a product of environment, and of character as a disposition and mode of behaviour formed against the backdrop of cultural and societal norms. What makes the immigrant experience different to that of the non-immigrant experience is the development of an explicitly comparative dimension whereby experience of more than one culture and society militates against a sense of the ‘natural’ and absolute order of things. At the same time as Hoffman’s journey back to Eastern Europe provides her with opportunities for comparison and speculation, it is also a kind of pursuit of what she calls ‘the essence of the familiar’ (Hoffman 1994: 69), even if in practice this sense of familiarity proves elusive. Returning to Cracow, ‘the place that is the root and model for my notions of Poland and Polishness’, Hoffman finds herself nervous about witnessing change, since she wishes to hold on to ‘the safety of very slow time’ (26), a phrase that conveys her understanding of the ways in which the Poland of her childhood and of her memory is in effect an imagined space. Fourteen years on from her last visit, she finds nevertheless something familiar in Cracow, in its ‘layered age, its cobblestoned streets’ (26). By chance she comes across a movie house she once frequented as an adolescent. Sheltering in the doorway from a sudden downpour, she remembers an incident from her past, a memory which ‘comes full and unbidden, sharp as day’ (27). Personal memories and reflections pepper Hoffman’s account of the New Eastern Europe, seen from the perspective of a (now) Westernized outsider (Applebaum 1994: 47) who, nevertheless, by virtue of her origins and early experience, also has privileged access to a network of insiders, including dissident intellectuals and artists. From Hoffman’s perspective, Cracow seems to have absorbed the new within the context of the old better than Warsaw and she remarks on ‘the quiet continuity of the city’ (Hoffman 1994: 27) which doesn’t appear to have changed fundamentally. Yet inevitably, there are changes afoot and the ‘very meaning of being Polish is up for grabs’ (30), an expression

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that conveys a sense of the way in which nationality is constructed in relation to shared (and dissenting) histories, signs and symbols. In a state in transition, the ground begins to shift. From this perspective, Hoffman’s Exit into History represents a kind of narrative of emerging or re-emerging nationhood at a time of dissension and change. Hoffman is charting or channelling some of the discourses around cultural difference and identification that she hears from her ‘native informants’. In this, she is like an ethnographer discursively constructing a sense of what it means to be Polish (or Romanian or Bulgarian) at a moment of change. She is interested not just in events and ideas, in what has happened and in the ideologies thought to have motivated or inspired a particular state of affairs, but also in the affective and psychological dimensions experienced or articulated by those with whom she meets. Some of her interlocutors are conscious of Hoffman’s status as an interested observer and writer who will capitalize on her encounters and interviews with those she meets. On her tour of Bulgaria, for example, she is challenged in this regard at a cultural club in Burgas by a theatre producer, following a discussion about image and authenticity and the advice given by American consultants on an election campaign to put image first. The theatre producer is curious about whether Hoffman’s relations with those she meets are real and ‘authentic’ or whether she is just projecting an image in public in order to get her ‘subjects’ to open up. It is a question that causes Hoffman to consider her role as writer and cultural mediator and to acknowledge ‘an element of a complicated doubleness, or near-inauthenticity’ (343) that characterize her role as participant-observer. Even as she is enjoying the moment, she is conscious of looking on ‘from a slight observer’s distance’ (343). Ideas of doubleness and distance, of subject and object, of participant and observer recur in Hoffman’s work. In interview, she refers to the ‘shocking dislocation’ (Webster 2003: 763) she felt after immigration and talks about how her whole effort went into transposing herself ‘to the American vein’. While largely successful, this mammoth effort of suppression of a part of herself and her past, in order to assume the manners and mores, both social and linguistic, of her new environment, left her with some identity problems which she feels she would have avoided had she stayed in Poland. She indicates that she believes her generation in Poland to be less troubled about such matters. In Exit into History she also muses on the fact that some of those she meets seem to suffer less from a kind of split identity. Indeed, she remarks that the Bulgarians with whom she comes in contact seem remarkably self-contained and have a strong sense



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of themselves. I have noted already the references in both Lost in Translation and Exit into History to ethnography and the role of cultural observer and translator assumed by Hoffman in moving across languages and cultures. She not only translates herself, more or less successfully, from a Polish adolescent with a love of music into a highly educated American writer; she also represents (a version of) North American culture to those she meets in Poland and elsewhere in Eastern Europe. Conversely, she constructs through her narrative discourse in Exit into History an idea of the New Eastern Europe for a largely Anglophone audience. This ethnographic vision or mode of self-presentation is not by chance and relates to her insider-outsider status and to a splitting of self at a number of levels. The young Eva in Lost in Translation is an observer of Canadian and American culture, of its rites and rituals, even as she participates in North American society and tries to assimilate. This process of assimilation demands she learn how to behave as a native or at least to pass muster by fitting in to the behavioural and discursive norms of American society. Similarly, in relation to her account of the New Eastern Europe, she is writing from a position of informed observer who must relate her mediated understanding of the situation ‘into the language of the outsider’s grasp’ (Bhabha 2010: 215). It must be remembered, however, that for the most part her informants are artists, intellectuals and dissidents, though she does also relate conversations with those she chances to meet on her travels. In Romania, for example, she is taken to villages on the outskirts of Bucharest that have been razed to the ground by Ceauşescu to make way for ‘his own constructions, such as dams and “modern” housing projects’ (Hoffman 1994: 270). Here she talks to those affected: an old man and his son who are reconstructing their house on the same site where it stood before, and a very old woman who indicates that she has come back to die in the village where she was born. Between visits one and two to Poland, Hoffman already begins to notice changes as a more entrepreneurial culture seems to be taking root, particularly in Warsaw, and there are ‘dark forebodings’ (Hoffman 1994: 58) on the horizon in terms of emerging conflicts between intellectuals and workers and a lack of consensus on how best to deal with the economy. ‘The Polish political scene keeps reconfiguring itself with kaleidoscopic speed’ (102), Hoffman notes. In addition, the Jewish question seems to have raised its head again, much to Hoffman’s chagrin, since in returning to Poland as an adult she had hoped to reconcile the Polish and Jewish parts of her history (89). Yet when she hears Poland criticized as being an anti-Semitic country, she ‘bridle[s] in revolt’, since

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she feels the reality to be much more complex. Such feelings are testimony also to an ongoing conflict in terms of her identity and her continuing attachment to Poland. Her loyalties are divided between ‘vigilance on behalf of those who suffered here’ (89), particularly those of her parents’ generation, and her ‘admiration for all that is powerful in its [Poland’s] culture’ (89). In ‘DissemiNation’, Bhabha (2010: 229) discusses Ernest Renan’s idea of the will to nationhood and how it ‘unifies historical memory and secures presentday consent’, suggesting that this will is premised on a forgetting of the violence that has been exercised in ‘establishing the nation’s writ’ (229–30). He goes on to suggest that an obligation to forget ‘becomes the basis for remembering the nation, peopling it anew, imagining the possibility of other contending and liberating forms of cultural identification’ (231). This analysis is suggestive in relation to Hoffman’s accounts of the aftermath of change in the various countries of the New Eastern Europe that she visits, since the question of ‘how to view the past’ (Hoffman 1994: 154) is at issue in many of the states through which Hoffman travels. There is in many cases ambivalence about the past insofar as ‘going along with the system’ (154) was the commonest choice in Communist states. In trying to understand what is happening in Eastern Europe, Hoffman speaks of the ‘disproportion between the ordinary, individual decisions and the systemic guilt in which they became implicated’ (154). Individual entanglements in a project constructed as collective but where there were differing degrees of ‘buy-in’ or commitment and different levels of collaboration or resistance lead to a sense of uncertainty and lack of trust. Such a state of affairs militates against ‘present-day consent’ and disrupts the assumed unity of historical memory. In relation to Czechoslovakia, for example, a year and a half on from the Velvet Revolution, Hoffman notes that it is haunted by the past and ‘in the throes, not of forgetfulness, but of something like obsessive remembering, a fixation on the injuries and injustices of the past’ (154). In declaring her own ‘pull to forgetfulness, to denial’ (154), Hoffman seems to be cognizant of the role of forgetting or remembering to forget in the creation of new cultural identifications. This is particularly interesting in view of her own history in assuming a new cultural and linguistic identity in the New World and in relation to the avowed tensions in her Polish and her Jewish sense of self. What is also noteworthy is the discussion of emigration that takes place in the context of a meeting with some members of Praxis, a group of young people in Bulgaria committed to the arts. While the group leader expresses a desire to emigrate, Hoffman indicates that ‘the costs of uprooting and the relentless



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migrating urge […] have begun to seem despairing and desperate’ (326) to her. She is aware of the irony of her disapproval and ‘antiemigration diatribe’ (326) in which she suggests that it would be better to spend the ten years or so it takes to find your footing in a new country in participating in ‘building a new world’ at home (326). Such a stance may simply reflect her enthusiasm for the changes taking place in Eastern Europe and her desire to see the vigorous and energetic young people she meets stay at home and contribute to the construction of a new society; it may also constitute a reflection on her own experience as an emigrant that the price to be paid for crossing cultures is ultimately too high. It is in moments like these that Hoffman drops her stance as observer and reveals something of the conflicts of identity and emotional attachments that continue to haunt her. The afterword to Exit into History written in April 1993 from New York is a reflection after the fact on the moments of transition that her book tries to record on the basis of two visits, one in the summer of 1990, the other a year later, and interviews with some of the participants in the changes taking place in Eastern Europe. It is also a reflection on the wider changes taking place in the world which, for Hoffman, is ‘becoming utterly nomadic and interpenetrated, even while it becomes more separatist’ (361). She registers the fact that Polish is a routinely spoken language on the streets of New York, an indication that Poles are continuing to make their way to the New World and that this world is becoming more hybrid. At the same time, within Eastern Europe she notes a tendency to ‘hypernationalism’ post-1989 and suggests that this may be ‘national identity’s last stand, before it gives way to the intermixed realities of our world’ (361). This is recognition of the fact that ‘[t]he language of national collectivity and cohesiveness is now at stake’ (Bhabha 2010: 220) and that the new world order is likely to be more culturally diverse. Hoffman ends by suggesting that we in the West may learn something useful from the experiments in democracy taking place in the New Eastern Europe at a time when everything is ‘being redefined from the ground up – redefined in the context and terms of our world’ (Hoffman, 1994: 362). From Hoffman’s perspective, there is the potential, at least, of Eastern Europe finding some kind of ‘third way’ in this process of reconstruction, an expression reminiscent perhaps of Bhabha’s concept of the third space, from which new subject positions can come into being. For Bhabha (2010: 246), it is from ‘those who have suffered the sentence of history – subjugation, domination, diaspora, displacement – that we learn our most enduring lessons for living and thinking’.

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Conclusion What I’ve tried to do in this chapter is to show the extent to which Hoffman’s Lost in Translation may be read as a prototypical narrative of loss within the context of a series of chapters that will examine what I am calling ‘narratives of translations’. In pairing it with Hoffman’s later work, Exile into History, I’ve suggested that there are solid grounds for treating the two works as companion pieces despite their different emphases on the translation of self and of social, intellectual and political culture. Lost in Translation is a memoir that sets biography and personal development against a change in cultural and linguistic conditions. It charts the sense of loss felt by the young Eva as she negotiates a foreign language and alien culture and learns to reconstitute her sense of self through accommodation to the new cultural norms. Hoffman’s experience of American education allows her to master the codes and rituals of her new society sufficiently well to operate successfully. It is through the study of literature and in her writing that she comes closest to accepting the advantages of doubleness and distance that characterize her experience of dislocation and allow her to capitalize on her bifocal vision. Exile into History constitutes another translational site. In this instance the focus is on social and political, rather than personal, moments of transition and transformation. Insights into the changes taking place in the New Eastern Europe are relayed through Hoffman’s narration of what she learns from those she interviews in her journeys from the Baltic to the Black Sea. While ostensibly less personal than Lost in Translation, Exit into History reveals the fact that Hoffman still has affective and intellectual ties to Central and Eastern Europe despite her positioning as an informed outsider. Her explicit linkage of the two works authorizes reading them in tandem as inverse journeys of cultural translation. While in Lost in Translation Hoffman narrates her journey from East to West and relates the story of her difficult insertion into North American society from a standpoint of cultural and linguistic otherness, Exit into History treats a journey eastwards in which the Americanized Hoffman tries to fathom a moment post-1989 when history is being made in the New Eastern Europe by listening to the evaluations and analyses of her native informants. The question of ‘how culture signifies, or what is signified by culture’ (Bhabha 2010: 247; italics in original) is addressed in both works. What also comes to the fore is a postmodern awareness of the extent to which culture is constructed and tradition invented. Yet even as Hoffman



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comes via experience to realize that meanings shift not only across cultures but also across time within cultures, there is a sense in which she regrets the loss of continuity implicit in the notion of radical change and a view of ‘culture as an uneven, incomplete production of meaning and value […] produced in the act of social survival’ (Bhabha: 2010: 247). For Hoffman (1994: 351), postmodernism ‘defined as a jumbled juxtaposition of heterogeneous elements’ has always been with us. The difference is that ‘they are now acknowledged’ (351). What Hoffman sees as marking the entry of the New Eastern Europe into ‘our – sufficiently heterogeneous – world’ is ‘the noticing of discontinuities and distinctions rather than stabilities and homogeneity’ (351). There appears, however, on Hoffman’s part to be a certain anxiety on behalf of Eastern Europe with respect to the ‘pitfalls to uncharted freedom’ (351) and lack of an alternative belief system. According to Bhabha (2010: 243), ‘the unisonant boundaries of the nation are singing with different voices’, as diasporic populations come to inhabit and change the cities of the West and elsewhere. This produces ‘a certain productive tension of the perplexity of language in various locations of living’ (243). In some ways, it might be said that it is ‘this perplexity of language in various locations of living’ that Hoffman explores as she experiences different cultural locations and learns to accommodate to multiple belongings. Part of her journey, both literal and metaphoric, involves negotiating different frames of reference and different value systems codified in and through language. When in Lost in Translation she first arrives in the New World, she feels the pain of separation from her native Poland and experiences the foreignness of languages as she struggles to express herself in English rather than in the familiar sounds of Polish. Cracow, where she grew up, retains for her a particular aura, even as she leaves it behind. The contours of the city that she retains in imagination are tested years later against what she sees and feels when she visits it again. In Exit into History she even finds echoes of the Cracow of her childhood when she journeys to another place, Bratislava, in the then Czechoslovakia, during her trips to Eastern Europe. At the same time, she comes to understand the benefits of her bifocal vision and the possibilities of living a ‘productive tension’ and ambivalence from certain locations. As a writer she finds doubleness and distance apposite to the task of translating the problems of cultural identification and projection that both she and others have experienced. Her reference to Polish voices in New York and to the telephone calls she gets from other Eastern Europeans

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(a Romanian economist in Harvard; a Bulgarian woman at the University of Iowa) eager to share their experiences and articulate their anxieties of life in the US with someone who understands from the inside what it means to inhabit a different world and cultural space is evidence of how cultures continue to travel (from East to West in this case) and of an ‘ethnography of the “contemporary” within modern culture’ (Bhabha 2010: 211).

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A Wandering Bigamist of Language

In the previous chapter we saw how Hoffman’s memoir Lost in Translation focused on the difficulties involved in assuming a new language at a particular stage in life (adolescence) where the learner feels an overwhelming sense of cultural displacement that she struggles to overcome in the new setting. In reading Exile into History as a companion piece to Lost in Translation, what came across was the continuing duality and sense of attachment to more than one culture even at a point when the English language had come to occupy an important place in Hoffman’s professional and everyday life. It was also suggested that in some ways, Hoffman’s memoir can be read as an account of the emergence of the writer she was to become: in choosing to keep her diary in English, rather than Polish, and in immersing herself in the study of English and American literature, Hoffman’s experience of language acquisition and initial sense of cultural alienation helped prepare her for a career as a kind of cultural intermediary between Central and Eastern Europe and the West, and as a ‘translator’, in a wide sense, of other cultures. As we will see, Ariel Dorfman’s journey to self-acceptance not only as a bicultural but also as a bilingual individual, equally at home in his case in Spanish and English, was also a fraught one. Indeed his journey and eventual accommodation to his bilingual/bicultural condition was much more extreme than Hoffman’s in a number of senses: first, because he switched languages at a much earlier stage and more often; and second, because Dorfman experienced exile not once but several times in his life largely for political reasons. His two languages, Spanish and English, were accorded love and hate in equal measure but not uniformly over the years, as he wilfully suppressed one in favour of the other, before finally acknowledging his bilinguality and biculturality and making peace with his (at various points) warring languages. In the Epilogue to Heading South, Looking North (1998), a memoir first written in English, then translated into Spanish, that records his bilingual

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journey, Dorfman describes himself as ‘a bigamist of language’ (270) who finally married both English and Spanish after a forty-year battle between them. He also entitled the chapter he wrote for inclusion in Isabelle de Courtivron’s 2003 edited volume on Lives in Translation, ‘The Wandering Bigamists of Language’. In this chapter he looks at the strategies used by those who migrate to deal with their ‘incessant and often perverse doubleness’ (Dorfman 2003: 31), strategies that usually involve either assimilation to a new language and culture or its rejection. He also describes himself as ‘a fundamentalist of language’ (32) who tried for years to ‘escape the bifurcation of tongue and vocabulary, a back and forth that was determined by exile and repression and geography’ (32). It is while he is in the Argentinian embassy awaiting a decision on whether he will be able to leave Chile and join his family in Buenos Aires that Dorfman first considers the possibility of reconciling the two languages that have claimed him, exclusively at different points, throughout his life. At this particular juncture of his life, as he contemplates exile yet again, following the overthrow of the Allende government, in which he held a position, by Augusto Pinochet in 1973, he explores ‘the possibility of living in two languages, each one for a different community’ (Dorfman 1998: 269). This is the moment when he contemplates becoming the ‘hybrid mongrel of language’ (269) that the writer of this memoir eventually recognizes himself to be, a ‘wanderer in love with the transitory’ (6), after years of struggling to find a location and a language to call his own. While there are similarities between the trajectories of Hoffman and Dorfman, there are also important differences. The similarities revolve around their backgrounds and intellectual aspirations as well as in their relationship to language and culture; the differences reside in the extent to which their attachment to a particular language prevented or excluded their use of another. Both Hoffman and Dorfman are Jewish and both of their families had experienced anti-Semitism in their countries of origin. If Dorfman was born in Argentina, it was precisely because his mother and father had moved there from Eastern Europe as Jewish émigrés. Dorfman (1998: 14) characterizes his mother’s story in relation to that of his father as ‘the more traditional, almost archetypal, migratory experience’. In order to avoid persecution, his mother’s family departed Greater Russia for Argentina. His mother was brought up in a Yiddish-speaking household, though she eventually turned her back on Yiddish in the process of assimilation and became a speaker of Spanish. Dorfman’s father, on the other hand, a speaker of both Russian and Spanish, remained bilingual all his life. He apparently emigrated not once but twice to Argentina,



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leaving Odessa for Buenos Aires the second time at the end of 1920. The reasons for his father’s family’s move, however, had more to do with business failure and the prospect of new opportunities than with ethnic persecution. So the family into which Dorfman was born was Spanish-speaking. His father, originally from Odessa, was a committed Marxist, a politics that created difficulties for the family on more than one occasion. In 1943 as a consequence of a pro-Axis coup, Dorfman’s father lost his post at the university in Buenos Aires and was put on trial. However, he left the country on a Guggenheim Fellowship before he could be jailed and his family joined him in New York in February 1945. Later, under McCarthy, Dorfman’s father was persecuted once again and left the US in 1954 for Santiago de Chile. So unlike Hoffman’s family which settled in the New World, even if Hoffman would eventually end up living in London, Dorfman’s trajectory was to take him back and forth over the years from the United States to Southern America, first because of his family situation, then on his own account, because of his politics and the vagaries of history which meant that he had to flee Chile, his adopted country, in 1973 and begin an extended period of exile that saw him spend time in Argentina, France and Holland before returning to the US where he continues to live. In conversation with Gabriel Sanders in May 2010 (http://www.youtube. com/watch?v=1Eb0–3mCmi0), Dorfman revisits what he came to see as the richness of his duality, having overcome a series of traumas, both linguistic and other: his early hospitalization for pneumonia in New York and brief separation from his parents that resulted in his speaking only English for the next ten years; his subsequent suppression of English as the language in which he chose to write, following a period of study at Berkeley from 1968 to 1970, ‘where he underwent a literary and political conversion’ (McClennan 2010: 82); and the moment when he defied death in Chile in 1973, by switching shifts with one of his colleagues at La Moneda, the Presidential Palace that was bombed, finally accepting that he must go into exile. From a position of trying to segregate his languages and keep them apart or to violently suppress one in favour of the other, he eventually comes to a point where he accepts them both and accepts himself as a product of his two languages and cultures. He understands that the writer he has become is one who is at home in both languages and that each language has a particular way of constructing his story. So even as the story that he writes in one language demands to be articulated in the other, he begins to understand the ways in which his cadences in English are haunted by

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his Spanish and the ways in which Spanish makes him one kind of writer and English another. In this eventual reconciliation with his different selves, Dorfman shares with Hoffman an understanding that there are advantages to the double vision or double consciousness of those who have access to more than one language and/ or culture and that crossing cultures can put you in the position of cultural and/ or linguistic intermediary. In the same way that Hoffman’s origins in Poland and knowledge of Polish allow her more privileged access in Exit into History to people and institutions than might be experienced by a rank outsider, allowing her to translate the new realities of Eastern Europe for an Anglophone audience, so Dorfman’s location as a bilingual, bicultural writer permits him to ‘function as a bridge between cultures’ (Kellman 2013: 210) and to translate the history and culture of Latin America into a discourse and a register comprehensible to the North. As Kellman indicates, Dorfman’s changes to the Spanish version of his memoir, Rumbo al sur deseando el norte (1998), indicate that he was conscious of the different preferences and patterns of cultural reference embedded in the two languages and that he altered them to suit the ‘difference in implied reader’ (216). While a Latin American audience might expect a history of a particularly unsettling period in Chile from the perspective of a political activist, a North American audience might be less interested in political history and more interested in autobiography and the various transformations undergone by Dorfman himself as he negotiates a change in linguistic and cultural circumstances, albeit as a result of political and historical forces. As McClennan (2010) points out, the structure of Dorfman’s memoir is of note in that it is not entirely linear but more cyclical and recursive. Dorfman opens his memoir with reflections on the fact that his survival on the day that the Presidential Palace was bombed was in some ways down to a series of chances or coincidences: he had switched his watch with a colleague who was killed; he kept an appointment with the director of national television to discuss his ideas for an advertising campaign for the Allende government; and he was not one of those telephoned the night before the coup to come to La Moneda, since his name had been crossed off the list. He would later be told by the man responsible for crossing his name off the list, Fernando Flores, that someone was needed to live to tell the tale. The events leading up to the coup on 11 September 1973 and its aftermath are what Dorfman keeps circling back to, even as he returns to the beginning of his life and proceeds to relate the story of how he came to shuttle back and forth between North and South America,



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eventually turning down a university place at Colombia in his beloved New York in favour of studying Latin American literature at the University of Santiago de Chile and becoming an activist who turned his back on the imperialism of the United States. In a final irony, it is the United States that takes him in after years of exile overseas and he will eventually become a US citizen in 2006. His memoir stops, however, at the moment that he is leaving Chile wondering about his fate, whether it be to return eventually to his adopted country or whether it be to suffer a permanent exile. Only much later will he realize that he has put down roots in North Carolina where he has been teaching at Duke University and begin to refer to himself not as an exile but as an expatriate (McClennan 2010: 21). It is in what Dorfman sees as the second instalment of his memoir, Feeding on Dreams: Confessions of an Unrepentant Exile, that he focuses on the period post-1973, after he left Chile and spent time abroad and in the US before returning to Chile in 1990 for six months. Just as Heading South, Looking North revolves around and circles back to a particular moment, the coup in 1973 and its aftermath, so Feeding on Dreams uses fragments from the diary that Dorfman kept on his return to Chile (1990–1) as a way of organizing the experiences that would lead him post-1973 up to that point and in order to reveal the differences between the prospect of return and its reality. For despite his ardent desire in exile to return permanently to Chile, his attempts to do so are undermined both by the lingering presence of Pinochet and his continuing influence on Chilean society even after the dictatorship ends and by Dorfman’s own recognition that the future he had imagined is not the future he will experience. What had kept Dorfman going in exile was the thought that one day he would return to Chile and that Chile would awaken from the nightmare of Pinochet. What he finds on his visits to Chile and during the six months in 1990 when he tries to make Santiago his home again, is the impossibility of a permanent return for multi-faceted and complex reasons having to do both with what the country has endured in his absence and with his own status as an exile who has lived abroad and been exposed to other voices and ways of behaving. He reluctantly comes to the conclusion that in order to continue to create in freedom, he must leave Chile. It is in trying to stage his play La Muerte y La Doncella (Death and the Maiden) that he is forced to consider that Chile might not be ready to confront its difficult past and that even his former compadres or political allies and co-conspirators seem more inclined to want

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to forget the past and compromise in order to be able to move on than want to scrutinize it and ask difficult questions about the extent to which the spectre of Pinochet has continued to pervade the country. What Dorfman is also forced to confront is his own self: that despite his ardent desire to return to Chile and establish a home once and for all, he has become a wanderer ‘at the intersection of […] overlapping communities’ (Dorfman 2011: 295) and a mongrel of language, as much at home in English as in Spanish. Years later, long after his wife and sons have adopted American citizenship, he finally decides to accept that he, too, is as much at home in the US as he felt himself to have been in Chile during the Allende Presidency. He grows ‘accustomed to this life on the hyphen, a Chilean-American born in Argentina tightroping between loyalties’ (294). He finally concedes that ‘this land [the US] could also be my home, one of my many homes’ (297). He comes to understand that his multiple exiles and displacements have coincided with larger social and political currents and that his individual situation has been shaped by historical forces. He has ‘become globalized along with the world’ (310); he has come to see his willed departure from Chile, a land that he loved, as ‘a form of liberation, a freeing of my life and my literature from the narrow constraints of nationality’ (317). In other words, Dorfman inscribes his plight and his condition within a broader history and set of political, national and linguistic circumstances. He can look back and understand the ways in which his unique circumstances have dovetailed with social and political forces. Like Hoffman in Exile into History, Dorfman has moments when he wonders if things could have been otherwise, if perhaps there was an alternate existence awaiting him in Santiago de Chile and what might have been his fate had he chosen not to remain in the US. Yet he gives thanks ‘for the multitude of my many homes’ (321) and recognizes that ‘this heart is everywhere, that it does not belong to one country or one person or one community’ (312). Dorfman also recognizes that in not burning his bridges with the US – he retains his job at Duke even as he attempts to resettle in Santiago de Chile – he was keeping his options open. Ultimately, it is because he is multicultural and bilingual that he has had the opportunity to be a bridge between cultures and to mediate difference. If his Latin American identity in exile was partially premised on his being a kind of cultural interpreter of the South for the benefit of the North and if he imagined himself as a ‘rooted cosmopolitan’ (308), he finally recognizes that those roots are not singular and fixed in one place but are multiple and transportable.



