Translation as Reparation: Writing and Translation in Postcolonial Africa 9781315759777

Translation as Reparation showcases postcolonial Africa by offering African European-language literature as a case study

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Translation as Reparation: Writing and Translation in Postcolonial Africa
 9781315759777

Table of contents :
Cover......Page 1
Title Page......Page 2
Copyright Page......Page 3
Dedication......Page 4
Half Title......Page 6
Table of Contents......Page 8
Acknowledgements......Page 10
Introduction......Page 11
1. Introduction......Page 23
2. The polemics of language......Page 25
3. Colonial language policies......Page 27
4. Criticism and responses......Page 31
5. Critical view of orality and its influences......Page 34
6. The complex union of writing and orality......Page 35
1. Introduction......Page 41
2. The pragmatics of African oral discourse in European-language writing......Page 42
2.1. Crosscultural pragmatics and intercultural writing......Page 43
2.2. Theoretical relevance for transcultural analysis......Page 46
3. Writing culture and identity......Page 47
4. Sociopragmatics and culture-specific discourse......Page 49
5. What’s in a name? Writing traditional onomastic practices......Page 50
5.1. Pragmatic functions of naming......Page 60
2. Interculturality and discoursal indirectness......Page 63
3. The art of oratory......Page 71
4. Proverbs, aphorisms and intercultural narratives......Page 83
4.1 Proverb patterns and style......Page 85
4.2 Proverb content and meaning......Page 86
5. Intercultural narratives and ‘African time’ concepts......Page 96
6. The aesthetics of vulgarity......Page 101
1. Introduction......Page 109
2. Lexical innovation and formation......Page 110
3. Semantic shifts......Page 111
4. Interpolations of the vernacular......Page 119
5. Hybrid formations and some lexical innovation strategies......Page 124
6. Recreating ornamental discourse......Page 128
1. Pidgins and creoles in creative writing......Page 132
2. Linguistic hybridity in Francophone literature......Page 141
3. Polylingualism and intercultural writing......Page 146
4. Code-switching and literary stylistics......Page 152
5. Code-switching, translation and resistance......Page 157
1. Interculturality, heteroglossia and inter-European language translation......Page 169
2. Towards a postcolonial translation theory for African literature......Page 173
3. From orature to writing: accented translation between colonial languages......Page 180
4. Tripartite or three-tier approach......Page 183
4.1. Initial translation or the orality/writing interface......Page 185
4.2. Postcolonial translation as conversion......Page 188
5. Between Francophone and Anglophone literatures: translation as conversion......Page 194
1. Creative writing and translating in non-indigenous or second languages......Page 227
1.1. The impact of orality......Page 228
1.2. Language contact and cultural encounter......Page 231
2. Postcoloniality and translation......Page 237
3. Writing, translation and an ethics of difference......Page 240
3.1. Translation equivalence or sameness in difference......Page 242
Bibliography......Page 252
Index......Page 267

Citation preview

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Translation as Reparation

Writing and Translation in Postcolonial Africa

Paul F. Bandia

ROUTLEDGE

Routledge Taylor & Francis Group

LONDON AND NEW YORK

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© Paul F. Bandia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pbk) Typeset by Delta Typesetters, Cairo, Egypt British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data A catalogue record of this book is available from the British Library Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Bandia, Paul F. (Paul Fadio), 1961Translation as reparation : writing and translation in postcolonial Africa / Paul F. Bandia. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 978-1-905763-06-1 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Translating and interpreting--Africa. 2. European literature--Translations--History and criticism. 3. Multilingualism--Africa. 4. Intercultural communication--Africa. 5. Sociolinguistics--Africa. I. Title. P306.8.A35B36 2007 418’.02096--dc22

2007038537

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For my mother and father

For Nives, Maya and Emmanuelle

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Translation as Reparation Writing and Translation in Postcolonial Africa

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PAUL F. BANDIA Recent developments in postcolonial theory and cultural studies have had a tremendous impact on research in translation studies. Books and monographs have been published on postcoloniality and translation in various contexts, representing Western and non-Western cultures and traditions alike. This book showcases postcolonial Africa by offering African European-language literature as a case study for postcolonial translation theory, and proposes a new perspective for postcolonial literary criticism informed by theories of translation. The book focuses on translingualism and interculturality in African Europhone literature, highlighting the role of oral culture and artistry in the writing of fiction. The fictionalizing of African orature in postcolonial literature is viewed in terms of translation and an intercultural writing practice which challenge the canons of colonial linguistic propriety through the subversion of social and linguistic conventions. The study opens up pathways for developing new insights into the ethics of translation, as it raises issues related to the politics of language, ideology, identity, accented writing and translation. It confirms the place of translation theory in literary criticism and affirms the importance of translation in the circulation of texts, particularly those from minority cultures, in the global marketplace. Grounded in a multidisciplinary approach, the book will be of interest to students and scholars in a variety of fields, including translation studies, African literature and culture, sociolinguistics and multilingualism, postcolonial and intercultural studies. Paul F. Bandia is a professor in the Department of French at Concordia University, Montreal, Canada and a non-resident fellow at the W. E. B. Du Bois Institute, Harvard University. He has published widely in the fields of translation studies and postcolonial Francophone and Anglophone literatures and cultures. He is the co-editor of Charting the Future of Translation History (Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press, 2006). Translation as Reparation blends critical perspectives to celebrate hybridity. It tackles questions of belonging and displacement, speech and writing, transnationalism and interculturality. It puts the African postcolonial experience in a

global context and demonstrates both the reach and the anxiety of translation. A momentous book and a stupendous achievement.

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Theo Hermans, Centre for Intercultural Studies, University College London This first comprehensive and long overdue study on literature and translation in postcolonial Africa is a major contribution to literary criticism and cultural studies. Empirically based on numerous examples drawn from the wide spectrum of African Europhone literature, Paul Bandia’s book is essential reading for scholars and students working in the field of crosscultural communication as it specifically relates to issues of language and identity in a most significant but heretofore neglected region of the world. Annie Brisset, President, International Association for Translation & Intercultural Studies (IATIS)

Table of Contents

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Introduction

1

1. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

African Europhone literature and the politics of language Introduction The polemics of language Colonial language policies Criticism and responses Critical view of orality and its influences The complex union of writing and orality

13 13 15 17 21 24 25

2. 1. 2.

Intercultural writing as translation Introduction The pragmatics of African oral discourse in European-language writing 2.1. Crosscultural pragmatics and intercultural writing 2.2. Theoretical relevance for transcultural analysis Writing culture and identity Sociopragmatics and culture-specific discourse What’s in a name? Writing traditional onomastic practices 5.1. Pragmatic functions of naming

31 31

5. 6.

Cultural representation and postcolonial aesthetics Introduction Interculturality and discoursal indirectness The art of oratory Proverbs, aphorisms and intercultural narratives 4.1 Proverb patterns and style 4.2 Proverb content and meaning Intercultural narratives and ‘African time’ concepts The aesthetics of vulgarity

53 53 53 61 73 75 76 86 91

4. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5. 6.

Linguistic experimentation and intercultural writing Introduction Lexical innovation and formation Semantic shifts Interpolations of the vernacular Hybrid formations and some lexical innovation strategies Recreating ornamental discourse

3. 4. 5.

3. 1. 2. 3. 4.

32 33 36 37 39 40 50

99 99 100 101 109 114 118

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5. 1. 2. 3. 4. 5.

Literary heteroglossia, sociolects, translation Pidgins and creoles in creative writing Linguistic hybridity in Francophone literature Polylingualism and intercultural writing Code-switching and literary stylistics Code-switching, translation and resistance

6. 1.

Intercultural writing and inter-European language translation 159 Interculturality, heteroglossia and inter-European language translation 159 Towards a postcolonial translation theory for African literature 163 From orature to writing: accented translation between colonial languages 170 Tripartite or three-tier approach 173 4.1. Initial translation or the orality/writing interface 175 4.2. Postcolonial translation as conversion 178 Between Francophone and Anglophone literatures: translation as conversion 184

2. 3. 4.

5.

7. 1.

2. 3.

African Europhone literature and the ethics of translations Creative writing and translating in non-indigenous or second languages 1.1. The impact of orality 1.2. Language contact and cultural encounter Postcoloniality and translation Writing, translation and an ethics of difference 3.1. Translation equivalence or sameness in difference

122 122 131 136 142 147

217 217 218 221 227 230 232

Bibliography

242

Index

257

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Acknowledgements Many people and institutions have encouraged and supported me in the writing of this book, and I apologize for not mentioning them all here. My gratitude goes out to all the colleagues and students whose interest and curiosity in my work never wavered over the years, especially Professor Nathan Ménard at Université de Montréal, whose work showed me how to merge linguistics and literature. Special thanks to Professor Jean Bernabé at Université AntillesGuyane in Martinique and Professor Jean-Claude Redonnet at Sorbonne University, who gave me the opportunity to continue my academic pursuits in the early days of my career . Many thanks to Concordia University, my current employer, for the many grants and material support that enabled me to develop several research projects vital to the creation of this book. Thanks are also due to the Quebec granting agency Fonds pour la Formation de Chercheurs et l’Aide à la Recherche (FCAR) and the Social Sciences and Humanities Council of Canada (SSHRC) for their generous financial support. I am especially grateful to Concordia University for having awarded me a sabbatical leave, which allowed me to devote ample time to the writing of this book, free from the usual teaching and administrative duties. My sincere gratitude also goes out to the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University for welcoming me as a visiting scholar during my sabbatical leave and providing me with an intellectually stimulating environment. Many thanks to Professor Henry Louis Gates Jr. and the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute at Harvard University for the non-resident fellowship appointment, which gave me access to the wonderful resources at Harvard University. My heartfelt thanks to my family in Africa, Canada and elsewhere who have had to endure my many absences and silences as a consequence of my scholarly pursuits. I am sure you know I believe that nothing is stronger than our filial love and our kinship. Finally, I would like to express my gratitude to Professors Theo Hermans and Mona Baker for their encouragement and assistance in bringing this book to fruition.

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Introduction The aim of this book is twofold, namely to contribute to the literary criticism of African Europhone literature from a translation perspective and to explore the writing of African European literature as a case study for postcolonial translation theory. Today, African European language literature, in its many incarnations (Francophone, Anglophone, Lusophone, Hispanophone, etc.) has earned its lettres de noblesse in the global literary marketplace (with Nobel Laureates and winners of other prestigious prizes) and has become an important component of literary studies in many university departments across the globe. Numerous essays and critical works have been written about this literature from a variety of perspectives ranging from anthropology, sociology, philosophy to politics, linguistics and theology. Yet, it is rather surprising that, given its inherent qualities of translingualism and interculturality, that is, a national literature written in an alien colonial language, there is no book-length critical work on this literature informed by developments in translation theory. By the same token, while it is generally agreed that postcolonial theory has contributed a great deal to developments in translation studies, with elaborate case studies on India and the Sub-Continent, Ireland, the Americas and the Caribbean, to name a few, Africa has remained somewhat on the sidelines, with only occasional mention in academic articles and essays. It is my hope that this book will redress the situation, provide a new perspective for African literary criticism based on theories of translation and establish an empirical framework for postcolonial translation theory drawing on the African experience. The book focuses on the intercultural and translingual writing practices of African European-language writers and attempts to account for these practices from the point of view of translation theory and current trends in postcolonial and cultural studies. In recent years, postcolonial studies have emerged as a productive site for understanding issues of transnationalism, transculturality and crosscultural communication in an ever-expanding context of globalization. The intercultural and translingual writing practices in Euro-African literature are informed by aesthetic as well as ideological concerns related to postcolonial or postmodern preoccupations with issues of language and identity. The book deals with European rather than indigenous language writing mainly because the multiplicity of local languages on the continent has limited communication across languages, and since very few people can boast a thorough written knowledge of several indigenous languages translation activity is rare between these languages. Ngugi wa Thiong’o, an advocate of indigenous language writing, laments this situation when he says:

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There is very little mutual translation between African languages, and, say, English and French. And the colonial dominance of English and French in African lives has made African languages so suspicious of one another that there is hardly any inter-African communication. (Ngugi 1993:40)

Also, it is true that dominated writers who use a great literary language such as English and French have the distinct advantage and potential to promote their national literatures within the international literary space. According to Pascale Casanova (2004:284), …writers who inherit a dominant language, even in subverting it and in changing its codes and uses, accomplish a sort of diversion of capital and benefit from all its literary resources, for this is a language capable of conveying literary value and credit from the start, of supporting national mythologies and pantheons, and of providing an anchor for literary belief. Though they run a risk in pushing ahead, the aesthetic of writers who adopt a great literary language with the intention of transforming it is from the outset more innovative, on account of the intrinsic literary capital of this language…. This is why dominated authors who are speakers (and writers) of central languages belong at once to relatively well-endowed literary spaces.

This in effect explains why African Europhone literature has had the distinct advantage of “assembling a patrimony” (Casanova 2004:284) for African oral cultures that without written script have little or no literary capital within the global marketplace. European language literature is also more relevant to this study which seeks mainly to explore those aspects of writing, such as literary heteroglossia, hybridity, polylingualism and intertextuality, that are likely to occur in postcolonial multilingual or multicultural contexts. This establishes an interesting framework for carrying out a two-pronged study of postcolonial intercultural writing on the one hand and translation criticism in a non-western context on the other. To allow for a translation criticism of African Europhone literature, parallels can be drawn between African European language creative writing and translation insofar as it has been shown that African writers are heavily indebted to their respective oral traditions in terms of the literary aesthetics and cultural content of their works (see Chinweizu et al. 1980). African oral narrative techniques have been employed in colonial language fiction and the oral culture has been captured in writing by many African writers who have the advantage of being bilingual and bicultural in both African and European language cultures. The oral narratives have been represented

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Introduction

3

in writing either as direct translations of complete oral pieces such as elegies, panegyrics or folktales, or as creative renditions in European language fiction. The writing of these oral narratives in fiction, which may be the result of conscious or unconscious translating by the author, can be likened to interlingual translating. Indeed, several parallels can be drawn between postcolonial intercultural writing and translation.1 They both involve movement from one language culture into another, except that in postcolonial intercultural writing translation is understood in the metaphorical sense of transgression, displacement, transportation, or movement from a local colonized culture to an alien colonizing language culture. In other words, while interlingual translation usually involves importing foreign language elements into one’s own culture, postcolonial intercultural writing as translation involves a movement in the opposite direction, an inverse movement of representation of the Self in the language of the Other. It is displacement in that African sociocultural reality is pulled out of its familiar surroundings and thrust into an alien and historically hostile environment. In other words, intercultural writing as translation is an attempt to recreate in a dominant colonizing language the life-world of the colonized. Given the vast power differentials in postcolonial contexts, the fictionalizing of African orature in colonial languages can be seen as a movement of resistance to the hegemony of the colonial language, an attempt to redress the power inequality that continues to assign a minority status or a peripheral role to postcolonial literatures in the global literary space. Writing orality in fiction implies a double movement from an oral tradition to a writing culture and from a peripheral colonized language to an imperial or colonial language. It is this double movement that projects postcolonial intercultural writing into the sphere of translation. The book places emphasis on the literary and translation dimensions of transnationalism and transculturality, highlighting issues related to the politics of language, accented writing and translating, as well as the importance of African Europhone writing and translation in the global marketplace. With the independence of many African nations in the late 1950s and the early 1960s came a rising interest among Africanist scholars in studying the complex relationships between indigenous languages and cultures and the colonial languages and cultures. Several works were published that dealt with various issues including language planning, bilingualism and multilingualism on the continent, 1 This does not in any way imply that postcolonial fictions are wholesale translations from indigenous discourses. As fictions, they are the products of the authors’ imagination, aesthetics and creativity. However, many African writers, pre-independence and postindependence alike, have acknowledged the fact that African oral narratives have been a source of inspiration for their writing in one way or another.

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which is known to have an extremely high number of languages (see among others Greenberg 1963; Manessy 1984; Gérard 1986). However, few of these works dealt seriously with issues of transnationalism and interculturality or the ‘transfer’ of African sociocultural reality into European languages, as well as the psychological, ideological or socio-political ramifications involved in giving colonial languages national prominence and authority over indigenous languages. In more recent times, there have been many descriptive accounts of linguistic interference between indigenous languages and colonial languages, and several attempts at describing African varieties of colonial languages, including derivatives such as pidgins and Creoles, and accounting for the linguistic and social status of these European languages in the African context. Yet, so far, there has not been any large-scale study of the interaction between indigenous language cultures and the colonial languages from the point of view of an intercultural translation theory. African European language literature can reveal the linguistic and cultural tension that characterizes the tenuous relationship between African languages and colonial languages in contemporary postcolonial society. It also raises some interesting issues about writing and translating in a second language. Contrary to some current criticism and assertion that the solution to the linguistic ambivalence of African literature is a return to an almost exclusive use of indigenous languages (see Ngugi wa Thiong’o 1986; 1993), many African writers, pre-independence and post-independence alike, have adopted the European languages as a medium for literary creativity and are infusing these languages with African oral artistry to better reflect African sociocultural reality. Writers of an older generation such as Léopold S. Senghor, Chinua Achebe, Wole Soyinka and Mongo Beti had been confronted with the dilemma of writing either in indigenous or colonial languages and had claimed the right to use the colonial language as the medium for creative writing for a variety of reasons having to do with expanding their readership beyond ethnic or national boundaries and the sheer difficulty of writing and eventually translating in so many native languages that had not yet developed a stable writing system. For a much younger generation of writers, such as Ben Okri, Chris Abani and Calixthe Beyala, who were born after independence and raised within the postcolonial culture, language choice became a personal rather than a national matter. They were less likely to perceive the colonial languages as alien to Africa or as foreign languages, but rather as part and parcel of the African linguistic reality they grew up in, and as tools in the hands of Africans to express and assert African identity on the world stage. For European language writers, the deliberate and strategic development of a literary language attuned to African linguistic and cultural sensibilities was a major step in this endeavour. They

Introduction

5

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developed an Africanized variety of the colonial languages, a hybrid or “inbetween” (Bhabha 1994) language that would allow the writer to express the African world view in the European language. In discussing the predicament of linguistically dependent regions or territories under colonial domination, Casanova (2004:282) states: In the absence of an alternative language, writers are forced to devise a new idiom within their own language; subverting established literary usages and the rules of grammatical and literary correctness, they affirm the specificity of a popular language. … It therefore became necessary to reinstate a paradoxical form of bilingualism by making it possible to be different, linguistically and literarily, within a given language. In this way a new idiom was created, through the littérarisation of oral practices. Here, in linguistic form, one encounters the mechanisms underlying the literary transmutation of traditional folk narratives.