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Multilingualism and the monolingual paradigm Yildiz (2012) argues that we need the new term ‘postmonolingualism’ to focus attention away from multilingualism seen through a monolingual framework. By monolingual framework, she means to point to an assumption that monolingualism is the default position with multilingualism seen either in opposition to it at the other end of the linguistic spectrum, so to speak, or as the marked term in a binary set. As she indicates, monolingualism is a relatively recent phenomenon and becomes the preferred model in many European countries from the eighteenth century onwards alongside the rise of the nation state. As nation states seek to consolidate a sense of nationhood with citizens united through a common language and the development of a national consciousness and set of shared values, language becomes a vehicle for the transmission of ideas of national identity. In this process of construction of nationhood, one of the things that becomes naturalized is the idea of a mother tongue and the notion that it is potentially harmful to the cohesion of both individuals and societies to be multilingual. By historicizing the ways in which ideas of ‘mother tongue’, ‘nation state’, ‘identity’ and ‘authenticity’ all came to be associated, Yildiz shows how a narrative of origin and identity comes to be created. It is a narrative, however, that is being challenged by a deterritorialization of language/s today and re-emergent multilingualism. Arguably, both Hoffman and Dorfman are examples of writers who suffered from a sense of the lack of cohesion that they experienced as bilinguals as a result of the imposition of a monolingual framework that creates a strong affective, as well as cognitive, link between language and culture. While their linguistic histories are not the same, they both experienced a kind of linguistic trauma in adjusting to their new circumstances as they changed countries, though in Dorfman’s case, his refusal to speak Spanish after his hospitalization may well have been rooted in a sense of abandonment by his Spanish-speaking parents as he lay in an isolation ward in a New York hospital hearing American English voices all around him. His assimilation to US culture is complete after a six-month period spent in a foster home in the wake of his mother’s institutionalization for depression. Yet what perhaps is unusual in Dorfman’s case is his suppression of English nearly 30 years later, as he opts to speak and write only in Spanish, in reaction to the politics of imperialism. Hoffman’s linguistic trajectory is less overtly political and more the result of a desire to fit in and sound right. Her Polish recedes as she is exposed, through literature

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and writing as well as through the language she hears around her, to American English. Yet insofar as Hoffman and Dorfman initially suffer a sense of wanting to be whole and singular rather than fragmented and double, they are both victims of a language ideology prevalent at the time that it is preferable to be monolingual and culturally assimilate rather than run the risk of being conflicted and dual by trying to retain two languages. Indeed, their memoirs are infused with the pain of separation from particular languages and cultures and a sense of what is lost in the process of translation, of self and other, from one set of cultural and linguistic practices to another. It is only after years of struggle over a sense of who they are and where they belong that they come to acknowledge the possibilities, artistic and otherwise, of double consciousness. It is not until many years after writing Lost in Translation that Hoffman begins, at first tentatively and with some trepidation, to recover the Polish she admits having repressed, ‘a partly compensatory, partly self-preserving strategy’ (Hoffman 2003: 52). Not until her English or ‘hard-won linguistic territory’ (53) is fully secure does she dare to allow her Polish to re-enter the fray. And even if she recognizes that it is not a language in which she will come to write, unlike English, it nevertheless has a role to play in her adult life. For Hoffman (2003) there comes a point when her two languages can co-exist within a single frame and she can move without anxiety between them. Dorfman (2003: 34) portrays himself as ‘a confessed grammatical philanderer’ who has come to see bilingualism as an adventure and who would encourage young bilinguals to ‘prosper in the spaces in between established linguistic systems’ (34). Rather than have to separate languages, as he initially had done, repressing one so as to let the other one live or keeping them in a kind of public–private tension, he ends up feeling that it is precisely ‘in the myriad creole zones of confluence and mixture that languages can mingle and experiment and express the fluctuating frontiers of a hybrid humanity’ (34). For he anticipates that ‘exploding demographics will force bilingualism to be the norm rather than the exception’ in the United States (34) and speaks of the ‘incessant movement of bodies and goods and capital’ (35) that are leading to the production of increasingly plurilingual speakers. What is interesting here is that the change in attitude to their (at first) warring languages comes not only at the end of a long process of acculturation and acclimatization but also in the wake of a changing linguistic landscape and set of ideas about bilingualism and multilingualism. Indeed, in a more recent



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publication (2011), Hoffman recognizes the extent to which the world has changed and continues to change: ‘we live in a multicentred world’ (12), she writes, where increasingly people have ‘hyphenated identities’ (12) and where ‘cross-cultural dialogue can lead to a kind of interleaving of languages’ (9). Hoffman also sees this intermingling as a potential source of creativity (13), a position that she may have strained to adopt in the days when she felt lost in translation. Dorfman, too, is only able to appreciate the benefits of his situation after years of struggle and as a consequence of a recognition that society too has changed. Little did Dorfman know at the time he was still yearning for a return to Chile that the United States where initially he felt ‘shipwrecked’ (Dorfman 2011: 200) would become his home and that the state in which he settled – North Carolina – would boast ‘the fastest-growing Latino community’ (202) in the US. The point I wish to emphasize here is the impact of contextual factors on what, in many ways, is Dorfman’s unique biography and trajectory. These contextual factors include social and psychological factors as well as a kind of politics of language prevalent at the time. As Heller (2007) makes clear, what we understand by bilingualism and the extent to which it is seen as a problem or pathology rather than as an advantage or as a resource for meaning-making is not neutral and ahistorical but is bound up in the ideologies and social and linguistic discourses and practices in evidence at particular moments. Heller (4) speaks of the ‘language-nation-state nexus’ that began to emerge in the nineteenth century and of the ‘dominant ideologies of language as autonomous system and of society as made up of homogeneous units’ (6) which, until recently, created a bias in favour of a notion of bounded languages linked to national identity and, in many cases, ethnicity. At a time of new mobility and a reorientation of language studies to acknowledge ‘the permeability of boundaries, whether between languages or sociolinguistic domains’ (13), ideas about bilingualism and the way it is socially constructed have been changing. That constructions of bilingualism are rooted in ideologies and that ‘shifting notions of bilingualism are at base the outcome of competition among institutions, groups and individuals around questions of citizenship, language and the state’ is explored by Stroud (2007: 25) in the context of colonialism and post-colonialism in Mozambique. He shows how language was used to exercise ‘control over people and their relationships’ and how ‘linguistic descriptions united some people into communities of speakers and divided others’ (26). He also shows how notions such as code-switching whereby speakers move from

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one language to another in the course of a stretch of speech have been ‘variously associated with moral attributes such as laziness, and debauched and anti-social behaviour, as well as resistance to state authority’ (28). Within the context of a book that argues in favour of a changing dynamic in recent literature produced by writers who have experienced bilingualism and biculturality in terms of loss and/or gain, and who thematize in their works, notions of translation, it is important to bear in mind the societal and linguistic climate informing such work at the time of its production. For writers are no more immune to the Zeitgeist than are other members of society, regardless of whether they challenge or problematize prevailing norms. If Hoffman and Dorfman are presented here as examples of writers who struggle with bilingualism and with the apparent loss of a particular sense of identity premised on a nexus of relations between language, culture and a sense of self, it is not by chance but rather because of the ‘canonical associations of language, culture and individual identity’ (Heller 2007: 342) prevalent at the time. These associations are often seen by society, not as contingent, but as essential in various ways. While Hoffman feels keenly the loss of what appears to be an organic connection between world, self and the Polish language, and must labour to construct another set of relations in English, Dorfman’s trajectory is more selfconscious and his ‘choices’ are more clearly motivated by politics, exilic location and ideological awareness than that of Hoffman. Yet Dorfman’s attempts at various points in his life to rationalize and justify the separate domains of his language use (e.g. English for reading in private, Spanish for his public persona) belie his affective, as well as intellectual and cultural, links to both languages. Try as he might to suppress his use of English as the language of American imperialism, he ultimately finds it difficult to reject what is also the language of Shakespeare; nor can he deny that it is his ability to speak English fluently that gives him access to options not open to others. In the Argentinian embassy, for example, where he is ‘holed up’ before finally being permitted to leave Chile, he develops a friendship, conducted in English, with the ambassador’s American wife. It is a friendship that gives him access to means of communication (e.g. telephones) that allow him to further his cause. Just as their work refracts ideas and incorporates discourses prevalent at the time of writing their memoirs, so more recent comments from both Hoffman and Dorfman reflect a greater sense of the different conditions that operate today in respect of attitudes to what it means to have access to more than one set of linguistic and cultural resources. They are aware that attitudes to bilingualism



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have changed in line with changing social realities. As Heller (2007: 342) puts it: ‘the meaning and value of linguistic variability is shifting’. New frames of reference are required to deal with changing societal phenomena. What these new frames of reference might be and what the implications of these changing social phenomena are likely to be are issues to which I shall return in the concluding chapter.

Bilingualism as a doorway; culture as a bridge In Heading South, Looking North and Feeding on Dreams, Dorfman points to his emerging understanding of his role as a cultural mediator and bridge between North and South America, a role he is able to inhabit because of his bilingual, bicultural status. Despite his attempts at various moments in his life to suppress one language in favour of the other and to construct for himself a unitary identity (a monolingual Yankee child who refuses to speak Spanish after leaving a Manhattan hospital; a Chilean anti-imperialist who uses Spanish to deconstruct a Disney cartoon character and point to the dangers of an all-pervasive American media culture), experience teaches him the value of acknowledging who he really is: ‘an intellectual, a man who writes, someone who gives words and stories to others’ (Dorfman 1998: 146) and he does this in two languages, English and Spanish, translating what he writes in one language into the other language (including his memoir). As Munday (2009) points out, Dorfman has a tendency to write non-fiction first in English, then in Spanish; the directionality of his fiction is the inverse. The fact that Dorfman operates in two languages and self-translates means that his work can provide a useful site for discussion of notions of creativity in relation to both writing and translation. His status as author-translator as well as that of a writer who combines the critical and the creative, testing the ‘boundaries of cultural forms’ (McClennan 2010: 249) means that he ‘troubles the binaries between theory and practice, artist and critic, and observer and participant’. In reviewing some of the positions taken in handbooks of Creative Writing, Munday (2009) reflects on the oft-inscribed bias on the part of Creative Writing theorists and practitioners in favour of the primary creativity of writers and the secondary or derivative creativity of translators. What Munday shows through a range of examples is the inadequacy of such a hierarchical assumption and the complexities of the creative process in respect of both writing and

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translation, practices which are not always as neatly circumscribed or bounded as their construction in binary terms would lead us to suppose. His discussion of Dorfman revolves around the high-level shifts that take place in the move from English to Spanish in relation to the different versions of his memoir. By pointing to the shifts in generic framing as well as in commenting on the ways these versions were presented to their different publics, Munday (255) suggests that ‘the Spanish presents itself as a documentary eyewitness account of a significant political event, not just a memoir but a piece of testimonial literature, a genre well-known in Latin American literature’. Even where creative translation strategies may not be in evidence, he suggests, in the transposition of source text to target text, higher-level shifts and transformations may be operative. Munday’s reflections on writing practices and translation strategies in Dorfman’s case point to the fact that there are different levels at which cultural and linguistic readings and interpretations operate. In telling a story across two languages, it is not simply a question of repeating in Spanish what has previously been articulated in English. Rather, the way in which narratives are framed in respect of generic and reader expectations can impact upon their reception. A writer who has a foot in both reading cultures, as well as in both linguistic cultures, is able to take decisions regarding how to present a particular narrative (e.g. in terms of an individual journey to consciousness or in terms of being witness to social and political changes) at the macro- and micro-levels. Where there are preferences in terms of generic organization of text, it is the bilingual, bicultural writer who is best placed to deliver these or, to put it differently, different reading cultures permit a translingual, transcultural writer a degree of variability and creativity in shaping and transforming the new text that operates beyond the level of lexical and grammatical choices. Dorfman’s memoirs reveal a conscious awareness of the differences between his languages and what they afford in terms of constructing a particular world-view through their grammatical and lexical resources, as is evident in a passage where he compares and contrasts the affordances or systemic resources of Spanish and English. He is also conscious, at least retrospectively, of the colonial histories not only of English but also of Spanish, even if, as a young man in Berkeley, he begins to acknowledge the expansionist role of English in the world and makes strong connections between American dominance and the assumption of a particular language – English – at the expense of others. In Heading South, Looking North, for example, he indicates understanding of the complexities of language choice in relation both to the location of the linguistic



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subject and to prevailing dogmas of the time. While from his parents’ standpoint as political and economic exiles from Eastern Europe, the Spanish they acquired in Argentina represented, in his mother’s case, the possibility of a new start in a new country, and in his father’s case, an additional language alongside Russian that permitted him to become an academic, writer and translator, Dorfman’s trajectory is such that he becomes aware not just of American imperialism but also of the imperial history of Spanish in the Southern American continent. The positioning and jostling of languages in the world is never neutral: as well as instruments of colonial expansion, particular languages can seem to offer ‘a safe haven to those who come to them in danger’ (Dorfman 1998: 13). For those, like his mother’s family, who are forced to flee from persecution, a new language can offer a place of safety and a new home. Languages then are not instrumental and neutral, mere vehicles of communication, but can represent survival to some, cultural and ideological imposition to others. The conditions under which languages are acquired, and the extent to which they facilitate or constrain particular ways of representing or expressing one’s relation to the world, is for Dorfman a live issue and one that he spends a great deal of time pondering. The relay race that his mother experiences whereby one language replaces the other over time was different for his father whose journey was ‘more convoluted’ (Dorfman 1998: 18). For Dorfman himself, the doubleness that plagues his father (21) will follow him into exile and shadow him like a twin (6) until such times as he is able to acknowledge his duality, if not his multiplicity, and feel comfortable with it. Alongside their imperial histories, languages have a kind of cultural history in the sense that they acquire accretions by virtue of their location in particular societies and the various uses to which they are put. For the individuals who employ them, either freely or because they feel they have to, they also accrue a more personal and affective history. It is in respect of these various dimensions of language, and of particular languages, that Dorfman is most expressive. In locating his story at the confluence of particular historical and political events (e.g. the family’s enforced exile as a result of his father’s politics in the McCarthy era in the US; Dorfman’s exile following the coup against Allende in Chile) and tracing his linguistic history in parallel with events on a countrywide, if not international, scale, Dorfman creates a sense of the ways in which language is implicated in the movements of history and society. In this sense, individual affiliations and motivations are shown to be embedded in larger-scale concerns; attachments to particular languages and cultures are seen to be the

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product of particular ways of thinking about national identity and belonging, ways of thinking rooted in a paradigm of nationhood that has become more complicated and more dispersed in today’s increasingly mobile and translingual society. The hybrid condition later embraced by Dorfman, ‘the anxiety, the richness, the madness of being double’ (Dorfman 1998: 42) is one that to begin with he resists. As he assumes an American identity in New York, he allows his Spanish to atrophy. Yet Spanish remains within him, even though he tries to shut it out, claiming not to understand his parents’ conversations in Spanish. Even as Dorfman is consolidating his place in his new-found homeland, his father is becoming a persona non grata by virtue of his Marxist views and is eventually forced to flee the US with his family. The return south is fraught for an adolescent whose investment in the American language and culture he has adopted is seemingly absolute. The Cold War, however, manages to ‘drive a wedge, the first in my life, between America and me’ (71). He knows and understands his family to be different, to be leading a kind of double life. Yet if he manages initially to hold on to a sense that the US is his fatherland, it is because he ‘dissociated from politics and policies’ (78) the America that he loves. In moving south, Dorfman creates for himself a kind of Doppelgänger: he changes his name from Vladimiro to Edward, a persona in love with all things American. He persuades himself that this return south is temporary and that his true home lies north in the US. He uses writing as a way of keeping in touch with his North American identity, producing ‘endless adventure stories, modelled on the Hardy Boys and their imitators’ (Dorfman 1998: 130) as well as ‘radio skits set in a mythical American landscape’ 130). Following an illness, he ends up writing science fiction, a genre that allows him to mix for the first time politics and fantasy; what he discovers in his writing is the possibility of ‘creating an alternative vision’ (131), a vision that can influence one’s values and behaviour. As his reading expands and he comes into contact with a vast array of writers from America and Britain as well as continental Europe, he begins to understand how ‘literature could be a prayer and a pickaxe, a way out of the frozen world in which we find ourselves trapped, our only protest against death and loneliness’ (132). Just as Hoffman found literature to be a doorway into a world in which she felt somewhat estranged, so Dorfman uses literature as a kind of imaginative aperture on to the world. It is through his literary production, journalism, media work and cultural critiques that he will create a distinctive identity.



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Yet it is not long before chinks begin to appear in his armour. Despite his initial desire to return to the US, he gives up a scholarship to Columbia and stays in Chile to study. He finds himself being asked where he is from and hesitates to admit that he is from the US. Instead, he answers that he is from Argentina – ‘Soy de Argentina’ (153). The question catches him unawares and he is forced as a result to think again about his identity and affiliations, to acknowledge to himself, if to no one else, his confusion about his identity and his profound desire to belong, somewhere. He sees his life as ‘in transition, suspended between a country to the North that was drifting away from me and this country here in the South I was not yet ready to commit to permanently’ (153). Within the next ten years he changes his name once again, this time from Edward to Ariel, his middle name, a move that seems to embody his dual affiliation to the language of Shakespeare and the continent of his birth. He also marries a Chilean and begins to assert the Latin American side of his identity. ‘I located in that culture my secret image, the mirror of who I really was’ (162), he writes. In the years leading up to the Allende Presidency, Dorfman devotes his energies, along with many young people of his generation, to trying to make Chile a better place. All that he has learnt about ‘responsibility and individual effort’ (167) in the US, he devotes to the cause of Chilean politics. The next big turning point in his life is when he understands that it is too dangerous for him and his family to remain in Chile. His comrades insist that he leave Chile in order to continue the fight from outside the country. It is a long time before he understands that in some ways he occupies a unique position: he has survived the aftermath of the coup against Allende and the role assigned to him is that of telling the story of events in Chile to the outside world and of using his literary skills and political commitment to keep the dream of peaceful political protest alive. The exile from Chile that he feels so keenly and the energy that he invests in trying to plot his eventual return is dissipated by his recognition that ultimately he can better serve his ideals and those of his adopted country by working outside Chile. It is his failed return in 1990–1 that convinces him that he can be more useful elsewhere. As he indicates in the Introduction to Feeding on Dreams, he became a bridge for the multiple Americas both north and south of the border (xvii) and learned to ‘celebrate the refuge of a common humanity […] during my decades of loss and resurrection’ (xix). The journey to self-awareness and recognition of his identity as an intellectual and an activist writer was in many ways a long and arduous one.

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Dorfman recounts his early years up until 1973 in Heading South, Looking North. Feeding on Dreams focuses on the period from 1973 onwards with the record of his return to Chile in 1990 providing a kind of pivot. The fragments from his diary written at the time are inserted into a book written much later with the benefit of hindsight. They provide a sense of both difference and continuity: difference insofar as the more mature Dorfman has come to understand the limitations and illusions of his younger self; continuity inasmuch as his life is both constrained and afforded by his bilingual status and exilic condition. That ‘bilingualism is caught up in relations of power’ (Heller 2007: 357) and is socially constructed is evident from Dorfman’s account. As a boy growing up in New York, a city that he continues to love, Dorfman was gripped by American culture and felt it to be part of his emerging identity. Even when he returns to Chile as an adolescent, he uses his excellent English and familiarity with American culture as a way of making his mark. It is only when he is humiliated in class by a Spanish teacher for his execrable Spanish that he decides to show that he is capable of relearning the language into which he was born to a level that allows him to win a prize. As a student at the University of Santiago de Chile he learns to value Latin American literature and to develop an affective attachment to, as well as an intellectual understanding of, the history and cultural sensibility of the South. His attempts to stay rooted are undermined by circumstances beyond his control and he keenly experiences the pain of exile. As is the case for many exiles, however, the long-awaited return to Chile turns out to be a disappointment and he ends up living in the US, a country whose fraught relationship with Latin America Dorfman tries to influence for the better.

Meditations on language Dorfman’s memoir, Heading South, Looking North, conveys a rich sense of what it means to operate in more than one language; it represents a portrait of the bilingual condition for someone for whom this was problematic for much of his life before his recognition of the profound benefits of his multiplicity. Not only does Dorfman reflect on language per se and its relations with culture and the construction of identity. He also reflects on the systemic affordances and grammatical resources of individual languages and how these lead to the production of particular kinds of sensibility or modes of



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expression. Clearly, specific languages cater for individual difference in terms of how they are used; yet, as Dorfman discusses, their systemic properties and lexical relations tend, by virtue of conventionalized social writing practices, to construct particular types of values and ways of looking at the world. Particular languages may have or at least be aligned with particular characteristics; the connotative dimensions and affectivity superimposed on particular forms of expressions in context or seen to reside in the phonological properties of a language become part of the material and social accretions attributed to specific languages. In discussing what draws his attention as he begins to relearn Spanish in Chile, Dorfman points to his reactions to certain aspects of the language: the way, for example, the word for hope, esperanza, contains the verb ‘to wait’, esperar, like a ‘foretelling of frustration, a warning to be cautious, to hope but not to hope too much’ (Dorfman 1998: 114). He notes too the way in which Spanish seems to avoid individual responsibility by using the reflexive form of certain verbs, which tend to attribute responsibility not to a person but to a thing or set of circumstances, rather like the use of the passive in English. Things just happen without anyone in particular seeming to be responsible for them. Dorfman also comments on the ways in which the subjunctive in Spanish permits the creation of parallel universes, universes desired or wished for, rather than real where he can ‘mentally live a plurality of forms of time’ and construct ‘alternative imaginary universes’ (115) rather than inhabit ‘the hard reality of our hearts trapped in the prison house of today and now and right here’ (115). The structures of a particular language as well as the resonances of its vocabulary seem to Dorfman to help mould a particular type of person. While he would not have been able to explain it to himself in those terms as a young boy, he is later able to make some sense of the reasons for preferring to keep his languages – Spanish and English – separate initially rather than run the risk of their intermingling or interpenetrating. Reflecting on this wilful separation, he acknowledges that while on his way towards the bilinguality that would characterize his later existence, he was at that time too young and immature to ponder some of the questions arising: Who is it that speaks Spanish? Is it the same youngster that speaks English? Is there a core that is unchanged no matter what dictionary you reach for? And which is better equipped to tell a particular story? And how is it that your body language changes when you switch from one to the other? Is it a different body? (Dorfman 1998: 116)

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It may be that just as Hoffman retrospectively was able to admit that her Polish had to be half-forgotten or repressed in order to make room for the English all around her, Dorfman is unconsciously aware of the underlying issues that bilingualism will raise for him, issues that he is unable at that time to address. These issues concern the extent to which particular languages relate to particular cultures and the limits of their deterritorialization; they also raise the question of whether the bilingual speaking or writing subject is a unitary or fragmented one; and what happens to both mind and body in the process of moving across languages. The process of learning, or rather relearning, Spanish in effect changes Dorfman’s life and creates a bond with Chile that has radical consequences for him in that he settles to the task of integrating himself into Chilean society, becoming active politically and eventually, though not without intercession, becoming a Chilean citizen. History, however, has other ideas for him and after the coup and the installation of Pinochet, he is forced into exile, years that prove distressing and in which he feels himself to be in limbo. From abroad, he uses his knowledge of English as well as Spanish to do everything he can to serve the Chilean revolution. As Dorfman (2011: 292) indicates in Feeding on Dreams, he creates for himself during this period a kind of outsider status and enjoys ‘being a sort of unofficial spokesperson for those who could not make themselves heard from our derelict lands’. The point is that this is a period during which Dorfman becomes increasingly aware of his position as someone capable by virtue of his dual linguistic and cultural background of being a kind of enabler of crosslinguistic and cross-cultural dialogue ‘from a middle point of intersection and detachment’ (292). It would be many more years and following his failed attempt to re-integrate into Chilean society in 1990–1 that the long journey towards recognition of his hybrid status reaches a conclusion with an acknowledgement of his ‘life on the hyphen’ as a self-declared Chilean-American. His enforced exile post-1973 from Chile takes him from Buenos Aires to Paris to Amsterdam and thence to the United States. It is exile that makes him ‘a duplicitous adulterer of languages, in love with two equally exacting tongues’ (Dorfman 2011: 168), having been ‘someone who left Chile proclamándose a fanatically monolingual escritor’ (168). The very fact that his proclamations are in a mix of Spanish and English reflects the reality of his time in exile when use of English became a necessary tool in his armoury when embarking ‘for persuasive purposes on trips away’ (169) and talking to those in power about



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Chile’s predicament. Yet he also tries in Paris to use the French that he has learnt as a boy, both through travel and through literature, but finds that the expressiveness available to him in both English and Spanish is denied him in French. An introduction to Michel Foucault leaves him feeling ‘embarrassingly tongue-tied’; he decides not to take the opportunity to meet another idol, Jean-Paul Sartre, since he worries that he will be hampered in his exchange by ‘broken, clumsy French’ (171). His experience of living in a situation where his French ‘only got rustier with time’ (171) and where he has to rely on his son’s proficiency to help him communicate is a blow to the self-esteem of ‘an Ariel so fluent in two tongues’ (172). It is a period during which he begins to understand the plight of ‘countless dispossessed people […] deprived of the instruments that might buffer them from authority’ (173). The powerlessness and alienation that he feels in Paris is something that alerts him to what it feels like to be deprived of the means to express fluently your point of view and to be in control of language rather than have it control you. His inability to find the right word during discussions and at meetings, his sense of inadequacy at having to mix ‘Spanish and pseudo-French, with a dash of useless English thrown in for good measure’ (171) is instructive in a number of ways: it is a lesson in humility and, in positioning him as an outsider, it paves the way for future reflections on what it means to belong to a society or nation and the role of language/s in creating a sense of belonging and cultural familiarity. Dorfman’s biography, situated as it is against political, social and historical currents, is more than the story of one man. It is a platform for discussion of the kind of changes, in all their inherent complexity, that this book is charting. Dorfman’s situation as the son of Jewish émigrés who have fled their country for reasons both political and economic is part of a larger narrative relating to the persecution of Jews, changing territorial boundaries and movements of people in the early to mid-twentieth century. Like Hoffman’s family, who leave Poland for fear of persecution and in the hope of finding better opportunities abroad, Dorfman’s parents have sought refuge elsewhere. As a consequence of displacement, they must come to terms with living in translation, that is to say they must acclimatize to a different set of linguistic and cultural conditions and render their previous experience in a language accessible to their new world. Dorfman’s own linguistic and cultural trajectory is bounded by history and politics: born in Buenos Aires, brought up in Santiago de Chile and New York, he spends his formative years in very different cultures and embeds himself at

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various points in one linguistic culture or another. Yet it is ultimately the fact that he has access to both cultures and the languages that serve to articulate their distinctiveness and difference that is at the same time an affordance and a constraint to him in terms of his experience. If Dorfman has periods when he rejects one language in favour of another, it is, as we have seen, for complicated reasons that relate to a sense of belonging and a sense of his relationship to the outside world. For a young boy to inhabit the rapidly changing post-war world of an American city like New York and then to be uprooted against his will to a country whose language he has to relearn is not an easy transition. Yet he successfully effects this transition in the sense that he takes the prize for Spanish at his school and then chooses to study in Chile in preference to the US. Inhabiting Chile at a moment of transition and change (the coming to power of the Allende government), he embeds himself within the political and cultural scene. All changes, however, when Pinochet assumes power and former Allendistas or supporters of Allende become suspect and have to flee or go underground, if they are not to be killed or made to disappear. The legacy of the Pinochet dictatorship is such that Dorfman’s position will remain that of an exile. Despite his efforts to return in 1990–1, he understands that his years in exile have taken their toll and that the position he once occupied as a revolutionary insider is no longer tenable. As an exile, he occupies an ambivalent position in the eyes of those who remained in Chile and were unable to flee. Even though he worked from exile to support the opposition, his increasingly high international profile became something of a double-edged sword. At a moment when Chile wants to forget, Dorfman’s attempts to stage a drama (Death and the Maiden) that requires continued interrogation of dictatorship and its legacy meets with all sorts of obstacles in its production in Chile but is very successful outside the country. Dorfman is forced to recognize that his reception back in Chile is not as he had envisaged it: those with ‘cultural or political power, including many of my former comrades in exile, turned their backs on outsiders like me’ (Dorfman 2011: 259).

Conclusion The question of insider and outsider, of citizenship and nationality, of longing and belonging, of language and the construction of identity are played out in different configurations across the pages of Dorfman’s narratives on what it



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means to live in translation. Dorfman’s journey to acceptance of his bilingual condition is punctuated by increasing awareness on his part of the multiple and shifting identities experienced in the course of a life lived at the intersection of particular political, cultural and historical forces and translated for the benefit of self and other in more than one language. A keenly felt sense of loss and separation transforms itself over time into an acceptance of ambivalence and multiplicity in a language (whether Spanish or English) benefiting always from the co-presence of the other.

4

Lives in Translation

In connection with a book entitled English as a Literature in Translation, the concept of translation and the various ways in which the term is being used is clearly important. While the Introduction sketched out the various interdisciplinary contexts on which the book draws and pointed to some of the attendant issues for literary studies in English today, it may be useful just to recall briefly some relevant parameters for discussion in the current context. The overall argument relates to the construction of ‘narratives of translation’, that is to say, works that thematize, narrativize and/or are structured around, questions of language, cultural identity and what it means to translate oneself or one’s culture. It draws attention to perceptible changes in the ways in which these narratives reflect on the potentials of access to more than one language and/ or culture in line with societal changes and changes in the literature relating to language learning and/or language practices. It evidences a range of conceptions of translation embedded in and ‘played out’ in such narratives at a local as well as a global level. Against the backdrop of the rise of English as a lingua franca and the increasing plurilingualism of individuals across the globe, it points to a changing dynamic in such narratives from a focus on language as loss to language as gain. Part of what this book is concerned with is the consequences of an enlargement of notions of translation and with the fact that translation seems an apt term to cover many of the processes in evidence in a more interconnected and globalized world. In previous chapters, reference has been made to translation in both a linguistic and a cultural sense: through discussion of key texts by Eva Hoffman and Ariel Dorfman, issues of cultural translation and the role of the bilingual and/or bicultural individual in bridging different cultures came to the fore, as did the work required by these individuals to come to terms with the psychological and linguistic consequences of their cross-cultural location. For Hoffman and Dorfman, it was a long, and at times, arduous journey but

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one which ultimately yielded the benefits of duality: an ability to step back from monolingual or monocultural assumptions and understand from the inside, so to speak, the nature of the ties that bind individuals to particular languages and cultures. Movement across languages and cultures, as we have seen, forces a reassessment of the ‘naturalness’ of particular ways of being and operating in the world and points to the shaping role of language and culture in one’s sense of self. To be uprooted from a soil or territory that you feel you belong to and are comfortable in and to be required to change your language, body language and ways of behaving and interacting in a different place can be a wrench and a painful experience. It can also lead to a sense of the relativity rather than the absoluteness of linguistic systems and cultural values, an ability to be more cognitively flexible and to live with a greater degree of uncertainty, capacities and values likely to be helpful in a world of change. What the current chapter will focus on is extending further notions of translation such that translation takes on a much more metaphorical value. It will explore the notion of lives in translation in a number of complementary senses, such as when the lives of others are represented in textual form or narrated by those who attempt to render their ‘reality’ in ways that point to their difference from or continuity with particular societal and cultural norms. To a certain extent, Hoffman’s memoir constitutes just such a translation in the sense that she is aware of and is made to feel her difference as someone of Polish extraction in the New World; the behaviours and rituals she witnesses in her new surroundings are rendered from at times an ethnographic point of view, as a non-participant observer who gradually comes to acculturate to new linguistic and cultural conditions. Likewise, Dorfman re-creates a sense of his existence as a kind of cultural translator; his past is translated into both English and Spanish versions for the benefit of his Anglophone and Hispanic audiences. Yet while Hoffman and Dorfman experienced cultural uprooting and cultural dissonance by virtue of movement from one place to another, it is possible to experience such dislocation and distanciation without having travelled to another part of the world. People may be leading lives in translation in a different sense, because, for example, within the society in which they live, they find themselves misrepresented or marginalized and are positioned in particular ways by the dominant culture. They may find themselves being represented in language or discourse that does not tally with their sense of self; they may experience dislocation as a result of race, class and ethnicity within a particular society. To be able to relate one’s experience or to translate it into words, to have access to



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a powerful means of self-representation is not something that can be taken for granted. In this sense, language, power and the means of cultural production are all bound up. Hoffman and Dorfman came from relatively privileged backgrounds and were highly educated. While not wishing to dismiss the challenges of their respective linguistic and cultural journeys and their eventual accommodation to the societies in which they live, the fact that they are able to represent these journeys ‘in their own words’, rather than be represented by the words of others, makes a difference to their plight. As writers of memoirs, as well as of fiction and non-fiction, they have been able to engage in different voices with issues of the day, both ‘real’ and imaginative. As we will see, in respect of Kelman’s protagonists and of their positioning in society, the stakes are very different. As a working-class Scot himself who was a published writer before going to university to take a degree in English literature, a move he claims made economic sense at the time, since he received a grant to do so, his sympathies lie with characters the texture of whose lives is not always ‘thickly’ and adequately represented in fiction, the lives of members of the working class. In other words, Kelman’s situation is different in a number of respects from that of either Hoffman or Dorfman, not least in terms of social location and of the types of protagonist represented in his fiction. Yet language, culture and questions of identity are issues at the heart of what all three writers reflect on and try to embody. How literature constructs the plight of the individual in the context of the social, and how to give voice to those who are seeking recognition from locations considered marginal for whatever reason (political, ideological or economic), are the concerns of all three writers. The role of English in the world and the domination of certain cultural and linguistic powers over others are themes that, in different ways and to different extents, permeate their work. How to translate into prose in a living, vital language the experience of those who do not fit the dominant ideological mould, of those who ‘come from elsewhere’ or who are made to feel inferior by virtue of their language and different cultural belongings, are problematics embodied in their work.

A case in point: James Kelman Across subsequent chapters, the concept of living in translation, alongside selftranslation and cultural translation, is one to which I shall return. The sense

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of translation that will be developed in this chapter will touch on a number of aspects of post-colonial and post-structuralist notions of translation and will refer to the evocation through narrative of the lives of fictional characters whose day-to-day reality and reflections are ‘translated’ for the reader into stream of consciousness prose and third-person narratives. In treating work by Scottish writer, James Kelman, discussion will focus on the positioning of Kelman as a post-colonial writer (Macdonald 2006) aware of what it means to create literature that by virtue of its use of the vernacular or Scottish dialect is seen to demand of the non-Scottish reader an effort to enter another linguistic universe and cultural consciousness. As a Scot, Kelman is very conscious of the positioning of Scottish literature relative to English literature and of the linguistic bias implicit in a devaluing of ways of speaking, writing and reflecting thought that are deemed to depart from a standard form of literary English. He has had to struggle ‘for an integrity of local language’ (Gardiner 2004: 113) in his work sometimes in the face of incomprehension and derision. His experience as a writer, as we will see, has only served to reinforce the view that certain ‘indigenous’ modes of expression, such as working-class Glaswegian, are not always held in great esteem by the British literary establishment. In effect, Scottish literature becomes a kind of literature in translation (Gardiner 2004: 101) insofar as it avails itself of expressive modalities and possibilities that depart from mainstream English literature, and appear ‘foreign’ or ‘alien’ to that mainstream, in its use, for example, of a vernacular or Scottish dialect rather than an anglicized English to give voice to the imaginings and concerns of protagonists who hail from another, minority, nation, a nation not (yet) independent of the United Kingdom. This family of nations, as it has come to be known, each with its own traditions, has not always been treated in equal terms in either the political or the literary domain. As Craig (1999: 36) points out, it is rather ‘in defiance of its apparent incorporation into a unitary British culture’ that many Scottish writers continued to imagine through their work Scotland as a self-determining nation. However, the extent to which Kelman is, or considers himself to be, a nationalist or internationalist writer or simply a writer tout court, is a moot point. McGuire (2006: 88) suggests that ‘the relationship between his use of language and the politics of national identity’ is a complex one and Miller and Rodger (2012: 159) point to the fact that Kelman creates ‘an idiosyncratic language which is both literary and adapted to the human expression of each separate individual’. Rather than language being a token of a nationalist identity, it is, in their view, part of a range



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of narrative and linguistic tactics used to subvert authoritarian typologies and metropolitan assumptions of universalism. Yet while perhaps best known for his representations of Scottish, mainly male, working-class protagonists, Kelman is also the author of a work, Translated Accounts, that appears to depart substantially from previous work in that it explicitly, rather than implicitly, deals with translation. This is a novel that purports to be a set of accounts, in translation, of rape and torture in an unnamed territory where martial law is in place. The novel establishes itself as a (fictitious) translation through a Preface that claims that the accounts to follow relate the experiences of ‘three, four or more individuals domiciled in an occupied territory’ (Kelman 2001: ix). Of those responsible for the translations into English from an unidentified source language, some are deemed to be persons not native to the (English) tongue. Some of the translations, it transpires, have been ‘modified by someone of a more senior office’ (ix) before being posted into the computing systems and undergoing some form of ‘computative mediation’ (ix). This 2001 work is evidence of Kelman’s broader interest in translation and in the ways in which particular uses of language impact upon the creation of structures of thought and feeling; how and by whom events are related and stories narrated and the degree to which they are mediated is also a concern. The extent to which technologies of translation in a broad sense are able to do justice to the specificity and complexity of individual lives, and the ethics and limits of narration, would seem to be topics explored in these translated accounts. The choice of ‘account,’ rather than say ‘narrative’ or ‘story’, might suggest a reckoning or justification, an explanation of something alongside a representation, as in ‘to call to account’ or ‘to give an account’. In short, in focusing on the work of Kelman, this chapter will address issues of power in relation to language and language choice and will question the positioning of ‘minority’ literatures in relation to the Anglo-Saxon mainstream. It will point to some of the tensions that have arisen as a result of the expansion of English as a global language or ‘megalanguage’, as Hagemann (2005: 74) puts it. The works of Kelman – as a writer who has grown up in Scotland with a variety of English and who chooses to foreground the consciousness and experience of his mainly working-class characters through use of language inflected with the rhythms, slang and vocabulary of Glasgow – and critical reaction to them, make an interesting case study. Translated Accounts: A Novel (2001) is a particularly intriguing work: in framing it as a (fictional) translation, Kelman directs the reader’s attention to aspects of form that might otherwise have been overlooked

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or dismissed. For as Kelman himself indicates: ‘I suppose it’s impossible to get into Translated Accounts without being aware of formal necessities’ (Gardiner 2004: 102), since the lexical and syntactic dislocation and (at times) the lack of grammatical and semantic coherence, from the default position of a standardized English, demand some kind of explanation or interpretation. As we will see, placing Translated Accounts within a post-colonial and post-structuralist frame brings to the fore aspects of the novel that chime with Kelman’s earlier work in terms of ‘issues of dignity and power’ (Hagemann 2005: 74) and permit further reflection on notions of translation and the politics of language. In the context of ongoing debates about the role of English in an age of globalization, and the politics of language in a post-monolingual era (Yildiz 2012), it is important to reflect on the various translational processes that inform the construction of literary narratives today. At the same time, the kind of narratives produced as a result of these translational processes pose questions about reception and reading publics insofar as they make formal or linguistic demands on the reader by virtue of the fact that they depend on cross-cultural knowledge and sensitivity to nuances of language beyond a standardized form of English. Translation, in this extended sense, has become key to understanding much writing in English today, writing which demands that the reader meet the writer halfway and reject or at least be wary of assumptions of language as a transparent medium giving direct access to the thoughts of the writer or to an unmediated image of the social world constructed in and through the language employed. In effect, language becomes a transgressive medium requiring heightened attention to form.

Towards a post-colonial and post-structuralist account of translation In ‘The Politics of Translation’ Spivak (2004) reflects on what it means to translate in both a narrow and a broader sense and discusses how particular constructions and processes of translation can work to effect particular ideological outcomes. So, for example, she suggests that ‘translation is the most intimate act of reading’ (372) requiring high levels of linguistic and cultural knowledge alongside a kind of patient submission to a text, a process whereby the translator is required to dive deep into a literature and the culture/s out of which it emerged; and to employ strategies that seem to do justice to the text’s intrinsic



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difference and possible incommensurability with prevailing norms in the target culture. Wholesale translation of the literature of the Third World into a kind of translatese or translationese, she writes, ‘so that the literature by a woman in Palestine begins to resemble in the feel of its prose, something by a man in Taiwan’ (372) feels like a betrayal of the inherent difference that inhabits texts that are the product of different histories, social systems and cultural and political values. While Spivak does not specifically mention the terms ‘domestication’ and ‘foreignization’, the tenor of her comments is such as to suggest that when (Western) notions of ‘readability’, ‘accessibility’ and ‘universalism’ are brought into play, the default position becomes a translation that smooths over the politics of difference rather than call attention to it. Conceptualizations of translation that would see it as a theory-free practice of moving across languages and cultures is not neutral in terms of the politics of translation. For ‘[t]ranslation is always an appropriative act; it alters the thing being translated’ (Maan 2007: 413). Translation practices are embroiled in power imbalances and commercial interests, including the direction of translation ‘flow’ into and out of English; what gets translated, by whom and for what purpose. A culture of imperialism and ‘the law of the strongest’ (Spivak 2004: 371) can be seen to dominate translation practices, even in a so-called post-colonial era. Language and rhetorical traditions that seem opaque or require patient labour to contextualize and decipher are flattened out and neutralized in translation and made to fit the expectations of an Anglophone or Western target audience. In a narrow sense, as we have seen, translation can be equated with the rendering of a text in language A into an ‘equivalent’ text in language B. Yet as use of scare quotes around the term ‘equivalent’ flags up, even this seemingly uncontroversial notion needs unpacking and demands further reflection on what might be meant by equivalent in this context and whether this equivalence, assuming it to be possible, is to obtain at the level of individual words and sentences or at the level of discourse and rhetorical patterning or both. And what might be the consequence/s of an erasure or flattening out of cultural difference where the texts in question (‘source’ text and its translation) belong to different historical periods and/or cultural traditions? We might, for example, imagine a post-colonial response to this nexus of questions pointing to ‘the insidious effects of colonial translation’ (Maan 2007: 411) such that difference is collapsed or re-interpreted in favour of the normative cultural and linguistic premises of the colonizer. Indeed what Craig (1999: 19) refers to as ‘a culture of

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erasure’ can, he asserts, be seen in the ways in which Scottish culture has been inscribed as un-relatable and lacking in a coherent and unified narrative vision and national imagination. He goes on to point out, however, that this idea of unity itself is an invention ‘required by a specific phase of the development of the system of nation-states in the global development of modernity, one which has continued to exert enormous influence in British culture precisely to the extent that England has been presented as the most effective example of such a unity’ (Craig 1999: 30). Alongside this self-serving notion of unity, Craig (30) also points to the ‘idea of the nation as founded on linguistic purity and homogeneity’, a linguistic colonialism at odds with the natural diversity and multiplicity of voices to which language gives rise. To narrate aspects of the social world is to represent it in language, to translate an image or an idea of it into words, words that are part of an utterance and as such part of a chain of speech communication. As Bakhtin (1986 [2007]: 98) has indicated: ‘The vast majority of literary genres are secondary, complex genres composed of various transformed primary genres (the rejoinder in dialogue, everyday stories, letters, diaries, minutes, and so forth). As a rule, these secondary genres of complex cultural communication play out various forms of primary speech communication.’ What Bakhtin’s discussion of literary genres points to is the way that words do not exist in isolation, nor are they the sole property of particular individuals, but are parts of sometimes quite complex utterances; the utterances are in turn part of ‘a link in the chain of speech communication’ (93). It is the social nature of language, imbued as it is with the overtones and undertones of other speakers’ intentions ‘with varying degrees of foreignness’, (93) that comes to the fore. In this sense, no speaker or writer comes fresh to language but rather employs it within the context of their utterance, which in turn is shaped to a degree by generic conventions. Bakhtin’s work flags up not only the social and dynamic nature of language but also the extent to which particular types of text speak to each other. It also points to the complex and multiplanar dimensions of novelistic utterances (93). In terms of concepts of translation, Bakhtin’s work has strong implications both in the sense that it shows how language is embedded in social and cultural networks that circumscribe but do not determine meaning; and in the sense that insofar as it is the utterance, rather than the word or the sentence, that constitutes a unit of language, it is at this level that translation needs to operate. So alongside the question of the consequences of an erasure or flattening



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out of cultural difference in relation to translation, whereby a ‘foreign’ text is ‘domesticated’, that is to say translated in such a way as to conform to target cultural norms, is the question of a failure to appreciate the co-existence of different varieties of literary language within a particular ‘source’ culture. For Kelman’s detractors, presentation of his characters is in a ‘foreign’ tongue or indigenous variety of English that they deem unworthy of serious literary appreciation. Rather than engage with difference, whether it be linguistic or formal, in terms for example, of Kelman’s narrative techniques, their preference would be for a more ‘domesticated’ language, that is, one that turns towards and re-inscribes the literary norms of the centre, in this case, those of the English literary establishment. What is at stake here is a view of language and of literary creativity premised on monolingualism and monocultural norms that stand in opposition both to the realities of plurilingualism and dialectal variation and to the differing cultural and ideological contexts which help to shape and sustain literary traditions. It also overlooks the fact, following Bakhtin and others such as Kristeva, that often the so-called ‘source’ text is itself the product of sustained engagement on the part of the writer with other texts and influences that have been appropriated and absorbed in the creation of the ‘new’ textual entity. Writers rarely, if ever, write in a complete cultural and linguistic vacuum, even if some of the discourses around ‘creativity’ and ‘originality’ posit such an unlikely state of affairs; many writers are also very careful and responsive readers of text, absorbing at all kinds of levels, both conscious and unconscious, the lessons and craft of writers past and present (Doloughan 2012). Of course they tend to operate significant transformations on the material they appropriate and adapt, internalizing it such that a new text is created from an innovative weaving of threads both ancient and modern. Readers, too, tend to represent to themselves or ‘translate’ the text they are reading in terms of their prior experience of texts to date: what they consider bold and experimental or exotic or simply a good read is likely to be a factor of exposure to certain types of text as well as a matter of cultural preference and personal taste. Translation in the sense in which it has just been invoked is a much more diffuse and seemingly unending process of textual transformation which is, to varying degrees, true for all acts of writing and reading both within and beyond a particular language and culture or set of cultures. For Spivak (2004: 375), it is important that the ‘history of the language, the history of the author’s moment, the history of the language-in-and-as-translation, must figure in the [textual]

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weaving as well’. This is a much denser and more culturally and historically situated view of what translation is and what it requires than is suggested by a narrow and seemingly transparent view of rendering a text in language A into language B. Spivak’s focus on the politics of translation and notions of gendered agency in respect of texts from different periods and different cultures brings to the fore the role of conceptualizations of translation in framing the task of the translator as s/he resists or submits to textual difference and renders it in translation. It is difficult to resist seeing struggles over language and concepts of creativity as part and parcel of other allied debates on notions of readability, accessibility, translatability and linguistic power. As Apter (2006) points out, if there has been a tendency in the academy and elsewhere to separate into particular domains, such as linguistics, sociology and literature, debates on language wars and ethnicity; the fate of minority languages in the face of globalization; and issues revolving around canon formation and the constitution of world literature, it has not been by chance. Categorization, regulation and policing of the extent and scope of particular fields of study ensure that the ‘complication of binary models’ is overlooked or relegated to a minority pursuit. Yet for Apter (2006: 140), it is precisely in the coming together of these domains and related issues that we can begin to move beyond a ‘binarized cartography (major-minor/ metropole-periphery/global-local, etc.)’ in trying to understand non-Western forms of expression in a global context. ‘The challenge’, she writes, ‘will be to show how language wars and reading wars have revolutionized the protocols of readability and transformed the terms of response to Sartre’s famous question “What is Literature?”’ (148). In other words, Apter is suggesting that questions about what constitutes literature, including literature in translation, must be read today in the light of shifting and contested notions of accessibility, readability and translatability at a time when producers and readers of literature cannot be assumed to be monolingual and/or monocultural, and where literatures in English may already be the product of multiple translations.

Reception of Kelman’s work Despite receiving critical, if not general, acclaim, Kelman’s work has tended to generate controversy, with one judge on the Booker panel in 1994 threatening to resign, while a conservative critic accused Kelman of ‘literary vandalism’



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(Lyall 1994). For Kelman, such evaluations relate to questions of cultural and linguistic imperialism, whereby certain varieties of a living language are debased and viewed as inferior to a standard imposed by the centre. On the occasion of making his acceptance speech at the Booker ceremony, Kelman took the opportunity to make clear the politics of language and the literary tradition with which his work engages. There is a literary tradition to which I hope my work belongs. I see it as part of a much wider process, or movement towards decolonisation and selfdetermination: it is a tradition that assumes two things, 1) the validity of indigenous culture, and 2) the right to defend it in the face of attack. It is a tradition premised on a rejection of the cultural values of imperial or colonial authority, offering a defence against cultural assimilation […] my culture and my language have the right to exist, and no one has the authority to dismiss that right. (Kelman 1994, cited in Miller and Rodger 2012: 161)

In interview with journalist Decca Aitkenhead in 2012 after publication of Mo Said She Was Quirky, Kelman returned to the ways in which language is differentially evaluated and used to position writers in respect of a norm, literary or otherwise: ‘Writers who are using phrasing and rhythm and grammar in a different way from the standard English literary form – in other words, trying to capture language as it is used by their own community – well it’s a form of English, but it’s inferiorised. It gets pigeon-holed as, at best, vernacular literature.’ Kelman makes clear here his refusal to conform to any kind of literary or linguistic standard imposed by external arbiters of taste and rejects interference in matters of grammar and punctuation. He rejects the pigeon-holing of language that creates linguistic hierarchies according to social and political interests. He prefers in his fiction to give voice to individuals within segments of society that are often disenfranchised or marginalized and to present them in such a manner that the reader can empathize with them and come to understand their experience of reality. Yet, in respect, for example, of a proposal to translate James Kelman’s 1994 Booker prize-winning novel, How Late it Was, How Late, into Polish, there appears to have been a good deal of resistance on the part of a large publishing house in Cracow (Korzeniowska 2010). Korzeniowska discusses the possible reasons for this, including commercial viability, the challenges of translating ‘Scottish accents and language varieties’ (7) into Polish and the perception that Kelman’s work is difficult ‘in a market that demands escapism’ (4). At the

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same time, the article points to the success that fellow Scot Irvine Welsh’s work has met with in Poland and tries to understand why Kelman’s work might pose more of a challenge. In this regard, Korzeniowska mentions a Cracow critic’s review of How Late it Was, How Late which foregrounded the difference between critical and general acclaim, the inference being that Kelman’s work might not be for everyone. The article goes on to discuss Kelman’s work more generally in relation to his linguistic experiments and his ‘vivid but intellectually demanding form of presentation’ (5), acknowledging that some of Kelman’s themes, of helplessness in the face of bureaucracy, alienation, and the nature of totalitarianism, may be disturbing to a Polish readership in that they are rather too familiar. Insofar as he treats some matters ‘close to many a Polish heart’ (7), it might be thought that his work would find a ready readership but it appears that the difficulties likely to be posed in terms of readability and accessibility militated against acceptance of such a translation proposal.

How Late it Was, How Late The controversy surrounding Kelman’s Booker prize-winning 1994 novel, How Late it Was, How Late, serves to underline the extent to which some of the issues treated in this monograph go well beyond the notion of ‘translation’ as extending to works written by those for whom English is an additional or second language, since Kelman is of course a writer who grew up with English. Indeed, part of what is being discussed throughout the monograph is the extent to which English is being deterritorialized as a consequence of the fact that it is no longer the preserve of so-called native speakers of English or of those institutions, bodies or groups of individuals who would seek to regulate its usage. What was highlighted by the extent of the opprobrium and censure surrounding How Late it Was, How Late, notwithstanding the recognition it received in winning the Booker prize, is the extent to which certain forms of English continue to generate strong reactions, regardless of whether they come from other parts of the globe or from within primarily English-speaking domains. In an article looking again at Kelman’s 1994 novel in the light of comments made by Kelman in 2008 in response to an interviewer’s question about whether the novel was likely to generate the same degree of criticism today as it did at the time it was first published, Gearhart (2010) points to Kelman’s broader concerns, as well as to relevant aspects of his novel. She points, for example,



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to the fact that for Kelman ‘institutions continue to play an integral role in the internalisation of class in Britain’ (Gearhart 2010: 77): the education system helps to ensure that people know their place in society and language continues to be a marker of identity and social location. Gearhart sees How Late it Was, How Late as centrally concerned with ‘identity, institutions, language, and representation’ (77) and as such is worthy of revisiting in terms of its narrative technique, its themes and its reception. Essentially, her argument is that Kelman’s novel incorporates a critique of the blindness of ‘authority’ to the subjective experience of those unable to articulate their perspective in more ‘objective’ or formal modes; she sees the novel as prescient about its own harsh treatment in terms of non-conformity to ‘the rules governing linguistic and financial markets’ (80). As Gearhart points out, the extent to which Sammy is taken seriously and/or is believed by those determining his case is, to a large extent, a factor of his ability to represent himself in ‘appropriate’ language. It is precisely his ability to represent himself in his own words that the novel problematizes: ‘Vacillating between first, second, and third person narration, the style is difficult to categorize, as disagreement over what to call Kelman’s narrative technique suggests’ (79). What Gearhart is getting at is the fact that presentation of Sammy in the narrative is complex and the various degrees of narratorial mediation mirror the ways in which communication in the wider world is always a factor of mediational processes regulated by culturally defined ‘rules’, the bases for which are not always transparent. The extent to which the reader ‘hears’ Sammy’s voice or that of the narrator, and the extent to which there is a kind of convergence of the two perspectives, requires close attention to form. In addition, what the novel demonstrates is the way in which authority positions Sammy and the extent to which it is his language rather than his condition (i.e. his blindness) that is addressed. So, for example, in talking to the police, Gearhart (86) indicates that ‘Sammy must be reminded to “keep an eye on the auld words” because he has not yet completely internalised linguistic discipline’. This ‘linguistic discipline’ is precisely one of the issues being raised by Kelman. What Jones (2012: 79) refers to as Kelman’s ‘uncompromising vernacular which forces the reader to see the world from the point of view of his all-male cast of protagonists’ in How Late it Was, How Late is at the same time part of ‘a radical stylistic innovation’ (80) whereby there is slippage between internal and external worlds. In other words, Kelman uses modernist narrative techniques to move from ‘an alienated interiority to third person objective description to direct

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expression’ (81) in the first paragraph of the novel. Jones looks at the achievements of a number of Scottish writers, including Kelman, Alasdair Gray and A. L. Kennedy, positing a connection among them in terms of their ‘commitment to a politics of representation which involves challenging complacent ways of seeing and portraying the world’ (84). Art becomes ‘an occasion of contestation – of meaning and interpretation’ (85) for writers who are not content to be labelled and categorized according to dominant or established literary norms. Rather, she sees Kelman’s literary experimentation as ‘politically motivated, expressive of an ethical impulse to represent the marginalised and the outsider and give space to their suppressed voices’ (82). As can be seen, ‘voice’, language and modes of narrative representation are not simply aesthetic choices but also have profound political implications. Reactions to Kelman’s work are indicative of this politics of representation. In essence, Kelman translates Sammy’s world and experience into a vernacular that is close to the kind of language such a character might be expected to use. However, this is not so much social realism as what Jones (2012) refers to as ‘post-meta-modern-realism’, an expression she uses to point to the ways in which writers like Kelman use narrative techniques to critique assumptions about form and function. If in the past, working-class characters were given stretches of dialogue to display their social and regional characteristics, Kelman’s narrative technique presents Sammy as a man with an inner life – he reflects on his relationship with his girlfriend Helen, now missing; he thinks about his parents and his son, Peter – and with a determination to ‘batter on’ despite all the obstacles, both literal and metaphoric, placed in his way. His suspicion of authority is motivated and comprehensible, given his treatment at the hands of the police, the Department of Social Security (DSS) and the medical authorities. The difference in language and in register between the receptionist (‘La Di Da’) and Sammy, and between Sammy and the doctor, is instructive. In both cases, they treat him as though he is able to see, even when he has come about ‘sightloss’. They also use questions and responses to cast doubt on what he has said or to be non-committal. In the case of the receptionist, she is very officious and responds in such a way as to make Sammy feel as if she is doing him a favour. After he has finally managed to get an appointment, she tells him to take his appointment card which, of course, he can’t see. However, he feels as if he has achieved something in getting an appointment: ‘These wee victories; ye’ve got to celebrate them’ (125). So he rolls a cigarette and thinks about going for a pint, a reward for having successfully negotiated the system.



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In respect of Sammy’s consultation with the doctor (217–26), what comes to the fore is the difference in power and the way in which the doctor ‘interrogates’ Sammy about his sight loss, ostensibly trying to establish the ‘facts’. The doctor’s measured breathing contrasts with Sammy’s nervousness; the doctor tells him to try and relax (219). As the doctor moves around him, all Sammy hears are ‘whooshing’ noises. On the basis of Sammy’s lack of reaction, the doctor is later able to say: ‘Well, Mister eh Samuels … in respect of the visual stimuli it would appear you were unable to respond’ (219). There are a number of points to be made here: the doctor’s hesitation with respect to Sammy’s name (‘Mister eh Samuels’) is indicative of the lack of personal connection between doctor and patient. Even though it transpires later that the doctor has had access to Sammy’s file, the manner in which the consultation is managed emphasizes social and professional distance and a lack of interpersonal consideration and engagement. The choice of language used (‘visual stimuli presented’) and the caution with which judgements are made (e.g. ‘it would appear’), reinforces the gulf between doctor and patient. This reaches a climax when Sammy tries to establish whether his condition is likely to be permanent or temporary. Eh I was just wondering … Yes? D’ye think this is temporary? What? y eyes. Your eyes? I’m talking about this being blind, if ye think it’s gony be temporary or what? I’m afraid I can’t answer that. But I would advise you to exercise patience. Are you prone to psychological or nervous disorders?

The doctor throws Sammy’s language back at him, as if not understanding what he means, such that Sammy is forced to be more explicit. The doctor then refers to notes in his file that indicate that Sammy experienced panic attacks in the past after a man he knew was found dead. Sammy explains that this was due to the circumstances at the time. The doctor suggests that Sammy is ‘disputing Doctor Crozier’s assessment’ (222) and launches into a long stretch of discourse in the course of which he advises Sammy ‘to adjust to the physical reality’ (222). Later in the consultation, Sammy returns to the issue of whether the doctor believes his condition to be permanent or temporary but fails to get a satisfactory answer. The doctor’s response is to indicate that the consultation

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is at an end: ‘Mister Samuels, I have people waiting to see me’ (225). Sammy’s frustration and rage boil over and he gives the doctor an earful before heading for the door. However, because he can’t see, he bangs into something and falls over. He only manages to exit when Ally, the person who wanted to represent him, comes through the door. The fact that Ally manages to get a signature from the doctor with respect to Sammy’s referral shows that it is important to have people acting on your behalf, people who know how the system works, since an individual acting alone is unlikely to be able to negotiate it. If I have examined parts of the doctor–patient consultation in detail, it is because it represents in miniature Sammy’s experience with those in authority: the burden of proof seems to lie with Sammy to show that he is, in fact, blind. The assumption on the part of the authorities seems to be that this is some ruse on Sammy’s part to claim compensation and/or receive disability payment. The difference in power between Sammy and the doctor is reflected in differences of language. Yet such is the lack of engagement on the doctor’s part and such is the evidence in favour of Sammy’s claim that the reader cannot but feel sorry for him and understand his sense of frustration. Kelman manages to reproduce in his prose the kinds of conversational moves typical of doctor–patient interactions, albeit in a slightly exaggerated and parodic form. The encounter starts off with Sammy being polite and trying to extract information on his condition from the professional; the doctor looks at case notes, asks all kinds of questions about Sammy’s health and family history, examines him briefly and writes out a prescription for ‘stress’ and an ointment to apply to his bruises caused by the police beating. The question of his blindness has not been established; rather Sammy’s ‘subjective condition’, as it is characterized by the authorities (Gearhart 2010: 83), is dismissed. Throughout the novel, the encounters that Sammy has with those in authority illustrate the extent to which his mistrust is justified. The police hold him for questioning over a weekend before his eye appointment, partly intimidatory tactics, partly trying to get information from him. But Sammy holds out: he knows how to keep his own counsel. What comes across in the novel above all is Sammy’s humanity. While clearly a flawed character – he has after all spent time in prison for criminal activity and is always on the lookout for opportunities to enhance his unemployment benefit – there is a sense in which his determined negotiation of his new situation is quite heroic. He falters on occasion and finds himself ‘greeting’ (crying) but most of the time he just carries on. The novel ends with his decision to leave Glasgow where he feels ‘surrounded’ and where things



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are closing in on him, both literally and metaphorically, and head for England. He tells his son that he’ll let him know where he is once he gets settled. In this sense the novel is open-ended: will Sammy get away and start a new phase of life or will it be more of the same in a new location? The final sentence relates the final leg by taxi of Sammy’s cat-and-mouse journey from his housing scheme by way of a pub called the Swan, where his son hands over some cash, to the station: ‘Sammy slung in the bag and stepped inside, then the door slammed shut and that was him, out of sight’ (Kelman 1995: 374). The final expression ‘out of sight’ reverberates in a number of ways: Sammy has managed to get away from those who may be following him, without leaving a trail. In this sense, he is ‘out of sight’; but, arguably, Sammy has always been invisible to those in power or not taken seriously. He has lived on the margins of society and will most likely continue to do so.