The power inequality of postcolonial situations and the privileging of a great literary (colonial) language leaves the “subaltern” writer no other alternative but to resort to such writing strategies as “a way of placing the writer at the greatest possible distance from the political pole of a given literary space …. While remaining within the central language it becomes possible, by means of minute deviations, to break with it no less explicitly than if one had adopted another tongue” (Casanova 2004:282). The creative adaptation of the colonial language to African reality varies from one author to another, depending on a variety of factors including the author’s level of education, his or her idiosyncratic use of the language, the sociolinguistic identity of stock characters, and the colonial linguistic policy that had determined and influenced the use of the language in specific colonial contexts. In spite of these variations, the Africanness of colonial language writing is heavily grounded in creative applications of African oral artistry. Viewed in terms of translation, this specific use of colonial languages to express African sociocultural reality is neither the result of an entirely foreignizing nor a domesticating strategy. Rather, it is the product of a search for a compromise between African and European language expression, a middle passage, a blend of source and target language translation strategies, fine-tuned and adapted to deal with the linguistic and cultural hybridity, or métissage, characteristic of the postcolonial text. The peculiarity of such postcolonial writing indeed confounds some basic tenets of traditional translation theory which relies on stable dualisms or binary oppositions between homogenous linguistic entities. Postcolonial translation theory provides a critical framework for understanding the hybridity and polylinguality of African Europhone

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literature and the complexity involved in theorizing the translation of culturally and linguistically multilayered texts. As a subfield of translation studies, postcolonial translation theory was developed in the 1980s, following the rise of postcolonial studies as a discipline which, among many things, revealed the role played by translation in the enterprise of conquest, colonization and empire. In the 1970s and onwards, many sociologically based schools of thought emerged in the discipline of translation studies and seriously challenged some of the repressed and linguistics-based theoretical assumptions anchored in the belief in a static ideal of equivalence and a universalistic mindset that had dominated discussions on translation theory for several decades. Following the cultural turn in translation studies in the 1980s, postcolonial approaches added to this sociological orientation by focusing research on non-western cultures and other formerly marginalized areas such as gender and gay studies. While most theories were mainly preoccupied with the impact of translation on the target language culture, postcolonial translation theory sought to account for the impact of translation on a colonized source culture, raising questions about the ideals of fluency, equivalence and universalism that had characterized early translation theory. Postcolonial translation theorists such as Lawrence Venuti, Eric Cheyfitz, Vicente Rafael and Tejaswini Niranjana are critical of mainstream notions of equivalence and fluency in translation, which are seen as complacent to assimilative capitalist/colonialist ideologies (Robinson 1996:x) and therefore likely to minimize the specificity of minority languages and cultures. Unlike traditional translation theory which assumes linguistic or cultural transfer between stable monolithic or homogenous entities, postcolonial approaches highlight the fact that literary texts are often hybrid in nature, linguistically and culturally heterogeneous. These hybrid texts call for translation strategies and theories which can account for the layering of cultures and discourses in the postcolonial text. As pointed out in Mehrez (1992:121), these texts written by postcolonial bilingual (or multilingual) subjects are expressed in a language “in between and therefore come to occupy a space ‘in-between’”. The postcolonial writer-translator therefore treads a middle passage between writing in a “major world language” to attain visibility in the global literary space and writing in a “local third world language” that is likely to limit him or her to a more restrictive national literary space (Robinson 1997:102). The strategic creation of a hybrid in-between language, a “third code” (Bhabha 1994), defies the very notion of a source text, as understood in traditional translation theory, that is homogenous and can be readily translated into another homogenous language culture. Postcolonial translations also raise serious issues regarding the unequal

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Introduction

7

power relations between the Third World and the West, between the centre and the periphery, and the ensuing hegemonic and counter-hegemonic forces that permeate translation or crosscultural communication between these two worlds. In Siting Translation (1992), Niranjana attempts to deconstruct and demystify the imperialist subtexts of ethnographic translation theory, opposing the assimilative sense-for-sense translation associated with colonial discourse and a form of radical literalism associated with a transformative postcolonial discourse. Niranjana deals squarely with the cultural politics of translation, particularly with regards to the problem of how to translate the Third World. Translation is viewed as an instrument of empire in the politics of overexpanding zones of colonial control (see also Rafael 1988; Cheyfitz 1991; Lambert 1995). Examining power relations therefore raises questions regarding the importance of translating the “savage’s unconscious cultural systems into the rational clarity of English or some other First World language” (Niranjana 1990:69-70). What are the political and ideological ramifications involved in choosing to translate either into the language of the colonizer or the language of the colonized? What are the power relations involved in translating between a hegemonic language-culture and a dominated one? According to Niranjana, the works of Frantz Fanon and others have established the revolutionary potential of a historical sense in the hands of the colonized, and this historical awareness is crucial also for defining the theory and practice of translation in the postcolonial context. In the study of postcolonial translations, it is paramount to explore the role of language in determining and asserting the identity of nations, especially when Third World nations continue to resist what they perceive as an hegemonic and neo-imperialist drive by former colonial powers to maintain them in a perpetual state of subordination and dependency (Tiffin and Lawson 1994). This power imbalance and resistance are played out in the writing and translating of African postcolonial fiction. Recent developments in postcolonial translation studies have highlighted the ways in which postcolonial literature “so often co-opts one language to perform the job of others” (Fraser 2000:40). For instance, African postcolonial translation reveals how colonial languages are made to perform the work of indigenous language cultures through the representation of African orature in European language fiction. The groundbreaking collection of essays edited by Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi, Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice (1999), has shown how “translation is an inevitable aspect of all writing that stems from multicultural and multilingual communities” (Fraser, 2000:40). Regarding the Indian novel in English, Maria Tymoczko has pointed out that translation of some kind is involved at almost every level. In her view, “the act of writing in English is

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not ‘merely’ one of translation of an Indian text into the English language, but a quest for a space which is created by translation and assimilation and hence transforms all three – the Indian text, context and the English language” (1999a:42). It can therefore be inferred from these statements that postcolonial writing often involves a fair amount of translating either from a real or imaginary source or a metatext of culture. In the 1990s, the link between postcolonial studies and translation studies was clearly established by a number of publications that not only brought out the resemblance between the two fields but also established the explicit connections between them by underlining their interactive or symbiotic relationship. Prominent among those works that deal with the discourse surrounding postcolonial translations are Contracting Colonialism: Translation and Christian Conversion in Tagalog Society under Early Spanish Rule (1988) by Vicente Rafael, Siting Translation: History, Poststructuralism and the Colonial Context (1992) by Tejaswini Niranjana, The Poetics of Imperialism: Translation and Colonization from The Tempest to Tarzan (1997) by Eric Cheyfitz, Translation and Empire: Postcolonial Theories Explained (1997) by Douglas Robinson, and Postcolonial Translation: Theory and Practice (1999), a collection of essays edited by Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi. Postcolonial translation theorists often assign a metaphorical meaning to the term translation, which they view either in terms of Homi Bhabha’s (1994) concept of “cultural translation” based on the process and condition of human migrancy, or in terms of power differentials between the colonized and the colonizer. Cheyfitz, for instance, understands translation as a metaphor for historical conquest, domination and subjugation of peoples, their cultures and languages from the Greco-Roman Antiquity until current times. Niranjana’s study of ethnography and translation views the latter as essentially imperialistic and colonizing, and thus argues for a transformative practice, or “retranslation” of colonized peoples’ texts (from the perspective of the colonial subject) as a decolonizing strategy. For Rafael, conversion and conquest go together, that is, conversion into Christianity and the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Rafael explores the role of translation in this process and celebrates the resulting hybridity as a factor which generates diversity and creativity (the mixing of Tagalog and Spanish and American culture in the modern Philippines). These works and many others (see Jacquemond 1992; Mehrez 1992; Bhabha 1994; Asad 1986) have laid the foundation of postcolonial translation theory and generally celebrate hybridity as a postcolonial condition that accounts more fully for the current state of affairs. There has been a shift from the tendency to glorify precolonial geographies and cultures, hence vilifying the colonial enterprise, to accepting the postcolonial condition and dealing with

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its richness and plurality of cultures which increasingly characterize today’s cosmopolitan world. The acceptance and celebration of hybridity as a vital component of the postcolonial condition opens up new avenues for exploring translation theory without getting bogged down in the age-old dichotomies or binary oppositions that have characterized the field for so long. Postcolonial translation theory is therefore gradually moving away from early attempts to harness foreignism or radical literalism for a dissident or counter-hegemonic translation practice. Even attempts at co-opting the hybridized middle grounds within foreignizing practices (see Venuti 1995) only serve to blur the issue and do not take postcolonial translation theory beyond the current impass of foreignizing versus domesticating translation. Samia Mehrez’s (1992) “Translation and the Postcolonial Experience: The Francophone North African text” is one of the first articles to cast postcolonial translation theory in terms of cultural and linguistic hybridity. Mehrez discusses the impact of linguistic hybridity (common in postcolonial situations) on traditional translation theory, which is based on a notion of direct equivalence dependent upon a clear distinction between source and target language. Hybridity raises questions about the very notion of a “foreign text” or the original, and its implied status as the starting point of a translation. It also draws attention to the relationship between the original and its translation, raising questions about the extent to which the translation is governed by the original. Other issues are also put to the test, such as the implied hierarchy or diglossic relation between languages, and the translation of what is essentially a linguistically multi-layered or translated source text into another language. My attempt at theorizing African postcolonial translation is therefore informed by the concept of hybridity, the creation of an in-between language culture, which indeed reflects the real condition of African postcolonial discourse. In today’s postcolonial context, the African writer has transcended the unrealistic demands of having to choose between the colonizer’s language and his or her native vernacular. The Europhone writer has chosen to forge a language which allows him or her to use both language systems at once, thus doing away with colonial norms of expression and subverting the implied language hierarchies. The introduction of an oral language in literature through the subversion of social and linguistic conventions represents a break with the canons of colonial linguistic propriety and changes the terms of literary criticism. Orature made it possible for many dominated cultures across the world, such as Quebec in the 1960s, Scotland in the 1980s and the French West Indies today (Martinique), to achieve literary and political emancipation. These cultures sought to emphasize their identities by creating or simply asserting marked differences in language usage and pronunciation, in some

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cases exaggerating these differences by instituting deliberately incorrect usage. The writing of orality therefore results in the translation of identity through the transmutation of language. This approach to studying postcolonial translations is particularly pertinent in today’s world where constant relocation, displacement and migration have rendered cultural boundaries obsolete, creating hybrid identities and border cultures. A discursive space has been created in which the text exists as a polymorphous, shifting and nomadic entity, and can no longer be viewed as monolithic with an historically, linguistically or empirically stable identity. Rather than dwelling on fixed dichotomies based on neat, monolithic categorization of origin and target, translation theory should recognize hybridity as an active site of cultural production. The quest for a postcolonial identity (hence the hybridity) has been variously referred to as “provincialising the West” (Chakrabarty 1992) and “moving the centre” (Ngugi wa Thiong’o 1993). In both cases the purpose is to break down the hierarchy between centre and periphery, unity and diversity (Robinson 1997a:21), as well as between the dominant language and a pluralized language experience. Thus the hybrid middle ground emerges as a site of negotiation (Bhabha 1994), a site of hybrid identities and linguistic creolization, which is read by most postcolonial critics as a positive comment on crosscultural enrichment. The significance of the hybrid or métissé text can be measured in the following comment by Mehrez (1992:121-22): It was crucial for the postcolonial text to challenge both its own indigenous, conventional models as well as the dominant structures and institutions of the colonizer in a newly forged language that would accomplish this double movement. Indeed, the ultimate goal of such literature was to subvert hierarchies by bringing together the ‘dominant’ and the ‘underdeveloped’, by exploding and confounding different symbolic worlds and separate systems of signification in order to create a mutual interdependence and intersignification.

We are therefore in the presence of cultural productions, or texts, featuring heteroglossia, polylingualism and intertextuality as a “deliberate, built-in feature of the aesthetic effect” (Jameson 1991:20). Postcolonial-postmodernist discourse and cultural studies have laid the groundwork for a new approach to critical understanding in our globalized world where identities are articulated across hyphens, transitions or in-between passages rather than firmly located in any one culture, language or place. African postcolonial writing is a prime example of expressions of transnationalism and interculturality, which clearly fits Kafka’s definition of a minority/minor

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literature and its revolutionary condition. The African text is characterized by a kind of formal experimentation and innovation which challenges dominant standards of language, poetics and culture by introducing new formal resources and paradigms into the dominant receptor culture. Formal experimentation amounts to the creation of what Deleuze calls “linguistic Third World zones” (1986:27), which in the case of African Europhone literature corresponds to the Deleuzian definition of a “minor literature”, that is, a “literature which a minority constructs with a major language” (ibid.:16). For Deleuze, the term “minor” refers to the revolutionary conditions for every literature, even (and especially) in the midst of a great or established literature. Formal experimentation, expressed in terms of linguistic innovations and transcultural practices in Euro-African literature, is a site for understanding issues of transnationalism and interculturality in the current context of globalization. Translation by its very nature deals with linguistic plurality and cultural heterogeneity. An investigation of the hybrid or intercultural discourse of postcolonial fiction can indeed take our understanding of translation phenomena beyond the normative prescriptions of traditional translation theory. It is within this theoretical framework, informed by postcolonialpostmodernist discourse and translation theory, that this book sets out to analyze African European language literature as intercultural writing, in terms of the linguistic, cultural and pragmatic influences of African oral traditions. The analysis draws heavily from approaches in sociolinguistics, discourse analysis and pragmatics, to establish empirically those aspects of oral culture that constitute the subtexts of European language fiction.2 These manifestations of orality can take the form of mainly linguistic influences such as lexical innovation, syntactic wordplay, in-text translation of indigenous words and expressions, vernacularism and creolization. They can also occur as socio-cultural or socio-pragmatic influences of oral artistry such as in oratory, discoursal indirectness, proverbs, vulgarity, names, references and modes of address. These pragmalinguistic (Blum-Kulka 1985) occurrences of African oral culture and artistry in colonial language fiction are part of the culture-specific features of this literature, which have been carried over either consciously or unconsciously by the bilingual and bicultural writer. They are in effect empirical evidence regarding the literary heteroglossia, polylingualism and hybridity characteristic of African postcolonial fiction. 2

The critical framework seeks to combine relevant theories in linguistic, literary and cultural studies. It is my belief that the much-too-celebrated ‘cultural turn’ in translation studies, which has supposedly rescued the discipline from the limitations of linguistic approaches, seems divisive and gratuitous, given the symbiotic relation between language and culture.

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In the light of these empirical manifestations of orature in Euro-African literature, the book seeks to establish parallels between postcolonial intercultural writing and interlingual translation, casting the African author in the role of writer-translator whose creativity involves a fair measure of translation, understood metaphorically as the displacement or relocation of African oral culture and aesthetics in colonial language fiction. Therefore, the writer may not be seen as a translator in the classic sense of the word, but rather as an artist engaged in a creative exercise which may lead him or her to borrow or draw from a real or imaginary original grounded in the oral culture of his people. It follows from this that the European language text is translative, given the process of representation of orality involved, including some instances of direct translations from indigenous languages and cultures, as well as the multilayering of languages and cultures. This raises some practical and ethical questions as to how to define and translate postcolonial literature given its already translative nature, as well as the linguistic and cultural heterogeneity that is a main block in the construction of this literature. The relative complexity of African literature in terms of its subtexts of ethnography and sociology emphasizes the need for an ethics of translation tailored to account for the specific challenges and motivations for translating this literature. To this end, a critical assessment of the following reflections on the translation of minority literatures is carried out with a view to laying the foundation for an ethics of translation for African Europhone fiction and other similar postcolonial literatures: Chantal Zabus’s (1991) concept of “relexification”, or translation as indigenization of European-language writing, Kwame Anthony Appiah’s theory of “thick translation” which “seeks with its annotations and its accompanying glosses to locate the text in a rich cultural and linguistic context” (1993:817), and Lawrence Venuti’s ethics of difference and of location (1995, 1998), which argues for registering the foreignness of foreign cultures in translation. These discussions illuminate various pathways to defining an ethics of translation for African European language writing, and for postcolonial literatures, for that matter, by highlighting the role of history in literary criticism and the importance of translation as the principal means by which texts, particularly those from minority cultures, gain access to and circulate in the literary world. The happy confluence of postcolonial-postmodernist discourse and literary and cultural translation theory has the potential to enhance our understanding of minority writing practices and their role in the emergence and location of African Europhone literature in the international literary space.

1. African Europhone Literature and the Politics of Language

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1. Introduction Since the inception of African European-language literature there have been endless debates about what it actually constitutes. Questions have been raised as to whether African literature means literature written by Africans or, more generally, literature about Africa or the African experience (Senghor 1964a; 1964b; Chinweizu et al. 1980; Wa Thiong’o 1986).1 Some have wanted to know if the works of a non-African about Africa would qualify as African literature, or whether the work of an African set in a non-African world would still be considered African literature. A few proponents of vernacular literature have based their arguments mainly on language (Wali 1963; Irele 1981; Wa Thiong’o 1986), but have been challenged by the question of whether to consider as African literature the works of a European author writing about Europe in an African language. Today, these debates have lost steam and have become somewhat futile, as African European-language literature has taken its rightful place among world literatures. Ethnic or vernacular literature has continued to flourish alongside Europhone literature. The latter has remained dominant for the simple reason that, unlike ethnic literature, it has become the national literature of postcolonial societies and cuts across ethnic boundaries. The debates notwithstanding, it can be assumed that African literature remains that literature which conveys African thought both traditional and modern, and deals with the African experience, both ancient and contemporary. It is the sum total of all the national and ethnic literatures. The language of writing may not be as serious a determinant as some would think, for although language is the medium through which cultural values are expressed, it is not responsible for generating those values and cannot be used alone to determine the origin or provenance of a literature. African European-language writing has grown steadily in number and variety since the dawn of independence, and many reasons have been cited for this growth (see Obiechina 1967, 1975; Chinweizu et al. 1980; Gérard 1986). Some of the reasons are: 1

These debates began in earnest with the 1962 gathering of writers at Makerere entitled “A Conference of African Writers of English Expression”.

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(i)

illiteracy, and the fact that those who can read and write are educated, for the most part, in colonial languages; due to illiteracy, even vernacular language literature will reach only a few educated people and will be confined to a particular ethnic literary space. Added to this is the difficulty of writing in languages that, for the most part, are oral in nature and do not yet have a stable writing code; modern African writers generally write for an affluent Western readership and a Westernized African bourgeoisie for mainly economic or pecuniary reasons; some African authors claim that writing in European languages naturally gives them a wider audience and the opportunity to inform the world about Africa, thus dispelling some of the false myths and wrong impressions given to the outside world by early European scholars (Okara 1964; Coussy 1988); generally, some African intellectuals view European languages as a welcome solution to the potentially divisive problems that might ensue from the multiplicity of local languages within the same geographical zone (Spencer 1971; Mazrui 1975; Gérard 1986); European languages have been retained for official use in communication, trade and commerce, in spite of the desire of the African people to decolonize themselves culturally, economically and politically (Whiteley 1971). The fate of African literature may simply be following that of individual nation states.