Translated Accounts As already indicated, Kelman’s 2001 novel, Translated Accounts, is a work that purports to be a translation, while clearly indicating on the cover that it is a novel, or work of fiction. The question arises of what a novelist, short-story writer and essayist might be attempting to achieve by designing his piece of fiction to resemble a work in translation. Just as many translators have a preface in which they explain the context of translation and point to any translation issues and/or the basis on which their decision making at the macro-level proceeded, so Translated Accounts starts with a Preface in which the reader is given some basic information about the translated text to follow; and the translation practices are explained. The Preface is clearly important in setting up expectations and, in a sense, setting out an agenda. Given Kelman’s comments in interview with Michael Gardiner (2004) about having to take account of formal necessities in getting to grips with the work, I shall begin by looking carefully at questions of form before moving on to reflect on how the shape of the work might impact upon the substance and the inter-relationship between form and content. There are a number of features of the Preface which strike the reader: first, insistence on the fact that these accounts are sourced from three, four or more individuals; however, the identity and location of these individuals is ‘not available’ (Kelman 2001: ix). We know that they occupy a land ‘where a form

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of martial law appears in operation’ (ix) but as to why this might be or where it is, we are not told. A second feature of the Preface worthy of comment is the fact that much is related in the passive voice and/or employs impersonal expressions: ‘A disciplined arrangement […] has been undertaken’; ‘titles […] were so assigned’; ‘It is confirmed that […]’. The suppression of the ‘agent’ in the passive constructions has the effect of suggesting agentless processes or nameless systems rather than human agency. The whole tenor of the Preface is such that these apparently first-hand accounts appear to have been operated on via processes of transcription, translation and modification at various levels of mediation and control. The human hand has been subordinated to a systems approach. The accounts, we are told, have been ordered and regulated not entirely in accordance with chronology but rather in response to ‘variable ordering motions integral to the process of mediation’ (ix) and as a consequence of ‘other factors’. What these other factors might be, we do not know. The Preface also refers to the fact that some stretches of text have not always emerged in a comprehensible form from ‘computative mediation’ (ix) but have been left as they are. It draws particular attention to account number 5 entitled ‘¿FODocument’. Account number 5 is one of 54 accounts of varying length collected in the book. The titles of these accounts vary from one-word titles (e.g. ‘bodies’; ‘endplace’; ‘thought’) to descriptions of genre (e.g. ‘homecoming stories’; ‘letter fragments’; ‘letter to widow, unfinished’) to clauses (e.g. ‘if under false pretences’; ‘if I may speak’; ‘if she screamed’) and statements or affirmations (e.g. ‘I do not go to his country’; ‘history must exist for colleagues’; ‘censure is not expulsion’). Because the syntax (e.g. I listened trying) and use of lexis (e.g. securitys) is not always conventional and sometimes has a foreignizing effect, it draws attention to itself at times and requires an effort to decipher. In addition to syntactic and lexical departures from a standardized form of English, the inclusion of typographic devices, symbols, numerals and different scripts to disrupt the textual patterning compels the reader to attend to aspects of the work that s/he might otherwise ignore on reading a more conventional or immersive narrative. The narrative accounts are transgressive in a number of ways both formal and substantive. In terms of what Kelman has referred to as its formal necessities, the fact that the language is non-standard and the narrative voices neither clear in number nor clearly differentiated, demands a different kind of reading and poses questions about language and meaning-making. The reader is forced to ‘pull back’ and consider aspects of design in relation to the conveyance and construction of meaning and the



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conventions of storytelling. I’ll start by describing the formal characteristics of these narrative accounts. The 54 accounts vary in length, from a page, as in account number 52 (‘spectral body’), to account number 5 (‘¿FODocument’) which is 25 pages in length. ‘spectral body’, number 52, is an account in the first person that appears to relate the musings of a man who is uncertain whether the hand laid against his back is human or spectral, alive or dead, a spirit departing; or whether the person watching him is friend or foe. The narrator claims to be no killer of children, a statement made in the context of a situation where ‘securitys’, supposedly there for protection, may in fact be killers. Children appear and disappear: ‘they go and return, not seen, we do not see them unless they make us so, also spectral’ (Kelman 2001: 316). Yet the switch from ‘securitys’ (they) to ‘we’ makes the reader wonder if the narrator is innocent of killing or if perhaps he is not haunted by the spirits of those he may have killed. What is created in this account is a sense of uncertainty, a suggestion of dark deeds, of spying and surveillance; of unidentified bodies in the darkness; of the moment when breath is taken from people as they die; and of dead spirits roaming in the darkness. In account number 5, ‘¿FODocument’, referred to in the Preface, the narrative is interspersed with symbols and typographic scripts, with the result that it is difficult to read and to establish coherence. It appears to relate the story of a man who witnesses the murder by security personnel of another man whose death they will try to pass off as suicide. Out of fear for his own life, as the curfew approaches, he indicates the house he is making for, and which he has seen two people enter, knowing that the security personnel will follow him. Not long after entering the house, there is a banging at the door and security personnel demand entry. The narrator, who is holding a baby in an attempt to pretend that this is his family, is relieved of the baby and asked to step outside, while the women, children and an old man remain inside. ‘Now the shooting was at crescendo level, old rifles and bayonets’ (Kelman 2001: 42), the text says, as the residents are killed by security personnel. The final two pages of the account degenerate into typographical symbols and blank space, interspersed with some comprehensible phrases such as ‘if we may speak’. The words are presented typographically in such a way – they are run together, misspelt and repeated – that they are defamiliarized and look like code rather than recognizable and meaningful words (‘ifwemaysppeakwemayspeak’). In terms of formal features, the fact that the account ends with the recurrence of a typographical symbol or dingbat suggesting a blank page devoid of human utterance might indicate

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that the horror is beyond expression. The fragmentation of a human utterance and the constant repetition of particular phrases and expressions might be seen as reflecting what Apter (2006) elsewhere refers to as the language of damaged experience. Use of nonstandard English can be seen as ‘the expression of traumatic survival’ (Apter 2006: 147) or a language that transliterates the ‘psychic damage of war’ (145). Given that some of these accounts relate to murder, torture and rape and that there is an oppressive atmosphere in many of them, reflective of life in a state under martial law, it is perhaps not surprising that there is much syntactic fragmentation and a-grammaticality. Yet the fact remains that there are different ways to establish horror or psychic damage and Kelman seems to use typography and translation (into English from an unknown language or languages) to do so. Given his prior experience as a writer who tries to construct a sense of the psychic reality of his mainly Scottish characters in a language with vernacular or indigenous accents and who blurs the boundaries between character and narrator, Translated Accounts is both a continuation of his interest in narrative technique in terms of ‘orally inflected interior monologue’ (Apter 2006: 153) and a new departure in terms of its employment of an English wilfully foreign to itself. In discussing the work of the ‘New Scotologists’, Apter (2006: 152) interestingly characterizes what writers like Kelman, Irvine Welsh, Iain Banks and Duncan McLean are trying to do in terms of the invention of ‘an edgy, contemporary idiom orthographically transposed into what often seems to be another language, or at the very least a pseudo- or intralingual (English to English) translation’. Such a characterization would seem to support the idea that Kelman is continuing to examine aspects of translation, albeit in a very different context. The extent to which everything is translatable and/or the question of the limits of translatability may be one of the issues being imaginatively explored here by Kelman. In examining this issue, Apter (2006) points to two tendencies that appear to be going hand in hand today: one has to do with technology, the other with ‘linguistic neo-imperialism’ (230) or the spread of English. However, as technology makes it easier for languages other than English to be represented on the internet and given the interplay of English and other languages, what is being presented or represented is ‘some form of lingua franca housed in a Turing machine’ (232). In other words, human communication today, heavily mediated as it is by technology, and situated, as it often is, globally rather than locally, is taking on some strange shapes or spectral forms. Whether this be viewed



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in terms of linguistic singularity or deviancy is a moot point. In Translated Accounts there is a sense in which both of these tendencies are in evidence: the degeneration of language into incomprehensible code; yet through the systemic failures and syntactic and lexical disruptions, human voices can still be heard. There is a human ghost in the technologically engineered machine that haunts the prose and cannot be silenced. At the same time, it is as if the reader learns to read differently and otherwise; the human is recovered or continues to exist even in the face of tyranny, torture and oppression. The human is translatable, despite the obfuscation. In account number 6, ‘a statement’, it looks as if a man, watching two others, from the shadows, is lured into an alleyway by a young woman on the promise of sex; he is killed and the narrator is present at his demise; the narrator later takes up with the woman. While the situation is not totally clear, what comes through is a sense of entrapment, of danger and risks taken, of ‘operations’ in which human frailty is exploited. The narrator comments in respect of his own actions: ‘If I am to say if that it was the girl, it was she decided this action of myself. If it is shameful, what is shameful. What more. No more is to be said. The girl was not into my mind. Later, if it became so’ (Kelman 2001: 49). Constructions with ‘if ’ are employed relatively frequently in the accounts. Depending on the context in which ‘if ’ is used in English, it can suggest a condition to be met before something happens or transpires, such as in the sentence ‘if it’s sunny tomorrow, we’ll drive to the coast’; or, as in the case of ‘if we may speak’ in account number 5, for example, ‘if ’ has an ambivalent status: it could be a request to speak, equivalent to something like ‘if you wouldn’t mind letting me speak’ or an indication that something needs to be said about a state of affairs, if and when the opportunity presents itself. In the context of account 6, the structure seems to reveal a thought process on the part of the narrator who may be prevaricating or indicating the conditions under which he is operating, that is, a situation where it is not possible to speak of what is happening. In any case, ‘if ’ posits something which may or may not be true, may or may not happen/have happened. It also leaves the door open to the expression ‘What if …?’ – the possibility that in saying or doing something, the results might be different. What is clear from the above discussion is the fact that while the language used by Kelman in Translated Accounts is English, it is an English that has been dislocated or made strange to itself. The ability to ‘make standard language strange to itself ’ (Apter 2006: 211) is one that Apter discusses further in connection with her chapter on ‘Translation

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with No Original: Scandals of Textual Reproduction’. In this chapter, she reviews some of the history of pseudo- or fictitious translation, reflecting on the overall tendencies and evaluations of such a practice and looking at what particular writers might have been attempting to achieve by this. She makes a number of points worth recalling here. The first has to do with expectations about translation and a presumed relationship between source text or text of origin and target text or translated text. Apter takes issue with assumptions of fidelity and the implication that any wilful departure from a source text is of necessity a bad or deceitful thing. But her focus in this chapter is on the ethics of such a situation and on the positioning of the reader in terms of entering ‘a netherworld of “translatese”’ (212) or being ‘confronted with a situation in which the translation “mislays” the original, absconding to some “other” world of textuality that retains the original only as a fictive pretext’ (212). In either case, what is at stake is the status of translation itself. In other words, texts that are premised on a translational process but that turn out, in fact, not to be translations but inventions lent legitimation by virtue of their status as translations, point to the assumptions underlying processes and objects of translation. In the case of Kelman’s Translated Accounts, there is no hint of deception on the part of an author trying to pass his own work off as a translation insofar as the cover makes clear that this is a novel. This is not a piece of fiction which knowingly tries to persuade an unwitting public that it is in reality a translation. If there is disguise or pretence, the reader is in on it, at least to an extent. At the same time, the kind of fictional text that draws on ‘translatese’ or endeavours to give the impression of being in translation raises questions both about the language and status of fiction and about the role and positioning of translation. Within literary history, as Apter (2006) points out, there are many reasons why pseudo-translation or fictitious translations have been employed. It may be that a work in translation has greater latitude than fiction produced within national parameters insofar as it can bypass domestic presumptions and concerns. What might not be tolerated at home, ‘passes’ by virtue of its ‘foreign’, or even exotic, status. Works in translation can also help to expand what is deemed acceptable in a literature or can bring into a culture new ideas and modes of expression. Translation can also bring to light neglected or ‘rediscovered’ texts by making them available to new audiences. Apter discusses some infamous cases in her chapter on texts whose real origins are fictitious but that claim to be translations (e.g. Les Chansons de Bilitis by Louÿs and Rexroth’s supposed translations from the Japanese of erotic poems by Marichiko), interpreting them as successful



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fabrications and reproductions of code. Rexroth, for example, she sees as profiting from a Western interest in things Japanese and Oriental; in his poetry he is able to ‘perform’ Japanese erotic verse in translation and ventriloquize a female voice. As Apter (2006: 221) puts it: ‘In fabricating a text out of the codes of “Japaneseness”-in-translation, Rexroth […] experimented with the literary equivalent of cloning from code’. She sees Rexroth as being concerned with art’s reproducibility in the same way as Benjamin was concerned with a text’s translatability. For it is in translation that the afterlife of a work is assured; and it is in translation that a work can come to fulfil some of the potentialities latent in its ‘original’ existence. So what might Kelman be trying to achieve in positioning his work of fiction as a work in translation? There are a number of possible responses to this question that arise from earlier discussions and contextualizations. This is a work that appeared in the early part of the twenty-first century at a moment when English was already beginning to consolidate its position as a lingua franca. We also know that Kelman is sensitive to the ways in which certain varieties of English garner greater respect or have more status than others. He is acutely aware of the fact that ‘[p]eople who control the way we should speak have no accent’ (Gray et al. 2003: 586) or at least believe themselves to be ‘accent free’. In other words, there is a kind of default position with respect to spoken and written English that marginalizes anything that falls outside of normative standardized English. In addition, given that Kelman’s work, alongside that of Alasdair Gray, has been regarded as ‘to a large extent an aesthetic critique of politically and culturally oppressive mechanisms’ (Gray et al. 2003: 568), we might see Translated Accounts as yet another example of this. Such a view of course raises in its turn the nature of the aesthetic critique in evidence in this work. If one of Kelman’s goals is to subvert the standard narrative voice in English and to move away from the voice of an author or narrator towards a collision of voices (568), then it is also possible to see Translated Accounts as an extreme example of such a narrative subversion. This narrative subversion is all the more effective or at least evident because it departs substantially from the kind of voices that Kelman has been associated with up until that point. Comparison of the opening paragraph of How Late it Was, How Late and analysis of a section of ‘bodies’, the first account in Kelman’s 2001 work, will serve to point to some differences in style and tone. How Late it Was, How Late begins thus:

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Ye wake in a corner and stay there hoping yer body will disappear, the thoughts smothering ye; these thoughts; but ye want to remember and face up to things, just something keeps ye from doing it, why can ye no do it; the words filling yer head: then the other words; there’s something wrong; there’s something far, far wrong; ye’re no a good man, ye’re just no a good man. Edging back into awareness of where ye are: here, slumped in this corner, with these thoughts filling ye. And oh Christ his back was sore; stiff and the head pounding. He shivered and hunched up his shoulders, shut his eyes, rubbed into the corners with his fingertips; seeing all kinds of spots and lights. Where in the name of fuck … (Kelman 1995: 1)

This is the reader’s introduction to the world of Sammy Samuels. What strikes the reader to begin with is the use of ‘ye’ and ‘yer’ in the opening sentences, a choice of pronoun and narrative voice that lends an immediacy to what is happening – Sammy coming round after having been out drinking, trying to determine his location and what has happened to him. It helps to situate the protagonist as someone from a particular background, before a switch to the third person towards the end of the paragraph alerts us to the fact that there is a narrator at work. The narrator’s presence is low-key and for much of the narrative the reader is scarcely aware of this narratorial presence because s/he has the illusion of seeing the world through Sammy’s eyes and having (more or less) unmediated access to his thoughts. The choice of ‘ye’, a second-person pronoun, to open the novel is interesting in a number of respects. It is a somewhat ambivalent pronoun in the sense that a second-person pronoun can substitute for ‘I’, the first-person pronoun, and/or suggest a sense of dislocation, as if someone is watching themselves act in or engage with the world. At the same time, use of ‘ye’ renders Sammy’s consciousness: it’s as if he is talking to himself or thinking aloud and we are privy to his thoughts. Just as Sammy is examining himself to see what damage has been done and trying to orientate himself, so the reader is trying to get to grips with the compass points of the narrative. A bridge from second to third-person narrative is provided by the sentence: ‘And oh Christ his back was sore; stiff and the head pounding’ (1). This stretch of free indirect discourse is reflective of a manner of articulation typical of Sammy – ‘oh Christ’ – yet the grammar – ‘his back’ and use of a past tense, ‘was’ – is indicative of a narratorial presence. The next paragraph gives more details about where he is, leaning against some railings, sitting on ‘a wee bed of grassy reeds’ wearing trainers that he doesn’t recognize; and surprised to find that he has on his good trousers, now



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with stains down them, rather than his jeans. The choice of dialect words and structures (e.g. ‘auld’; ‘wee’; ‘werenay’) together with examples of interior monologue (e.g. ‘they were fucking missing man know what I’m saying, somebody must have blagged them, miserable bastards, what chance ye got’ (1)) permits the reader further access to Sammy’s thoughts and world. Whereas How Late it Was, How Late gives a clear sense of the social and economic location of the main protagonist and uses the vernacular both to peg Sammy to a particular environment – working-class Glasgow – and to refract aspects of his consciousness, the beginning of ‘bodies’ in Translated Accounts has a different ‘feel’. There were bodies strewn throughout the building. I had to reach other rooms and it was so very difficult to walk, having to step over them, and it was so very dark the shapes hardly visible, whether any of these were familiar I could not say, could not stop, but had to reach this one individual, acquaintance, this man who was closer to enemy than friend, I was to save him. But perhaps he preferred not so to be saved, that I should leave him to die. I could not help him in that. I would do as so determined, only that. I was representative.

Both the kind of world represented here and the manner of its representation are different to the tone and tenor of the world of How Late it Was, How Late. While Sammy’s existence is bleak, particularly so after he realizes he has gone blind following a beating by some plain-clothes policemen, as a result of which, negotiating his world becomes difficult in the extreme, the state of affairs presented in Translated Accounts is even more oppressive: in ‘bodies’ it is dark and the narrator has to move from room to room by stepping over bodies. The separation of the words ‘individual’ and ‘acquaintance’ represented in the text by means of spacing is suggestive of someone having to literally step over a body or bodies. The first-person narrator-protagonist has a goal or mission: to reach a particular individual who appears to be dying and save him. While the syntax in this section of the account is comprehensible, even here questions arise: for example, when the narrator says, ‘I was representative’, we wonder: of what or of whom was he [a] representative? There is frequent use of ‘so’ in different contexts, a device which has the effect of creating quite a formal, slightly stilted English (e.g. ‘And they asked us things, certainly they did so.’ ‘If misrepresentation, there has been so, I have been exhausted and the times, evil.’). Connections within as well as between sentences are not always clear

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(e.g. ‘I could say if this was reality. It is over. No charges were laid against me’); it is a struggle to make meaning. In the second example above, the pronominal reference – ‘it’ – is unclear as is the nature of the links between sentences. In account number 4, ‘one of many’, the syntax is particularly awkward. It tells of the arrival of a red-haired woman, carrying a bundle or parcel, with a child on her back and of the narrator observing her and feeling some attraction. He wonders if she is afraid of him and comments: ‘This place where we were, horrible things, events leaving their sign. Yes, these then are signs of existence. Their existence. Some are material’ (Kelman 2001: 18). It is possible to extract the gist of what is related and to understand that terrible things have happened in this place and left a trace. The fragmentation and lack of coherence, at least in respect of neighbouring sentences, is almost a signal of the dehumanizing impact of events and their consequences in relation to: ‘weakening our spirits, yes, we were weakened spirits, this is how I can say it’ (18). The account ends with an acknowledgement of the likely disappearance of the red-headed woman and the narrator’s inability or unwillingness to say or know (the text is ambivalent) what has happened to her. It is of course possible to multiply such examples. Suffice to say, however, that Translated Accounts requires of the reader patience in engaging with a foreignizing text and a willingness to learn to read it. Some readers will certainly ask themselves whether it is worth investing in such a text when it demands so much effort and appears inaccessible or uninviting; others may wonder what the point might be. What may be at stake is the question of how to represent terror and trauma and what the limits of such representation might be. Equally it is possible to read Kelman’s narrative as an attempt, through defamiliarization and resistant translation, to compel the reader to find or recover within the translation machine the ghost or spectre of what it is that serves to make us human and thereby demand reflection on what remains or is carried over in the face of terror, torture and abuse.

Conclusion By contextualizing reception of some of Kelman’s work in relation to a politics of language and culture and approaching it through the frame of a postcolonial approach to translation, it has been possible to trace both continuity and difference with respect to How Late it Was, How Late and Translated



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Accounts. Both works thematize and embody different aspects of translation: the translation of a protagonist’s consciousness through language and narrative techniques that serve to free the protagonist as far as possible from narratorial control and the strictures of linguistic policing; and a focus on translation strategies that highlight not just the politics of language but also the possibilities and limitations of the machinery of translation and technologies of textual engineering in the face of terror and abuse.

5

Migration and Mobility

The human desire for rootedness, belonging and a sense of place often ‘runs alongside the human desire to move’ (Gill et al. 2011: 304), yet the ability to choose whether to stay or to go (Guo 2008b) is not always in the gift of the individual but may well depend upon factors beyond his or her control. These factors can be social, political, economic, legal, environmental, psychological even, or a mix of the above. Nor is migration just an individual phenomenon; whole populations or particular groups of people can be displaced due to war or catastrophic events. Likewise, environmental disasters can lead to the evacuation of large numbers of people as was the case in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and in the wake of the nuclear disaster in Fukushima in 2011. In other words, it is useful to remember that the contexts motivating movement of people are diverse and that while for some migration is a choice, for others it is a condition forced upon them. As Gill et al. (2011: 312) point out, ‘who can be mobile and under what conditions’ reveals something of ‘the political economy of migration’. As we have seen in previous chapters, the conditions under which writers have migrated are also variable and these different conditions can be seen to impact upon their responses to their new situations. For the young Eva Hoffman, for example, leaving Poland in 1959 at the age of thirteen for the New World, there is a strong sense of her life coming to an end (Hoffman 1989: 3) and a disabling sense of loss and nostalgia. Cracow, for her, had been paradise despite the ‘squabbles, dark political rumblings, memories of wartime suffering and the daily struggle for existence’ (5). For others, a change in location and culture is less fraught and provisionally, at least, an opportunity to progress their art, as was the case for Xiaolu Guo who left Beijing in 2002 on a scholarship to study film-making in London. Yet, as she was to discover: ‘this Old World metropolis could be very harsh and chilly for a struggling writer and filmmaker who is both female and Asian’ (Zhen 2008: 48). The ‘complex forms of subjectivity and

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feeling that emerge through geographical mobility’ (Conradson and McKay 2007: 167) can be seen in Guo’s representations, both cinematic and novelistic, of protagonists who move across and between cultures. Their reflections on or reactions to the types of space, as well as the places, they inhabit tell the reader or viewer something about their sensibilities and emerging ideas of selfhood as they interact with new environments and people. What Hoffman (1989: 4) calls ‘a whole new geography of emotions’ is conjured in the process of departures, arrivals and the negotiation of new affective and cognitive spaces. Arguably, then, the condition of moving across languages and cultures, as opposed to remaining still or in one place, already establishes a certain difference in the experience of particular individuals or groups of individuals. At the same time, within the group or between individuals migration is not necessarily experienced and/or represented in exactly the same way. Notwithstanding individual differences, one of the contentions of this book is that the ways in which (the experience of) migration is inscribed in text can be shown to relate to broader social, political and historical trends and attitudes. It is not that migration narratives are simply a product of particular times and places; it is, rather, that in looking at the particular time-space configurations of what might be called narratives of translation (Doloughan 2015), there appear to be significant similarities, as well as some differences, in their textual shaping. Yet the mode or tenor of this textual shaping and the extent to which it is constructed as largely positive or negative (e.g. in terms of a dynamic of loss or gain) and in relation, broadly speaking, to structuralist or post-structuralist discourses on language, can be seen to reflect changing societal ideas and attitudes, rather than simply being attributable to individual artistic difference. In order to situate some of the complex issues surrounding migration and mobility in relation to contemporary writing practices in English, I want to begin by pointing to the list of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists published in spring 2013. While the value of such a list may be subject to discussion, it has at least the merit of identifying a subset of writers – in this case writers who are British citizens or have acquired British citizenship and were under 40 at the time of their selection – judged, in the view of a group of professional readers, to represent the best of British writing today. Starting with the work of over 150 writers submitted for consideration in autumn 2012, a final list of 20 was agreed at various meetings and in the course of discussions that led to an emerging sense of the qualities evidenced by memorable work in relation to features of style, storytelling ability and ‘the sense that the



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writers were in dialogue with the novel as a form’ (Freeman 2013: 15). What these qualities might look like and how they are evidenced in text is something to which I shall return in the context of a discussion of the work of one of the Granta 2013 young writers, Chinese-born novelist and film-maker Xiaolu Guo. Her work, as we will see, is characterized by generic innovation and translingualism. For the first time in its short history – this was the fourth list since 1983 – the Granta list comprised 12 female writers and was characterized in the press as ‘extremely international’ in terms of both ‘the writers’ backgrounds and storytelling interests’ which ‘include China, Nigeria, Ghana, the US, Bangladesh and Pakistan’ (Higgins 2013). It is a list said to contain ‘a set of writers who have moved on from post-colonialism and are focussing instead on migrant workers’ (Sexton 2013). Certainly, the brief author profiles contained in the 2013 prizewinning Granta issue bear witness to the arguably peripatetic life of some of the writers and can be seen to reflect the inclusion of ‘part of a diaspora that is enriching British cultural life on the page as well as off it’ (Armistead 2013). In other words, the inclusion of particular writers on the Granta list offers a kind of snapshot of contemporary British writing, even if that snapshot is incomplete or inconclusive. In comparison with previous lists, the increase in the number of female writers and the internationalism of the list appear to be significant features, features that would require further examination to determine whether they represent a ‘one-off ’ or a general trend. In relation to the focus of this book, English as a Literature in Translation, what is significant here is the fact that many of the writers on the Granta 2013 list came from other parts of the world, bringing with them knowledge of other languages and cultures, even as they write in English and add value to the stock of British writing. As well as raising awareness of the kind of new writing gaining recognition in Britain today, the Granta list provides evidence of the cultural diversity of writing in English and provides support for the argument advanced here that writing in English is being expanded by writers who, for various reasons, have crossed borders, both literal and metaphorical, and that their experience of ‘translation’ (from one language and/or culture to another, from one or more social and intellectual spaces to another or others, from one place to another) is, in many cases, the driving force behind their work. At the same time, changes in demography, as well as changing linguistic patterns, across the globe have resulted in a change in the status of English. What Graddol (2006: 11) calls ‘English in its new global form’ reflects the consequences of

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a shift from modernity to postmodernity where ‘English is no longer being learned as a foreign language, in recognition of the hegemonic power of native English speakers’ (19). The ‘new model’ (19) for English is one in which it is likely to be used as one of a number of languages by plurilingual speakers and writers in a world where multilingualism is the norm.

The circulation and migration of English Authorities on the English language and its evolution, such as David Crystal, have been hailing the ‘wonderful new expressiveness’ (Scholes 2010: 10) likely to emerge from writers for whom English is a second, third or even fourth language, just like the kind of expressiveness ‘we can already see in the creative writing coming out of Africa, the Caribbean, and Asia’. This new expressiveness is arguably a factor of the availability of multiple linguistic and cultural resources to writers whose histories, biographies and life choices have permitted them to draw on a range of material resources and cross-cultural experiences that underpin the construction of their narratives in English. In addition, as Crystal (2000) points out in an article published at the beginning of the new millennium, because ‘[n]obody “owns” English now – not the British, with whom the language began 1500 years ago, nor the Americans, who now comprise its largest mother-tongue community’ (5) and everyone has a stake in it, ‘first-, second-, and foreign-language speakers alike’ (5), there are now greater opportunities for writers to put their stamp on English rather than feel constrained to use it in particular ways sanctioned by the Anglo-American linguistic gate-keepers. What Graddol (2006: 58) refers to as ‘English as it is used in a postmodern world’ is likely to have a different look and feel, having undergone transformation in the process of usage by multilingual individuals from across the globe. Perhaps, then, we have reached a stage when there is greater tolerance of increasing diversity in English usage and a willingness to recognize that ‘original’ writing is not bound to respect standard varieties of the language where the narrative is better served by a language that is able to ‘translate’ expressions of identity, while retaining a measure of intelligibility. Certainly, the authors treated in this monograph have embedded concepts of translation in their work, reflecting upon what it means to inhabit different cultures and languages and to translate self and other in the process of writing. What is of particular interest in the present context, however, is that conditions



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of migration and attitudes to language learning and development do not remain static. As a result, it is possible to point to changes in the ways in which writers of different generations and circumstances (e.g. in terms of enforced vs voluntary exile) have experienced their adopted or additional language and culture and have responded to the politics of language and the possibilities and constraints of living in translation at different stages of their lives.