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(ii)

(iii)

(iv)

(v)

(vi)

The French and English languages have gained a great deal of importance in West Africa as languages of education, business and politics.2 Though generally associated with the elite, the use of these languages has intensified as the population has become more educated, and the languages are now spoken by a sizeable segment of the society. These colonial languages have been used to forge a more homogenous citizenry sharing at least one common language that enjoys nationwide currency and transcends the barrier of local vernaculars. In fact, the two languages have become synonymous with economic success and social progress to the extent that some African leaders have had no qualms about choosing these languages over local ones for political gain and expediency. When it was observed that Senghor seemed to have a preference for French over Senegalese languages, he unabashedly said: 2

Although Portuguese and Spanish are also viable colonial languages in Africa, this discussion is limited to English and French, which are the colonial languages used widely in the geopolitical space covered in this book.

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If we had a choice we would have chosen French [because] it is a language which has enjoyed far reaching influence and which still enjoys it in great measure. In the 18th century French was proposed and accepted as the universal language of culture… It is the supreme language of communication: a language of politeness and honesty, a language of beauty and clarity. (interview by Egejuru 1980:10).

Notwithstanding Senghor’s unbridled enthusiasm for French, the colonial language is indeed looked upon as a symbol of unity, a means of rising above ethnic and linguistic differences for the common good of postcolonial society. It is rather ironic that even after independence, the colonial languages were still considered invaluable agents of unification and nation building. Political activity has often been conducted in colonial languages, and a politician would refrain from using local languages for fear of being misquoted or mistranslated, or simply because he did not want to appear as too much a member of his tribe (Achebe 1965). In A Man of the People, Achebe alluded to this reality in one of his satires, when one character, a government minister, finds it unwise to speak in his native language to the people of his home district. The minister, Nanga, has the following explanation for his choice of language: He would have preferred not to speak to his own kinsmen in English which was after all a foreign language, but he had learned from experience that speeches made in the vernacular were liable to be distorted and misquoted in the press. Also there were some strangers in that audience who did not speak [our] own tongue and he did not wish to exclude them. They were all citizens of [our] great country whether they came from the highlands or the lowlands. (Achebe 1966:15)

This comment, in a way, mirrors the African writer’s difficult circumstances, as he is inclined to use the colonial language as a medium of communication that transcends linguistic and ethnic barriers.

2. The polemics of language Language choice and language use have always been a main staple in discussions on postcolonial literatures. Although narratives continue to be written in some local languages, writing in colonial languages has continued to grow even in contexts where only a small fraction of the population speaks non-indigenous languages.3 Many postcolonial writers face a difficult linguistic choice, as 3

I am referring here to those areas where due to migration African ancestral languages have given way to local hybrid formations such as pidgins and creoles.

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most of them are often bilingual with access to one of the “cosmopolitical languages once the metropolitan tongues of European empires, now spoken and read by millions worldwide” (Fraser 2000:11), including access to one or more vernacular languages (i.e., lingua franca or indigenous languages). Many African writers and critics have grappled with this ambivalent situation, and the decision to write in an imposed colonial language is fraught with difficulties, especially since the reaction of some Western literary critics has not always been favourable, ranging from condescension to outright disapproval of what some traditionalists consider an improper use of Western languages and literary techniques (Chinweizu et al. 1980). Faced with the dilemma of having to use an alien language which they believe can only imperfectly express the subtleties of the African world view, some authors have become even more ‘afrocentric’ and have chosen to write only in their indigenous languages. Such is the case of the Kenyan writer Ngugi wa Thiong’o who, after a very successful career in English language writing, resolved to write only in his native Gikuyu (Ngugi wa Thiong’o 1986). He subsequently had to translate his own works into English, mainly for the benefit of non-Gikuyu speakers in Africa and across the world. Others, on the other hand, have been more assertive of their right to use the colonial languages, claiming the right to ‘invent’ an African variety of these languages. This latter view was eloquently expressed by Chinua Achebe in a speech entitled “The African writer and the English language” when he said: Is it right that a man should abandon his mother tongue for someone else’s? It looks like a dreadful betrayal and produces a guilty feeling. But for me there is no other choice. I have been given the language and I intend to use it. … I feel that the English language will be able to carry the weight of my African experience. But it will have to be a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit new African surroundings. (Achebe 1975:62)

Achebe embraces English for purely historical and practical reasons. He argues that although colonialism had its ills, it brought together many peoples who might have otherwise continued to live in fractured societies, and gave them a language with which they could talk to one another. As he sees it, “[t]here are not many countries in Africa today where you could abolish the language of the erstwhile colonial powers and still retain the facility for mutual communication” (1975:57). English is a world language which history has forced onto many peoples and civilizations: “Therefore those African writers who have chosen to write in English, or French, are not unpatriotic smart alecs with

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an eye on the main chance – outside their own countries. They are by-products of the same process that made the new nation-states of Africa” (Achebe 1975:57). Proponents of European language writing are buoyed by the belief that Africa needs to take its rightful place among world cultures, and that this can be achieved by explaining and translating Africa in a language with a global reach. Some, like Senghor, unreservedly extol the beauty and efficacy of their adopted European language, which they believe will help them rescue the spirit, style and content of African oral literature.

3. Colonial language policies The longstanding dilemma over language choice can be put into perspective through an understanding of the disparate linguistic policies, or lack thereof, of the colonial powers. According to Fraser (2000), over the centuries of imperialism, official language policies varied widely and were almost as diverse as the empires themselves. The sheer diversity of languages and dialects caused the imperial powers to impose Western metropolitan languages for administrative and commercial purposes despite the existence of sizeable language blocks across the continent. Moreover, the imperial power saw the African societies as having languages without written scripts and sought to impose the Romanized script which was often unsuitable for local languages. However, there is documented evidence that some indigenous languages used written scripts before the arrival of European colonialists. For instance, there was flourishing literary activity among the Hausa, the Efik and Yoruba peoples of Nigeria and elsewhere. Ancient Akan in West Africa had its own script and Kiswahili in East Africa used the Arabic script. The Ethiopians wrote their literature in Amharic and the Sultan of Bamoun in Cameroon is said to have painstakingly put together an alphabet for his people (Finnegan 1970; Gérard 1986; Bandia 1998). Interest in such vernacular literate practices waned over the years as the colonial powers did not view them favourably. Some groups such as missionaries took advantage of their empire’s control over territories to discourage literary activity likely to spread ideas that were not in conformity with their beliefs. Also, the lack of a stable and acceptable orthography for most African languages facilitated the imposition of colonial languages. However, as mentioned earlier, language policies varied from one colonial regime to another. Territories that were under British rule developed a bilingual literary tradition at an early stage, creating literature in the vernacular languages and then producing works in English at a later stage. Literature in hybrid languages such as pidgins and creoles or semi-literate English also

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flourished4 in growing urban areas. The same cannot be said for those under French or Portuguese control, as these imperial powers deliberately discouraged literary activity in vernacular languages (Gérard 1986). Although the English language was perceived as a potential instrument of imperial control throughout the British empire, it was also believed that vernacular languages could act as stabilizing agents. There were also concerns about imposing a foreign language on peoples whose sense of identity was bound up with their mother tongue (Fraser 2000). The British therefore adopted what can be referred to as a ‘remote control’, or aloof, attitude towards their West African subjects. Their schools were for the most part run by Protestant missionaries whose main interest was to make Christians out of Africans, while the colonial administration was mainly concerned with protecting British economic interests in the region. The Protestant missionaries began to translate the Bible into numerous vernaculars, to compile bilingual dictionaries and to standardize local dialects into a lexicon stable enough for carrying out translations (Fraser 2000). As a consequence, missionary presses were established with a keen interest in publishing literary works in the vernacular, which resulted in an impressive amount of creative works in indigenous languages. Due to the numerous vernacular translations and vernacular writing, the penetration of English was limited and uneven across the territories. The British colonial administration instituted a policy of Indirect Rule, introduced into West Africa after 1901 by Lord Lugard, whereby the colonial power ruled its subjects through the existing local or traditional governing structures headed by African chiefs or a council of elders (Whiteley 1971; Todd 1982; Gérard 1986). These traditional rulers were given authority over many aspects of the local administration and infrastructure, which had serious consequences for educational policy. Missionary activity was banned in some areas such as the Islamic regions of Nigeria, although welcomed in some places, making the spread of English difficult and inconsistent (Fraser 2000). It should be said, though, that over time the English language became associated with education and thus with modernism. Given this situation, the continued propping up of traditional chiefs by the British led to the vernacular languages in Anglophone territories being seen as important factors in a colonial policy of ‘divide and rule’. It can be argued that the British might have viewed the broad education of the masses in English as a potential threat to their authority.5 These conditions 4

E.g. see Nwoga (1965) for discussion on the Onitsha chapbooks. However, in Decolonising the Mind (1986) Ngugi wa Thiong’o talks of the desire of the British to elevate English as a language of the elite and suppress the vernacular. He describes scenes where pupils would be ridiculed or abused for speaking the vernacular in the missionary schools where English was taught. 5

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favoured the flourishing of vernacular writing in British West Africa, and even when Africans began to write in English, there was generally a positive reaction and understanding on the part of the English-speaking world, which seemed more willing than the French, for instance, to see its language undergo some measure of adaptation to alien cultures. This is one of the reasons why, in the early days of independence, there were so many creative works in English and so relatively few in French (Gérard 1986). Colonial rule in most Latin-dominated territories, especially regions under French rule, was based on a policy of assimilation, the ideological underpinnings of a mission civilisatrice (‘civilizing mission’). By this policy, the French sought to create a France d’outre mer with the expressed intention of turning the colonial subjects into ‘proper’ French citizens (Calvet 1979; Gérard 1986; Coussy 1988). The policy was born of a concept of humanitarian egalitarianism left over from the French revolution (Gérard 1986). The colonized territories were treated as regions of a greater France that extended well beyond the Hexagone. Each territory was considered a département and entitled to representation in the National Assembly in Paris. The whole apparatus of French life (the lycées, the Code Napoléon) was imposed upon the colonies and, given the daunting and impossible task of imposing French values upon so many different peoples and cultures, certain individuals were selected for intensive assimilation and were granted French citizenship. This small group of privileged élite, known as the assimilés (‘the assimilated’), were thrust at the forefront of colonial life and became the local mouthpieces for the French colonial process. The assimilés were schooled and immersed in the French ways and culture, and some of them achieved an unparalleled mastery of spoken and written French. For example, Léopold Sédar Senghor, député for Dakar in the National Assembly in Paris in the 1950s, was “regularly consulted by lexicographers on arcane nuances of French syntax” (Fraser 2000:17). Throughout the Francophone world, leaders of anti-colonialist and independence movements as well as the greater proportion of writers were drawn from this groups of assimilés. It can therefore be said that French colonial language policies were more consistent than those of the British, and that cultural and language directives emanated from a system of centralized political control. The study and use of vernacular languages were officially discouraged. Roman Catholic authoritarianism seemed more conducive than Protestantism to this kind of assimilation. The colonized people would have to learn the language and culture of the métropole, and any imperfect mastery was not looked upon kindly. As a consequence, many creative works written by Africans in French in the early days were not taken seriously, often because of the not-so-perfect French in which they were written. And it was not until some

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African and Caribbean scholars (e.g., Léopold Sédar Senghor, Aimé Césaire, Camara Laye) had thoroughly assimilated the French ideal of the belles lettres in French universities that they could produce works acceptable to the French literary establishment. This linguistic dogmatism canonized by the Académie Française made matters difficult for creative writers in Francophone Africa (Gérard 1986). On the one hand, it was not considered fashionable to write in vernacular languages and, on the other, they did not have the liberty to use the French language in a non-institutionalized manner, or to adapt it to an African reality. Also, as a result of pressures from this colonial policy, it was difficult to trace the attitudes of early Francophone writers towards tribal allegiances, even though the Négritude movement with its passionate regard for Africa’s tribal past was born in the 1940s among African students in France (Gérard 1986; Coussy 1988). In other words, unlike the case with Anglophone writers, it was not always easy to trace the ethnic or tribal origins of early Francophone writers through their works.6 Although most early Francophone writers obviously harboured deep respect for their tribal beliefs and customs, they seemed to have treated them as something of the past, useful only insofar as they could be exploited for literary creativity (Gérard 1986; Coussy 1988). The situation is however different in Anglophone Africa where, as indicated earlier, vernacular literature has always thrived and where it has always been easy to know the tribal affiliations of the writer. Nigerian writers such as Achebe, Soyinka, Tutuola and Okara openly declare their indebtedness to their specific tribal cultures (for their creative works).7 Eventually, however, this linguistic policy paid off for Francophone Africa as its rejection of colonization was most eloquently voiced by writers, well schooled in the French literary tradition, rather than by lawyers and anthropologists as was the case in Anglophone Africa (Gérard 1986). Unfortunately, these differences in colonial policies had the unexpected effect of encouraging rivalry between Anglophone and Francophone Africans, as can be seen in this comment by Mphahlele: “The French-speaking intellectual often feels superior to les Africains Anglophones in a measure that corresponds to the high esteem the French have for their own culture” (1972:183).8 6

With a few exceptions such as Ousmane Sembene, who was not of the élite assimilés, having learnt French in the dockyards of Marseilles, and Camara Laye, whose first novel was highly autobiographical, and a few others. 7 Granted nowadays many Francophone writers such as Ahmadou Kourouma, Sony Labou Tansi, and Ousmane Sembene openly declare their indebtedness to their vernacular tradition. 8 The danger of the attitude implied in Mphahlele’s comment is that in the early days the Anglophone elite often sneered at their Francophone counterparts whom they regarded as

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4. Criticisms and responses Over the years the language of African Europhone literature has been the focus of criticism by groups with entirely opposing views. On the one hand, there are the African critics and, on the other, there are the Europeans. The African critics are divided into two groups: (a) those so-called ‘Afrocentrists’ who question the very idea of creating an African literature in a foreign idiom; (b) those who believe it is an advantage to be able to express African literature in a language used worldwide. The Afrocentrists, who would rather promote vernacular literature, accuse European language writers of exploiting African thought and traditional folk narratives to enrich erstwhile colonial languages. These Afrocentrists shame such African writers for using the colonial languages and then spend much valuable time and energy worrying about the reaction of the so-called owners of the languages. Over the years, the attitude of European critics has ranged from measured tolerance to outright disapproval of the way African writers employ European languages to convey African sociocultural reality. On the liberal end of the scale are those critics who may be driven by anthropological interests or a craving for exotica, or those who may harbour a genuine interest in the kind of linguistic experimentation, or subversion of conventions, practised by African writers. The other extreme is made up of those who would accept nothing less than an ‘adequate’ use of the European idioms, that is, as they are used in their countries of origin. This latter group is often referred to as the Eurocentric critics of African literature, for they continue to view African literature through European eyes (Chinweizu et al. 1980). Eurocentric critics believe that African creative writing has no literary capital or traditions of its own to build upon, and erroneously consider African works as replicas or imitations of European ones, thereby assuming that the African works should employ the same literary devices or techniques or have similar aesthetic ideals. Adrian Roscoe, for instance, states this quite clearly when he says: “If an African writes in English, his work must be considered some sort of “Uncle Tom” Africans who took pride in distancing themselves from their oral past and traditional way of life in order to curry favour with the White world. The comment reminds one of Wole Soyinka’s famous critique of the mainly Francophone Négritude movement: “A tiger does not go about proclaiming its tigritude; it pounces” (1968). Indeed, he was criticizing Francophone intellectuals of the Négritude movement for trying too hard to impress their “blackness” or African humanism upon the White world. In his view, given Africa’s rich oral traditions and history, there was no need for Africans to define their identity merely as a reaction to Western racist attitudes. This view was echoed by Jean-Paul Sartre when he described the philosophy behind the Négritude movement as a kind of “racisme anti-raciste”.

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as belonging to English letters as a whole, and can be scrutinised accordingly” (Roscoe 1971:x). He thus cuts down African Europhone literature with a twoedged sword, welcoming it into the pantheon of English letters but, pretending to avoid any appearance of a double standard, imposing a Western critical framework on African literature. There is a side to Roscoe’s comment which seems fair as it avoids creating what today’s critics might call a double standard for criticism. However, at the time when the comment was made, it was an indication that the critics did not seem to make a difference between European national literatures and nonEuropean literatures in European languages. The African novel, for example, is a hybrid born of a fusion of African oral narrative practices and imported European literary traditions, and this fact alone makes it imperative that African writers have aesthetic goals that are relatively different from those used by their European counterpart, and that the African novel be judged based on a different set of criteria (Chinweizu et al. 1980; Wa Thiong’o 1986). Of course, as far as the European languages are concerned, there is a limit to the kind of changes or innovations the African writer can make to their structures and yet produce a readable piece of work. Yet, the writer should not be required to use the languages in the same way as they are used in the métropole. Achebe (1975:61) makes this point quite eloquently in his response to queries about writing African fiction in English: So my answer to the question Can an African ever learn English well enough to be able to use it effectively in creative writing? is certainly yes. If on the other hand you ask: Can he ever learn to use it like a native speaker? I should say, I hope not. It is neither necessary nor desirable for him to be able to do so. The price a world language must be prepared to pay is submission to many different kinds of use. The African writer should aim to use English in a way that brings out his message best without altering the language to the extent that its value as a medium of international exchange will be lost. He should aim at fashioning out an English which is at once universal and able to carry his peculiar experience.

As transplanted languages, the nature of the European languages in those countries where their status has gone from colonial to official languages is bound to undergo significant change, and this change is reflected in the literatures coming from former colonies. The Nigerian writer, Gabriel Okara, defends his ‘distortion’ of English with the following comment (1963:10): Some may regard this way of writing English as a desecration of the language. This is of course not true. Living languages grow like living

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things, and English is far from a dead language. There are American, West Indian, Australian, Canadian and New Zealand versions of English. All of them add life and vigour to the language while reflecting their own respective cultures. Why shouldn’t there be a Nigerian or West African English which we can use to express our own ideas, thinking and philosophy in our own way?