A changing linguistic landscape I have been arguing that there has been a kind of sea-change in attitudes to bilingualism/multilingualism in the literature on language learning and development and what it means to ‘acquire’ and use a second or additional language. As Larsen-Freeman suggests (2002: 41), ‘language use and language acquisition are also synchronous: the act of using the language has a way of changing the language, or in the case of learners, their interlanguage’. While clearly the age at which one gains access to an additional language, the context in which one operates, the uses to which one puts the language or languages and the purposes and motivations of the speaker or speakers are all important factors in situating language development and usage, it is possible, nevertheless, to point to changes in the linguistic landscape in the broadest sense that challenge what may be seen as outmoded attitudes to language acquisition and development. The bias towards innateness in language studies has been challenged and research on English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) has suggested that in the multilingual settings that are becoming the norm for users of English, cognitive flexibility and negotiation of meaning are more important for successful communication than adherence to an idea of fixed linguistic norms. As Graddol (2006: 87) points out, ‘[w]ithin ELF, intelligibility is of primary importance, rather than nativelike accuracy’. He goes on to suggest that ‘[t]he target model of English, within the ELF framework, is not a native speaker, but a fluent bilingual speaker, who retains a national identity in terms of accent, and who also has the special skills required to negotiate understanding with another non-native speaker’ (87). This acknowledgement of the realities of English usage today and of the role of other languages in the construction of (new forms of) English is taken further by Canagarajah (2013) for whom translingual practice is a feature, either potential or actual, of all human communication and allows for the possibilities not only of moving across and between languages but also of availing

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oneself of other non-verbal communicative resources and semiotic modalities in the process of meaning-making. As we will see, Xiaolu Guo is a writer who ‘imports’ into her novels the visual resources open to her as a film-maker; her inclusion of maps, diary entries, photocopies of documents etc. is a way of indexing the importance of other modalities for meaning-making, as well as serving an aesthetic and critical function within the particular works. In addition, assimilationist models of practice, whereby the onus is placed on the learner to adopt the linguistic norms of the so-called native speaker of a language, have been shown to be deficient and outdated in a number of ways (Rajadurai 2007). Not only has the concept of the native speaker with its assumptions of innate linguistic superiority on the part of an L1 speaker been shown to be problematic in relation, for example, to the multiple social and educational contexts in which language is used for communicative and other purposes but the realities of English usage today in a world where there are more L2 than L1 speakers of English (Scholes 2001; Crystal 1997) means that successful communication requires skills likely to be developed in interaction and through adaptive and creative use of linguistic and other communicative resources rather than by trying to conform to a set of pre-existent linguistic norms. The consequences of this changing landscape are, as Canagarajah (2007: 923) has argued, that ‘[t]he previously dominant constructs such as form, cognition, and the individual […] get redefined as hybrid, fluid, and situated in a more socially embedded, ecologically sensitive and interactionally open model’ .

Changing social and linguistic practices I am suggesting that changes in attitudes in the literature on language learning and development (Kramsch 2002) as well as shifts in social practices more generally – in relation, for example, to the perceived portability of language and culture in the wake of new patterns of migration – are also reflected in the literary narratives that mirror or at least refract these social, cultural and linguistic changes. The societies and communities where English, or more accurately varieties of English, is spoken and written today are multiple and diverse, though my aim here is not to examine these different contexts. Nor do I specifically wish to treat language policies and the politics and economics of the rise of English as a Lingua Franca, since this is a book primarily about literary and cultural representations rather than social and political realities,



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notwithstanding the complex relations that may pertain between ‘life’ and ‘literature’. My focus, rather, is on the ways in which these literary representations appear to take cognizance of and embed within them, at the level of the unfolding narrative dynamic and material structuring of themes, particular perspectives on, and attitudes to, the relationship between language and culture. Moreover, it is perhaps significant that the treatment afforded language, culture and the translation of self on the part of the writers selected for this study and the kind of attitudes expressed on the part of the narrators of their work can be seen to reflect, or at least parallel, a more general societal and global phenomenon: that of changing attitudes to issues of language and culture. Notwithstanding attempts by politicians and particular economic and social interest groups to police national borders and try to ‘protect’ linguistic homogeneity by ‘clamping down’ on migration and tightening conditions of citizenship, ‘monolingual orientations and bounded notions of community’ (Canagarajah 2013: 34) are increasingly being called into question in an era of postmodern globalization. What I refer to, perhaps somewhat reductively, as a changing dynamic from language as loss to language as gain might be said to parallel the changing narratives of language learning and development reflected in the contemporary literature on bilingualism/multilingualism and English as a Lingua Franca, a literature now tending to highlight the ecological and evolutionary advantages of multilingualism and the opportunities it affords for enhanced creativity and cognitive flexibility. Indeed, as Kramsch (2002: 5) points out, there has been a ‘poststructuralist realization that learning is a nonlinear, relational human activity between humans and their environment, contingent upon their position in space and history, and a site of struggle for the control of social power and cultural memory’. Far from being located in the minds of individual learners, who set about mastering and internalizing pre-existing forms of a language modelled by native speakers, language learning and development is construed as a social practice that emerges in the process of meaning construction and negotiation by participants using a range of communicative and cultural resources. Increasingly these resources are seen to include the affordances of multilingualism.

Literary migration: The case of Xiaolu Guo The focus of the current chapter will be on one of the more recent migrants to Britain, Chinese-born writer and film-maker Xiaolu Guo whose 2007 A Concise

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Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers first brought her to the attention of a literary public in Britain and beyond when it was shortlisted for the Orange Prize for Fiction. Since her literary debut in English, she has published a number of other books in English including Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth (2008a), UFO in Her Eyes (2009) and Lovers in the Age of Indifference (2010). Her most recent novel entitled I Am China was published with Chatto and Windus in June 2014. While Guo’s writing has already received serious consideration from some academics interested in developments in the novel form and in notions of translation and translational writing (e.g. Doloughan 2011; Gilmour 2012), inclusion on Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists list lends, in effect, to her body of work a degree of sanction from the literary establishment. The concern here is less with the politics of inclusion and exclusion in the realm of literary culture than with contextualizing and evidencing developments in contemporary writing, particularly in relation to the kinds of texts I am suggesting are becoming more prominent today, that is, those produced in English by multilingual/multicultural writers. For as we shall see, Guo represents precisely the kind of contemporary writer this book seeks to highlight insofar as she has moved across languages and cultures, is cognizant of and seeks to address in her fiction and her films issues of cultural and linguistic translation, and is conscious of both the losses and benefits of writing in English. In the Granta podcast (http://www.granta. com/New-Writing/Xiaolu-Guo-The-Granta-Podcast-Ep.-65) in which she talks about her life and work to the deputy editor, Ellah Allfrey, she discusses her background and trajectory to date, focusing on her influences and motivations as well as her development as a writer. What emerges from the interview is a sense that writing in English is not something she has simply chosen to do for pragmatic or commercial reasons but that her relationship with English and Chinese is a composite of a number of factors including intellectual loneliness, self-censorship, creative process and writerly ambition. As a young girl growing up in Southern China in what she refers to as ‘a house of silence’ with little communication and cultural interaction, she turned to writing poetry in Chinese in response to her feelings of loneliness and in the 1980s discovered the work of Sylvia Plath, Frank O’Hara, J. D. Salinger and Charles Bukowski at a time when the work of some major American writers was being made available in translation in China. In the 1990s as a student of literature at the Beijing Film Academy, she learnt to engage with visual language but still sees herself primarily as a writer, rather than a film-maker.



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While the choice of whether to write in English or in Chinese has on occasion had to do with location and theme, Guo appears to be increasingly conscious of a number of dimensions of her writing and of her relationship with her Chinese and English selves which have caused her to reflect more deeply on what it means to use a particular language and to live across languages and cultures. In some ways, she has given herself permission to use or abuse English for her own purposes, since she sees English as a dynamic and flexible language that is, perhaps, more open to other ‘accents’ and usages than languages such as French and German, both of which she has also learnt. She is conscious of the liberatory effects of writing in a language that permits her so many possibilities for play and allows her to create her own style. At the same time, she is conscious of needing to have real motivation for writing in English, whether this be to explore cultural misunderstandings or to consider identity issues on the part of a protagonist or narrator who has a foot in both East and West and who at some level can shuttle between different cultural and linguistic zones.

Shuttling between languages: ‘Interim Zone’ In her new novel, an extract of which was published in Granta, under the title ‘Interim Zone’, Guo suggests that her interest resides in the person of the literary translator in his or her role as someone enabled or authorized to understand another language and culture. The extract featured in Granta is interesting in a number of respects: it is set in a refugee camp in Lausanne, Switzerland and the character on whom the narrative is focalized is a Chinese man, Kublai Jian, who writes – in a notebook he has found – the story of Pangu, an ancient Chinese god. The title ‘Interim Zone’ is suggestive in a number of respects: a refugee camp is a kind of holding area for those who have left their own country and entered another, usually without the right papers or permissions and who are waiting therefore for their situations to be regularized and their fate as exiles to be determined. As he waits in the camp, Jian is learning French with the other refugees, an activity he seems to enjoy. In the library that evening, while reading Vasily Grossman’s Life and Fate, surely a significant title, he remembers scenes from his childhood, a boy brought up by his grandparents and abandoned by his father. Another possible meaning of ‘Interim Zone’ reverberates as he confronts, rather than shoos away, ‘[i]n this foreign, in-between space’ (332), an image of his father and a memory of one of the last times he was with him before having

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been metaphorically sent into exile by him after he disappears from his life and is rumoured to have set up a new household elsewhere. In this extract, Jian is in a kind of no man’s land caught between an uncertain future in a country not his own and memories of a past which seem to foreshadow his eventual exile. While Jian’s story in this extract is told in the third person, we begin by reading his entry in the diary he is keeping – the (italicized) story of Pangu that ‘seems to fit well into this alien space’ (331), a space, we are told, in which ‘he [Jian] feels even more mute and deafened’ (331) as he listens to people around him speaking French and German. To be surrounded by languages which he struggles to decode or make sense of, never mind speak, is a reminder of his status as foreigner or outsider. The narrator’s characterizations of his situation show a degree of empathetic knowledge of his plight through the use of free indirect discourse, a technique that blurs the boundaries between the character’s thoughts and words and the narrator’s report on and mediation of that character’s thoughts and words. The narrator begins by indicating what Jian sees and feels before continuing: ‘His own Chinese world has come to an end, so why not think of the origin of things, the beginning of China, the mythical world before emperors or the cultivation of rice?’ (Guo 2013: 331). We might normally expect a past perfect ‘had come’ in a report on the assumption that the story is told in the past tense. This story, however, begins with a present simple: ‘Kublai Jian writes this on the first page of his new diary’ (331) and continues in this vein, though with references to the recent past (e.g. ‘the ancient god Pangu […] has infiltrated his thoughts’ (331). At one level the sentence beginning ‘His own Chinese world has come to an end’ (331) is just the continuation of that report of events of the recent past. However, given what follows, it might equally well be read as a bridge into a kind of dialogue that Jian is having with himself or be seen to represent his inner thought processes rather than be a mere report of the workings of his mind or a narratorial comment on his actions. The grammatical status of ‘why not think?’ lends itself to interpretation as an elliptical form of ‘why [should he] not think?’, which may be less a narratorial interjection than the marker of a shift from narratorial report to the illusion of unmediated access to the mind of a character from whose perspective the reader views the unfolding story. The ambivalence here between report and evaluation, between access to interiority and its withholding, is in harmony with the theme of occupying an interim zone, one pitched between the here and now and the then and there; between the world of legitimate belonging and illegal sanction; between the mythic and the real.



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Insofar as a refugee camp is normally closed off from the surrounding territory and constitutes a world unto itself for those who are forced to inhabit it for as long as it takes to resolve their status, it is both a spatial and a temporal no man’s land. It is a kind of third space where people are held while shuttling in imagination between countries or territories, cultures, languages and concepts of self. In addition the extract begs questions about the status and scope of various languages and cultural representations. Here we have a Chinese character Kublai Jian (with echoes of Kubla Khan) in a Swiss refugee camp transcribing in English the story of an ancient Chinese god. Jian’s mind has been infiltrated by the god Pangu whose image appears to fit into the alien space ‘like a vine winding through a lush rainforest’ (331), suggesting perhaps the power of vision and the way in which the tendrils of imagination stretch out and take hold. As well as the French and German voices in the background, he imagines the curses in Arabic of the Muslim women in their scarves at whom he stares. In his mind they are remembering fragments of their previous existence. The imagery is undercut, however, by the reality of routine in the refugee camp – first breakfast, then French lessons. This is a space of sullen faces, boredom, silences and memories, as well as sounds in foreign tongues, some of which become comprehensible through repetition and appropriation, as in the French language lesson where a prefabricated chunk of language is picked up by the speaker and adapted to his situation (e.g. Asile de réfugié. Je suis venu de Chine). This mimicking of language-learning routines and practices is something that Guo has explored in earlier work, most notably in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, a text that focuses on the main protagonist’s efforts to acquire another language and negotiate another culture. It is clearly a theme close to Guo’s heart and to her own experience as someone who has crossed geographic and linguistic borders. How to express one’s ‘self ’ in a new language and how to negotiate linguistic and cultural difference from the perspective of a learner, newcomer or outsider are all issues that Guo interrogates in her work.

Liminal spaces and threshold narratives The interim zone of the refugee camp in the Granta extract from Guo’s novel I Am China finds its counterpart in the liminal space of the aeroplane making its way from Beijing airport to London Heathrow in A Concise Chinese-English

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Dictionary for Lovers. In the prologue to the story, the protagonist, Zhuang Xiao Qiao, otherwise known as Z, is wondering in which time-zone she is as the plane leaves China and heads for England. She muses: ‘When a body floating in air, which country she belonging to?’ (Guo 2007: 3). From her perspective, the temporal coordinates she has been given (12 o’clock midnight in Beijing, 5 p.m. in London) no longer apply, since she is ‘at neither time zone’ (3) but somewhere in between. This third space requires in her view ‘a special time-zone for longdistance airplanes, or passengers like me very confusing about time’ (3). On arrival at Heathlow (sic) airport, she gets into the queue for ‘Aliens’ and after some time reaches the immigration officer’s counter where he stamps her passport making her ‘a legal foreigner’ (10). This is the gateway to her new life in the UK; she has crossed the threshold from one culture to another, armed with her little red book – in this case her Concise Chinese-English Dictionary. The narrative, then, is ‘topped and tailed’ by a description of Z’s journey to and from the UK, as she prepares to enter (‘Prologue’), then a year later, leaves (‘Epilogue’) the UK. There is a structural symmetry here that ‘marks off ’ or delimits the substance of the novel, which is concerned with the main protagonist’s encounter with and experience of life in another country and with her acquisition of English. But the journey to and from London by aeroplane also provides a kind of space for anticipation and reflection, as Z first imagines her new life and later takes stock of what that experience has meant to her. ‘Coming to England was not easy, but going back is much harder. I look at the window and it reflects a stranger’s face’ (349). Z’s year in London has changed her and the way she looks at the world. The place she left – Beijing – is not as it was but has changed ‘as if ten years passed. It is unrecognisable’ (351). Z feels ‘out of place in China’ (352) and undergoes a kind of culture shock in reverse. China has become a more materialistic society with lots of construction going on and everybody seemingly taking every opportunity to make money. In Z’s eyes, her world, that of the writer and thinker, seems ‘too unpractical and unproductive’ (352) in comparison. It is tempting to draw parallels here between Z, the would-be writer, and Guo herself, as writer and film-maker, insofar as she has experience of moving between Beijing and London and is well aware of the changes that have been taking place in China. Indeed in her work, both novelistic and cinematographic, she has been somewhat critical of processes of globalization in China and has shown the fall-out for her characters (e.g. UFO in Her Eyes) of a drive to move China at speed from a predominantly rural to a twenty-first-century economy.



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What appears to be happening in China is that political and economic needs, rather than individual or community wishes, dictate the pace of change, and voices of segments of the population (e.g. migrant workers, peasant farmers) are silenced or ignored in the interests of what is deemed to be progress. At one level, the novelistic world of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers is a self-contained universe inasmuch as it is (more or less) consciously constructed to conform to a certain narrative patterning. There is the linear narrative of Z’s stay in London and her transformation over time as she encounters and responds to life and language in a different culture. In this sense there are echoes of the Bildungsroman where a principal character, usually from a lower social background and/or from the provinces, encounters life in the big city and is forced to confront their illusions and modify their expectations as they come into contact with the ‘realities’ of city life. We might think here of Dickens’ Great Expectations or Balzac’s Illusions perdues by way of example. However, Guo’s novel departs from this tradition in a number of respects: it treats only a year in the life of Z; and it is a dictionary-novel, that is to say its narrative design undercuts a sense of linearity and progressive movement in time with a mode of organization that focuses on spatiality rather than temporality (see Doloughan 2015). In other words, because of the use of keywords and concepts to organize the storyline, events and incidents are placed within an explicitly cultural and linguistic frame of reference. This lends to the story a sense that individual actions are motivated as much by culture and context as by the desires and designs of the particular characters involved. It suggests that the context in which one acts provides a kind of frame of reference for making sense of behaviours and actions. Moving across contexts problematizes the ways in which meanings are constructed and read or interpreted by others. As Canagarajah (2013: 21) puts it: ‘Mobility makes people out of place.’ The conventionized ways in which a particular language is understood to interact with a speaking subject in a particular place at a particular moment are shown to require a degree of realignment to the new realities of migration and mobility. At another level and at the same time, the world of the novel intersects with and reflects aspects of the world beyond the novel. Certainly, in the case of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers, the place (London) where most of the ‘action’ unfolds has its counterpart in the ‘real’ world and there are references to the geography of the city. After spending a week at a hostel in central London, ‘“Nuttington House” in Brown Street, nearby Edward Road and Baker Street’, Z moves out to live with a Chinese family in Tottenham Hale before

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moving into her boyfriend’s house in Hackney. There are also references to a cinema in South Kensington where she meets her boyfriend, to Kew Gardens where they spend time together and to Soho where Z goes to a peep show. While it is not imperative to know the geography of London to read and appreciate the story, some knowledge of the characteristics of the various areas permits the reader to relate psychic and social geographies or more accurately to ‘read’ the city from Z’s perspective as a newcomer and foreigner and to situate her experiences within a particular kind of urban setting. London is, however, not the only backdrop to the novel’s story and the protagonist’s linguistic development and sexual awakening; she and her boyfriend go to Wales, and Z travels round Europe on her own at her boyfriend’s instigation but London is her original destination and the place whose substance and materiality helps shape her experiences in particular ways. At the same time, London is also an imagined city, a city previewed in the literature Z reads as a teenager in China. On arrival in London she looks for the fog that she has come to expect from reading Dickens’ Oliver Twist or Foggy City Orphan (as it appears to be called in Chinese translation) and is bemused not to be able to find it. She even asks a policeman: ‘Excuse me, where I seeing the fogs?’ (21), but he doesn’t appear to understand her question, something she puts down to her English expression rather than to a cultural misunderstanding. The London she imagines is not the London she experiences. Having spent the maximum amount of time permitted at the hostel – one week – she begins looking for alternative accommodation in central London and, after checking out some of the places advertised, comes to the realization that: ‘London, by appearance, so noble, so respectable’ (22) is actually ‘a refugee camp’ full of houses whose landlords all seem to come ‘from Arabic countries and all called Ali’ (22). In other words, the novel is infused with a sense of the difference between ideas of place and experience of them in reality. It plays out, often to humorous effect, the cultural modes of perception we bring to people and places, as well as offering a commentary on changing social and linguistic practices from the perspective of Z, as she negotiates the opportunities and constraints of her new-found mobility. Guo’s interest in the ways in which experiences are afforded and constrained by place and how particular kinds of conceptual and affective spaces are generated across time and place is long-standing and finds resonance elsewhere in her work. In ‘Stateless’, one of the stories in Lovers in the Age of Indifference, the action, such as it is, is set in Vienna International Airport where a man is



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in transit to Paris. Sitting beside a window, he appears ‘utterly indifferent to the planes taking off and landing outside’ (Guo 2010: 54). In contrast to those around him and whom he watches as they ‘hurry to be somewhere else’, he ‘remains unmoved’ (54). The reader learns that there is nothing particularly remarkable about this man except for his eyes which are ‘a perfect void’ (55). He is simply killing some time before boarding yet another plane: ‘Always travelling from one city to the next, always moving, always alone …’ (55). This sense of restless mobility is in contrast to his current motionless state, as he sits and waits. Having fallen into a daze, ‘a halfway state between dreams and waking’ (56), he inhabits a space of liminality and uncertainty. He forgets where exactly he is, until he blinks and looks around him for signs that index his whereabouts. What he sees are ‘words in a language he does not recognize’ (57). Only when he glimpses some boxed CD sets does he remember where he is. He shuts his eyes again and when he opens them, he sees a little girl in a red skirt standing in front of him. Her vulnerability and loneliness – ‘She loiters about uncertainly, unaccompanied by an adult’ (57) – impress themselves on him such that when he sees her again later, crying, he goes to her and remains with her in the airport, having abandoned his flight to Paris. He worries about what he will do next, an unemployed man with passport problems. The story ends simply: ‘No point in worrying. He cradles the child’s frail shoulders in his arms and drifts at last into a merciful sleep’ (61). The ‘still life’ that he is described as being early on in the story or ‘a green, green tree’ (54) finds in the child – ‘A little red flower in a little red skirt’ (59) – something more vulnerable and lonely than himself. The story finishes rather like the ending to Woolf ’s To the Lighthouse in the sense that the picture is now complete – man and child, green tree and red flower, have found one another, at least temporarily. Throughout the story there are contrasts between the hustle and bustle of the airport and the man’s immobility and silence; between motivated action and contingent circumstance; between being and doing. The airport setting provides a transitional space – between arrival and departure; here and there – in a sense unconstrained by the rhythms and routines of daily life; a space which is conducive to observation and reflection, to stasis rather than action. It is precisely another of the interim zones that Guo seems to favour in her writing, where contradictory forces (e.g. movement and stillness) are brought into tension and a kind of suspension of normal rules seems to apply. The main character appears to be stateless, moving from one provisional and temporary location to another without particular motivation. His reaction to the child’s

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situation, her apparent abandonment and loneliness – has caused him to remain in the space of Vienna International Airport rather than continue his journey to Paris. Man and child appear to recognize in one another a certain vulnerability. What they cling to is a sense of respite from the dramas of life that seem to be beyond their control.

Lost for words, finding a voice Anyone who has had the experience of learning another language will understand the frustrations, as well as the thrills, of trying to communicate one’s meaning using a restricted new vocabulary and emergent grammatical sense. Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers gives expression to the process of language learning from the perspective of an adult learner. Z comes to London at her parents’ behest to learn English which they perceive to be useful in a modern Chinese context. Z submits to their wishes but is not at all sure whether she really wants to put herself through this language-learning ordeal which requires taking in new words, new information and new concepts, both linguistic and cultural. From the very first week she arrives, she begins to experience what it means to live with more than one language and finds herself in dialogue with a second self. ‘Every night, when I write diary, I feeling troubled. Am I writing in Chinese or in English? I trying express me, but confusing – I see other little me try expressing me in other language. […] Is like seeing my two pieces of lips speaking in two languages at same time’ (Guo 2007: 38–9). Little by little she builds up vocabulary and grammatical knowledge such that in the course of the year she is better able to articulate her feelings and desires. However, this is not without setbacks and problems. For not only are there moments when she feels profoundly the differences between Chinese and English culture and the near impossibility of translating terms in one language into comparable or equivalent terms in the other but she also recognizes the growing gulf between herself and her lover which, paradoxically perhaps, widens as she gains in confidence and is better able to express herself and voice her opinions. Much of the dictionarynovel is concerned with the accumulation of the linguistic resources that seem to be a precondition of successful communication but ultimately what the novel appears to be saying is that real communication between two human beings is less a factor of linguistic competence than understanding at a deep level of the



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other’s needs, desires and wishes, which may or may not be expressed through language. In addition, cultural frames of reference are shown to be important in making sense of the words that people utter in order to be able to situate and contextualize them in a meaningful way. Much of the book is concerned with the rootedness of language in culture and with the difficulties that learners experience when trying to acquire not just lexical items and grammatical structures but a sense of how they are used in context. Early in the book, for example, Z encounters the English word ‘properly’ when she takes a taxi and is told by the driver to shut the door properly. Unable to understand what he means, she asks him to explain but he just angrily repeats the same phrase, eventually getting out of the taxi himself and banging the door. Later, Z checks the meaning in the Collins English dictionary in a bookstore, since it’s not listed in her Concise Chinese-English Dictionary. Finding that it means ‘correct behaviour’, she is at a loss to understand in what respect her behaviour in the taxi was not correct and is none the wiser! While largely humorous this incident is illustrative of a number of aspects of the language-learning situation. The taxi driver’s impatience and increasing anger with Z’s lack of comprehension and his inability to explain in other words but simply to repeat what he has said already, increasing the volume each time, is perhaps stereotypical of the monolingual’s incapacity to understand what is involved in language learning and to behave appropriately. At the same time, the tools of language learning, dictionaries and grammar books, are shown to be inadequate in the sense that they require complementary cultural knowledge on the part of the learner. Definitional statements and schematic explanations are normally devoid of specific contextual features and as such cover a multitude of situations. They are necessarily ‘abstracted away’ from the particulars and are therefore general rather than specific. It is then left to the learner to work out from context what precisely is meant by an utterance and this is not always a straightforward process. So while at one level this is merely a humorous episode, it also relates to less trivial aspects of the language-learning process. What Z takes away from this incident is that she must copy down as much vocabulary as possible and ‘learn English fast’ (20), if she is to cope in this alien society. The dictionary entry under ‘fertilise’, following on from an entry under ‘green fingers’, is an interesting comparison between English and Chinese. Z’s boyfriend shows her his garden and tells her the names of the flowers and vegetables he has planted there. She then explains to him what the equivalent

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Chinese names mean. So, for example, ‘potato’ literally means an ‘earth bean’ in Chinese; ‘spinach’ is a ‘watery vegetable’; ‘wisteria’ translates into ‘purple vines’; ‘beetroot’ is a ‘sweet vegetable’; and a ‘fig tree’ is ‘the fruit tree without flowers’. In respect of the latter, because Z has problems differentiating between ‘l’ and ‘r’, which for Chinese speakers are not separate phonemes but allophones of the same phoneme, her boyfriend laughs saying that he didn’t know flutes grew on trees. This points to another aspect of language learning which requires, at least conventionally, learners to approximate the sounds they make in a language to those of native speakers. Because in this case mispronunciation makes a different word, it is an occasion for humour. One of the aspects of Guo’s novel that is most daring is her recreation of the language-learning process. In interview (Kleffel 2007) she has acknowledged that the first twenty or so pages of the book took her rather longer to write in a kind of broken English than might be imagined, since she was retrospectively trying to capture the sounds and feel of language learning at a point when her own grasp of English had already gone way beyond that of her protagonist’s. While such a direct and mimetic focus on language acquisition is not one that can be easily repeated by the same author, it is nevertheless in many ways a tour de force. Certainly, all language learners, whether Chinese or otherwise, are likely to identify with the protagonist’s situation. Yet the story is not just about the mechanics and the perils of language learning; it is, rather, about our ability as human beings to communicate at a deep level with one another. Clearly, differences in language and culture can act as significant barriers in this process but even those who apparently share the same language can have difficulty relating to one another. It is in this sense, then, that the novel speaks to a wider and more general audience than simply to a community of language learners. What the protagonist achieves is eventually to find her own voice, which is to be that of the artist. As she and her boyfriend read in Hackney Town Library, she a book by Flaubert, he a book on sculpture, she realizes that she would like to dedicate her life ‘to do something serious, maybe things like writing, or painting, but definitely not making shoes’ (333). So when on her return to Beijing she tells her mother that she has decided to abandon her job in her hometown and move to Beijing to do a little writing and perhaps try to use her English, her mother is furious: ‘“Writing on paper is a piece of nothing compared with a stable job in a government work unit!”’ (351). As well as being a story about love, its possibilities and limitations, and a story about



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communication between individuals more generally, this is also a story about how an artist finds her voice. Like Proust’s protagonist Marcel who discovers his vocation as a writer at the end of À la recherche du temps perdu, Z has found her calling in the course of her year in England. For Z the real artist, like Flaubert in the book she has been reading, uses life as material for his or her art. ‘The art is a memorial of the life. Art is the abstract way of his daily existence’ (333). But even as she thinks this, the voice of her grandmother comes into her head telling her that ‘“the reality that surrounds us is not real. It is the illusion of life”’ (333). The notion, then, of finding one’s voice is shown to be a complex one. Without sufficient linguistic tools and cultural resources, expressing a sense of self through language is shown to be difficult. In addition, the whole question of translating the self across languages and cultures is seen to be vexed, given the ways in which particular languages and cultures seem to ‘authorize’ particular constructions of self and other. We might think here of Z’s argument with her boyfriend over their different conceptions of privacy (106–8), Z having read her boyfriend’s diary in his absence without his permission. Z counters his negative reaction by suggesting that because they are lovers they should not be hiding anything from one another. She goes on to contrast lifestyles in China and in England. In China people traditionally live together in large family units and share space, possessions and ideas. In England, it seems that even in a family or a relationship everybody has the right to privacy (106). Later in the novel, Z reads an article in the newspaper about the death of a 98-year-old Chinese woman who was the last speaker of an endangered language. The language, Nushu, was a 400-year-old secret language in which women were able to communicate their innermost feelings. Z draws a parallel between Nushu and her copying down of English vocabulary in her notebook (122). It is as if she is creating a secret language that allows her privacy, since no one else will be able to decode what precisely she means. What is interesting here is the fact that Z’s acquired language, English, has the potential to become something individual and private (an idiolect) rather than always be public and social (a sociolect). Z can put her stamp on the words she acquires such that they become her own, allowing her to create from the general store of language a variant that is hers alone. While her lover may know her body and the facts of her everyday life, Z still has a way of expressing herself in her notebook that excludes him or at least gives her the opportunity to create an exclusive space. Yet ironically, perhaps, in using the English language, she has come to assume some of the cultural values embedded in it, the concept of privacy being one

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of them (122).The fact that the word ‘privacy’ is emboldened in this context suggests that the narrator is aware of this irony.