The complexities involved in the assessment of European language writing can be gauged by the conflicting reactions of African as well as European critics, in the early days, towards Amos Tutuola’s novel The Palm-Wine Drinkard, published in 1952. Amos Tutuola was a simple clerk who acquired his English not through formal education, but rather as a public servant of the colonial administration in Nigeria. In such colonial situations one could only learn the language imperfectly, picking up some officialese and hardly any grammar, to meet some basic communication needs. Tutuola’s novel was an embarrassment for some African critics who deplored his ‘poor’ use of English and accused him of playing into the hands of white racists, who would find in the novel one more reason to ridicule the African. Some of these critics had laboured through university to ‘master’ the English language and, given the colonial context, were really concerned about how they were being perceived by Europeans. In the words of a West Indian writer, in the May 1954 issue of West Africa, Tutuola’s English must be “naturally shocking to an African who has laboured with his grammar and got prizes for his essays at school (cited in Coussy 1988:54). Yet, some progressive African critics such as Wole Soyinka saw in Tutuola’s work a brilliant use of the narrative devices of the Yoruba oral tradition rather than a case of incompetence in using the English language. The reaction of Western critics was one of considerable euphoria best described by Soyinka (1968) as follows: “This wildly spontaneous kind of English hit the European critics at their weakest point – boredom with their own language and the usual quest for new titillations” (cited in Coussy 1988:54). Coussy (1988) catalogues the reaction of some Western critics which laid bare their excitement with and condescension towards the then newly emerging African literature. For instance, it was said in The New Republic of October 1953 that Tutuola is “possessed of an imagination [that] … seems to be progressively eradicated as civilisation advances”. Anthony West said in the New Yorker of December 5, 1953: “This writing at last seizes and pens down the myths and legends of an analphabetic culture”. In The Observer of July 6, 1952, Dylan Thomas refers to Tutuola’s English as “young English”, and it was described in The Saturday Review of October 17, 1953, as “a new born

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language”. Finally, in The Observer of September 17, 1957, Tom Hopkinson called it “a new made English” and was in raptures over these African writers “who don’t learn English, don’t study the rules of grammar but just tear right into it and let the splinters fly” (ibid.:54-55). The euphoria quickly faded away when Tutuola’s next novel, The Brave African Hunters, was written in a more ‘standard’ English. Disappointed, Western critics chastised Tutuola for losing his naïve approach, as indicated in this comment in the New Statesman of May 11, 1962: “His effects are a good deal more calculated than they used to be”; and also in this statement in The Spectator, May 4, 1962: “He is deliberately childish rather than pleasingly childish”.9

5. Critical view of orality and its influences Although literary critics generally admit to the influence of African oral tradition on creative European language writing, assessment of its impact varies greatly. Chinweizu et al. (1980) point out that when some European critics admit the influence of African oral tradition they tend to blame it for the shortcomings of some European language works. These critics claim that the African novel, for example, tends to have thin plots, thin narrative textures and undeveloped characters, and that this can be attributed to the influence of traditional folk narratives. Stanley Macebuh (1975), for instance, attributes the kind of linguistic opacity practised by Wole Soyinka to the author’s fidelity to Yoruba “mythopoetics” and “masonic diction”. Yet other critics have charged that Soyinka’s obscurantism is more readily attributable to his fidelity to the Hopkinsian butchery of English syntax and semantics, and to his deliberate choice of Shakespearean and other archaisms as models for his poetic diction (Chinweizu et al., 1980). African writers have been known to cultivate an obscure or opaque style for fear of censorship and to camouflage political and ideological insights that may not be viewed favourably by the governing authorities. However, there are also those African writers who, probably due to their Euro-modernist inclinations, assume that any creative work should contain some dose of obscurity in order to be taken seriously. Such writers are often under the spell of those Eurocentric critics who claim that African European language writing tends to be simplistic and unsophisticated because of the influence of African oral narratives, which are characterized by a simple and uncomplicated structure. Eager to please the Eurocentric critic, the Euromodernist African writer refuses to be simple for fear of being considered simpleminded; he mistakes clarity for superficiality; he misconstrues linguistic 9

See Coussy (1988 :54-55).

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adequacy for lack of linguistic sophistication; and to him, deliberate obscurity is a sign of profound and imaginative thinking (Chinweizu et al. 1980). It is rather unfortunate that these Eurocentric critics and Euro-modernist African writers fail to appreciate the qualities of simplicity, pithiness and clarity that have been some of the most important contributions of African oral tradition to modern African literature. Just because some European authors have been deliberately obscure and scholars have spent time and money poring over books to understand them, this does not mean that African writers should follow the same route in order to solicit intellectual interest. African writers have to free themselves of the Euro-modernist dictates of the “well-made novel” (Chinweizu et al. 1980) and take some of their cues from their rich oral tradition to avoid becoming mere clones of their European counterparts. Culture and language are closely intertwined and their symbiotic relationship is vital for the transmission of the history and culture of a people from one generation to another. Using European languages to express an African world view violates the intimate link between language and culture. A gap is created between African thought and its natural medium of expression. To compensate for this gap, African writers do not have to mimic their Western counterparts, nor do they have to abandon writing in the colonial languages which were given to them by uncontrollable historical circumstances. Rather, they should use these erstwhile imperial languages in such a way as to attempt to re-establish that intimate relationship between language and culture. To do so, they will have to adapt the European language to African sociocultural reality, which is the nexus of their writing, however creative the writing might be. African literature thus assumes its own identity, enhanced by other indigenous aesthetic factors, taking its rightful place among world literatures.

6. The complex union of writing and orality Although it might come naturally to some African writers, writing in European languages is fraught with difficulties inherent to a process of expressing the realities of an oral culture through a written medium, on the one hand, and in a foreign or alien language, on the other. In the early days, most African writers had to grapple with the linguistic and sociocultural difficulties of writing in what was admittedly a second language for most of them. Yet, even though today many African writers, especially those of the younger generation, do not view European languages used locally as alien or foreign, the difficulties have remained the same and the polemics surrounding such writing have not subsided. The stakes have always been high, and have evolved around determining the degree of ‘acculturation’ involved in capturing aspects of

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a vernacular oral tradition within the paradigm of a foreign written culture. At the risk of belabouring the point, it is important to note that although the African writer has generally adopted European modes of expression and literary techniques, the African cultural heritage, or simply African life, has in large measure been part and parcel of Euro-African fiction. It is therefore also interesting to note to what extent African oral tradition has influenced the techniques or aesthetics of European language writing. Such influences are often heavily grounded and manifest in the kind of linguistic experimentation, or innovation, carried out by the writers. At times, innovation may be attributed to the writer’s own idiosyncratic forays into language, but in many instances, innovation is called for, and guided, by the form and content of the oral narrative subtext. Linguistic experimentation, or innovation, may also occur, wittingly or unwittingly, at the hands of a writer whose knowledge and practice of the European language may deviate from the norms of the parent variety of the language (see previous discussion on Amos Tutuola). The fact remains though that linguistic experimentation is a fundamental characteristic of Euro-African literature. There is often an unavoidable attempt to bend and stretch the European language to reflect the rhetorical, aesthetic and idiomatic habits of the author’s indigenous linguistic community. Francophone and Anglophone literatures have evolved differently in Africa for reasons mentioned earlier. Although linguistic experimentation or innovative formations are today frequent in both literatures, in the early days it was more of a trademark for Anglophone literature than it was for its Francophone counterpart. In other words, there was a tendency to ‘Africanize’ English more than there was to ‘Africanize’ French, as such attempts by Francophone writers often met stiff resistance from the French literary establishment. But this is not to say that Francophone writers did not borrow from their oral narrative traditions. Much like their Anglophone counterparts, Francophones also sought inspiration from the rich cultural heritage and exploited the form and content of oral narratives, managing to make a dent in Metropolitan French despite the strict observance of French rules of grammar. For instance, by his own account, Senghor walks a fine line in using French to express African reality: By using French I am obliged to bend the language to meet the exigencies of my Negro Africa. I am led to make African music with the French language which is musical but not expressive. You see, there is a difficult problem here and that is why, when once this problem is solved, a work of beauty is bound to result. The French language is not tone marked. It is an abstract language, and from this abstract language one has to create a concrete and vivid language. From this monotonous

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language one has to create a concrete and vivid language. From this monotonous language one has to create a melodious one. You see, there are many problems in language and that is why it is difficult to be a great writer in French. (interview by Egujuru 1980:33-34)

In Senghor’s view “we are all cultural half-castes” (1966), a kind of “cultural middle-of-the-roaders, being neither full members in [our] own social and cultural setting nor in that of the colonial culture” (cited in Chishimba 1984:96). This early evocation of the notion of hybridity as inherent to postcolonial literature became the basis for understanding the transnational and transcultural qualities of writing in the colonial language. Today, this statement is true for both national and diasporic literatures. It could be said that through the Négritude movement, the Francophone writer managed to graft his own literary traditions onto the trunk of French prose fiction, and that somehow the Surrealist movement had given the African writer the opportunity to express his African sensibility in French literature (Gérard 1986). Today, attitudes towards Francophone writing have evolved greatly, especially regarding the treatment of dialogues and direct discourses as well as the intertextuality involved in the representation of oral narratives in French. African Francophone writers have become more venturesome and daring in ‘plying’ the French language to capture the African experience. The linguistic innovation practised by today’s Francophone writers ranges from Ahmadou Kourouma’s almost literal translations from his native Malinke, through Soni Labu Tansi’s idiosyncratic innovative formations, to Calixte Beyala’s measured adaptations, particularly in dialogue. French assimilation policy encouraged the teaching of language and literature in the colonies, whereas the British placed more emphasis on basic language skills than literature for purely expedient reasons. But because of the intrinsic difficulty of the French language and the attitude of French publishers who would settle for nothing less than ‘perfect grammar’, Francophone African literature appeared on the literary scene long after African literature in English had gained worldwide recognition (Gérard 1986). It has been said that Ahmadou Kourouma could not find a publisher in France for his novel Les Soleils des indépendances, mainly due to his style of French which was heavily influenced by his native Malinke language. It was not until the novel was published in Quebec in 1968 by the Presses de l’Université de Montréal and enjoyed rave reviews that the Éditions du Seuil in Paris virtually lobbied to have it published in France. In West Africa, in particular, writing in English had been encouraged early on by the prestige the English language enjoyed among freed slaves

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who returned to parts of Africa from Europe and the Americas (Mazrui 1975; Leith 1983; Gérard 1986). And even though, as mentioned before, many early Anglophone African writers had little or no training in the Western literary tradition and hardly any adequate knowledge of the English language (e.g., Amos Tutuola; The Onitsha Market Writers), a kind of ‘low brow’ para-literature had emerged quite early on which was heavily influenced by Christian morality. An example is the Onitsha Chapbooks from Nigeria written by semi-literate individuals, often low level government functionaries, who sometimes crafted their material by blending stories of morality drawn from Christian doctrine and the local oral tradition. This ‘low brow’ literature eventually grew into a more serious variety when university-educated writers such as Chinua Achebe, Cyprain Ekwensi and Wole Soyinka came into the public eye. The result was a significant improvement of the language used in creative writing, based on a more balanced blend of European writing techniques and African oral poetics. Euro-African literature was born out of the encounter between Western acculturation and native inspiration. The confrontation between these two radically different cultures produced an aesthetics of literature that was to become the trademark of African literature. Writers generally perceived the European languages as useful communication tools but searched deeply into their oral traditions for inspiration. Their commitment to use European languages to convey traditional thought as well as contemporary realities is evident in this comment by Gabriel Okara: As a writer who believes in the utilisation of African ideas, African philosophy and African folklore and imagery to the fullest extent possible, I am of the opinion the only way to use them effectively is to translate them almost literally from the African language native to the writer into whatever European language he is using as a medium of expression. I have endeavoured in my words to keep as close as possible to the vernacular expressions. For, from a word, a group of words, a sentence and even a name in any African language, one can glean the social norms, attitudes and values of a people. In order to capture the vivid images of African speech, I had to eschew the habit of expressing my thoughts first in English. It was difficult at first, but I had to learn. I had to study each Ijaw expression I used and to discover the probable situation in which it was used in order to bring out the nearest meaning in English. I found it a fascinating exercise. (1963:15)

Okara’s comment indeed hints at the difficulty and skill involved in the sort of innovative formalism practised by European language writers. In order

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to capture the true likeness of African traditional discourse, it is necessary to apprehend this discourse first in its native manifestations, exploiting its full range of linguistic and stylistic resources, and then seek out its closest meaning in the European language. One of the distinctive features of EuroAfrican literature, like most postcolonial literatures, is that the authors have “mined their own traditions to write their works” (Talib 2001:98). Maintaining an African flavour in this literature requires the skilful utilization of some resources such as proverbs, myths, puns, legends, fables, similes, metaphors, rhetorical devices. Indeed, some authors have deliberately made use of their national, ethnic or religious myths, beliefs, aesthetic outlook, philosophy and even language (Talib 2001). From a creative standpoint, the goal is to be able to “mine” one’s own traditions and still be able to communicate with a wider cosmopolitan readership. Given the literature’s hybrid nature, it is not always easy to distinguish between the influence of local traditions and European influences. In fact, these differences may be so subtle at times, especially in cases where the author has attempted to create a pseudo tradition, so as to render the work distinctive. Wole Soyinka (1975, 1976) has described this as “neo-Tarzanism”, and what is sometimes passed off as ‘traditional’ is quite often “re-created”, or “invented” (Talib 2001). Oral literature has persisted in written literature in postcolonial as well as metropolitan cultures. However, the postcolonial situation is unique in that writing is not just transcribing local patterns of speech into an alien language, but also stylizing oral characteristics for the written medium. There is hardly any separation between writing and orality; Edouard Glissant talks of “the complex union of writing and orality” (cited in Rodriguez 1996:34), with the oral tradition adding significantly to our conception of the written text. Bruce King sees a parallel between Anglo-Irish literature and African literature when he says: “Irish writing in English is … uniquely similar to African writing in its ability to incorporate a still living oral tradition within the forms of modern European literature” (1974:16). Besides the input of indigenous oral traditions, there are also the various manifestations of European languages as used in the postcolonial context. The French and English languages have undergone transformations reflective of the socio-economic stratification of postcolonial society. The languages are used at various sociolinguistic levels in the form of creoles, pidgins, semi-literate varieties, educated varieties and bureaucratic officialese. The writer uses “a selection from various dialects imparting a sufficient flavour to standard English for it to sound different while still remaining accessible to metropolitan audiences” (Cribb 1999:108). Using local varieties of colonial languages also hinges upon the issue of comprehensibility, which

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can be seriously compromised as one goes from European-language derived dialects to local pidgins and creoles. It has been said that Amos Tutuola’s first novel, The Palm Wine Drinkard, written in semi-literate English, was popular outside Nigeria because it was “a sensible compromise between raw pidgin (which could not be intelligible to European readers) and standard English” (Dathorne 1971:72). The indigenous linguistic and sociocultural realities which inform the writer’s choice and aesthetics impose significant deviations from mainstream/standard metropolitan varieties. For instance, Gabriel Okara discusses how he managed to “transpose” expressions that were well known to him in his native Ijaw. He realized that in order to preserve the flavour of the Ijaw expressions in English, he had to come up with renditions that he thought would best reflect the total significance of the expressions in Ijaw. Okara explains how a simple salutation like “good night” in Ijaw had to be rendered in English as “May it dawn” or “May we live to see ourselves tomorrow”, because among the Ijaw people, in the traditional context, there was the constant fear at night of an attack by a wild animal as one returned home from a visit or an outing (1963:16). To underline the currency of this statement he asks, “But has the world we live in changed so much?” (1963:16). For Okara, such expressions must be “translated” almost literally into the European language if one hopes to capture their meaning in its entirety. Such ethnolinguistic adaptations become necessary in European-language writing and highlight the problems involved in writing in a language that is divorced from, or alien to, the cultural background of the novel. A mere replacement of Okara’s example with a known mainstream English equivalent would certainly not produce a similar effect. Okara ponders this point: On the other hand, how could an Ijaw born and bred in England, France or the United States write, “May we live to see ourselves tomorrow” instead of “Goodnight”? And if he wrote “Goodnight,” would he be expressing an Ijaw thought? Is it only the color of one’s skin that makes one an African? (1963:16)

There is a fine line between forms of transliteration as a writing technique and being able to convey in one’s writing the various shades of meaning and the trajectories of a thought process which should appear unaltered in an alien language. A postcolonial aesthetic of fiction based on innovative novelistic experiments has revealed itself in Euro-African writing. It is my aim to study how this aesthetic unfolds in practice. As a “hybrid aesthetics” (Durix 1998), its performance necessarily evokes the art of translation, more specifically translation understood as a transnational or transcultural mode of expression.

2. Intercultural Writing as Translation

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1. Introduction Parallels have been drawn between postcolonial writing and translation, and the metaphor of writing-as-translation or translation-as-writing now constitutes an important paradigm in current postcolonial translation studies. Postcolonial writing has been likened to the art of translation for a variety of reasons, including the fact that postcoloniality often evokes contexts of multilingualism or linguistic and cultural heterogeneity (Bhabha 1990, 1994; Mehrez 1992; Tymoczko 1999a, 1999b). Translation is understood here in a metaphorical sense, as postcolonial writing often involves a carrying across linguistic and cultural boundaries, a transportation or relocation of marginalized language cultures, onto a more central and powerful domain. The writing practice of postcolonial authors, and novelists from other subaltern cultures for that matter, evoke in many ways the practice of interlingual translation. The postcolonial writer is, by virtue of the very nature of his life-world, a bicultural or bilingual subject with the uncanny ability to negotiate the boundaries between a minor and a major language culture. An unwitting nomad, moving freely between these two worlds, the postcolonial writer seeks to build bridges to facilitate the transfer of a more local reality onto an international space where it can take root and find new life. Translation as a metaphor for postcolonial writing takes on particular significance in the case of writing that is inspired by an orally-based language culture, as it involves transposing an oral discourse into a written one, as well as confronting two radically different language and cultural systems brought together by historical circumstances characterized by unequal power relations. Yet, unlike the interlingual translator, the postcolonial writer works from a reservoir of culture that eludes the physical limitations of a text and the latter’s implied fixity in time and space as well as its commanding presence as an original. According to Maria Tymoczko (1999a:24): The culture or tradition of a post-colonial writer acts as a metatext which is rewritten – explicitly and implicitly, as both background and foreground – in the act of literary creation. The task of the interlingual translator has much in common with the task of the post-colonial writer, where one has a text, however, the other has the metatext of culture itself.

It is this “metatext of culture” which stands as the source of the linguistic and cultural realities that a postcolonial writer transposes onto the receiving metropolitan

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idiom. African oral tradition has constituted the “metatext of culture” for a broad range of Europhone fiction, and it is the interface between orality and writing viewed as a form of intermediate or intermedial translation that is the focus of our discussion in this chapter. Intermediality as a transcultural practice may occur in postcolonial fiction writing either as a deliberate transposition of oral discourse or an artful reconfiguration of the writing language to echo the linguistic and cultural patterns of the oral narrative. Assessing postcolonial writing practice in the light of intercultural translation theory can contribute significantly to the enhancement of knowledge in translation studies, as well as address questions of transnationalism and transculturality in the current context of globalization.

2. The pragmatics of African oral discourse in European-language writing The fact that Euro-African fiction has, in several instances, benefited from the content and aesthetics of African oral tradition has been established by critics and authors alike. However, apart from broad generalizations by critics, and intuitive assessments by authors in an attempt to explain the apparent oddity in their use of colonial languages, there are very few empirical and systematic analyses of the language and content of Euro-African fiction which set out to establish the interface between this form of writing and its oral antecedent. Some attempts have been made to highlight the role of oral discourse in defining African varieties of colonial languages without any particular reference to the notion of translation. Studying the African postcolonial text from a translational standpoint necessarily involves a retrospective look at the oral narratives which may constitute a point of origin, however tenuous, for this kind of writing. Parallels or similarities can be found between the metatext and the text, and this can be achieved through a systematic analysis of the pragmalinguistic features of oral discourse and their manifestations in the Euro-African text. A discussion of theoretical issues related to intercultural communication and transnationalism, as well as the importance of socio-cultural knowledge in the analysis and comprehension of communication between radically different language and cultural systems, will set the framework for the discourse analysis of such linguistically and culturally multi-layered postcolonial texts. This pragmatic-analytical approach is based on the premise that comprehending communication in an intercultural setting requires linguistic as well as extralinguistic knowledge of the communication situation. Practical examples will be drawn from the works of some West-African Francophone

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and Anglophone writers and weighed against relevant oral narrative features.1 The study emphasizes the need to approach the linguistics of literature from a socio-cultural, semantic-pragmatic viewpoint, and a text grammar (Van Dijk 1985) rather than a sentence grammar (Chomsky 1965) approach in analysing intercultural writing or postcolonial writing as translation.