Languages and cultures in contact According to Lemke (2002: 83), ‘[l]anguage in use in the multilingual situation […] is not a matter of translation between discrete and distinct language systems. It is rather a matter of their functional integration’ (italics in original). This seems to suggest that what will be required in the future are both listeners and speakers, writers and readers, who are competent in understanding the ways in which linguistic repertoires may be combined to produce new entities, whether those entities be superficially monolingual (i.e. they are written in English, even if their meanings depend on other languages and/or cultures) or explicitly multilingual, in that they incorporate other languages in their production. While Guo’s A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers is written largely with an Anglophone audience in mind, it draws on, and, indeed, owes its existence to, a knowledge of other linguistic systems and repertoires. Guo includes Chinese characters and expressions in her novel, albeit with translations and paraphrases for the most part. Under the entry for ‘nonsense’ (179), however, she has a section in Chinese followed on the next page by an Editor’s Translation. The translation talks about Z’s frustrations in having to communicate in English and how it feels to be constantly having to speak and write in another language. ‘I have become so small, so tiny, while the English culture surrounding me becomes enormous. It swallows me, and it rapes me. I am dominated by it. I wish I could just forget about all this vocabulary, these verbs, these tenses, and I wish I could just go back to my own language now’ (Guo 2007: 180). The violence of these metaphors makes clear that power is always a factor in language use. For Z as a speaker of Chinese living with her English-speaking boyfriend in London, the onus is on her to learn his language and of course she has come to England in the first instance in order to learn English. Because of the status of English in the world today whereby it has become the lingua franca, in many cases ‘native’ speakers of English feel exonerated from learning other languages, while those for whom English is one of a number of languages can feel as if their grasp of the language never quite ‘measures up’ to the standard dictated by its native speakers.



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Yet, as we have seen throughout this chapter, the reality is that in a world where multilingualism is the norm and where the number of L2 speakers exceeds that of L1 speakers, English itself is subject to change (Rajadurai 2007). The nature and extent of these changes is documented in the literature on language learning, language development and usage and is increasingly evident in the creative writing being produced by writers who, like Guo, are marking English in particular ways and appropriating it for their own artistic and critical purposes. Indeed, critics (e.g. Ch’ien 2005) have become increasingly interested in this phenomenon which goes far beyond its documentation in literatures in English in formerly colonial settings. The idea that literature has moved beyond the post-colonial is one that is gaining ground (Dawson 2012) as the contexts in which English is used continue to expand and a new generation of writers for whom English is one of a number of languages at their disposal decides to use it in distinctive ways, ways adapted to their particular interests and accents. As Z recognizes later in the ‘Editor’s Translation’, while learning English may have posed problems, learning Chinese was not easy either: ‘I still remember the pain of studying Chinese characters when I was a child at school’ (Guo 2007: 180). Her pain is more fundamental than that – it is the pain of human communication, a pain that is often hidden from view by the illusion of ‘speaking the same language’. That this is so is borne out by the dialogue between two characters, HER and HIM, which appears before the start of the novel. This dialogue purports to be a kind of prototype of the dialogues that took place across time between the male and female protagonists. The pattern of communication followed is one whereby the man would affirm something and the woman would question his affirmation seeking further information, a qualification or elaboration, thus leading to a particular type of conversational dynamic. It is as if in the process of questioning, the man is forced to articulate something about himself that he might not otherwise have realized or that would have remained unspoken or unvoiced. It also conveys something fundamental about the mode of being of Z and her lover in the sense that she is the one to ask questions, first about language and cultural conventions and then about what her lover is looking for from life. While she occupies the role of language learner and student of life, his role is that of teacher, native informant and cultural facilitator. Once Z has reached a stage where she is able to convey her meaning and speak English ‘properly’ (Guo 2007: 178), her lover’s role seems to diminish. He expresses frustration that he never seems to have time for himself and his own thoughts, since he always has

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to explain things to Z. ‘It is too tiring to live like this. I cannot spend my whole time explaining the meaning of words to you, and I can’t be questioned by you all day long’ (Guo 2007: 177). He feels ‘used up’ and constantly interrogated and begins to resent her questioning and need for explanation. As their arguments and periods of silence increase, Z feels the distance between them grow. Finding one’s voice, then, is not simply having access to a language in which to articulate one’s thoughts. It is also a question of having something which you consider worthwhile to express and to pass on or share with someone else. It is not a lack of grammatical and lexical resources that stops Z’s boyfriend from revealing his innermost thoughts. It is rather a deep-seated sense of privacy and need for his own mental, as well as physical, space that prevents him from sharing his every thought with Z. Z’s increasing ability to express her sense of self through language seems to unsettle the balance of power in their relationship. By the end of the year, as a result of formal tuition at the language school and her lived experience of English, Z is able to use the language, as the brochure had promised, ‘to communicate in a wide variety of situations’ (342). She can create her own sentences, sentences that express her meanings. Grammatical correctness is less important than being able to use the language for a range of purposes and to put her stamp on it. Ultimately, Z’s voice comes through as a consequence of her ability to use the contact situation to her advantage. Her use of English is marked by the sum of her experience as a Chinese woman who has lived in London. She exercises agency in using it and bends it to her purposes and to express her meanings in context.

Narratives of translation As a writer, Guo has proved that she has the resources to continue to publish in English and has moved beyond the story of language acquisition to more general narratives of translation and an examination of the impact of cultures in contact. By narratives of translation I mean to refer to what I have suggested elsewhere (Doloughan 2015) is a new chronotope, a time-space configuration that focuses on processes and practices of translation in a broad sense and on the kinds of spaces (e.g. translingual, global) that tend to foreground such processes and practices. As Canagarajah (2013) has pointed out, communicational practices are changing today in a number of ways. Not only is the English



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language changing as it comes into contact with other languages and is adapted in the process of translingual interactions but the very means at our disposal for effecting communication are increasingly diverse and multimodal. Guo’s ability to move across modalities (e.g. from verbal to visual) and to translate her ideas into different media (i.e. print and screen) is perhaps not surprising, given her dual affiliation as a writer and film-maker. What perhaps needs further comment is her ability to import into her novels techniques and expressive modes from other domains and thereby to create new entities. Indeed, her visual sense can be seen to permeate the design of her novels, in particular her 2009 novel UFO in Her Eyes, which is presented as if it were a series of case notes and files complete with maps, memos, minutes, e-mails and transcripts of interviews. What is in effect being explored here is the extent to which a novel depends for its existence on the trappings of novel-ness, so to speak, and how far the novelistic concept can be expanded and still be recognized as such. Just as writers like Virginia Woolf can be said to have tested the extent to which ‘plot’ is an essential rather than an optional aspect of the novel, or at least to have created new understandings of what plot, and indeed character, might mean in the early twentieth century, so many twenty-firstcentury writers are grappling with the possibilities and constraints of the novel in the technological age. For it is not just language with its scriptural or graphic, as well as semantic, possibilities that is at issue but the whole question of the limits of novelistic representation in an era of superdiversity (Blommaert and Rampton 2011; Blommaert 2013). This incorporation of other apparently extraneous materials was already a feature of A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary For Lovers but it is given more extensive treatment in the context of UFO in Her Eyes where the presentational aspects of the novel strike at the heart of its very generic identity and the reader is asked to grapple with his or her prior conceptions of what constitutes a novel. This generic innovation is another of Guo’s trademarks as a writer, reflected in her use of the dictionary-novel, as well as in her experiment with form in UFO in Her Eyes. It is this ability to dialogue with the novel form that makes her a writer worthy of sustained critical interest. For not only does she engage with translational writing in terms of her use of English which effectively is always used in relation to the resources of other languages but she also moves across cultures in a larger sense, that is, in terms of disciplinary and professional cultures (writing; film-making) and with various discourses and modalities in mind (e.g. critical and creative; verbal and visual). Indeed, her modus operandi is to challenge the

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separateness of discourses and modes, of languages and cultures, even as she makes the consequences of ‘difference’ a topic of central concern. In the novel UFO in Her Eyes Guo looks at the consequences for Silver Hill, a village in south-west China, of the alleged sighting of a UFO by Kwok Yun, one of the villagers, who on the same day as she saw ‘a large silver plate’ (Guo 2009: 21) helped a foreigner who was unable to walk and whom she found lying in a field nearby. Aided by some village children she took him to her house and bound his wound with an old shirt. She went off to find medical help but, on returning, the foreigner had disappeared. Following the alleged sighting of the UFO, agents descend on the village in order to investigate the incident and interrogate the villagers. Later a letter in English arrives in the village from the grateful foreigner who sends a gift of $2,000 to the villagers in recognition of the help he received from Kwok Yun after he got bitten by a snake. The village leader is keen to use the gift to help improve the village. Along with the media interest generated by the alleged sighting and Chief Chang’s ability to capitalize on the situation, Silver Hill is gradually transformed with further aid from the government from a rural backwater to the kind of place Chang imagines will draw tourists. In the process, however, the villagers feel disempowered, as their livelihoods are put at risk by planners and developers who will stop at nothing to effect the changes the chief authorizes for the village. The lives of a few peasants cannot be allowed to endanger the march of progress, it seems. In the film version of UFO in Her Eyes directed and scripted by Xiaolu Guo and released in 2011, the parody of consumerism and capitalism is brought to the fore and the viewer witnesses vast changes to the village and the prospects of those of its inhabitants who are prepared to go along with Chief Chang’s modernization programme. Those who fail to keep up with the changes or who resist their imposition find themselves disempowered and brought to book through force. The form of resistance chosen by Carp Li, whose plot has been bulldozed despite his protestations, is to commit suicide. While this is a film predominantly in Mandarin, with a choice of French or German subtitles, the use of English in the film and references to American culture are highly significant. English in this space is seen as the language of capitalism and of materialism. For example, as plans to build a five-star hotel and golf course get off the ground, a sign in English saying ‘Golf is coming’ is erected on the site to stake out a claim and secure the site’s future use. The formerly small and dark office of Chief Chang becomes a futuristic control-room-like space with surveillance cameras keeping an eye on activities and people outside.



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What seems to go hand in hand with the village’s capitalistic makeover is the imposition of a new supervisory and regulatory regime: hygiene inspections are imposed on the village butcher, essentially putting him out of business; farmland, which had supported some of the villagers, is seized for ‘the common good’ and turned into a UFO theme park. The old way of life is eradicated in a bid to build a new Western-like future and people are encouraged to model themselves on the newly rich and to follow the fashions in glossy magazines. The American visitor, called Steve Frost in the film, who returns to the village comments on the changes and hails the village as a model for the future. China, he repeats, is the future. The bicycle repairman, with whom in the film Kwok Yun falls in love, doesn’t come from the area but is an outsider who is given three days to leave by the village authorities when he fails to produce proper documents. His workshop and hut is razed to the ground but he has managed to secrete a silver pod (the UFO perhaps?) and construct a machine for travel, a kind of cross between a hot-air balloon and an intergalactic spaceship which allows Kwok Yun and himself to take off at the end of the film in search of a new future. Like Noah in his ark, they have taken with them some animals with a view, presumably, to starting again somewhere else. On the craft that they enter is the legend: ‘The future is here’, in this case in whatever place they land where they can get away from the madness of modern China and start again. In comparison with the consumerism of modern-day China, the more modest interests and human commitment of a peasant and a bicycle repairman seem preferable. The question of what is ‘alien’ in and to society is interrogated in this satirical film.

Conclusion In the course of this chapter, I have tried, in focusing on the case of Xiaolu Guo to contextualize aspects of twenty-first-century writing in relation to issues of mobility and migration with a view to suggesting that the production of much contemporary writing is bound up with material and intellectual conditions which promote the portability of linguistic and cultural resources. The fact that many of the writers included in the latest issue of Granta’s Best of Young British Novelists have access to other languages and cultures, even as they write in English, at the very least poses questions about the possible advantages of multiple linguistic and cultural resources for enhanced creative production. By

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focusing on the work of a recent migrant to the UK, Chinese-born writer and film-maker Xiaolu Guo, now a British citizen, I have pointed to the ways in which her work can be seen to reflect some more general tendencies, notwithstanding its artistic uniqueness and integrity, in terms of her translational and translingual orientation. While Guo had begun writing poetry in Chinese at the age of 14 and had published her first novel, later translated into English, by the age of 19, it was her move to London and her decision to write a novel in ‘broken’ English in which she retrospectively tried to emulate the process of language learning and cultural adjustment that initially brought her to the attention of an Anglophone audience as a writer in English. As she indicates in an interview (Kleffel 2007), Guo spent about a year reworking the first 20-odd pages of the novel, trying to reproduce the ‘feel’ and systemic features of a broken English she no longer possessed by using short, sharp sentences and adding the -ing suffix to the present tense of verbs in an attempt to render for the reader a kind of translation of the (Chinese) language learner’s experience. She devoted a lot of time to the linguistic rather than to the storytelling side of her novel, creating an increasingly complex Chinese kind of English in the context of a love story structured around dictionary entries as a device for talking about cultural and linguistic difference between the main protagonist Z and her older English lover. Yet while language is clearly important in the novel both as a vehicle for discussion of difference and as an emblem of identity, what the novel also demonstrates is that the acquisition of grammar and syntax is no guarantee of ability to communicate or of mutual understanding, given the role that cultural context plays in the overall communicative process between individuals formed in different societies and acculturated to different norms. Her dictionary-novel is not just a record of the frustrations of the language-learning process and of human communication; it is also an exploration of the expressive possibilities of language and other modalities in conveying human thought and constructing human emotion across cultural contexts. Indeed, it is the contexts (cultural, social and technological) that hinder or facilitate communication and human interaction that seem to interest Guo. In other words, her work not only highlights the challenges of communicating across cultures; it also seeks to extend the range of possible modalities. By availing herself of the resources of other languages and cultures, Guo is able to move beyond the limitations of generic, linguistic and cultural conventions, creating new expressive and novelistic forms (e.g. the dictionary-novel) in



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English. That Guo is in dialogue with the novel as a form is evident from the choices that she makes in constructing her work. For not only does she demonstrate novelistic control and agency in her conscious uses and abuses of the English language in A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary but she also draws on the visual in designing and realizing her work, as has been discussed in relation to UFO in Her Eyes. In her narratives of translation she opens up new novelistic spaces through her creative use of both language and technology. Indeed, it is advances in technology that have permitted the production and dissemination of these multimodal works. What Ch’ien (2008: 52) calls ‘the work required in listening to another culture’ is shown by Guo to take place not just in relation to language at the acoustic and graphic levels but also in respect of the fundamental design and architecture of the novel which make demands on the reader to negotiate a new literary culture, one based on the values of translingualism and multimodality. Literary culture is a product not just of the creativity of individual writers but also of the receptiveness of groups of readers to the technological, cultural and linguistic innovation that finds material expression in their work. ‘Our changing and globalized subjectivities’ (Ch’ien 2008: 50) are themselves a response to revolutions in communications technologies and tools that serve to shape the ways in which language is used ‘within an increasingly mobile and technological world’ (50). In this sense, ‘the ushering in of a global subjectivity’ (51) is not the prerogative of those who are physically mobile and plurilingual but is within reach of all who are open to narratives of linguistic and cultural difference and to the possibilities of translation.

6

Border-Crossing and Literary Creativity

The study of borders, borderlands and frontiers has become a multidisciplinary, if not interdisciplinary, area that boasts its own journal, The Journal of Borderlands Studies. According to the Aims and Scope articulated on the journal’s website, ‘the journal encourages the submission of papers from all social science, humanities and business disciplines focusing on borderlands issues’. The journal is the primary publication of the Association for Borderlands Studies, an organization founded in 1976 with an initial emphasis on the US– Mexico border. However, the remit of both the Association and the Journal has widened considerably since then and now encompasses areas as diverse as urban planning, human geography, politics and international relations and area studies. Clearly, much of the work done in the area of Border Studies relates to physical borders and to ‘the process of bordering, through which territories and peoples are respectively included or excluded within a hierarchical network of groups, affiliations and identities’ (Newman 2003: 13). However, there is acknowledgement that borders are not just physical or territorial but also cultural and psychological. According to Newman (2003: 20), ‘[t]he study of borders has been opened up to include the representations, images and narratives that people have of the lines that separate them from others’. In the course of the chapter, I shall be focusing discussion on a seminal work by Chicana writer Gloria Anzaldúa, Borderlands/La Frontera, in which she explores the impact of the redrawing of the US–Mexican border on her own family as well as on all those of Mexican descent who found themselves living on ‘the wrong side of the border’ or who were perceived as occupying territory belonging no longer to Mexico but to the United States. Anzaldúa’s work serves to challenge the naturalness of borders and shows the extent to which borders are socially, economically and politically constructed. In reconstructing the history of the US–Mexican border and retelling the story of how Chicanos came to be perceived as ‘second-class

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citizens in their own homeland’ (Chávez 2013: 37), Anzaldúa alerts the reader to the plight of those living in the borderlands, including members of her family who were dispossessed of their lands (her grandmother), returned to Mexico (her uncle) or worked to an early death (her father) in the fields. Anzaldúa’s work, however, goes beyond documenting of the social, economic and political consequences of life in the borderlands of Southern Texas. It is rather a critique of all ‘barriers to movement and interaction’ (Newman 2003: 22) and of ‘socially constructed difference’ (23) that seeks to include some and exclude others whether that be on the basis of ethnicity, gender, sexuality or class. Anzaldúa is conscious of the lines that demarcate not just the limits and contours of particular territories but also those that regulate social customs and conventions, types of behaviours and interactions with others according to language, culture and gender. She shows writing itself to be subject to material control in terms of choice of language (Spanish or English), regulation of genre (history or story; fact or fiction) and expectations of sex and gender (male or female; straight or gay). By refusing such binaries and investing in a consciously mixed heritage, Anzaldúa creates a work that crosses linguistic, cultural and generic boundaries as well as opening up hybrid and multidimensional spaces. One of the most obvious ways in which Anzaldúa challenges conventional reader expectations and creates a work that crosses borders is through her use of different languages and different registers. In using both Spanish and English, Anzaldúa demonstrates in a material sense the ways in which she has been formed as a Chicana writer. Within the context of the US, Spanish has gained in importance and popularity and there is a burgeoning literature dealing both with the ‘accented’ English produced by multilingual writers (e.g. Ch’ien 2004) and with the preference for code-switching practised by bilingual writers wishing to produce particular kinds of effects in their work and among their readers, not all of whom will be bilingual (e.g. Martin 2005). Of course at the time when Borderlands/La Frontera was first published in 1987, the position of Spanish in relation to English for a mainstream Anglophone audience was certainly not assured. More often than not, code-switching (or moving between Spanish and English) was seen as a sign of an inferior grasp of language and ‘Spanglish’ was viewed as ‘an inferior mode of communication’ (Martin 2005: 403). It has perhaps taken 20 to 30 years of research in Sociolinguistics, Second Language Acquisition and Bilingualism, coupled with the prominence given to the linguistic and cognitive flexibility and creativity of bilingual writers, such as Junot Díaz, to arrive at a position where it is acceptable for writers to ‘lay claim



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to the languages of their communities and resist the dominance of English by proposing that these languages accompany English in the creation of works of US literature’ (Martin 2005: 404). In this sense, Borderlands/La Frontera can be seen as a work in the vanguard of bilingual production and has had an important legacy in helping to pave the way for other Chicana and Latina writers keen to find a way of negotiating cultural and linguistic difference among a diverse readership. The difficulties faced by the bilingual or multilingual writer wishing to construct a hybrid text or to draw on more than one set of linguistic and cultural resources are clear. They run the risk of alienating monolingual readers unless they adopt strategies for keeping them engaged. As we will see, Anzaldúa was clear about wanting to be met halfway by the English-speaking public and she does not apologize for her code-switching. Rather, she argues in the Preface to her book that codeswitching is ‘a legitimate and vital mode of communication’ (Martin 2005: 405). However, through a mix of contextualization, annotation and self-translation, she reaches out to the Anglophone reader, while at the same time allowing the reader at home in both Spanish and English to feel empowered. As Martin (2005: 406) puts it, ‘Anzaldúa shows how code-switching is not so much a change from one language to the other as it is a continuous discourse, drawing upon the resources of both languages to express coherent thoughts and images’. In the previous chapter discussion focused on the ways in which particular instances of mobility and migration give rise to linguistic and cultural bordercrossing and the possibilities that this can engender for writing in English. In focusing on the work of Chinese-born writer and film-maker Xiaolu Guo, it looked at the ways in which processes of language learning were woven into the thematic fabric of a work articulating concepts of cultural difference and went on to suggest that the driving force behind Guo’s novelistic and cinematographic production is, precisely, her ability to move across and between cultures. The current chapter, in a sense, picks up on some of the themes discussed previously – notions of cultural translation, linguistic experimentation and generic innovation – but addresses them in a different context: that of the literature produced as a consequence of inhabiting the borderlands between the US and Mexico and of living with a mixed Hispanic-American inheritance. The first part of the chapter will focus specifically on Borderlands/La Frontera, the seminal work of Gloria Anzaldúa in which she articulates the need for and linguistically enacts the creation of a new mestiza consciousness, a consciousness that privileges hybridity and non-binary thinking through the construction of an

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argument that draws on multiple disciplinary, generic and linguistic codes. The chapter will then go on to look at the work of Chicago-born writer, Sandra Cisneros, who now lives in Central Mexico.

Gloria Anzaldúa: Borderlands/La Frontera As Saldívar-Hull (1999) points out in her ‘Introduction to the Second Edition’ of Borderlands/La Frontera, it is a key work that can be seen to have given rise to a whole host of other works dealing with border issues both in relation specifically to the US–Mexican border and also more generally in terms of the political, economic, cultural and psychological impact of border-crossing both literal and metaphoric. While she does not claim that Anzaldúa invented Border Studies, she attributes to Borderlands/La Frontera the impetus for ‘a new visibility for academic programs on the study of the U.S.–Mexico border area’ (12) and speaks of a ‘remapped academic topography with the border as the organizing trope’ (12). A work first published in 1987 and republished in 1999, Borderlands/La Frontera has had resonance in a number of disciplinary areas including Sociology, Women’s Studies, Mexican-American Literature, Cultural Studies, Queer Studies and Post-colonial Studies. In the context of a book on English as a Literature in Translation, the focus will be on a number of (related) aspects of the work: its mixing and blending of narrative and argumentative genres, poetry and prose, fiction and myth, historical and rhetorical accounts; and languages (principally English and varieties of Spanish) employed to tell a personal story that is conscious of its family history and its own cultural embeddedness in histories of colonization. A work that in many ways defies conventional labels has, in a sense, to create its own: autohistoria is the term that Saldívar-Hull (1999: 14) extends to Borderlands/La Frontera from another essay by Anzaldúa on her art and the relationship between storytelling, cultural history and cultural memory (cf. Saldívar-Hull 1999: 13–14, note 4). This creation of a new space, a new genre out of the admixture of elements that she brings to her writing, is arguably the consequence of Anzaldúa’s struggle to come to terms with the linguistic and cultural impositions that she faces as a lesbian woman of Mexican origin living in the borderlands of southern Texas. Saldívar-Hull (1999) speaks of Anzaldúa’s ‘recovery project’ (8), an appropriation and re-articulation of stories of female deities, ancient myths and Aztec history, in the service of ‘reclaiming ground



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for female historical presence’ (6) and exposing ‘the struggle for social change’ (7). The use of both English and Spanish is seen as a marker of ‘this new critical discourse’ (8). Anzaldúa’s own ‘Preface to the First Edition’ makes clear her aims in writing the book. In struggling with the tensions and contradictions of living as a woman of mixed heritage ‘straddling the tejas-Mexican border, and others, all [her] life’ (Anzaldúa 1999: 19), she has come to appreciate the benefits as well as the pains of her marked position. The switching of codes within the book ‘from English to Castillian Spanish to the North Mexican dialect to Tex-Mex to a sprinkling of Nahuatl to a mixture of all of these’ (20) is an attempt to create a new language, one that more accurately reflects the experience and consciousness of the mestiza and invites Anglophone readers to meet halfway those who live ‘at the juncture of cultures’ where ‘languages cross-pollinate and are revitalized’ (20). This is a book, then, that is conscious of the politics of actual, as well as constructed, borders and of the ways in which borders can shift in response to territorial and other claims backed by sovereign power and economic or cultural force. Characterized as one of ‘the great standard bearers of cultural translation’ (Apter 2013: 103), Borderlands/La Frontera is a work that invites Anglophone readers to risk crossing linguistic as well as cultural borders and evidences the power that can be harnessed by contesting dualisms and daring to live without fixed borders. Borderlands/La Frontera is divided into two halves, the first relating primarily, though not exclusively, through prose, a kind of history of shifting territorial claims to parts of what is today the South-Western United States, including Texas, where Anzaldúa was born. In the essay or chapter that opens the section entitled Atravesando Fronteras or Crossing Borders, she places her own family’s dispossession within a wider historical frame, rehearsing the history of conquest and exploitation that led to a state of affairs whereby Mexicans were thrown off their own land in Southern Texas, given meagre, if any, compensation and forced to work on farms owned by white proprietors or to work in factories in what is today Mexico. She focuses on the plight of those who inhabit a border culture, being the product of two races (Indian and Spanish) and two worlds (Mexican and Anglo). This border culture or third country is the space or territory occupied by those who do not fit neatly into prescribed categories and whose very existence is regulated by and subject to the workings of the dominant classes. ‘A border is a dividing line, a narrow strip along a steep edge. A borderland is a vague and undetermined place created by the emotional

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residue of an unnatural boundary. It is in a constant state of transition. The prohibited and forbidden are its inhabitants’ (Anzaldúa 1999: 25). In a poem that appears at the beginning of the chapter, she inscribes her own position as a mestiza (woman of mixed Indian and Spanish blood) and inhabitant of the borderlands, her home ‘this thin edge of/ barbwire’ (25), lines that she picks up again to conclude the chapter after outlining the plight of those who risk their lives crossing the US–Mexican border. She points to the especial dangers that undocumented women face: sexual violence, exploitation, humiliation and loss. Anzaldúa inscribes herself into a family history that is also representative of the history of her race: the personal and the political cannot be separated; languages do not just exist in tandem, they intermingle in the creation of a new hybrid space. Her mother’s story of how Anzaldúa’s grandmother lost her cattle and her land is reported in a mix of English and Spanish. Practically every sentence (cf. 30) contains both languages, sometimes just a key word or concept, sometimes a phrase or clause, indicating the duality of experience for those moving between cultures but also flagging up the exclusions that apply when the language of power is English. ‘“No hablaba inglés, she didn’t know how to ask for time to raise the money”’ (30). Failure on the part of Anzaldúa’s grandmother to speak English left her unable to seek alternatives and put her at the mercy of unscrupulous lawyers. English here is represented as being shot through with Spanish, but in terms of the language of power, it is clear that English predominates and has the power to exclude. Moreover, Anzaldúa is not afraid to criticize the culture in which she grew up. What she calls ‘an absolute despot duality’ (41) is something that she abhors, along with cultural tyranny that ‘keeps women in rigidly defined roles’ (39). What she seeks is ‘an accounting with all three cultures – white, Mexican, Indian’ (44) and the creation of ‘a new culture – una cultura mestiza’ – built with ‘[her] own lumber, [her] own bricks and mortar and [her] own feminist architecture’ (44). Part of what Anzaldúa is doing is unpicking taken-for-granted assumptions and truths by looking again at how they came into being and who legitimated or validated them. In this connection, she re-examines and re-works the Mexican investment in particular female deities and the white, Western (male) investment in rationality and reason at the expense of the supernatural or unconscious. In essence, she suggests another interpretation for the fall of the Aztec nation, one that shifts responsibility away from the perceived treachery



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of Malinche (la Chingada) in translating for and sleeping with the enemy, the Spanish conquistador Hernán Cortés, and places it more squarely on the shoulders of the Aztecs for subverting ‘the solidarity between men and women and between noble and commoner’ (56). In revisiting the source of a mythology that affects contemporary attitudes to women among Mexicans and Chicanos, she shows the power of symbols: La Virgen de Guadalupe, la Chingada and la Llorona, three different representations of women, each of which is used to position them in particular ways, as virgin, as traitor or as the mother weeping for her children. She suggests that the ways in which these symbols have been used by institutions such as the Church have been political – they have exploited dualities (e.g. virgin/whore) and/or been used to keep women in their place (as a wife and mother). For Anzaldúa, however, these female figures have a much more ambivalent charge: the Virgen de Guadalupe, for example, she sees as ‘the symbol of ethnic identity and of the tolerance for ambiguity that Chicanosmexicanos, people of mixed race, people who have Indian blood, people who cross cultures, by necessity possess’ (53). Furthermore, she decries the ‘white rationality’ (58) that imposes a hierarchy whereby particular modes of consciousness – those based on reasoning and ‘connected with external reality’ (59) – are viewed as superior to those that relate to the unconscious or subjective modes of knowing the world. The consequence of this for Anzaldúa is that those who ‘inhabit both realities are forced to live in the interface between the two, forced to become adept at switching modes’ (59). This is the case for the mestiza. It is not just switching modes (of consciousness) but also switching codes that is the consequence of having access to more than one way of being in the world, more than one culture and language. Anzaldúa devotes a chapter entitled ‘How to Tame a Wild Tongue’ to examining what it means to have at your disposal a number of languages and dialects. In the context of a society that privileges English and imposes a hierarchy of other languages and ways of speaking, there has been a tendency among Chicanos to internalize the negative views of the majority white English-speaking population towards the language/s of the border. Anzaldúa’s bilingual work serves to help shift perceptions by showing the richness, vitality and creative possibilities that multiple languages can give rise to. In addition, she uncovers the politics of language both in relation to nation and in respect of gender. The oppressor tries to silence those who might disagree or speak a different language. As Anzaldúa (1999: 76) puts it: ‘Attacks on one’s form of expression with the intent to censor are a violation of the First