2.1 Crosscultural pragmatics and intercultural writing Crosscultural pragmatics aims to extend the scope of traditional contrastive linguistics beyond the level of sentence grammar to include discourse levels of language use. The limitations of a ‘purely’ linguistic dimension in the study of language have been demonstrated by sociolinguists, ethnolinguists, language philosophers and others who have highlighted the importance of approaching language from a pragmatic point of view. This is especially true for crosscultural studies that often require an interdisciplinary approach. Sociolinguists such as Gumperz (1982), Fishman (1978) and Labov (1968, 1972a, 1972b) in particular have revealed the limitations of the Chomskyan theoretical distinction between competence and performance, and the Saussurean distinction between langue and parole, stressing the importance of language variation in a multi-ethnic or multi-cultural context and thus moving away from the traditional concepts of an “ideal speaker” and a “homogeneous speech community”. Language has to be viewed in its actual manifestations, in its spoken form and according to its discursive functions in a given social context. Language philosophers also view verbal utterances as instances of interactive communication which unfold beyond mere sentences (Austin 1962; Grice 1968, 1975; 1989; Searle 1969, 1975). Speech act theory considers verbal utterances as specific forms of social action. In other words, when sentences are uttered in specific contexts, they take on additional meaning or function – referred to as illocutionary – defined in terms of the intentions, beliefs, values, evaluations, etc., of the speaker, and the relations between the speaker and the hearer. This approach is an attempt to account especially for the relation between utterances as abstract linguistic objects and utterances taken as a form of social interaction (Van Dijk 1985), thus adding a pragmatic dimension to the usual theoretical components of language. The argument for a pragmatic dimension to the study of language is even more valid in the context of crosscultural communication, or intercultural writing for that matter. Joseph Greenberg once observed that “language can 1

This analysis is based on a selective study of texts from the works of some African writers and does not claim to be a comprehensive analysis of African writing in European languages.

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be approached in either of two ways: as a system of signals conforming to the rules which constitute its grammar or as a set of culturally transmitted behaviour patterns shared by a group of individuals” (1972:1). It is the second of the two approaches which provides a sound basis for a linguistic study across cultures. Halliday (1972, 1975, 1976, 1978) echoes this cultural-behaviouristic approach to language study when he states that language is a tri-stratal realization system. This system consists of a “behaviour potential” as the non-verbal base, the “meaning potential”, as the realization of the behaviour potential (in other words, that which “we can do” seen as a function of what “we can mean” in so doing), and the “semantico-grammatical” actualization of both levels above as the linguistic realization. Halliday’s theory is particularly relevant to this study in that it emphasizes the importance of the socio-cultural setting to the study and function of language. According to Halliday, there is a social reason for every occurrence of text (i.e., utterances, speech acts, sentences, etc.) in a communicative event. That is, texts should not always be taken at their face value, for each time a speaker produces a text, there is always something else, besides its face value, for “uptake” (Austin 1962:116) by the listener. This approach enables us to illustrate how the “potentials” of the native languages and cultural assumptions of the African writer are realized in European languages. There are of course contradictory views regarding the issue of universality versus culture-specificity in relation to human communication. The universality doctrine, based for the most part on Chomsky’s theory of universal grammar, assumes that there are certain universal mental structures, i.e., Chomsky’s “deep structures”, common to all natural languages and that these structures are responsible for making communication possible between different peoples and cultures. Speech act theorists among the universalists claim that strategies for realizing speech acts, for conveying politeness and mitigating the force of utterances, are essentially the same across languages and cultures, although the appropriate use of any given strategy will not be identical across different cultures (Fraser 1985). On the other hand, proponents of the culture-specificity theory of communication base their arguments largely on the hypothesis initially formulated by the German linguist Wilhelm von Humboldt (1988) and later promulgated by the ethnolinguists Edward Sapir and Benjamin Whorf (1956). The hypothesis is founded on the belief that differences in the structure of world languages – such as differences in syntax, grammar and vocabulary – account for differences in the perception of reality by various linguistic communities. For instance, Wierzbicka (1985) challenges the universalist approach to human communication by illustrating that, in the area of speech acts, differences between Polish and English are due

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to differences in the deep-seated cultural norms and values of both linguistic groups. She argues that since these differences are due to what she refers to as a “cultural ethos”, any claims to universality in the politeness of speech act performance (as posited by Grice 1975; Searle 1975; Gordon and Lakoff 1975) are based on an Anglo-Saxon ethnocentric viewpoint. Another proponent of culture-specificity is Dell Hymes, whose theory of communicative competence is based on the premise that an individual is born into a socio-cultural setting with innate psycho-social ability to know, produce, understand, interpret and use the rules and norms of behaviour which linguistically and socially affect language and communication (Hymes 1972). Indeed, the gap between the universalist and culture-specificity approaches can be bridged by establishing the rules governing the relationship between the Chomskyan dichotomy of competence and performance, on the one hand, and the Saussurean langue and parole on the other. There is a strong parallel between these two pairs of linguistic dichotomies. Chomsky (1965:4) argues that “competence” is “the speaker-hearer’s knowledge of his language”, thus suggesting the innateness of competence as a cognitive mechanism. “Performance”, on the other hand, is defined as the “actual use of language in concrete situations” – a sort of creative mise en scène of “competence” (Anozie 1981:196). Saussure defines langue as a purely social aspect of language, a system of communication, a collective contrast which constitutes a system of values. In this respect, langue can be likened to Chomsky’s competence in its degree of abstraction. Parole, however, is defined as a purely individual aspect of language. It concerns the ways in which an individual can make use of the code of language to express his or her thought. Parole, therefore, can be compared to performance. The relation between langue and parole is dialectical, since neither can exist without the other: the notion of langue implies a parole, which means that langue is a product as well as an instrument of parole, and every parole presupposes the presence of a langue. Thus, recognizing the relationship between competence and performance and that between langue and parole would lead one to perceive the significance of approaching language, not just in terms of its internal linguistic structure, but also in terms of its role as an instrument of social interaction. In John Searle’s view, for instance, “a theory of language is part of a theory of action simply because speaking is a rule-governed form of behaviour” (1969:67-68). The importance of viewing language in its actual manifestation in society (especially regarding the kind of intercultural activity discussed in this book) is eloquently expressed by Anozie (1981:230): It has often been said that the greatest wonder in nature is not so much that language is given man to speak as that man learns at all how to do

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Paul F. Bandia things with words, how to hide his thoughts, his meanings, even his actions in language. Herein therefore may be further justification, whether from a psychological or philosophical viewpoint, for a study which concentrates on the illocutionary habits, behaviours and capabilities of man in particular socio-cultural contexts. Such a study as the case of speech act linguistics is beginning to show, is bound to provide useful data and insights into this essential human activity. (230)

2.2 Theoretical relevance for transcultural analysis The study of African creative writing, or any postcolonial writing for that matter, from a pragmalinguistic (Blum-Kulka 1985) standpoint is based on the assumption that speech communities tend to develop culturally distinct communication strategies, which are characterized by culture-specific features of discourse. My contention is that such culture-specific features are either consciously or unconsciously ‘transposed’ from the native languages and cultures of African writers onto their European-language works. Rather than view this as a case of linguistic or cultural interference (with its implied negative impact on second language use), such transpositions are considered instances of “interlanguage” (Selinker 1972), a felicitous blending of codes and lores to create an in-between language that facilitates the carrying across of the specificities of the literature of a marginalized culture to the dominant language culture. In order to isolate these culture-specific features my analysis extends beyond the level of sentence grammar (sentence-bound, and so context-free, grammar (Chomsky 1965)) to that of a text grammar (Van Dijk 1985), focusing on the “textual deep and surface structures” (Anozie 1981:197) in order to account for those aspects of meaning that cannot be isolated by purely linguistic means alone. According to Hymes’ theory of communicative competence (1972:269), members of a given linguistic community are aware of the rules of the language, the rules of speaking and all aspects of social behaviour that affect speech in that community. Hymes’ theory suggests that whenever two linguistic communities come together, their languages provide speakers with two systems of communicative competence. The members of each linguistic community are likely to transfer their native competence onto the second language adopted by the community. In such a situation, the measure of each member’s bilingualism is based upon the degree to which his or her competencies in both languages merge. This is precisely the case with the African writer, whose bilingual and bicultural competencies are evidenced in his or her command of both the native language and the European language of writing. The apparent

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‘non-nativeness’ of the African writer’s European language use will be due to the incongruence between his or her variety and the ideal communicative competence of the ‘standard’ metropolitan variety. Hymes (as well as Halliday) claims that every linguistic community has a pool of social knowledge and rules governing their use, of which formal linguistic rules are just a part. Accordingly, one can infer that knowledge of the set of rules used by a member of one linguistic community will exert considerable influence on his or her acquisition of the linguistic and communicative rules of a second language. Therefore, language can be said to be a culture-bound phenomenon to the extent that it is a reflection of the linguistic community using it. Language and society are closely intertwined, and thus language cannot be studied independently of the society in which it is used. By the same token, language and culture are intertwined, and investigations of linguistic transfer necessarily raise questions of cultural translation.

3. Writing culture and identity Ethnographers of speaking such as Hymes (1962, 1974), Gumperz (1977, 1978, 1982) and Katriel 1986) have stated clearly that speech communities create and affirm their cultural identity through the sharing of detectable patterns of speech, or culture-specific interactional styles. Members of a culture group usually have mutually shared expectations regarding the appropriateness of linguistic behaviour in varying contexts, and also regarding the social meanings carried by distinctive modes of communication. The cultural values of a speech community “determine a framework of appearance that must be maintained” (Goffman 1959:230). Despite the claim that there are certain universals of human knowledge and experience, there is a certain degree of crosscultural variation in the perception of social reality. Members of different cultural communities may differ in their perception of social situations as well as in the relative importance attributed to the social parameters observed by their respective communities. It is argued in this study that the difference in perception of socio-cultural interactional norms and values and social situations that exist between traditional African society and its European counterpart makes for a peculiar discourse type in African-European language writing that poses specific problems for crosscultural communication, and translation for that matter. These problems occur at two distinct levels, namely, representing African socio-cultural reality in European languages and subsequently translating this reality from one European language into another. The focus here is the writing or translation

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of African orature into an alien European language, which I have previously referred to as the primary level of translation from an orally-based culture into a written, hegemonic language culture (Bandia 1993). Though it is generally agreed that aspects of folklore and other residual techniques of oral tradition abound in much modern fiction written in Africa (Anozie 1981:355), the methods used to account for this phenomenon have been relatively superficial and limited to the obvious cases of transcriptions of whole segments of texts of some African narrative genres into European languages (see Obiechina 1975; Chinweizu et al. 1980; Syrotinski 2001). Attempts at systematically illustrating the socio-cultural influences of traditional African discourse and values on European language fiction have been few and far between. This study proposes to view the result of such socio-cultural influences as a form of intercultural writing as translation; translation from an oral-tradition discourse into a written one, from a distant, alien or marginalized language culture into a majoritarian, dominant, metropolitan one. The influence of the cognitive and socio-cultural background of a linguistic community on its interactional behaviour has been widely studied by linguists and social scientists alike. Some have concentrated on those variables of social control and order that regulate social interaction among human beings; variables such as gender (Smith 1979), age, kinship, social status, roles, authority, group membership, and so on. Labov (1966, 1972a, 1972b) and Bernstein (1971) further introduce ethnic membership, race and class as important variables that condition a speaker’s language, particularly within the larger cosmopolitan metropolises. Traditional African discourse is highly influenced by such variables. Finnegan (1970:448-52), for instance, discusses the variable of social class among the Rundi people (Burundi), for whom oratorical skill is a privilege of the aristocratic families. The skill is learned at an early age by children of aristocratic families, and there is a general understanding that members of the lower classes will not acquire or demonstrate such skills (see also Albert 1964). It has thus been established that verbal interaction in a given linguistic community reflects its social interaction, which in turn is based on its social structure. Therefore, an individual’s speech habits are a product of the social structure of his or her speech community, and are regulated by the norms, rules and ways of speaking and behaving characteristic of verbal interaction among members of the relevant linguistic community. It is interesting to see how these socio-cultural variables characteristic of verbal interaction in traditional African society have been carried across by African writers, thus constituting an indigenous subtext to their European language discourse.

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4. Sociopragmatics and culture-specific discourse Speech act studies are often based on the assumption that “the minimal units of human communication are not linguistic expressions, but rather the performance of certain kinds of acts, such as making statements, asking questions, giving directions, apologising, thanking, etc” (Blum-Kulka et al. 1989:55). As mentioned earlier, some language philosophers (Austin 1962; Searle 1969, 1975) have claimed that speech acts operate by universal pragmatic principles, while others believe that speech acts vary in conceptualization and verbalization across cultures and languages (Green 1975; Wierzbicka 1985). It has also been suggested that the modes of performance of speech acts carry heavy social implications (Ervin-Tripp 1976) and seem to be governed by universal principles of co-operation and politeness (Brown & Levinson 1978; Leech 1983). Yet, it has also been observed that speech communities have different interactional styles, and consequently different preferences for modes of speech act behaviour. Culturally coloured interactional styles create culturally determined expectations and interpretative strategies, and can lead to breakdowns in intercultural and inter-ethnic communication (Gumperz 1978).2 The discourse analysis strategies adopted for this study are derived from sociopragmatics (Blum-Kulka et al. 1989): the study of the ways in which pragmatic performance is subjected to special social conditions (Leech 1983:11), for example, through culture-specific, ethnographic studies of specific speech acts. The approach is based on the assumption that certain situational factors affect linguistic behaviour in different ways across different cultures. Hence, certain situational factors can shape linguistic behaviour in traditional African society in a manner different from that of European languages and cultures. Labov (1972b:184) points to the need for this type of study: There is a great deal to be done in describing and analyzing the patterns of use of languages and dialects within specific cultures; the forms of “speech events”; the rules for appropriate selection of speakers; the interrelations of speakers, addressee, audience, topic, channel, and setting; and the ways in which the speakers draw upon certain resources of their language to perform certain functions.

Hence, the aim here is to show how some markers of social relations and some social-situational factors influence verbal interaction among Africans 2

See works by Gumperz (1978, 1982), Tannen (1981) and others which show that crosscultural differences in expectations of linguistic behaviour, interpretative strategies and signalling devices can result in breakdown in inter-ethnic communication.

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in a traditional setting, and how African writers have sought to retain these culture-specific markers of traditional discourse in European-language writing. The rest of this chapter focuses specifically on onomastic practices.

5. What’s in a name? Writing traditional onomastic practices In traditional African society onomastic3 practices have the particular function of naming to define social relations and status within a given linguistic community. Social relations may be defined in terms of age, gender, kinship, social status, role, authority, etc., and may reflect social distance, respect, maturity, wisdom, or praise (as in praise names) among members of the community (Obiechina 1975; Chishimba 1984). Naming practices vary across cultures and are important clues to belief systems with respect to issues such as power, prestige, knowledgeability and assertion of identity. Names are important linguistic markers, often loaded with information and rich in semantic and semiotic significance (Tymoczko 1999b:223). Besides identifying or individuating the bearer, names are important agents of cultural formation and, in many cultures, carry meaning which can be revealing of sociocultural relations and other filial relations such as tribal and family ties. Naming practices can tell us a great deal about the structure and organization of a society. The translation of names, particularly in contexts where they carry great significance, is quite often a daunting task, since names are usually culture-specific and circumscribed within specific cultural paradigms. Owing to the culture-specificity of African names, references and modes of address, they do not often have direct equivalents in European languages. For the African writer, names are natural zones of resistance to colonialist assimilation, and are used to project difference and assert identity in the postcolonial text. It is no wonder then that one of the earliest Western imperialist strategies of conquest was to rename peoples and places4 (Cheyfitz 1991:72). As Maria Tymoczko observes, “names are often among the semiotic elements of a text that are the most urgent to transpose and at the same time the most problematic to translate, in part because their semiotic significance is so often culturally specific and dependent on cultural paradigms” (1999b:223-24). There is a misconception in translation theory that names can simply be transposed or carried across tel quel (as is) without 3

Onomastics :”the science or study of the origin and forms of proper names of persons or places; the system underlying the formation and use of words esp. for proper names or of words used in a specialised field” (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary 1990:825). 4 The same holds true for slavery, but that is another kettle of fish.

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much impact on the overall significance of the text in the receiving culture. While this may be true for some closely related language monocultures such as native English and French, where most names are not semantically loaded,5 the translation of names from many pre-industrialized cultures is related to the complexity of cultural translation. In what could be described as a rewriting of African names, references and modes of address, the African writer captures them in the European language in ways that sometimes amount to literal translations from African languages. These literal translations, or calques, usually stand out in intercultural writing, as they are easily recognized as foreign to the host European language. As texts, therefore, they are often opaque, or non-transparent translations from an African metatext of culture. They are opaque or non-fluent in the sense that they are atypical of naming practices in dominant European-language cultures. As literal translations, their occurrence in fiction which is mostly written in standard, normative language contributes to the culturally heterogeneous, or hybrid, nature of the postcolonial African novel. These foreignizing translations are meant to enhance the Africanness of the European-language text, assert the text’s identity and claim its space within the global literary culture.6 Chishimba (1984:164) argues that besides indicating titles, epithets, eulogy, praise, etc., person-to-person references in traditional Africa also have some pragmatic functions such as foregrounding, identity, focusing, distancing, neutralization, and so on. Sometimes names and references may have a combination of some of these functions. Identity is used here to mean the use of language as a means of solidarity (e.g., see Labov 1972a), kinship and other types of group membership. Focusing, on the other hand, is the use of language to isolate the addressee as the sole intended listener to the utterance in question. Distancing has the force of saying to the listener “you are outside, venerable, young, old, etc” (Chishimba 1984:165). Kachru (1982b:26) defines foregrounding as the tendency in code-mixing and code-switching speech interaction for the speaker to use a code that appeals to one person. It is the opposite of neutralization, which is the use of mixing and switching to neutralize the effect the message would have if expressed in another code. An 5

Comparing early Irish naming practices to those in dominant English-language cultures, Tymoczko (1999b:232) points out that most names from dominant English-language cultures are taken from a traditional repertory, and although they may have “etymological meaning, as well as semiotic and symbolic significance, they tend to be experienced as semantically ‘opaque’ labels, as sound sequences that are semantically empty”.

Translating these onomastic expressions, which are themselves translations from African languages, into another European language calls for specific strategies and some ethical considerations, as we shall see in chapter 6.

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example of the use of person-to-person reference as a means of neutralization is Achebe’s use of salutations in Arrow of God, as in “I salute you”, “Men of Umuaro” and “Umuaro kwenu” (1964:17-20). With such salutations, an elder can take the floor and, blending wise sayings with indignation, express great anger without provoking counter emotions (Chishimba 1984:168). A main feature of the African panegyric is the use of praise names which often form the basis of formal praise poetry. The panegyric is the most developed and elaborate form of African oral poetry and its use can be summed up by the expression “excessive flattery”. The panegyric is used to sing the praise of royalty and other authorities, as well as to express admiration for a hero’s military achievement or his hunting abilities. Praise names are often explicitly laudatory and are most often given to people, but may also describe clans, animals or inanimate objects. For example, the Zulu king Shaka is praised in one of his names as “the-ever-ready-to-meet-any-challenge”; a Hausa chief is referred to as “fearful-and-terrible-son-of-Jato-who-turns-a-town-intoashes”; a lion is called “O strong one, Elder Brother of the Forest” (Finnegan 1970:110). Such names occur frequently within the more complex form of a complete poem. Praise names are sometimes based on the inherent qualities of the object of praise, as illustrated by this Hausa comment about the wind: “O wind you have no weight, but you cut down the biggest trees”. Similar stock descriptions are also used for people. For example, an old woman is referred to as “O old thing, you are thin everywhere except at the knee, of flesh you have but a handful, though your bones would fill a basket” (Similar to the English proverb “Slow (Still) water runs deep”. Among the Yoruba, praise names are called “Oriki” and are permanent titles given to individuals by friends, or most often by drummers. Certain individuals may have several of these praise names, so that when a collection of the names is recited in honour of the individual, it takes the shape of a loosely constructed poem, also called Oriki (Gbadamosi & Beier 1959:7). In West Africa, formal praise can also be addressed to supernatural beings. For example, the Yoruba have praise poems for their deities in Nigeria and Benin. The praise poems are often expressed in figurative and obscure language. The style of most praise poetry seems to be allusive and obscure, often wrapped in archaic and lofty language. References are often made to historical events or people, and the references may need to be interpreted even for local listeners. Quite often in praise names an individual’s abilities are likened to those of great animals. For instance, the strength of the individual may be conveyed by referring to him as a lion, a rhinoceros or an elephant. The actions and qualities of a hero may also be conveyed exclusively in metaphorical terms. In this case, only the animals with which the hero is implicitly being compared are depicted in

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action. The hero could also be likened to natural phenomena – a storm, a rock, a downpour or rain, etc. The panegyric makes use of allusion and imagery more than any other form of poetry in Africa. This is because in the African tradition, praise of a person (or a thing) is not something to be expressed in bald or straightforward language. Panegyric is also the most formalized form of poetry. Its main structural characteristics are built around the concepts of conformity and tradition. Names or titles given to individuals to mark their achievements, social rank and status often take the form of whole sentences rather than just one word. The following passage from Okara’s novel, The Voice (1964:98-99), contains a series of complete statement praise names and shows how they are used to flatter their owners (or bearers) and instil fear and respect: The elders came one by one to Izongo’s house and when they had sat in a semi-circle facing Izongo, Izongo called them each by their praise names as it is usually done at gatherings when something is to be discussed. Izongo: ‘One-man-one-face!’ First Elder: ‘Yes! No two persons have the same face, and no two persons have the same inside. What is yours?’ Izongo: ‘You are asking me? I am lightning!’ First Elder: ‘Lightning!’ Izongo: ‘Yes. I am lightning. Nothing stands before lightning. What is yours?’ Second Elder: ‘You are asking me? I am water.’ Izongo: ‘Water!’ Second Elder: ‘Yes! I am water. Water is the softest and the strongest thing be. What is yours?’ Izongo: ‘What you say is correct. You are asking me? I am he-whokeeps-my-head-under-water.’ Second Elder: ‘He-who-keeps-my-head-under-water!’ Izongo: ‘Yes! His cloth will also touch water.’ All Elders: ‘Correct! Correct!’ Izongo: ‘What is yours?’ Third Elder: ‘You are asking me? I am fire!’ Izongo: ‘Fire!’ Third Elder: ‘Yes! He who touches me his fingers will burn! What is yours?’ Izongo: ‘You are asking me? I am pepper.’ Third Elder: ‘Pepper!’

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Izongo: ‘Yes; I am pepper. Pepper hurts but without it food is tasteless. And what is yours?’ Fourth Elder: ‘I am bad waterside.’ Izongo: ‘Bad waterside!’ Fourth Elder: ‘I am! You will roll down if you are not careful. And yours?’ Izongo: ‘You are asking me? I am ant.’ Fourth Elder: ‘Ant!’ Izongo: ‘Many ants gather together and crumb bigger than themselves they carry.’ All Elders: ‘Correct! Correct!’ Izongo: ‘If only one person in this thing be, Okolo could have everything spoiled.’ All Elders: ‘Yes! Yes!’ Izongo: ‘And yours?’ Fifth Elder: ‘You are asking me? I am if-it-were-me.’ Izongo: ‘If-it-were-me?’ Fifth Elder: ‘Never say so. Wait until what has to me happened has happened to you. What is yours?’ Izongo: ‘You are asking me? I am unless-you-provoke-me’ Fifth Elder: ‘Unless-you-provoke-me!’ Izongo: ‘I will not provoke you if you don’t provoke me. And yours?’ So Izongo called and answered praise names. He called them one by one until the last Elder was called and gave the wise meaning behind the names. The praise names (in italics) in the above passage are literal translations from Okara’s Ijaw language. In fact, the entire novel is known for its peculiar English syntax, grammar and idiom, and the novel has been described as a “transliteration” from the Ijaw language (Coussy 1988:158). In this passage, the elders are vaunting their greatness by likening their strength to heavenly bodies and elements of nature and the cosmos, thus flaunting their wisdom and declaring their invincibility. The compound structure of some of the praise names may indicate that the names were spontaneously made up as the elders heap praises on one another. Praise names are commonly used for local gods and spirits, referring to the powers of the gods or some of their great deeds. They can take the form of a title, an epic, eulogy or epithet and have an augmentative effect as they glorify the person being addressed. In the novel Arrow of God (Achebe 1964), the local

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god is referred to as pillar of water, to extol both the god’s strength and mystic nature, as this god can hold up the “raincloud in the sky so that it does not fall down” (ibid.:55). The god Ogalanya is referred to as “evil dog that warms his body through the head” to express mysticism and terror; and “the bow that shoots at the sky” (ibid.:158) to express bravery. Nwaka is called “owner of words” for being a great orator. In Things Fall Apart (Achebe 1958), the name Chukwuka means “Chuku (God) is supreme” (ibid.:131); a young woman is referred to as “crystal of beauty” because of her good looks (ibid.:122). In traditional Africa some names are given to commemorate a sad or unhappy event. These names fall under what has been referred to as African elegiac poetry (Finnegan 1970). An elegy is “a mournful, melancholy poem, especially a funeral song or lament for the dead” (Shaw 1972:132). African elegiac poetry is usually performed by non-professionals and does not have the political relevance of panegyric poetry. Lamentation often appears in a more or less stylized form. The most obvious instances of elegiac poetry occur in poems and songs performed at funeral or memorial rites. Examples of African elegiac poetry are the Islamic funeral songs by Hausa mallams which were captured in writing in the 19th century, and the short but complex Akan funeral dirges chanted by women soloists (Nketia 1969). This type of poetry is practised mainly by women, although men too are occasionally involved. The mourners use stock formulas to refer to the deceased in order to elevate his good points and make the community feel the loss it has suffered. The qualities and achievements of the deceased and his ancestry become the focus of attention. Sometimes, the mourner makes certain general reflections on life. For example, he or she might allude to the sorrow of parting through stock phrases like “I call him, but in vain”; “I would weep blood if only that would bring you back”. Though it is not a very uniform genre in that its form may vary from one performer to another or from one ethnic group to another, African elegiac poetry can sometimes be rigidly stylized. For example, the Akan funeral dirge is known to have a conventional medium of expression. It has its own canons of form, theme, delivery and performance occasion. There are also certain stock forms of phraseology which must be maintained (Danquah 1928). Names can sometimes form the basis of elegiac poetry, shaping it into a stylized form of lamentation. The following excerpt from Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958:54) shows how, after losing nine children in infancy, a mother’s deepening despair finds expression in the names she gives her children: One of them was a pathetic cry, Onwumbiko – Death, I implore you. But death took no notice; Onwumbiko died in his fifteenth month. The

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next child was a girl, Ozoemena – May it not happen again. She died in her eleventh month, and two others after her. Ekwefi then became defiant and called her next child Onwuma – Death may please himself. And he (death) did.

Achebe resorts here to the intercultural writing practice whereby names, or expressions, from indigenous languages are used to foreground the oral subtext of a European language text, and are then explained to the non-Ibo reader through an interlinear translation process. This re-writing strategy by which an indigenous term is immediately followed by its translation within the same sentence or passage, rather than being redundant or repetitive, reveals the author’s awareness of the needs of his international readership. In-text translation is a favoured writing strategy in postcolonial literature which allows the author to develop his narrative without the undue burden of explanatory footnotes.7 Moreover, juxtaposing an indigenous term with its English translation (or paraphrase) forces the reader to participate in a translation process, an exercise in reading as translation, which is likely to draw attention to the work as hybrid, blending African as well as European language cultures. It is quite common practice in traditional African society to create names that are descriptive of their referent. This practice has led to the creation of names or nicknames for any event, object or place. Sometimes, the bynames or nicknames are meant to ridicule or mock their bearers, or insinuate something comical about them, as illustrated in the following examples taken from Ferdinand Oyono’s Une vie de boy (1960) and its translation Houseboy (1966/1990) by John Reed: - “Homme-femme blanc” (17) / “white man-woman” (10): refers to a Roman Catholic priest wearing a cassock. For the natives, the priest’s attire makes him look like a man in a woman’s dress. - “Zeuil-de-Panthère” (40) / “Panther-Eye” (25): is a local name given to the colonial administrator, the Commandant, based on the native’s perception of his eye colour and the fury in his eyes. The Commandant’s eyes are likened to those of a panther. - “Gosier-d’Oiseau” (37) / “Gullet” (24): a nickname given to the colonial police commissioner because of his “cou interminable et souple comme celui de nos pique-boeufs” (37) / “long flexible neck 7

Peter Young (1971, 1973, 1976) describes this postcolonial writing strategy as “overt cushioning”, where the explanation for the given term or expression is given in the body of the text, or “covert cushioning”, which involves “the fashioning of the immediate co-text into a careful context of explanation” (1971:40).

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like a tick-bird’s neck” (24). Oyono resorts to interlinear paraphrasing (in-text) to explain the meaning of this unusual name in French. The commissioner’s neck is compared to that of a cattle-egret. - “Le Broyeur des Blancs” (26) / “Hammer of the Whites” (16): is the name given to a cotton tree where a few colonial officials had met their death, knocked off their motorcycles or vehicles, as they rode along at night, unaware of the reach of the tree branches. - “L’Éléphant Blanc” (71) / “The White Elephant” (60): refers to an elegant European colonialist, likened to an elephant because of his imposing presence. These nicknames generally follow the pattern of naming in traditional Africa, and they give us a glimpse into how the natives perceive the colonialists and the subtle ways in which they reject and resist colonial presence. As in praise names, these nicknames reflect the physical attributes of their bearers, comparing them to local animals with supposedly similar attributes as expressed in the folklore. From an intercultural translation standpoint, the author captures these local expressions in an obviously hybrid French, approximating the natives’ use of the colonial language and parodying the colonial situation by forcing the reader to see things through the eyes of the colonized. These are clear examples of postcolonial resistant translations, which reveal attempts by the colonized to poke fun at their oppressors, thus undermining colonial authority through mockery, humour and derision while circumventing colonial reprimand or punishment. The nicknames are unusual in normative French, and are created by translating or transposing traditional African naming practices into French. Cast in this hybrid formation, the nicknames were not often understood by the colonial administrators. A similar phenomenon can be found in Achebe’s novels. In Arrow of God, a young boy makes fun of his sister’s running nose by calling her “Never-adry-season-in-the-nose” (1964:210), to which the sister replies by calling him “Anthill-nose”, a not-so-subtle reference to the large size of his nose. The chief colonial administrator, Captain Winterbottom, is known among the natives as “Otigi-Egbe – Breaker of Guns” (ibid:37), for seizing and destroying all the guns of the natives. A generation (or an age-group) born when the incident occurred was called “the age group of the breaking of the guns”, to mark the significance of the event in the history of the village. It is interesting to note here how Achebe draws attention to the alterity, or culture-specificity, of his text by using an Ibo expression, “Otigi-Egbe”, and immediately providing its English translation, “Breaker of Guns”, within the same sentence.

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In her discussion of the difficulty of translating proper names, Tymoczko (1999b:229-30) states: The dominant interpretation of proper names as labels fits well with Modern English naming usage and with general theories of language in which words are seen as arbitrary signifiers, but the view needs rearticulation in light of the prevalence of names with semantic meanings in many cultures, particularly semantic meanings which are, in fact, descriptors. Thus, in many places in the world, proper names with semantic significance – often emblematic of birth omens or physical characteristics – are bestowed on children; adult names with semantic significance are chosen or bestowed as part of a rite of passage; and semantically significant bynames are widespread.

Tymoczko’s discussion highlights “the centrality of semantic meaning to the very concept of naming in many cultures” (ibid.:230). In her analysis she observes that such features of naming were part of early Irish culture and offer convenient examples of the translation issues raised by practices of this type. “In this respect”, she claims, “names in early Irish culture are more typical of cross-cultural naming practices than those in Modern English-language culture, which seldom have overt semantic meaning” (ibid.:230). As she points out, the issues raised here are faced by many translators of texts from postcolonial cultures. Tymoczko (ibid.) asserts the following, which highlights the importance of understanding naming practices across cultures: Any theory of translation (or any philosophical positions on naming) should be crafted to account for practices of naming that are more widespread than those of contemporary English-language cultures; to omit considerations about naming, such as those discussed here, would be to build hegemonic perspectives into translation theory at a central locus.

It is the semantic dimension of naming and the transcoded African aesthetics in literature that this study explores in order to ascertain its implications for translation theory and transcultural studies. As in most pre-industrialized, postcolonial contexts, African names usually have a meaning or a history behind them.8 To Achebe’s African characters, the name “Winterbottom” is 8 In No Longer at Ease, one of Achebe’s characters states: “All African names mean something”. Another replies, “Well, I don’t know about African names – Ibo names, yes. They are often long sentences” (1960:27).

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void of meaning, and if this great “white-man chief” has to live among them they might as well give him a name worthy of his power and authority (hence the nickname Otigi-Egbe – Breaker of Guns). Achebe’s naming of the colonial administrator as Winterbottom is indeed deliberate, and highlights this lack of semantic significance in Modern-English names. Moreover, the natives can hardly make sense of a name composed of words such as “winter”, which refers to a reality foreign to their ecology. There are many other such long descriptors in lieu of names in Arrow of God. For example, a palm tree is referred to as “Disperser of a kindred”, “because two brothers would fight like strangers after drinking two hornfuls of its wine” (1964:78). An age-group takes the name “Devourer Like Leopard” (ibid.:77) to express bravery. The enmity between two elders is said to have grown to a point which the people of Umuaro called “kill and take the head” (ibid.:38). In Things Fall Apart, hail storm is referred to as “the nuts of the water of heaven” (1958:92). A ruthless colonial road construction overseer is nicknamed “Destroyer of Compounds” (ibid.:57) for making a road under construction pass through people’s compounds, destroying their homes. A cow is dubbed “the one that uses its tail to drive flies away” (ibid.:85). Some nicknames (or bynames) are created by individuals to extol their own fortunes and greatness, as shown in these examples from Arrow of God: “I am ‘Dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth’”; “I am ‘Fire-that-burns-without-faggots” (1964:66). Ezeulu, the Chief Priest of Ulu, describes himself as “I am known and at the same time I am unknowable” (ibid.:132). In African culture, there is a clear distinction between a true name and a use name. Ezeulu is the Chief Priest’s true name and the use name is a descriptor which is a byname used to signal the Chief’s other attributes. Use names are often descriptive bynames or nicknames which a person may acquire as the result of an action or an event, memorialized either as an occurrence of greatness, pride, or as a source of shame or mockery. Names have been said to have psychological functions such as providing assurance or working out tensions; they may reflect the structure of society; they may have a social function in that they can be used to minimize friction; they can be useful in expressing the self-image of their owner or in providing the means of indirect comment when a direct one is not feasible (Wieschoff 1941:220). Some names, known as proverb names, are abbreviations or restatements of recognized proverbs. Names therefore play a direct literary role in the culture and customs of the peoples of Africa. These semantically charged names are quite prevalent in postcolonial literatures, and their augmentative semantic load constitutes an important task in postcolonial translation.

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5.1 Pragmatic functions of naming As indicated earlier, names, modes of address and references have specific communicative functions when used in traditional African discourse. They may carry out certain pragmatic functions, such as foregrounding, identity, focusing, distancing, neutralization, and so on. The following passage from Arrow of God highlights some of these functions (1964:23): ‘You can now see, Son of our daughter, that we cannot get our elders together before tomorrow,’ said Otikpo. ‘If war came suddenly to your town, how do you call your men together, Father of my mother? Do you wait till tomorrow? Do you not beat your Ikobo?’.