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Amendment. El Anglo con cara de inocente nos arrancó la lengua. Wild tongues cannot be tamed, they can only be cut out.’ Anzaldúa sets out the various languages spoken by ‘a complex, heterogeneous people’ (77), ranging from Standard English, working-class and slang English to Chicano Spanish, Tex-Mex and Pachuco, the latter the language of youth and rebellion against both Standard Spanish and Standard English. She indicates the contexts, familiar and formal, in which she tends to use one or other variety and discusses the ‘meanings’ that they have for her in terms of identity, bonding and belonging. What emerges is a sense of language as resource, a cognitive and affective tool that allows Anzaldúa to operate in multiple contexts and to create a more nuanced sense of identity than would be possible with a single language. As she indicates, her preference is for using the resources of both Spanish and English but she is aware of the prohibitions on this, largely from the Anglo perspective. ‘Until I am free to write bilingually and to switch codes without having always to translate, while I still have to speak English or Spanish when I would rather speak Spanglish, and as long as I have to accommodate the English speakers rather than having them accommodate me, my tongue will be illegitimate’ (Anzaldúa 1999: 81). There are a number of points to be drawn out here in the light of previous discussions of the role of translation in the work of bilingual or multilingual writers. In relation to Xiaolu Guo’s work, for example, we saw how issues of translation and translatability are woven into the thematic fabric of the novel. To translate a culture is to create a kind of bridge between the source culture and the target culture using language that permits the co-existence of the two. There are of course many ways in which this can be achieved and in Guo’s case the argument has been that she employs the ‘broken’ English of a language learner to mimic and recreate the process of acquisition, while highlighting issues of power and difference using the accents of Chinese or a kind of foreignizing English, one that must bend in the face of difference. At the same time, she shows that it is the Anglophone reader who requires a translation into English rather than the bilingual Chinese-English writer. In other words, questions of readability are shown to be double-edged – the bilingual or multilingual writer of English cannot be assumed to be at fault if/when monolingual readers miss out on the nuances of meaning or fail to appreciate the multidimensionality of text. Arguably works that are multi-layered in terms of language and the cultures in which they are embedded represent an assault on contemporary reading practices in a multilingual world; translation is seen to be something



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that can be withheld (and not just by the language of power) or provided (by a writer or editor) in different forms. The ‘Editor’s’ translation of the section in Chinese entitled ‘Nonsense’ in English in Guo’s novel is one such example. Likewise, for Anzaldúa, the imperative to translate is a mixed blessing. On the one hand the power differential between the dominant language and culture means that she needs to take her Anglophone audience with her in terms of providing a kind of gloss in English of what she is saying in Spanish. As a Chicana writer, moving between Spanish and English, even within the same sentence, is something that comes ‘naturally’ to her. Yet she must accommodate to the lack of linguistic diversity of the Anglophone reader unable or unwilling to move across languages with the same kind of facility. As notions of what is ‘standard’ and what is ‘deviant’, what is acceptable and what is not, tend to be set by institutions, policy-makers and people in power, cultures of reading and writing that fall outside of the dominant norms tend to be sidelined or have to fight for space. As Anzaldúa indicates in an interview with Karin Ikas on publication of the second edition of Borderlands/La Frontera, while at the University of Texas in the late 1970s, she was made to feel that Chicana literature was ‘not a legitimate discipline’ (230). As a result, in classes that focused on American philosophy and literature, she ‘felt silenced, like I had no voice’ (230). In speaking about the range of linguistic tools that she has at her disposal, Anzaldúa uses the word language where a linguist might want to use dialect or variety. While the terminology is important in terms of establishing what it is we are talking about, it must also be borne in mind that the thrust of Anzaldúa’s work is to challenge rigid categorization and to demonstrate the political, social and economic underpinnings of linguistic realities. Her work is designed to highlight the porosity of categories that bleed into one another and to point to the creation of spaces that defy dualisms and a positivistic mentality. Rather than perpetuating distinctions that bear little relation to her lived reality, she prefers to ground theory in social and personal experience and to test definitional statements against the complexities of lived reality. She is interested in what she sees as ‘this silencing from the outside’ (231) of views that challenge the norms, a kind of pressure often exerted on minorities by the majority. Anzaldúa highlights the position of those who contest the kind of colonialism that insists on accommodation and conformity from those who have been colonized and oppressed, while preserving their own right to operate in a single language in a plurilingual environment. The form that her writing takes is a further attempt to undermine fixed

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ideas about what constitutes disciplinary and generic boundaries, as well as what constitutes ‘good’ academic or creative writing. She talks about how her ‘struggle is to change the disciplines, to change the genres, to change how people look at a poem, at theory or at children’s books’ (233). In realizing this, she has to make a judgement about how far to go, while holding on to her audience, an audience that is largely international. Yet she is aware that in today’s world, you don’t have to be an actual border-crosser moving from one world to another to transgress borders. Access to the internet and multimedia puts many millions more people in a position where they are able to cross virtual borders and have ‘the chance to choose and select’ (234). At the same time, however, writing is not just about choice; it’s about compulsion: ‘The stress of living with cultural ambiguity both compels me to write and blocks me’ (96). In ‘Tlilli, Tlapalli/The Path of the Red and the Black’, Anzaldúa describes her writing process and relates it both to the rhythms and rituals of childhood – reading at night in bed by torchlight and inventing stories to silence her sister – and to the pains of finding a place and a voice in the world. She talks about the power and precedence of images and how in a sense writing is connected with the translation of images. ‘An image is a bridge between evoked emotion and conscious knowledge; words are cables that hold up the bridge. Images are more direct, more immediate than words, and closer to the unconscious. Picture language precedes thinking in words; the metaphorical mind precedes analytical consciousness’ (Anzaldúa 1999: 91). Anzaldúa sees herself as someone who ‘traffic[s] in images’ (91–2) and who works through the traumas behind the images, making sense of them and creating meaning following a process of transformation of these images into words. The writer or creative artist is for Anzaldúa an inhabitant of the Borderlands insofar as she must wrestle with ‘psychic unrest’ (95), transforming it into something meaningful through the process of writing. ‘To write, to be a writer, I have to trust and believe in myself as a speaker, as a voice for the images’ (95), she says. This suggests a kind of channelling whereby Anzaldúa opens herself up to the power of what she sees and struggles to find the words that will allow her to write down ‘these film-like narratives’ (92). She becomes in effect a kind of seer and ‘an agent of transformation’ (96). The final chapter of the first half of Borderlands/La Frontera is where Anzaldúa articulates what she understands the new mestiza consciousness to be. She begins by situating the Chicana against the backdrop of historical and actual oppression and suggests that as a race Chicanos have internalized



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a sense of inferiority and a sense of shame. To move beyond this requires the development of a new consciousness, one that has ‘a tolerance for contradictions, a tolerance for ambiguity’ (101). The new mestiza must learn ‘to juggle cultures’ and to operate ‘in a pluralistic mode’ (101). For Anzaldúa the future belongs to those who can straddle two or more cultures and overcome dualistic thinking. Having in effect proposed in the first half of the book a thesis in which she suggests a way forward for her race and for all who would attempt to ‘work out a synthesis’ (101) where phenomena collide, in the second half Anzaldúa ‘reenacts (sic) dramatically the process of coming into (mestiza) consciousness and the practice of the mestiza way’ (10). In a series of six sections, she inscribes in both Spanish and English poetic dramatizations of life in the Borderlands. These poetic dramatizations relate to: memories and stories of her family in South Texas as they go about their daily business, farming, cooking, surviving; encounters with the spirit world; and love between women. In ‘To live in the Borderlands means you’ Anzaldúa speaks in poetic form of the challenges for her race and all who live a border existence. In mixing Spanish and English and providing a glossary of key terms for the non-Chicano reader, she tries to reach a readership willing to meet her halfway. She recounts briefly the lot of the Chicana, to be a ‘mestiza, mulata, half-breed’ (216), yet at the same time to be the ‘forerunner of a new race’ (216). To survive the Borderlands

you must live sin fronteras be a crossroads. (Anzaldúa 1999: 217) The future then depends on border-crossers and on those who are prepared to bridge cultural divides, creating a new synthesis, opening up a third space. In ‘Nepantalist Poetics: Narrative and Cultural Identity in the MixedLanguage Writings of Irena Klepfisz and Gloria Anzaldúa’, Jane Hedley compares and contrasts the work of two border-crossers: that of a holocaust survivor who has left Poland and come to the US, writing in both Yiddish and English; and the work of Anzaldúa. What she makes clear is that location and history make a difference both to the approach taken by the writer and to the ways in which readers may interpret the work. It is not that all bilingual writing means the same or has the same motivations and claims on our attention. Yet as points of reference – Klepfisz’s work is referenced in Anzaldúa’s (see

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p. 76) – and as evidence of the commonalities of women’s experience of living in the borderlands, despite their different histories and reasons for trying to overcome a tradition of silence, Hedley (1996) shows their work to be part of a larger attempt to wrestle with difference and conflict. As we have seen in the previous chapter on ‘Migration and Mobility’ there are many different reasons why individuals or groups of individuals move across borders (e.g. political, social, intellectual, economic) and it is important to contextualize migratory processes and to situate different generations of diasporic peoples in relation to the production and reception of their work. At the same time, it is difficult not to notice, as Hedley points out (1996: 38), that ‘each [both Klepfisz and Anzaldúa] uses narrative to forge a new identity for a people in diaspora’. Just as Anzaldúa (1999: 76) herself draws attention to the contribution of others in alerting her to the ways in which culture and language can contain and constrain and how the refusal to go along with ways of speaking permitted in a culture (e.g. in terms of gendered language) can be both shocking and liberatory, so awareness of particular narrative tendencies across cultures can help to validate other ways of being in the world. Thus writers who, like Anzaldúa, resist cultural tyranny (38) and linguistic terrorism (80) make it easier for those that follow, even those from different cultures, to fight for recognition of forms of expression and aesthetic preferences that depart from orthodoxies and tendencies prevalent at a particular time. As Hedley (1996: 36), quoting poet and feminist writer Adrienne Rich, points out, ‘in the late twentieth century North American poetry is beginning to be “a multicultural literature of discontinuity, migration and difference”’ (140).

Sandra Cisneros: The House on Mango Street A writer who might be said to have shadowed Anzaldúa in terms of her literary production is Chicago-born Mexican-American writer Sandra Cisneros. Like Anzaldúa, she grew up with two languages and a mixed heritage, one that she has sought to preserve in her life and through her works. In some ways, in the context of this chapter, it would have made sense to discuss Cisneros’s 1991 collection of short stories of life on both sides of the Mexican border, Woman Hollering Creek. However, insofar as borders, in the sense of lines of demarcation and zones of inclusion and exclusion, exist beyond the Tex–Mex border,



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I wanted to focus on another area of the US – in this case Chicago, where Cisneros was born – and look at Cisneros’s internationally acclaimed 1984 work, The House on Mango Street. In response to an interview question by Maria-Antónia Oliver-Rotger in 2000 for Voices from the Gaps, a website based in the English Department at the University of Minnesota, about the advantages of her mixed heritage, Cisneros indicated that she felt that it fell to bilingual, bicultural people to use their position to create bridges between warring communities and to serve to translate difference. ‘We’re amphibians and bridges to communities at war with each other, but it’s our job in the new millennium to help bridge and translate. Otherwise we all die.’ Here she writes a series of vignettes about growing up in a Spanish-speaking neighbourhood in Chicago. The stories are told from the perspective of a young girl, Esperanza Cordero, who is aware of the differences in wealth across the city and of differences between this neighbourhood and others. She is also aware of the perceptions of others and how they view her when they realize where she lives. ‘You live there?’ (Cisneros 2004: 5), says a nun from Esperanza’s school passing by where she used to live. While the house on Mango Street is a step up, neither does it quite live up to expectations: ‘It’s small and red with tight steps in front and windows so small you’d think they were holding their breath’ (Cisneros 2004: 4). The language is simple yet evocative and the choice of images serves to create a sense of the personality of the place as well as to mirror the feelings of the inhabitants. Esperanza is aware of the discrepancy between the houses she sees on TV and those in her neighbourhood, just as she is aware of the perceptions of those who live in other neighbourhoods in respect of the ethnic residents of this place. As more ‘people like us keep moving in’ (13), those who can – usually white and of European stock – move out. Throughout the book there is a strong sense of cultural location and of the co-existence of different worlds. For example, when her paternal grandfather dies and her father prepares to go to Mexico for a family funeral, Esperanza is simultaneously aware of extended family ties elsewhere and of the anxiety of separation. She sees her father cry for the first time on the death of his father; thinking about how she would feel if her own father died brings home to her the ties that bind despite distance. She can picture the aunts and uncles who will have a black and white photo taken in front of the ‘tomb with flowers shaped like spears in a white vase because that is how they send the dead away in that

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country’ (Cisneros 2004: 56). Here there is recognition of difference – ‘in that country’, Mexico – yet a difference that exists within the fabric of their own lives – this, after all, is where her father came from – and they have inherited its language, customs and cuisine. In the Spanish-speaking neighbourhood in which they live, everyone feels safe as long as they don’t wander too far from ‘home’: ‘All brown all around, we are safe. But watch us drive into a neighborhood of another color and our knees go shakity-shake and our car windows get rolled up tight and our eyes look straight’ (28). The book is sensitive to the plight of the marginalized or those who come from elsewhere. The story of ‘Geraldo No Last Name’ tells of a meeting between Marin, from Puerto Rico, who lives in the neighbourhood with her aunt and uncle, and Geraldo whom she met at a dance. He is the victim of a hit-and-run and she accompanies him to the hospital. ‘Just another wetback. You know the kind. The ones who always look ashamed’ (66). The narrative alerts the reader to the realities of life for those who come north from Mexico: Geraldo worked in an unnamed restaurant and went to dances on Saturdays but no one really knows who he is or where he comes from. His fate – to die in an emergency ward – with someone he met at a dance accompanying him but with no details on him of who he is or where he comes from. The plight of the illegal immigrant. This story is told in an understated, almost nonchalant way, but it packs a punch. Geraldo lives in the cracks of American society: like an invisible man with no legal existence, yet part of an unknown family network who will soon forget him: ‘Geraldo – he went north … we never heard from him again’ (66). Although the vignettes are written in English, there are individual Spanish words, mostly in italics, that give a flavour of the cultural context out of which the anecdotes emerge. There are references to food (e.g. tortillas, frijoles and tamales), to music and types of dances (e.g. cumbias, rancheras and salsas), to superstition and beliefs (e.g. los espíritus) as well as terms of endearment (e.g. mamacita). There are also fond or nostalgic references to aspects of Mexican life. For example, Esperanza talks about her father’s habit of listening to Mexican records on a Sunday morning while shaving. She characterizes them as ‘songs like sobbing’ (10). Once she and her sister Nenny come upon a house that they both see as reminiscent of houses in Mexico (17–18) and in their rope skipping games in which they invent little rhymes as they skip, Esperanza rhymes ‘merengue’ and ‘tembleque’ (both culinary terms). Some of those who move to the neighbourhood from Puerto Rico or from other Spanish-speaking cultures



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appear to miss aspects of the life they have left behind. Rafaela, for example, drinks coconut and papaya juice on Tuesday evenings while her husband plays dominoes (79–80). Mamacita, a large woman dressed in pink, never leaves her apartment and takes it as an affront when her child starts babbling in English rather than Spanish (76–8). The sounds of English and Spanish are compared in relation, for example, to the pronunciation of names. Esperanza’s name is mispronounced at school: ‘they say my name funny as if the syllables were made out of tin and hurt the roof of your mouth’ (11). In Spanish it sounds different, softer, ‘like silver’ (11). Esperanza is not only aware of her own cultural location within a particular Chicago neighbourhood but she is also aware of the difference between herself and others in the neighbourhood in the sense that as she grows up, she wants to resist what she sees as the fate of the girls and women around her, to marry young and no longer have opportunities to follow their dreams. The vignettes recount the tarnished lives of many women whose daily existence revolves round their families and making ends meet. In ‘A Smart Cookie’ her own mother laments the fact that she did not stay at school and that her time is now occupied in cooking oatmeal and attending to household chores rather than pursuing her interest in drawing and singing. Although she has many talents – she speaks two languages, can sing an opera and knows how to repair a TV (90) – she is bound to her home for the most part and ‘doesn’t know which subway train to take to get downtown’ (90). She encourages her daughter to study hard and not allow herself to be trapped by domesticity. Esperanza dreams of owning her own house, one full of books and paper and ‘pretty purple petunias’ rather than family members (108). It is a house that she alone occupies with ‘[n]obody to shake a stick at. Nobody’s garbage to pick up after’ (108). Esperanza seems determined to avoid the lessons she takes away from observing those around her who end up marrying young and seem trapped in difficult relationships, their identity defined by their role as wife and mother rather than in terms of their interests or aspirations. Like Woolf ’s contention that a woman’s freedom depends on an independent income and a room of her own, Esperanza, a would-be writer, understands the importance of having ‘a space for myself to go, clean as paper before the poem’ (90). Indeed, Cisneros’s vignettes are characterized as being about ‘the maturing of a young Chicana and the development of a writer’ (Doyle 1994: 6). She is seen as taking up Woolf ’s legacy in her own way, in that The House on Mango Street ‘covertly transforms the terms of Woolf ’s vision, making room

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in the female literary tradition for a young working-class Chicana’ (7). Doyle points to the ‘brevity and generic instability’ (12) of Cisneros’s work – a mix of poetry and fiction – relating it to women’s need to change the terms of fiction set by male writers and find a form that better reflects their aims and desires. She shows how across the volume, Cisneros inscribes particular themes: the constraints imposed by men on women’s dreams and aspirations and ‘the production of gender identity’ (15). According to Doyle, part of what Cisneros is doing is to ‘change the cultural scripts’ (15) confining women by offering an alternative: Esperanza’s determination to construct ‘an autonomous identity’ (18) is mirrored in Cisneros’s own artistic development and a commitment to create space for the stories of other women of colour. That Esperanza is somehow different from those around her is recognized by the other characters in the book: for example, the three old ladies who visit her friends Lucy and Rachel on the occasion of the death of their little baby sister, advise Esperanza to make a wish and foresee a future for her beyond the neighbourhood in which she grew up. The ensuing conversation indicates that one of the old ladies has understood her desire to leave the neighbourhood and reminds her that not everyone has such opportunities. ‘When you leave you must remember always to come back, she said’ (105). They recognize that in a certain sense Esperanza is operating on behalf of those around her and that, as her aunt Lupe reminds her, her writing will keep her free (61). Her mother, her aunt and those around her encourage her to liberate herself ‘from the tyrannies of male houses and male plots’ (Doyle 1994: 19). The House on Mango Street has enjoyed great success in the US and is required reading in many middle schools across the country. It has been taught in both inner-city grade schools and universities and has been translated into numerous languages. It has sold over three million copies worldwide since publication. This would suggest that at some level the coming-of-age story of Esperanza speaks widely to people, young and old, and of whatever ethnicity or linguistic background. The book is largely in English with Spanish terms in italics and one or two unitalicized words or phrases in Spanish in the dialogue. In ‘No Speak English’ the reader gets a sense of what it is like to be without access to the dominant language in a country and how that makes you feel. The vignette relates in humorous fashion the arrival of the wife of the man across the street. He has been working two jobs and is finally able to bring his family, consisting of his large wife with tiny feet, and his baby son, to join him. Their arrival by taxi is



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described in language that paints a colourful and synaesthetic picture drawing on sound, sight, movement and smell: Then one day Mamacita and the baby boy arrived in a yellow taxi. The taxi door opened like a waiter’s arm. Out stepped a tiny pink shoe, a foot soft as a rabbit’s ear, then the thick ankle, a flutter of hips, fuchsia roses and green perfume. The man had to pull her, the taxicab driver had to push. Push, pull. Push, pull. Poof! (Cisneros 2004: 76–7)

While the language is at one level very simple and the sentence structure uncomplicated, this short stretch of narrative text is skilfully crafted. It uses imagery to good effect (the door opens ‘like a waiter’s arm’; the foot stepping out ‘soft as a rabbit’s ear’) and draws attention to colour (the yellow taxi, the pink shoe, fuchsia roses and green perfume). The marked word order in the third sentence (‘Out stepped a tiny pink shoe’) reflects the order in which parts of Mamacita are emerging from the tight squeeze of the taxi that contains her. The repetition of ‘push, pull’ indicates the effort required, with the final onomatopoeia (‘poof ’) signalling success and rendering the suddenness of her final emergence from the taxi. The following paragraph begins: ‘All at once she bloomed. Huge, enormous, beautiful to look at, from the salmon-pink feather on the tip of her hat down to the little rosebuds of her toes. I couldn’t take my eyes off her tiny shoes’ (Cisneros 2004: 77). The choice of the verb ‘bloom’ draws together much that has been building up in the previous paragraph: Mamacita, like a colourful, exotic flower, has blossomed and stands there in all her glory. Esperanza is fascinated by the contrast between the huge woman and her tiny feet. The story continues with a mimetic description of her climb up the stairs and into her third-floor living quarters. There is talk in the neighbourhood as to why she never seems to venture out. There is speculation that it’s because she’s too fat or can’t negotiate the stairs but as far as Esperanza is concerned it has to do with the fact that she has just eight words of English: ‘He not here’ which she uses when the landlord comes to see her husband; ‘No speak English’ if anyone else comes; and oddly ‘Holy smokes’. Her lack of English causes Esperanza to muse on the fact that when her father first came to the US from Mexico, he only ate ‘hamandeggs’ at every meal for three months, since that was the only word he knew. Her addition of ‘He doesn’t eat hamandeggs anymore’ works for the reader as a wry comment on her father’s situation then and now and provides, by extension, a commentary on the situation of other newly arrived immigrants.

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But it is not just the immigrants for whom language becomes an obstacle. For non-Spanish speakers and readers, the opening paragraph of the vignette may also lose something in translation. ‘Mamacita is the big mama of the man across the street, third-floor front. Rachel says her name ought to be Mamasota, but I think that’s mean.’ (Cisneros 2004: 76)

The context makes clear that there is a difference in tenor between ‘mamacita’ and ‘mamasota’ and that while the former may be used affectionately, the latter is not likely to be so. The suffix -cito/a, like -ito/a in Spanish, is used as a diminutive (e.g. Rafaelito; casita; cochecito) and can carry affectionate connotations. So literally ‘mamacita’ could mean ‘little mama’, even though in this case Mamacita turns out to be huge. However, in parts of South America ‘mamacita’ can also mean ‘hot mama’ or refer to a ‘sexy girl or woman’. Spanish also has a range of augmentative and pejorative suffixes of which -ote/-ota is one. So ‘mamasota’ in contrast to ‘mamacita’ implies that the woman is weighty. The very differences in sound are suggestive of differences in weight. However, according to an online urban dictionary (www.urbandictionary.com), ‘mamasota’ as a slang term has explicitly sexual connotations and is stronger and less ambivalent than mamacita. What might appear a digression into the denotative and connotative aspects of language, in this case, Spanish, has brought to the fore the way in which language is embedded in culture and the extent to which meanings are derived from particular contexts. With some basic knowledge of the systemic resources of Spanish, it is possible to work out what is implied or to get the gist of what is written, but clearly the nuanced interplay of meanings is not always evident to the Anglophone reader lacking higher levels of Spanish and the cultural knowledge that accompanies it. Later in the same story there is a short dialogue between Mamacita and her husband. She asks in Spanish when (¿Cuándo, cuándo, cuándo?) they will be going home, the repetition of the interrogative translating both her insistence and sense of urgency. It is through the response that it is possible to work out the implied question: ‘¡Ay, Caray! We are home. This is home. Here I am and here I stay. Speak English. Speak English. Christ!’ (Cisneros 2004: 78). The interjection signals frustration on the husband’s part and italics are used to signal word stress. The last straw for Mamacita is when her baby starts to mimic the American English sounds – ‘like tin’ (78) – he hears on TV and starts to speak English.



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Creativities old and new As Pope’s (2005) history of the ways in which notions of creativity have been conceptualized and articulated, in both theory and practice, has shown, what is meant by creativity and what might underpin it is not self-evident and cannot be taken for granted. His book points to the changing contextual dynamics whereby certain textual or formal characteristics or elements of style come to be valued or occupy a place of importance in the literary and/or philosophical hierarchy. He traces the history of terms such as ‘genius’, ‘imagination’ and ‘creativity’ in relation to the environments in which they have been used (e.g. notions of Romantic genius) or tend to be used (e.g. artistic creativity) to show the interplay of particular ideologies (e.g. individualist) and the formation of particular sensibilities and notions of literary taste and culture. He goes on to indicate a typical alignment of sets of values in relation to notions of creation v. production, for example, whereby the terms tend to carry particular significations. Thus, ‘creation’ is often aligned with notions of originality, inspiration and/or design, the bringing into being of something that did not previously exist, whereas ‘production’ tends to suggest a second-order activity of making, or something more mechanical, usually on the basis of an already existing design and on a large or industrial scale (think, for example, of the connotations of ‘the production line’). Yet clearly not all art or artefacts are the product of particular creative individuals, nor does the degree of collaboration in, for example, musical production and/or contemporary art necessarily diminish the force, energy or ‘originality’ of the resulting work. Writers, too, in reality share work in progress and tend to build, consciously or unconsciously, on what has gone before. They mine the literature (and art) of the past, often rewriting it for the times in which they happen to live. Virginia Woolf, for example, rejected a model of realism prevalent at the time, one that focused on external markers of self and society, in favour of an inner psychological realism that necessitated the development of new narrative techniques. Pope (2005) also explores new paradigms or conceptualizations of creativity which see it as emergent, something that comes into being in the process of activity or as a result of the dynamic interplay of forces along a continuum of order and chaos, evolution and revolution, art and artifice. Part of the value of Pope’s work is to place notions of creativity within contextual histories and to relate them to the theories or conceptual frames with which they have been

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identified or aligned. The kind of view of creativity at work in this chapter is an at least partially materialist one insofar as the suggestion is that it is access to resources, including language/s and culture/s, that serves to facilitate the development of an enhanced repertoire. Such a view does not preclude discussion of other aspects of ‘creation’ or ‘production’ but it does help to establish some kind of material basis for literary creativity. Of course not all who have access to language/s and aspects of culture/s become writers or artists. So clearly the provision of material resources is not sufficient to guarantee the production of certain kinds of work, deemed literary, nor does it answer the question of what is included and what gets excluded from the literary domain, of what gets forgotten and what remains over time. Clearly, the role of institutional and literary gate-keepers as well as market forces can help determine what ‘counts’ as new, original or creative work, at least in the short term. It is not the aim of this book to rehearse the history of literature and attempt to identify enduring ‘literary’ traits or characteristics on the basis of such a history. The aim here is rather to point to developments in contemporary literatures in English that demand attention and are worthy of note. These developments relate to modes and materials of expression, issues of genre and a focus on translation in a broad sense on the part of writers equipped with multiple resources for creativity. Of course the question of what constitutes ‘creativity’ in literature is not answered in full by acknowledgement of the necessity of a particular material base (e.g. a script or scripts, a language or languages) and the technologies required to produce or reproduce it to make it available to a wider public (e.g. copying or printing). However, the production or creation of something new or fresh or different in writing generally requires an engagement with or response to what is already in existence; it imagines or posits or constructs an alternative universe or possible world; it challenges received ideas or currently accepted positions and purveys or channels alternatives. It draws on aspects of past production to create something else, something other, by reframing it, reworking it and transforming it. One often taken-for-granted assumption, at least in much of the UK, as an English-speaking country, relates to language and ways of writing, including what is deemed appropriate to particular genres and particular contexts. There is an expectation that work will be produced predominantly, if not exclusively in English, notwithstanding the fact that in parts of the UK other languages are spoken or are part of the fabric of daily life. Wales, for example, where about 20 per cent of the population can speak Welsh, has a policy in place to facilitate



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bilingualism within education (e.g. through the provision of Welsh-medium schools) and in the community; and many other languages, besides English, are in practice spoken and written throughout the UK. Yet as we saw in the chapter on ‘Lives in Translation’, choice of language and/or language variety remains an issue: Kelman’s 1995 novel, How Late it Was, How Late, caused controversy insofar as it was seen by some critics to employ a degraded form of English and to constitute literary vandalism. Clearly, the fact that it won the Booker Prize is an indication that there was sufficient support for its literary merit and narrative innovations to overcome the misgivings of some, even among the judges. Yet its mixed reception and resistance to its translation into other languages would suggest that language is bound up with politics and colonial histories. In the case of Anzaldúa, we have seen how she draws on contestatory histories of the creation of the US–Mexican border, on Aztec mythologies, on familial and cultural histories, as well as on personal biography to create a new genre. She does this in a number of ways, both formal and substantive, and through the process of translation of self and other. Translation operates in Anzaldúa’s work simultaneously at a number of levels: as a woman of Mexican descent who has grown up in the borderlands of southern Texas, she represents or ‘translates’ her experience and combined inheritance through a range of varieties of English and Spanish. Her translation of self is both self-directed and directed towards others in the sense that writing, using multiple resources, is a mode of identity construction (Gentzler 2008) and an opportunity to promote a different set of cultural values and social norms than those adopted by the American mainstream. In revealing to the reader snippets from her childhood and her education in relation to her language – being encouraged as a girl to hold her tongue or to control it in terms of speaking ‘appropriately’ according to context and domain (e.g. English only at school; particular forms of Spanish at home or with family and friends) – Anzaldúa gives a sense of the regulation and policing of language that is both external and internal. She is punished for speaking Spanish during the break at school; her mother wants her to speak English without a Mexican accent; and she finds herself adjusting her choice of language according to a complicated system of inclusions and exclusions. What Borderlands/La Frontera represents is a challenge to this ‘linguistic terrorism’ and tradition of silence. Anzaldúa refuses to domesticate her language or hold her tongue. Not only does she draw attention to the links between linguistic control and the management of social hierarchies, she also uses her wide-ranging linguistic repertoire to create the possibility of a new order, one

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which validates rather than denigrates ‘el lenguaje de la frontera’, and responds to and embodies change. For language is a living breathing thing that naturally adapts to different conditions; to deny a person’s language is tantamount to denying their existence and their way of life. At the same time as she extends the possibilities of and for language, by drawing on and using a mix of varieties, she uses a diverse range of generic and textual markers to create a new genre. In this sense Anzaldúa’s text is performative: it enacts the position it espouses by creating a hybrid work that demonstrates its own formal and substantive necessity. In ‘Border Writing and the Caribbean’, Translation Studies theorist Edwin Gentzler reviews the work of a number of writers, theorists and critics of the border and border writing to show how the concept of a border and the notion of living in the borderlands operate across a number of dimensions, both empiric and psycho-social. He begins with the realities of the Mexican–US border, its daily crossings, and its contested history, reports and stories of which provide material for ‘creative writers emerging from the region’ (Gentzler 2008: 146) before turning to the Caribbean as an area in the Americas where, he suggests, border writing as a discursive practice originated. He goes on to characterize the often bi- or multilingual work of such writers, including Anzaldúa, whose biographies and histories have placed them in the borderlands, or a kind of no man’s land, between cultures, languages and identities. He sees them as rewriting from within, ‘elevating those myths, ideas, and voices that have historically been silenced’ (168) and using their multilingualism to unsettle notions of a standard language or languages with fixed boundaries and identifiable registers. For Gentzler (2008: 166), ‘[c]reative writers in the Caribbean were the first to exploit this multilingual/translational nature of their culture’ in a variety of ways. Increasingly, in the Americas, he suggests, writers who are prepared to hold on to their languages and cultures are coming to the fore; they are ready to ‘translate their own language and ideas into the dominant culture’ (186) and are no longer willing to suppress their linguistic vitality or adapt their work to conform to standard monolingual forms. Translation itself has crossed borders to become a tool in the creative arsenal of the writer. No longer constituted simply as a secondary or derivative activity on the part of a cultural and linguistic intermediary, it is transformed into a heterogeneous and plural mode of writing that permits a deconstruction of cultural and linguistic presumptions about ‘source’ and ‘target’ texts and ‘source’ and ‘target’ cultures from the perspective of ‘a plural personality’, someone who embodies difference and ‘is able to think and write in a new mode and



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in a new language’ (Gentzler 2008: 156). This creative capacity to deconstruct, reconfigure and transform dominant modes of writing through the production of translational texts that resist or subvert a monolingual and/or monocultural reading shifts the balance of power in terms of the construction of meaning towards those who themselves are the product of more than one language and culture or who are open to new ways of reading. While writers cannot control or police what readers take from their work, they can be more or less inviting, more or less open to different kinds of readership (Anglophone/non-Anglophone; monolingual/multilingual). They can meet the reader halfway by bridging the gaps, cultural and otherwise, in their work or they can adopt an attitude of sinkor-swim. They can use strategies of resistance to the imposition of dominant linguistic and cultural norms, by subverting them or turning the tables on the reader who has come to expect English Only rather than English Plus. We saw how even in a work such as The House on Mango Street language and cultural knowledge inflects the text. While the amount of Spanish is on the surface minimal, and it is possible for the Anglophone reader to understand in context the gist of the exchanges and the narrative, the bilingual EnglishSpanish reader is likely to grasp what is said and written without the need for translation. Of course this is a question of degree and the same might hold even within a single language in a more general sense with regard to any text where there are differences among readers in cultural knowledge and linguistic facility. Indeed this is part of the argument marshalled by Maria Lauret (2014) in her recently published monograph Wanderwords. In a chapter entitled ‘Escribir y Leer Bilingually: Spanish/English and Spanglish American Literature in the Twenty-First Century’, she considers the consequences for monolingual readers of ‘the much-changed linguascape of the late twentieth and early twenty-first century’ (Lauret 2014: 211). For Lauret, the presence of what she calls wanderwords, that is to say words from one language that make their presence felt in a different language, often without translation, is not a new phenomenon but it is one that has accelerated in American literature in the twenty-first century and may be considered to present problems for a monolingual readership. She points out that even within bi- or multilingual texts there are different degrees of bi- or multilingualism and that the presence of different languages cannot be assumed to function in the same way in each. Taking examples from a number of sources (e.g. Julia Alvarez, Susana Chávez-Silverman, Rosario Ferré), she examines the extent to which English and Spanish fuse, intermingle, interrogate one another, are separated out, or push each other to the edge of disintegration.