Kinship relations, in traditional African society, are often expressed in ways that are foreign to Western culture. References to kinship relationships are often expressed in terms or phrases that are explicit explanations of the kind of family ties there are between relatives. In the above text, the descriptor Son of our daughter is used by a maternal grand-uncle to refer to the son of his niece. The “son” in turn refers to his maternal grand-uncle as Father of my mother since the grand-uncle could very well represent his maternal grandfather who had since passed away. From a pragmalinguistic point of view, these kinship references, which are often literal translations from the Ibo language, play a significant role in the text. The young man, Akukalia, is sent by his father’s village on an important errand to his mother’s village. The two villages are on the brink of war and Akukalia has been sent to ask his mother’s people to choose between war and peace. His maternal grand-uncle, who is aware of Akukalia’s mission, calls him Son of our daughter in order to remind Akukalia of his blood ties with his mother’s village, to which he is about to deliver a message of war. In this instance, the kinship reference thus performs the pragmatic function of identity. Akukalia retorts by calling his maternal grand-uncle Father of my mother, thus acknowledging the kinship ties between them, but also, it can be argued, attempting to create distance between himself and his maternal relatives against whom his father’s village (and according to tradition, his own village) is about to wage war. The sense of distance can be gauged by the apparent rudeness of a younger man trying to “teach” an elder the customs of his people. The question is framed in a rhetorical manner and indeed does not solicit an answer, as the custom in this matter of war is clear to both parties. It can also be argued that the form of address used here can play the pragmatic role of neutralizing (or softening)

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the question. If the descriptor were deleted, the question would seem direct, contemptuous and lacking in tact. Context is therefore quite instrumental in determining what kind of pragmalinguistic function a mode of address is meant to perform. These pragmatic functions are also enacted when, in Arrow of God, Ugoye refers to her husband’s eldest daughter as Mother of my husband (1964:73), Matefi calls out to her husband’s other wife using her daughter’s name, “Is Obialegi’s mother ready?” (ibid.:73).9 Uzowulu addresses a gathering of elders as Fathers of the Clan (Things Fall Apart, 1958:64), and also when Zambo addresses his audience as Jeunes seigneurs de Kala in Mongo Beti’s novel Mission Terminée (1958:47) / “Young Lords of Kala” (Mission to Kala, trans. Peter Green, 1964:30) to flatter and to enhance in-group solidarity. There is obviously a significant difference between kinship terminology in traditional Africa and the West. The word “brother” as used in some West African societies often includes cousins, nephews, and could be extended to include all the male persons of a village or clan. There is, therefore, hardly any direct equivalent terminology to the Western concepts of cousin, nephew, uncle, etc. Many West African languages (particularly Bantu and semi-Bantu languages) do not have specific terms for these kinship relations (see Angogo and Hancock 1980:73-74). Generally, these terms are often expressed, if needs be, in phrases that are descriptive of the kind of family ties between relatives.10 Examples of such kinship descriptors are: “Your father’s father’s father”, (meaning: great grandfather); “the son of the son of the son of Bumo” (meaning great grandson, translated literally from Ijaw by Okara (The Voice, 1964:95-96); and in this statement from Laye’s L’enfant noir, “Êtes-vous mon oncle Mamadou?” (1954:169), translated as “Are you my father’s brother Mamadou?” (Kirkup 1959:122) to highlight its Africanness. Another mode of address that might seem peculiar to Western cultures is expressed in this salutation (or greeting) between “man” and “spirit” in Things Fall Apart (1958:64): 9

The tendency to refer to parents by the name of one of their offspring, usually the first born child, is still quite common in West Africa. 10 It is likely that the tendency among African Americans to refer to each other as “brother” or “sister” irrespective of family ties could be traced to this practice in traditional African society. However, the references may simply be playing the pragmalinguistic role of identity, meant to create solidarity among African Americans in the face of social, political and economic hostility. Of course, “brother” is used more often than “sister” in a figurative sense in English and French – “We’re all brothers under the skin”; “I’m not my brother’s keeper” (Of course, Cain and Abel were brothers).

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“ ‘Uzowulu’s body, I salute you.’ ‘Our father, my hand has touched the ground,’ he said. ‘Uzowulu’s body, do you know me?’, asked the spirit. ‘How can I know you, father? You are beyond our knowledge”.

In this interaction between a human and a spirit, the human is referred to as “body” and the spirit is called “father”. While the spirit is supposed to be beyond human knowledge and associated with departed ancestors, humans are earthly creatures and thus have real “bodies”. This practice, or belief, helps to maintain the mystique through which respect for and fear of the “spirit world” – essential to African mythology – is built. In a similar context, when Akuebue is asked the question, “How are your people?” (i.e., How is your family?), he answers “They are quiet” (instead of “They are well”.). Funny as it may seem, the answer is clearly patterned upon his native language. Many Bantu or semi-Bantu languages, if translated literally, would produce a similar result. For instance, in Bamileke, a semi-Bantu language spoken in the Western Province of Cameroon, the answer to that formal question of address or salutation would translate literally into something like “Things are cool”, meaning “everything is all right”.11 This overview of the types, functions and significance of names and modes of address throws light on the reasons for the abundant use of titles, eulogies, epithets and other expressions of praise or reference in postcolonial Euro-African writing. In trying to capture this culturally rich component of African oral tradition, writers produce European-language texts which express norms, values and beliefs foreign to European cultures. Such texts are pithy illustrations of the intercultural writing practice prevalent in postcolonial fiction, and there is a fine line between the writing of these cultural realities and interlingual translation practices.

11

“Cool” is understood figuratively. There is a striking resemblance between the use of “cool” here and the African American (now generally American) use of the word, as in “a cool guy; I am cool; that’s cool”. However, its American origin has been traced to the world of jazz music. It is believed that the adjective was first used to describe “good and modern jazz-lovers; (of a singer) slow and husky”. The word “became a word of praise when hot ceased to be one; that is, when hot jazz went out of fashion, to be displaced by bop or bebop, a later – a ‘progressive’ or ‘modern jazz’” (Beale 1989:104).

3. Cultural Representation and Postcolonial Aesthetics

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1. Introduction The fictionalization of African orature involves extensive replication of traditional discursive practices that are then woven into the postcolonial text for aesthetic and dramatic effect. Traditional narrative devices such as oratory, proverbs and aphorisms, as well as other ethnocultural discourses, are used as subtexts in postcolonial fiction, as signposts of alterity and cultural representation. The stylization of these oral narrative devices in European language fiction recalls the practice of translation insofar as the ethnopragmatic features of African oral culture are being captured in writing in an alien colonial language. Besides enhancing the aesthetic appeal of the African novel and highlighting its otherness, fictionalizing oral artistry results in a hybrid discourse that requires a reading-as-translation strategy, thereby calling attention to the translative nature of the postcolonial text. The writing of traditional modes of discourse alerts the reader to the ethnocultural specificity of African literary expressions in global languages.

2. Interculturality and discoursal indirectness Parallels can also be established between Euro-African writing and translation by a careful study of how indirectness, a well-known strategy in traditional African discourse, is carried over into European-language texts. Indirectness has been defined as the strategy of making a point or statement in a roundabout manner, through circumvention, calculated delays, pausing, etc. (Enahoro 1966; Obiechina 1975; Kaplan 1980; Chishimba 1984). By using indirect language, a speaker in the traditional context can display great oratorical skills, through a display of knowledge (or wisdom) and the ability to enact such pragmatic functions as inclusion, group identity and shared meaning, as well as the ability to use such devices as textual coherence, rhetorical questions, proverbs, aphorisms, and much more. Some speech act theorists (e.g., Searle 1975) view conventional indirectness as a universal phenomenon, whereas others (e.g., Green 1975; Wierzbicka 1985) have shown that the pragmatic non-equivalence resulting from the literal translation of speech acts indicates that conventional indirectness can vary from one culture to another. Sometimes, Westerners with a universalistic mindset find the devices or strategies of indirectness used by Africans (or speakers

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from other non-Western cultures) in a conversational situation to be confusing, convoluted, and even a waste of time. This misunderstanding has often led to circumspection or miscommunication and charges from the West of the apparent illogicality, irrationality or superficiality of African discourse. Discoursal indirectness can also occur outside conversation, as in monologues, speeches and other discourse types involving only one interlocutor. According to Kaplan (1980), there are at least four ways of encoding information logically and these are correlated with socio-cultural origin. They are linear logical sequencing, parallelistic logical sequencing, zig-zag sequencing and circular sequencing (1980:410). Kaplan’s main argument is that modes of logical sequencing are different for different socio-cultural groups. In other words, ways of producing discourse may differ from one socio-cultural group to another.1 Western theories of conversation may not always apply to some non-Western discourse practices. For instance, Paul Grice’s co-operative principle (1975:42-3; 1989:26-27), highly regarded for its characterisation of communication in Western Societies, may not be an adequate theory to account for verbal interaction practices in traditional African society. According to Grice’s principle, the following “maxims” must be observed in order for a conversation to be deemed adequate: (1) Quantity: contribution must be neither more nor less informative than is required; (2) Quality: contribution must not be false nor lack adequate evidence; (3) Relation: contribution must be relevant; (4) Manner: contribution must be orderly. These maxims are constantly violated in traditional African discourse, not because of a lack of conversational rules, but rather because the norms and values are not always the same as those that determine the conditions for an ‘adequate’ conversation in the Western context. Discoursal indirectness in traditional African speech is a case in point. In Ferrara (1980b:332), it is stated that there seems to be a rule of conversational discourse which requires that participants go through all the preliminaries of discourse before coming to the point. According to Ferrara, there are “conversational sequences” in a discourse involving one or more participants. These are, in order of occurrence, initial greeting sequence, how-are-you?, non-topical, topical, encounter-evaluative, arrangement, closing greeting, channel clearing and emergency sequences (1980b:332). Thus greeting and general discussion may precede the main 1

Kaplan uses the English compositions of Semitic, Romance, Oriental and Russian students in an English as a second language course to prove his points.

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topic, and the main topic is followed by resolution and/or non-resolution and then parting and future plans. Ferrara’s description comes closest to the ideal occurrence of verbal interaction in the traditional African context. Enahoro (1966:23-25) illustrates how Nigerians have a tendency to indulge in long, and somewhat endless, greetings and declarations about general phenomena even before the main point is discussed: Upon sighting him (a friend), dash out and take possession of him around the shoulders and holding tight to him with a death-grip, drag him into your home and turn on the shower. You: … “Welcome!” He: … “I thank you”. You: … “How?” He: … “Fine”. Stare him hard into the eyes… You: … “I said to the wife the other day, ‘It’s a long time since we saw Ojo-bailiff’; and she said, ‘Oh well, he’s always so understanding, times are hard!’” He: … “Well… I suppose… actually I called to see…” You: … “… to see if we are in good health! God’s blessing forever be with you”. It is forbidden in the Nigerian code of conduct to show irritation or betray the slightest hint of boredom or to attempt rudely to alter your host’s trend of greeting … Flamboyant courtesy… is the privilege of the host… You: “So, how are your family?” “Fine”. “The wife?” “Fine”. “The kids?” “Fine”. Eternal silence, then: “Long time”. “Yes”. “Welcome”. “Thank you”. “How?” You: … “God be praised”. He: … “I must be on my way”.

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You: … “What! Already? Just when I was about to order a keg of palm wine?”

Although intended as a joke, Enahoro’s text mimics the kind of long greetings one is likely to encounter in a traditional African context. Such greetings often go beyond a mere “how are you?” to inquiries about the family, pets, livestock, weather, and so on. It would be considered rude or impolite in such a context if one merely walked in a house and said “good morning” to everyone and immediately stated the purpose of one’s visit. The visitor would be required to talk about those he left behind, inquire about his hosts, before proceeding to the reason for his visit (Obiechina 1975; Anozie 1981; Chishimba, 1984). Examples of this kind of conversational sequence abound in the works of African writers. The following passage is taken from Achebe’s novel, Arrow of God (1964:193-100), and shows how a lengthy greeting replete with wise cracks and comments on general phenomena precedes the main topic, namely Ezeulu’s treatment of his son: Akuebue was one of the very few men in Umuaro whose words gained entrance into Ezeulu’s ear. The two men were in the same age group. As he drew near he raised his voice and asked: ‘Is the owner of this house still alive?’ ‘Who is this man?’ asked Ezeulu. ‘Did they not say that you died two markets come next Afo?’ ‘Perhaps you do not know that everyone in your age group has long died. Or are you waiting for mushrooms to sprout from your head before you know that your time is over?… ‘How are your people?’ ‘They are quiet.’… ‘And yours?’ he asked Ezeulu. ‘Nobody has died.’ ‘Do they say that Obika was whipped by the white man?’ Ezeulu opened both palms to the sky and said nothing. ‘What did they say was the offence?’ ‘My friend, let us talk about other things. There was a time when a happening such as this would have given me a fever; but that time has passed. Nothing is anything to me anymore. Go and ask your mother to bring me a kolanut, Nwafo.’ ‘She was saying this morning that her kolanuts were finished.’ ‘Go and ask Mafeti then.’ ‘Must you worry about kolanuts every time? I am not a stranger.’ ‘I was not taught that kolanut was the food of strangers,’ said Ezeulu. ‘And besides do not our people say that he is a fool who treats his

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brother worse than a stranger? But I know what you are afraid of; they tell me you have lost all your teeth.’ Nwafo was soon back with a kolanut in another bowl. ‘Show it to Akuebue,’ said his father. ‘I have seen it,’ replied Akuebue. ‘Then break it.’ ‘No. The king’s kolanut returns to his hands.’ ‘If you say so.’ ‘Indeed I say so.’ … ‘Ogbuefi Akuebue, may you live, and all your people. I too will live with all my people. But life alone is not enough. May we have the things with which to live it well. For there is a kind of slow and weary life which is worse than death.’ ‘You speak the truth.’ ‘May good confront the man on top and the man below. But let him who is jealous of another’s position choke with envy.’ ‘So be it,’ ‘May good come to the land of Igbo and to the country of the riverain folk.’ Then he broke the kolanut by pressing it between his palms and threw all the lobes into the bowl on the floor. ‘O o-o o-o o-o,’ he whistled. ‘Look what has happened here. The spirits want to eat.’ Akuebue craned his neck to see. ‘One, two, three, four, five, six. Indeed they want to eat.’ Ezeulu picked up one lobe and threw it outside. … ‘I think there is water in the sky,’ said Ezeulu. ‘It is the heat before the rain.’ … ‘Give me a little of that thing (snuff) to clear my head,’ said Akuebue. … ‘Come and get it,’ replied Ezeulu. ‘You do not expect me to provide the snuff and also the walking around, to give you a wife and find you a mat to sleep on.’ … ‘I will not dispute with you; you have the yam and you have the knife.’ Akuebue wheeled round on his buttocks and faced Ezeulu. ‘It is the pride of Umuaro,’ he said, ‘that we never see one party as right and the other wrong. I have spoken to the children and I shall not be afraid to speak to you. I think you are too hard on Obika. …’

Discoursal indirectness is also influenced by factors such as age, gender and social status. There are indeed specific ways and set forms of address to be observed when talking to someone like a village elder, and failure to do so may lead to miscommunication and even conflict. The following passage from the same novel shows how clashes in patterns of linguistic behaviour (between African and European traditions) can cause a supposedly happy event to have an unhappy ending (ibid.:137-38):

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Paul F. Bandia ‘My friend,’ interrupted the Chief Messenger, ‘you have already done what you were sent to do; the rest is for me. So put your tongue into its scabbard.’ ‘Forgive me. I take my hands off.’ The Court Messenger removed his blue fez and planted it on his knee exposing a clean-shaven head shining with sweat. The edge of the cap left a ring round the head. He cleared his throat and spoke, almost for the first time. ‘I salute you all.’ He brought out a very small book from his breast pocket and opened it in the manner of the white man. ‘Which one of you is called Ezeulu?’ he asked from the book and then looked up and around the hut. No one spoke; they were all too astonished. Akuebue was the first to recover. ‘Look round and count your teeth with your tongue,’ he said. ‘Sit down, Obika, you must expect foreigners to talk through the nose.’ ‘You say you are a man of Umuru?’ asked Ezeulu. ‘Do you have priests and elders there?’ ‘Do not take my question amiss. The white man has his own way of doing things. Before he does anything to you he will first ask you your name and the answer must come from your own lips.’ ‘If you have any grain of sense in your belly,’ said Obika, ‘you will know that you are not in the house of the white man but in Umuaro in the house of the Chief Priest of Ulu.’

The Court Messenger, a native working for the white man, shows disregard for the ways of his people and is impatient with the long salutations and chit-chat going on between his escort and the hosts, and cuts in to assert his authority. He delivers the message in the “white man’s way”, assuming the privilege of working for the colonial administration. The question “Which one of you is called Ezeulu?” is extremely blunt and direct (especially given that Ezeulu is the Chief Priest of Ulu), and therefore considered rude and disrespectful in this traditional setting, as can be seen in his audience’s astonishment. Obika’s response encapsulates the difference between the two cultures and highlights the difference between the local tradition and colonial practices. The passage continues below, throwing more light on the nature of the message to Ezeulu, and highlighting further the difference in discourse strategies (norms and values) between the colonialists and the natives (ibid.:138-39): The Court Messenger continued to smile menacingly. ‘Yes,’ he said. ‘Your friend Wintabota’ (he mouthed the name in the

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ignorant fashion of his hearer) ‘has ordered you to appear before him tomorrow morning.’ ‘Where?’ asked Edogo. ‘Where else but in his office in Okperi.’ ‘The fellow is mad,’ said Obika. ‘No, my friend. If anyone is mad it’s you. Anyhow, Ezeulu must prepare at once. Fortunately the new road makes even a cripple hungry for a walk. We set out this morning at the first cock-crow and before we knew where we were we had got here.’ ‘I said the fellow is mad. Who…’ ‘He is not mad,’ said Ezeulu. ‘He is a messenger and he must give the message as it was given him. Let him finish.’ ‘I have finished,’ said the other. ‘But I ask whoever owns this young man to advise him for his own good.’ ‘You are sure you have given all the message?’ ‘Yes, the white man is not like black men. He does not waste his words.’

Besides the difference in interactional norms and values, there is a fundamental lack of appreciation of the ways and customs of the natives. The colonial administration fails to realize that a chief priest such as Ezeulu does not pay visits. Rather, people would go to him to seek his counsel. The natives perceive this as a form of colonial arrogance and disrespect for traditional institutions, as the colonial administrator is seen as assuming the role and privilege of the Chief Priest, while meting out the same common treatment to the Chief Priest as to any other colonial subject. Also, the Chief Priest is surprised at the fact that instead of relaying the message as a mere emissary, the Court Messenger seems to be speaking for himself and assuming colonial airs. Furthermore, the last exchanges between the Chief Priest and the “Westernized” messenger are quite revealing of the clash in discourse strategies. When the Messenger states definitively that he has finished and observes arrogantly that “the white man is not like black men. He does not waste his words”, the Chief Priest cannot believe that anyone would simply deliver such an important message in one bald statement. For, as Opubor (1981:6) puts it: No self-respecting orator or ‘linguist’ in the traditional setting ever delivers a message ‘exactly’ as it was sent; part of the expectation is that he would embellish and amplify it if it is positive, and prune and retouch it, if it is unfavourable, depending on his relation to either the message, source or the receiver.