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Lauret (2014: 212) takes issue with a translational perspective, suggesting that in relation to the kind of texts being produced today ‘translation alone is not the answer’. What she means by this is that because bilingual writing, properly speaking, is more than the sum of its parts, a version in language B of a stretch of text in language A is not sufficient for understanding the interplay of both and the aesthetic effects produced. ‘To read bilingually is to read-indifference, keeping languages on parallel tracks, as it were, but remaining alert to the points where they cross or converge, for that is where the sparks may fly and aesthetic effects be produced’ (234). She goes on to demonstrate how it is possible to remain alert to these linguistic crossings and points of convergence by reading parts of Chávez-Silverman’s Killer Crónicas and Junot Díaz’s The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao. I shall not rehearse Lauret’s attentive and explicit reading here: suffice to say that what she demonstrates are the possibilities and limits of the reader/outsider position and the extent to which a reader sensitive to the kind of textual doubling signalled in bilingual writing is able ‘through careful reading and follow-up’ (239) to gain access to what might otherwise be points of opacity. There is much in Lauret’s conclusions that echoes some of the sentiments expressed and reflections articulated in this book: recognition of the ways in which contemporary reading practices are complicated by writing produced by those with access to more than one language and culture; and the demands and rewards of plurilingualism as a discursive practice. There is also a measure of complementarity in terms of ‘the fusion and friction of languages and cultures in contact’ (243). Where perhaps we part company is in relation to an implied tension or opposition between translational and multilingual approaches to accessing such literature. If translation seems to me a useful way of approaching the production of literature today, it is precisely because of the ways in which its significations have multiplied and been expanded, arguably at least in part in response to changing conditions of literary production and reception. As Bassnett (2012) has indicated, Translation Studies is at a cross-roads: the increasingly intercultural works being produced across the globe, she suggests, require new circuits and new ways of reading. By new circuits, she is referring to the need to better understand the contexts of production, distribution and transmission and to find a way of charting the changing fortunes of works and their translations over time and across different geographies. Such a remit broadens the scope of translation and aligns it with a broadly comparative, critical and international perspective. In reviewing and contextualizing a range



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of narratives of translation, it has been my aim to show the extent to which they disclose aspects of the conditions underpinning their production in their design. By this I mean to suggest that the changing history in terms of attitudes to and perceptions of the bi- and multilingual condition, as reflected in the specialist literature, is paralleled by shifting representations of the dynamics and signification of translation in literary writing more generally. What I have termed a shift from language as loss to language as gain is a kind of shorthand signalling changing discursive practices that reflect new engagements with aspects of translation whether that be across languages and/or across cultures; whether that be in relation to self, in relation to other, or to both; whether that be in connection with the conveyance of difference across borders and the construction of new genres and new patterns of communication; or whether there be a focus on resistant or non-translation. In relating translation to its patterning in particular narratives, I have sought to show the extent to which translation is both substance and form, story and discourse, critique and invention.

Conclusion Despite the continued domination of English as the language of power in the early twenty-first century, there are signs that the balance of power is shifting away from monolingual writing towards writing, including in English, that is the product of the interplay of other languages and cultures. This is no longer just a post-colonial phenomenon but is becoming more widespread: bilinguality and multilinguality, ‘accented’ English and multidimensional and hybrid texts are becoming much more prevalent. Mestizaje is no longer an exceptional state or a state attributable to certain colonized ethnic groups but a more usual state of affairs, the ‘new norm – the new world (b)order’ (Gentzler 2008: 158). Evidence of the changing situation in the US and of the public recognition given to writers who have grown up with more than one language and culture is reflected in the choice of Richard Blanco, a Cuban-American poet, to read at Barack Obama’s inauguration as President; and in the writings of Pulitzer prize-winning novelist and short-story writer Junot Díaz. While conditions in the US are not the same as those in the UK, the example of Xiaolu Guo in a previous chapter has served to show the extent to which border-crossing and literary creativity can be seen to go hand in hand in the work of a Chinese-born

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writer, now a British citizen, who has explored across her work to date different aspects of translation and the politics of language. In her most recent novel I Am China, Guo (2014) has once again availed herself of a focus on translation in terms of thematic substance and dramatic engine. In I Am China the process of translation from Chinese into English on the part of Iona, a practising translator educated at the School of African and Oriental Languages (SOAS), becomes the motor that drives the plot as she seeks to uncover the story behind the correspondence and the fragments she is translating, bringing to light the lives and fate of those who have uttered the words in translation. The co-dependency of text and co-text, of language and the context that produces it and helps to give it shape, and the extent to which narrative is the product of a translational process in terms of being an utterance that responds to the words of another or others across time and space, are all issues explored in the novel. In the words of Translation scholar, David Johnston (2007: 257): ‘It is the act of translation that constitutes the genuine borderland.’

Concluding Remarks The aim of this book has been twofold: to present an argument about literature/s in English written by authors for whom concepts of translation in a broad sense seem to define their work; and to reflect on the implications for reading of literature, as well as for writing practices, produced at the confluence of languages and cultures. In focusing on a number of case studies that thematize issues of translation and what it means to speak and write from a particular linguistic and cultural location, I have drawn attention to a shift in the dynamics of loss and gain articulated in literary works that are the product of a bilingual or plurilingual intelligence. While the majority of texts which I have discussed are written in English, even if they engage at a material level with aspects of other languages and cultures, I have chosen to include a visibly bilingual work, Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera, first published in 1987, as well as a pseudotranslation, that is a novel that purports to be a translation, Kelman’s Translated Accounts, from 2001. The choice of works has been motivated by a number of factors including geographical and temporal coverage – works produced in the Americas and the United Kingdom by writers who hail from a range of source cultures (e.g. Polish, Chilean, Mexican, Chinese, Scottish) and who were writing from the 1980s to the present; and by the fact that they represent and embody different, yet overlapping, conceptions of translation. What I have emphasized in the discussion is that these works are interrogating the positioning of narrative subjects who lack conformity to a monolingual, monocultural norm. Their perceived duality or multiplicity can be seen to operate at different points along a continuous line in terms of the suppression or visibility of their difference, the degree to which they internalize or externalize that difference and the extent to which they feel that difference to be socially and politically regulated. Translation has been a key term throughout the book. From its inclusion in the title to its embedding in the various chapters, it has spoken to a range of related phenomena: to the fact that choice of language or languages as a material building block of literary narratives has the potential to impact upon its reception (e.g. a work that incorporates Spanish into a predominantly English text with or without italics, with or without glossary, with or without

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translation); to the ways in which much literature in English today is a product of such translational and translingual processes and practices and serves to interrogate the continued application of a monolingual paradigm in an increasingly multilingual world; and to the fact that narrative and storytelling practices are themselves often a product of a kind of cultural translation in juxtaposing or synthesizing different narrative traditions. I have treated language/s, culture/s and different ways of constructing narrative as resources in a writer’s repertoire that allow him or her to select and combine according to purpose, context and target audience. In essence the argument that I have proposed is that the term ‘narratives of translation’ is an apt description and categorization of a body of literature that is concerned with what it means to move across languages and cultures and the consequences of living in translation. Each of the case studies has demonstrated in different ways and to varying degrees the consequence of such a move; they have revealed the extent to which migration and mobility is inscribed as a productive and generative, rather than simply a painful and contestatory, encounter with a new culture depending on the prevailing climate or Zeitgeist together with the social, political and cultural location of the writer. As we have seen, the kind of conditions under which people migrate (e.g. enforced or voluntary migration) and the location that they occupy in the new society (e.g. as a critic or supporter of the status quo; as an exile, an expatriate or a citizen; as a farm or factory worker, an academic, a translator or a writer) can impact upon a writer’s narrative and imaginative responses as well as on the ways in which their narrative/s are read and interpreted. In some ways, the phenomenon being dealt with in these pages – that of narratives produced by writers having access to more than one language and/ or culture – is not a new one. Indeed there are celebrated examples of translingual writers not treated here (e.g. Conrad, Beckett and Nabokov). What has distinguished the current discussion from other accounts of the work of writers who have crossed linguistic and cultural borders is the fact that a phenomenon that may previously have been considered exceptional is becoming more commonplace in many parts of the world. Alongside the continued spread of English across the globe for communicative, cultural and business purposes is increasing recognition that English does not exist in a vacuum nor is it selfsufficient and independent of other languages. In addition, the inclusion of Kelman’s work has proved to demonstrate that varieties of English, whether they be deemed local, regional or national, may serve to produce alternative



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linguistic textures to those of a standard English. Kelman’s Translated Accounts has also raised issues of the consequences for narrative cognition and affect of a consciously fabricated language, seemingly the result of translational processes produced via computer mediation rather than human agency. That English does not operate in its own presence but is shaped and formed by other languages, literatures and cultures both covertly and overtly is one of the messages of this book. A consequence of the expansion of English as a lingua franca is that traces of other languages and cultures permeate the various Englishes that are spoken and written, whether this be at the local, regional, national or international levels. To take an example not previously discussed: Piri Thomas’s memoir Down These Mean Streets was first published in 1967 with a thirtieth-anniversary edition appearing in 1997. Thomas, whose family came from Puerto Rico, grew up in Spanish Harlem using English peppered with Spanish: not, as he points out in an interview with Ilan Stavans, the Spanish of Barcelona or Galicia but ‘the Spanish that is spoken in Puerto Rico’ (Stavans 1995: 1) and on the streets of the barrios of Nueva York. Thomas, who was named John Peter Thomas in Harlem Hospital where he was born in 1928, speaks of how he began to lose his Spanish when he went to school where ‘they only allowed English’ (2) and where those who spoke anything else were discouraged. Thomas relearns Spanish later in life – while in prison he reads a newspaper, El Diario, ‘because there were no books in Spanish in the prison’ (3) and when he visits Puerto Rico for the first time at the age of 32 after getting out of prison, he is conscious of his Spanglish and of his status, in the eyes of the islanders, of hailing from North America. Yet for Thomas: ‘Although I was born in el norte, my soul is Puerto Rican’ (Stavans 1995: 2; italics in original). According to Stavans (5), ‘Down These Mean Streets inaugurated a new awareness’ of all kinds of issues: of what it means to live with prejudice and bias and to be positioned in certain ways by society on the basis of race and class; and what it means to be conflicted as a result of the signals that society sends to a ‘dark-skinned, Spanish-speaking Caribbean in the United States’ (1). The fact that monolingualism can no longer be assumed to be the default position for writers writing in English today, given the changing linguistic and literary landscape, points to the need for a more complex and nuanced understanding of modes of literary production and reception at a time when claims to ownership of English by particular nations or particular groups of people are becoming increasingly unsustainable, in spite of official educational, institutional and political mechanisms designed in parts of the world to

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reproduce the discourses of the status quo. Debates, for example, over English literature curricula in the UK whether at school or at university level reflect these considerations, since ultimately the question of what kind of literature to include and what to exclude is also a question of political import as well as of aesthetic preference. Even the term English literature, as opposed to literatures in English, sends a particular signal: it sets up an expectation of a clearly identifiable body of works that have contributed to a particular domain. It sets in motion the possibility of English literature being seen as the literature of England, with Scottish and Welsh and Irish, not to mention American, literature being something different or other. At a time when issues of nationalism are reasserting themselves in parts of the world, this is not just a moot point. There are implications here too for the teaching of Creative Writing, if the touchstones of literature fail to reflect a wide range of contemporary creative practices and exclude those that fail to model prevailing Anglophone norms. History shows that linguistic fortunes change: like empires, the domination of particular ideologies or biases – such as monolingualism – fall to the strength and increasing visibility of contestatory realities from below. Junot Díaz is eloquent on the differences between real speak and official speak, whereby the addictions and commitments of those in power to a particular version of the story of America fail to acknowledge the very real changes happening on the ground. Indeed, within a US context, Díaz is a good example of a writer who has benefited from, and would be the first to acknowledge, the creative risks taken by those before him. Drown, his well-received debut of short stories that ‘move from the barrios of the Dominican Republic to the struggling urban communities of New Jersey’, as the advertising blurb on the cover of the 1996 Faber edition has it, presents a glossary of terms in Spanish with English translation at the end. Such a practice is not unusual and can be found in Piri Thomas’s Down These Mean Streets, written in 1967; and in Anzaldúa’s Borderlands/La Frontera (1987) alongside explanatory notes. This is further evidence of the ways in which American writers of standing – Díaz is after all a Pulitzer prizewinner – have had to make concessions to monolingual Anglophone readers by providing a translation of key terms and expressions, a translation unnecessary for bilingual Hispanic readers. Later work by Díaz (e.g. The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, 2008) contains detailed footnotes that serve a variety of purposes including elaborating aspects of the cultural and historical background of Santo Domingo, where in part the novel is set, and filling in the linguistic contexts that



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might be presumed to be missing for an Anglophone audience. In other words, the ground is shifting away from the presumption of English only as a guarantee of full access to bodies of literature constructed in English but with additional accents and cultural textures. In this instance, the ideal reader may well be plurilingual or at least a reader keenly aware that the limits of the imagination are not coterminous with an English-only policy. The contentions and arguments presented here are part of a larger body of work coming out of a variety of disciplinary areas including Comparative Literature, English Studies, broadly construed, and Translation Studies. The tenor of all this work has been to interrogate assumptions about writing and creative production more generally at a time when linguistic and literary territories are shifting. From discussions of the arts of the contact zone (Pratt 1991) to the effects of operating in the translation zone (Apter 2006), from debates over conceptualizations of English (e.g. World Englishes; English as a lingua franca) and its place in the global linguistic and creative economy to notions of the translingual imagination (Kellman 2000) and translingual practice (Canagarajah 2013), what is at issue is the extent to which a monolingual bias is impeding understanding of the multilingual condition. In a postmonolingual era (Yildiz 2012) where much literature and other cultural outputs are the product of those at the confluence of languages and cultures, the continued inscription of a monolingual norm or default position is no longer tenable. The work done by formulation and contextualization of the term ‘narratives of translation’ is to demonstrate by example the extent to which English is, in fact, a literature in translation.

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Index À la recherche du temps perdu 125 accent 98, 115, 136, 159 accessibility 85, 88 acclimatization 47 acculturation 41, 47, 64, 80 aesthetics, bilingual 22, 27 Africa 110 alienation 34 Allende, Salvador 62, 71 Alvarez, Julia 157 America, United States of 9–10, 11, 26 border with Mexico 135, 138, 155–6 Americas 8–9 anthropologists 40–1 Antin, Mary 44 anti-Semitism 58 Anzaldúa, Gloria E. 5, 28, 155, 156 Borderlands/La Frontera 4–5, 135–46, 155, 161, 164 Applied Linguistics 4 Asia 9, 13, 110 assimilation 38, 47, 51, 58, 63 Atwood, Margaret 7 authenticity 63 autohistoria 138 Aztec 140, 155 Bakhtin, Mikhail 87 Balzac, Honoré de Illusions perdues 119 Banks, Iain 98 Barcelona 10 Beckett, Samuel 25 Ben Jelloun, Tahar 24 biculturalism 57, 60, 79, 147 biculturality 66 Bildungsroman 119 bilingualism 1–2, 4, 13, 14, 18, 19, 20–1, 22, 23, 24, 26, 32, 57, 60, 62, 64, 65, 66, 67–72, 74, 77, 79, 111, 113, 136, 137, 141, 142, 145, 147, 155, 156, 157, 159, 161

aesthetics 23, 27 radical 27 bilinguality 73, 159 Blanco, Richard 159 Booker Prize 89, 155 borderlands 156 Borderlands/La Frontera 4–5, 135–46, 155, 161, 164 borders 135–60 Brazil 9 Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The 158, 164 Bukowski, Charles 114 Calcutta 10 Canada 9 canon formation 88 capitalism 130 Caribbean 110, 156 CBI, see Confederation of British Industry Chansons de Bilitis, Les 100 Chateaubriand, François-René de 34 Chávez-Silverman, Susana 157 Killer Crónicas 158 Cisneros, Sandra 5 House on Mango Street, The 146–52, 157 Woman Hollering Creek 146 citizenship 113 class 80, 136 code-switching 11, 136, 137, 139, 141 Cold War 70 collaboration 153 collectivity 44 colonial expansion 69 colonialism 65, 143 Commonwealth, British 16 Comparative Literature 8, 165 complementarity 158 Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, A 14, 113–14, 117–22, 126, 129, 133

176 Index Confederation of British Industry (CBI) 6 Conrad, Joseph 25 consciousness 37, 48, 137, 141, 144–5 national 63 consumerism 130 contexts 152 Cortés, Hernán 141 Courtivron, Isabelle de 58 Lives in Translation 58 Creative Writing 164 creativity 4, 12, 22, 23, 65, 67, 87, 88, 113, 133, 135–60 cultural assimilation 41 cultural codes 39 cultural identification 44, 52, 55 cultural identity 52, 79 cultural lexicons 15 cultural norms 87 cultural reference 60 cultural studies 138 cultural tyranny 140, 146 curricula 19, 164 Death and the Maiden 61, 76 deconstruction 156–7 Denmark 17 dialect 82, 87, 103, 141, 143 Díaz, Junot 26, 136, 159, 164 Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, The 158, 164 Drown 164 Dickens, Charles Great Expectations 119 dislocation 80 displacement 62, 107 distanciation 80 diversity 11, 109, 110, 112 linguistic 143 domestication 85, 87 Dorfman, Ariel 25, 28, 57–76, 80, 81 Death and the Maiden 61, 76 diary 61, 72 Feeding on Dreams 61, 67, 71, 72, 74 Heading South, Looking North 57–8, 61, 67, 68, 72 Muerte y la Doncella, La 61, 76 double consciousness 60 double vision 60

Down These Mean Streets 163, 164 Drown 164 Duras, Madame de 34 education 155 Education and Employers Taskforce 6 education system 91 ELF, see English as a Lingua Franca Eliot, T. S. 37 emigration 52 English as a global language 11, 83, 109 English as a Lingua Franca (ELF) 4, 11, 12, 13–22, 26, 28, 79, 98, 101, 111, 112, 113, 126, 163, 165 English as a second language 90 English as an additional language 9, 90 English Plus 6, 28, 157 English Studies 165 establishment 82 ethnicity 80, 88, 136 ethnography 51, 80 European Union (EU) elections 2 exile 33­–8, 61, 62, 72, 74, 76, 162 Exit into History 46–53, 60, 62 Expanding Circle 17 expansion, colonial 69 Feeding on Dreams 61, 67, 71, 72, 74 Ferré, Rosario 157 foreignization 85 Foucault, Michel 75 Frontera, La 4–5, 135–46, 155, 161, 164 Fukushima nuclear disaster 107 gain 32, 66, 79, 108, 159, 161 Gallimard (publisher) 7 gender 34, 88, 109, 136, 141, 150 genre 153, 154 Gentzler, Edwin 156 globalization 3, 12, 22, 79, 84, 88, 113, 118 grammar 15, 89, 98, 116, 122, 123, 132 Granta 115 Best of Young British Novelists 108–9, 114, 131 Gray, Alasdair 92, 101 Great Expectations 119

Index Grossman, Vasily Life and Fate 115 Guo, Xiaolu 5, 11, 14, 28, 29, 39, 107–8, 109, 112, 113–31, 137, 142, 159–60 Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers, A 14, 113–14, 117–22, 126, 129, 133 I Am China 114–17, 160 Lovers in the Age of Indifference 114, 120 Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth 114 UFO in Her Eyes 114, 118, 129–30, 133 Heading South, Looking North 57–8, 61, 67, 68, 72 higher education 17 Hoffman, Eva 5, 12, 25, 28, 31–56, 58, 60, 64, 66, 70, 74, 80, 81, 107–8 Exit into History 46–53, 60, 62 Lost in Translation 31–46, 64 House on Mango Street, The 146–52, 157 How Late It Was, How Late 89–95, 101–3, 155 translation 89–90 Hurricane Katrina 107 hypernationalism 53 hyphenated identities 65 I Am China 114–17, 160 identities, hyphenated 65 identity 34, 39, 40–3, 63, 66, 70, 71, 76, 77, 81, 82, 142, 156 cultural 40, 79 formation 45 ideology 64 idiolect 125 Illusions perdues 119 immigrant experience 48 immigration 9, 48, 50 debates 2 imperialism 63, 85 American 69 indigeneity 11 individualism 44 Inner Circle 17 inspiration 153 internet 144

177

Journal of Borderlands Studies website 135 Kafka, Franz 24, 25 Katrina (hurricane) 107 Kelman, James 14, 22, 28, 29, 81–4, 162–3 How Late It Was, How Late 89–95, 101–3, 155 Mo Said She Was Quirky 89 narrative techniques 87 reception 88–90 Translated Accounts 83, 84, 95–104, 161, 163 Kennedy, A. L. 92 Killer Crónicas 158 Klepfisz, Irena 145–6 Kolkata 10 Kristeva, Julia 87 Kundera, Milan 24, 25, 34–5, 44 L1 speakers 112, 127 L2 speakers 112, 127 language acquisition 38, 69, 111, 128 language development 111 language learners 127, 142 language learning 6, 79, 111, 112, 122, 123, 124 language studies 65 Latin America 9 Lauret, Maria 157–8 Wanderwords 157 letters 20 Lévi-Strauss, Claude 40 lexis 13, 15, 22, 96, 99, 123 Life and Fate 115 linguistic bias 82 linguistic codes 39 linguistic identity 52 linguistic power 88 linguistic terrorism 146 literary theory 26 Lives in Translation 58 local usage 3 location 145, 147 loss 32, 33, 66, 79, 108, 159, 161 Lost in Translation 31–46, 64 Louÿs, Pierre Chansons de Bilitis, Les 100

178 Index Lovers in the Age of Indifference 114, 120 Malinowski, Bronisław 40 Marani, Diego 44 New Finnish Grammar 42–3, 44, 45 marginality 34 marginalization 80 materialism 130 McCarthy, Joseph 59 McLean, Duncan 98 meaning 96 media 129 megalanguage 83 memoirs 20, 31 mestiza 137, 139, 140, 141, 144–5, 159 metaphor 126 Mexico border with USA 135, 138, 155–6 Miami 9 migration 11, 22, 43, 107–33, 162 stories 34, 108 Milosz, Czeslaw 34 minority languages 88 mispronunciation 124 misrepresentation 80 Mo Said She Was Quirky 89 mobility 107–33, 162 Modernism 10, 91 modernity 86 monoculturalism 80, 87, 88, 157 monolingualism 8, 9, 13, 18–19, 20, 63–7, 80, 87, 88, 123, 126, 137, 142, 156, 157, 159, 162, 163, 164, 165 Montreal 10 mother tongue 63 Mozambique 65 Muerte y la Doncella, La 61, 76 multicompetence 18 multiculturalism 62, 114 multilingualism 1–2, 4, 6, 11, 12, 13, 16, 18–19, 20–1, 22, 23, 24, 26, 63–7, 110, 111, 113, 114, 127, 137, 141, 142, 156, 157, 159, 161, 165 multilinguality 159 multimedia 144 multimodality 133 Nabokov, Vladimir 25, 26, 34, 35, 44

narrative voice 101, 102 nation state 63 national consciousness 63 nationalism 164 nationality 43, 50 nationhood 50, 52, 63, 70 native speakers 90, 112 neologisms 27 Netherlands 17 New Englishes 15–16 New Finnish Grammar 42–3, 44, 45 New York 9–10 non-standard language 96, 98 nostalgia 33, 34 novels 20, 31 Nushu (language) 125 O’Hara, Frank 114 Obama, Barack 159 Orange Prize 114 originality 153 other 64, 155 otherness 54 Outer Circle 17 passive voice 73, 96 Pennycook, Alastair 1 phonology 73 Pinochet, Augusto 58, 61, 76 Plath, Sylvia 114 plot 129 plurilingualism 16, 64, 79, 87, 110, 143, 158 politics of language 4, 7, 10, 26, 27, 32, 84, 104, 111, 112 post-colonial studies 8, 138 post-colonial theory 26 post-colonialism 65, 82, 84–8 postmodernism 23 post-structuralism 82, 84–8 print media 4 projection 55 Proust, Marcel À la recherche du temps perdu 125 punctuation 89 Qashu, Sayed 24 queer studies 138

Index race 34, 80 readability 85, 88, 142 reading publics 84 realism 153 reception 84 regional usage 3 registers 136 re-integration 74 Rexroth, Kenneth 100–1 rhetoric 2 Roy, Arundhati 26 Rushdie, Salman 25, 26 Salinger, J. D. 114 San Francisco 9 Sanders, Gabriel 59 Sartre, Jean-Paul 88 Scotland 82 second language acquisition 136 self 48, 64, 110, 155 self-consciousness 39 selfhood 42, 108 self-representation 81 sexuality 136 signified 36 signifier 36 Simon, Sherry 10 social realism 92 sociolect 125 sociolinguistics 136 sociology 138 Soyinka, Wole 25 Spanglish 163 speech genres 20, 21 splitting 51 Steiner, George 25 Stoppard, Tom 25 subjunctive 73 superdiversity 129 switching 57 syntax 13, 22, 96, 98, 99, 103, 132 taste 153 technology 3, 4, 83, 98, 154 Tex–Mex border 146–7 Third World 85

179

Thomas, Piri Down These Mean Streets 163, 164 To the Lighthouse 121 transculturalism 68 translatability 88 Translated Accounts 83, 84, 95–104, 161 translatese 100 Translation Studies 4, 8, 158, 165 translators 67 translingualism 21, 22–9, 68, 111, 129, 133, 165 Trieste 10 trilingualism 25 Twenty Fragments of a Ravenous Youth 114 UFO in Her Eyes 114, 118, 129–30, 133 UKIP, see United Kingdom Independence Party United Kingdom (UK) 14 United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) 2 unity 86 universalism 85 urbanization 22 USA, see America, United States of values 63 verbs 73 vernacular 82, 91, 98 Virgen de Guadalupe 141 vocabulary 73, 122, 125 Voices from the Gaps (website) 147 Wales 154 Wanderwords 157 wanderwords 157 weird English 27 Welsh, Irvine 98 Western ideology 19 white rationality 141 Woman Hollering Creek 146 women’s studies 138 Woolf, Virginia 129, 149, 153 To the Lighthouse 121 World Englishes 16, 165 world literature 88