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There are several reasons for the apparent verbal interactional conflict here, which become obvious with a good grasp of the importance of discoursal indirectness in traditional African speech. The above discussions on discoursal indirectness clearly point to the limitations of the Gricean principle, as the “maxims” are constantly violated by discourse practices in the traditional African context. Obviously, the ritualistic preliminaries speakers would go through before coming to the point, a requirement in the traditional discourse, do not correspond to the maxims of quantity, quality, relevance and manner. The long initial greeting sequence, the general non-topical discussions preceding the main topic and the embellishing, amplifying and pruning of information in a conversational situation are direct violations of the co-operative principle. The representation of traditional African interactional discourse in Euro-African fiction reveals the Eurocentric bias of the Gricean principle. Mona Baker drives home this point when she states that “Grice’s maxims seem to reflect directly notions which are known to be valued in the English-speaking world, for instance, sincerity, brevity, and relevance” (1992:237). Such non-Western discourses in European languages require the reading of the text as a translation, as it becomes clear to the reader that the form and content of such texts are alien to the receiving European language culture. Viewing this kind of intercultural writing in translational terms, it becomes clear that the Gricean conversational model would require that the African writer “cooperate” with the mainstream English-language reader by observing the maxims of cooperation. This would mean rewriting the African text to meet the expectations of the receiving language culture, ironing out those features of the African text that highlight its difference and specificity. Although the Gricean conversational model allows for violations of the maxims, this may occur only when interlocutors aspire to convey other meanings through “implicature” by using rhetorical devices such as irony and sarcasm (Grice 1989:30-31). The difference or specificity of traditional African dialogue, which is ascribed to discoursal indirectness as a cultural practice, becomes an instance of implicature, understood to be that feature of the foreign language culture which signals the difference between the foreign and the receiving culture. Observance of Grice’s cooperative principle would imply that the writer will have to overcome this difference by rewriting the African text according to the norms and intelligibilities of the receiving English culture, in much the same way as domesticating or fluent translations are written. In other words, in terms of Gricean implicature, translation becomes a process of exploiting the maxims of the domestic linguistic community (Baker 1992:238) in an attempt to smooth over differences or narrow the gap between the foreign and domestic cultures. Venuti (1998:22) points out that

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In repressing the remainder, a translation theory based on Gricean conversation leads to fluent strategies that mystify their domestication of the foreign text while reinforcing dominant domestic values – notably the major language, the standard dialect, but possibly other cultural discourses (literary canons, ethnic stereotypes, an elite or popular aesthetic) inscribed in the translation to render a foreign implicature.

Yet, it can be inferred that this difference or remainder reveals the fact that conversational maxims can vary from one linguistic community to another. The writing of indirectness in traditional African discourse is akin to the practice of minoritizing translation which seeks instead to highlight the difference, the remainder (Lecercle 1990) characteristic of the foreign text, rather than compensate for this difference in the host domestic culture. In order to evoke the foreignness of the foreign text, the postcolonial writer cannot be cooperative in the Gricean sense of the word; rather he should be willing to challenge, provoke or violate mainstream reading patterns, which may help to redress the global hegemony of colonial languages such as English.

3. The art of oratory Much has been said about the high value placed on oratorical ability among various African peoples. A linguist once wrote about the Bantu that they are “born orators; they reveal little reticence or difficulty about expression in public. They like talking. They enjoy hearing themselves in assembly” (Finnegan 1970:444). About the Ibo of Eastern Nigeria, Achebe (1965:27) has also said, “the finest examples of prose occur not in those forms [folktales, legends, proverbs, and riddles] but in oratory and even in the art of good conversation …. Serious conversation and oratory … call for an original and individual talent and at their best belong to a higher order”. As indicated by Finnegan, it is obviously not surprising that peoples who do not use the written word for formalized transactions or artistic expression should have developed the oral skill of public speaking to perform these functions. If the speeches of classical antiquity have been considered as a form of literary expression with aesthetic as well as purely practical appeal, there is no reason why oratory in Africa cannot be given the same recognition (1970:445). In Africa, as in Greco-Roman antiquity, the law case is one of the most common contexts in which public speaking ability is particularly valued. Both litigants and judges are expected to display great rhetorical skill and use various means to add to the persuasiveness of their speech. They may even use proverbs to embellish their discourse in order to appeal to the audience or

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make a point with extra forcefulness. The speeches are often highly sophisticated and skilled, and singing may sometimes be involved. Oratorical ability also plays a major part in political discourse. In some cultures, there are rules about the order in which politicians should speak, and accepted conventions of style, content and set phraseology which they should more or less follow. Political speeches may also include speeches made at other formal and public occasions which may involve activities such as speeches of welcome, religious injunctions, sermons, harangues, or solemn marriage transactions (Finnegan 1970; Okpewho 1992). Among some African peoples recognized orators are considered professionals. For example, Danquah (1928) mentions the Ashanti ‘linguists’ who were the spokesmen of kings and chiefs among the Akan people of Ghana. Their role consisted in repeating the words of their patron after him, “acting as a herald to make it clear to all his audience and to add to his utterances the extra authority of remoteness” (1928:42). Finnegan (1970) points out that this practice of using heralds whose sole function was to repeat the words of the speaker lent itself very well to the situations under colonial rule, where the speeches of the colonial administrators and missionaries were transferred, sentence by sentence, through an interpreter or translator, to the local populations. Rule-governed rhetorical practices can provide insight into the political and social organization of some local communities. Albert (1964) describes traditional Burundi society as a very highly organized state, with an extreme degree of hierarchy among the different social classes who are expected to use different speech patterns as befits their rank. The stylized modes of speech used are considered appropriate according to the status, sex or age of the speaker, and the particular personal or political relationships of those directly involved. In traditional Burundi, eloquence is highly regarded from both a practical and an aesthetic point of view. As Albert (1964:35) puts it: Speech is explicitly recognised as an important instrument of social life; eloquence is one of the central values of the cultural world-view; and the way of life affords frequent opportunity for its exercise …. Argument, debate, and negotiation as well as elaborate literary forms are built into the organisation of society as means of gaining one’s ends, as social status, symbols, and as skills enjoyable in themselves.

In fact, eloquence is so highly prized that boys from aristocratic families are given formal education in speech-making at an early age. Even in every day conversation, elegance of composition and delivery, figures of speech, and the interpolation of stories and proverbs are normally called for and employed (Albert 1964:49).

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According to Finnegan (1970), unlike traditional Burundi, the Limba of Northern Sierra Leone are farmers living in a relatively homogenous society, without the marked differences of wealth and birth characteristics of the Rundi people. Therefore, they do not have the much more sophisticated and specialized speech of the Rundi. Yet, they also have their own stylized forms of public address, and they regard ability in oratory as an art and a necessity. Indeed, oratorical ability is a desired attribute of anyone with any pretensions for authority over others. People display their oratorical skills during meetings for election to chiefship, to negotiate marriage arrangements, at initiation ceremonies, to acknowledge some form of news that is formally delivered, etc. During a funeral, the speaker may spend a relatively short time on the qualities of the deceased and instead dwell on reflections about death, the duties of the living, or the general philosophies and ideals common to the speaker and his people. Thus the Limba, like most African peoples, observe recognized conventions about diction, phraseology and modes of speech (see also Doke 1934, 1947 regarding Lamba literature). An accomplished speaker in traditional Africa is someone blessed with many qualities, amongst which is the quality of possessing profound knowledge of, and ability to transmit, notions and ideas which generally portray a man as being wise.2 Knowledgeability also includes the ability to manipulate language; an ability which is cultivated with time or inherited, as is the case with most traditional praise-singers, for instance. Today, such knowledge is not exclusive to the praise-singer, neither does it manifest itself only in set forms such as elegies and panegyrics. Knowledgeability, or wisdom, occurs in everyday conversations, either in a situation where an older person advises, cautions or educates a younger person, or in a case where a king is being addressed by his subjects in a circular language, full of symbolism and imagery. The importance of the art of oratory and its various forms of expression have not been lost on African writers who have woven the aesthetics of this indigenous discourse into European-language literature. A good example of such subtle transposition of oral discourse into colonial language writing can be found in this passage taken from Mongo Beti’s novel Mission terminée (1957:86-89), in which an elder exploits some local beliefs in a show of knowledge designed to outwit someone he holds in contempt as young and inexperienced: … Il se tut un long moment, comme pour bien marquer la marge 2

Of course, wisdom is highly valued in many cultures, and a knowledgeable person is generally one who shows special skills in recalling events and putting them in a wider context as befits the expectations of his contemporaries (Obiechina 1975; Chishimba 1984).

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Paul F. Bandia d’importance vitale qui séparait ces propos d’agrément de la leçon de haute philosophie qu’il allait m’administrer ensuite. “Fils, commença-t-il sans arrêter de promener son rabot sur une longue planche, fils, sais-tu ce que c’est que le sang? Le sang, oncle? Oui, le sang. Oui… eh bien, oui, je sais ce que c’est”. Il s’arrêta de raboter, fixa sur moi un regard plein d’ironie et de curiosité, en même temps que d’extrême bienveillance; il est loisible d’observer la même expression dans les yeux d’un examinateur vicieux qui pose au candidat une question difficile avec l’espoir qu’il n’y pourra répondre. “Le sang, oui, je sais ce que c’est, oncle. D’ailleurs, ce n’est pas bien difficile. Le sang est un liquide rouge qui coule dans nos veines…” Il s’esclaffa; puis, ayant hoché la tête, se remit à son rabot, me laissant dans ma stupéfaction…. Au bout de quelques minutes de rabotage calme, l’oncle Mama se redressa. “J’ai dit sang, bien sûr. Mais ce n’est pas à ce sang-là que je songeais”. Un temps d’hésitation, puis: “Oui, si tu veux, c’est à celui-là que je songeais, mais d’une autre façon que toi, de la façon qui nous est propre à nous qui n’avons pas été à l’école”. Il se courba sur son rabot qu’il promena quelques minutes sur la planche, puis il se redressa: “Sais-tu ce que c’est que la parenté?” Mais, avant que j’aie eu le temps de répondre, il déclara: “Je vais te le dire. La parenté, c’est la communauté du sang. Ah! oui”. Il me posa encore d’autres questions qui avaient trait à la communauté du sang. Par exemple: “Fils, lorsque tu t’es mis en route pour venir ici, à Kala, est-ce que l’idée ne t’est pas venue tout de suite que tu habiterais chez moi et non chez aucun autre homme? Si, oncle, bien sûr. Pourquoi? Parce que… Eh bien, pourquoi? Dis-le, petit neveu. Oh! je ne sais pas… Je ne sais plus… Tu ne sais plus? Mais c’est à cause tout simplement de notre communauté de sang. … De même, reprit-il, lorsque tu seras un fonctionnaire important, à la ville, si j’y viens à la ville, où irai-je loger? Ben, chez moi, voyons. Pourquoi donc? Communauté du sang oblige…

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Cultural Representation and Postcolonial Aesthetics Ah! enfin, t’y voilà. Je savais bien que tu comprendrais cela. Cela signifie que, du moment que la parenté nous lie toi et moi, le même sang coule dans nos veines. Ou plutôt, du moment que le même sang coule dans nos veines, la parenté nous lie… Après avoir longuement développé ce thème, comme on fait d’une idée qui vous tient vraiment à cœur, il demanda: “Les Blancs vous l’enseignent-ils? Quoi donc, oncle? L’importance de la communauté du sang, voyons. Non, oncle, ils ne nous l’enseignent pas. Non? Non”. … Il soufflait maintenant, l’oeil rivé à l’enclos où étaient parqués les jeunes moutons. Il reprit: “Ainsi, ce troupeau, ta nouvelle fortune, qu’en feras-tu, neveu? Hein! Peux-tu seulement me dire ce que tu en feras? Je pensais: “Allons bon, avec cette nouvelle théorie de la communauté du sang que je viens d’adopter, me voilà contraint à l’altruisme intégral ou peu s’en faut”. … “Eh bien, mon oncle, mais c’est très facile: je te le laisse”. … “Tu me le laisseras tout entier, fils? Tout entier, oncle. Ben non, voyons, cher petit neveu. C’est déjà suffisant que tu m’en laisses seulement la moitié. L’autre moitié, tu l’emmèneras avec toi, hum? … Je pensais: “C.Q.F.D. Est-ce que tu n’aurais pas pu me le dire plus tôt?” ….

Translation (Mission to Kala, trans. Peter Green, 1964:86-90): … he paused for a longish interval, as though to mark off this interchange of courtesies from the lesson in higher philosophy which he was about to administer to me. ‘My boy,’ he said at length, still planing away at a long board while he talked, ‘my boy, do you know what blood means?’ ‘Blood, uncle?’ ‘Yes. Blood.’ ‘Why, yes—er, that is, yes, I do know what it is —’ He lifted his plane from the wood, and looked directly at me. His expression was a queer mixture of irony, curiosity, and exaggerated benevolence. It is an expression that may often be observed on the face of a bloody-minded examiner who has just asked a candidate

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Paul F. Bandia a really fiendish question in the devout hope that he won’t be able to answer it. ‘Of course I know what blood is, uncle. It’s not a difficult thing to define. Blood is a red liquid circulating through our veins and —’ He interrupted me with a loud bark of laughter; after which he shook his head a little, and returned to his planing. I was left open-mouthed with astonishment…. After several minutes’ work with the plane… my uncle straightened up and addressed me once more. ‘I said blood, true enough. But that wasn’t exactly the kind of blood I had in mind.’ He paused for a moment, considering. ‘Well, if you like, it’s the same stuff, but I was thinking of it in a different way, a way that comes naturally to folks like our selves, who haven’t been to school.’ He bent over his plane once more, and ran it several times up and down the board before going on. ‘Do you know what kinship is?’ he said at last. But before I had time to reply, he answered the question himself: ‘Kinship means bloodrelationship.’ ‘Ah, yes, now I understand —’ ‘It means that from the moment our kinship is established, the same blood flows in our veins. Or put it the other way round: the moment the same blood flows on our veins, we are bound by ties of kinship.’ … ‘That’s a most important point,’ he declared, in a sudden access of prolixity. ‘The same blood runs in both our veins, boy. Think of that.’ After developing this theme at wearisome length (a characteristic trick over any idea that he took really seriously), he asked me whether this was a thing that the Whites taught me. ‘What uncle?’ I asked. ‘The importance of blood-relationship, of course.’ ‘No, uncle; they don’t.’ ‘No?’ ‘No.’ He asked me several other questions, all bearing on the theme of blood-relationship. ‘My boy,’ he said, ‘when you set out for Kala, you at once assumed, did you not, that you would stay with me and no one else?’ ‘Yes, uncle, of course I did.’ ‘Well, why did you assume that?’ ‘Because —’ …

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‘Come on, boy: tell me why.’ ‘Oh, I don’t know — I’ve forgotten —’ ‘You’ve forgotten? But the explanation’s perfectly simple — it’s because we’re blood-relations, of course.’ … ‘When you’re an important official in the city,’ he said, ‘where will I stay when I come to town?’ ‘Why with you?’ ‘The obligations of blood-kinships —’ I began. ‘Ah! You’ve got the idea at last. I knew you’d understand.’ … Now he was whistling tunefully, one eye on the improvised sheep-pen outside. ‘And what do you propose to do with your new property, eh?’ he inquired. ‘That flock of sheep, I mean. Have you any — er — plans for them?’ Well, well, I thought. This new theory of family obligations I’ve adopted is going to land me in some very expensive altruism all round, if I’m not mistaken. ‘That’s easily settled, uncle,’ I said. I’ll leave the sheep here for you.’ … But at my words my uncle burst out laughing once more. ‘You’ll leave me the lot, eh?’ ‘That’s right, uncle.’ ‘No, no, no, my boy. It’s very kind of you, but I couldn’t accept that. Half the flock will be quite enough, quite enough. You can take the rest home with you, eh?’ Q.E.D., I thought. Proposition satisfactorily demonstrated. Couldn’t the old boy have got to the point a bit earlier?

In this passage the uncle is amused by his Western-educated nephew’s rush to define “blood” in terms of its biological attributes, and seizes the opportunity to lecture the young man on the importance of “blood relationship”. He impresses the nephew with his simple but wise words, and thus succeeds in carrying out his expedient and malevolent design, namely to keep some of the young man’s flock of sheep for himself. Knowledge, or wisdom, particularly as exhibited in the use of language, is usually associated with age and professionalism. In fact, there is a popular saying in Africa that “the passing away of an old man is like a library burning to the ground”. The elderly are expected to handle sayings, proverbs, euphemisms, libations, eulogies, etc. with special language skills. In Arrow of God, the following interaction between the Chief Priest Ezeulu and a young emissary illustrates how the skilful use of words is highly valued in a traditional African setting (Achebe 1964:53):

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Paul F. Bandia “‘I am sent by Ezidemili.’ ‘True? I trust he is well.’ ‘He is well,’ replied the messenger. ‘But at the same time he is not’ (my italics) ‘I do not understand you.’ Ezeulu was now very alert. ‘If you have a message, deliver it because I have no time to listen to a boy learning to speak in riddles.’”

The Chief Priest is clearly unhappy and impatient with the young man for not knowing how to speak properly and making a bungled attempt to be witty. Knowledgeability can also be revealed in the way textual coherence is achieved in traditional African discourse. Generally, cohesion can be defined as the relative connectedness of parts of a sentence or a proposition. Coherence, on the other hand, is understood to be the relative unity of concatenated propositions or illocutions (Van Dijk 1977:73). Although defining coherence in terms of illocutions is certainly one way of understanding discoursal dynamics, it may be inadequate to account for the total logical relations that hold among texts in a discourse. In other words, defining coherence mainly in terms of illocutions would consequently exclude important components of the message such as speaker intentions, implicature, presuppositions, and so forth. As indicated earlier, traditional African discourse tends to value discoursal indirectness, and in this context textual coherence is usually not based on propositional or illocutionary unity as is often the case in discourse analysis studies. Coherence, with respect to traditional African discourse, refers to what Chishimba (1984:176) describes as the “temporal, spatial and textual (in the sense of Halliday 1978) unity of parts of a discourse (text)”. In other words, coherence here refers to logical relation, connectedness, verbal marking of sentence unity and connectedness, topic-comment relation, and so on. Thus, studying the textual coherence of traditional African discourse would imply investigating items such as linearity, circularity and parallelism, as well as implication, implicature, assertion and inference in discourse. Kaplan’s (1980) claim that different cultures have different ways of producing discourse can be supported by evidence from traditional African discourse. The culture-specific strategies of discourse production found in indigenous African discourse give African literature in European languages a peculiar flavour. The first thing one discovers on taking a close look at traditional discourse in Africa is that logical linearity is not necessarily a strategy of discourse production. Sometimes a speaker may place his statements such that the only way to make sense of what he is saying would be for the listener to create an underlying logicality linking the statements, based on non-textual clues and a knowledge of discourse production strategies in the speaker’s culture.

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In an article published in 1975, Achebe shows how some of the traditional African discourse he has sought to reproduce in his novels in English does not often observe the logical linearity typical of Western discourse. Indeed, he goes on to demonstrate how African traditional discourse in European languages can be de-Africanized by simply inserting “native-like” (European) phrases and rearranging sentence structures to suit the way discourse is produced in ‘standard’ Western English . He quotes the following short excerpt from his novel Arrow of God to illustrate his point. The passage is about an Ibo Chief Priest telling his son why he should join the Christian church (1964:55): I want one of my sons to join these people and be my eyes there. If there is nothing in it you will come back. But if there is something there you will bring home my share. The world is like a Mask, dancing. If you want to see it well you do not stand in one place. My spirit tells me that those who do not befriend the white man today will be saying had we known tomorrow.

Achebe (1975:62) then rewrites the passage in standard English, purging it of its orality and the Ibo world view. I am sending you as my representative among these people— just to be on the safe side in case the new religion develops. One has to move with the times or else one is left behind. I have a hunch that those who fail to come to terms with the white man may well regret their lack of foresight.

He concludes that in both texts “[t]he material is the same. But the form of the one is in character and the other not. It is largely a matter of instinct, but judgment comes into it too” (1975:62). The following passage from Arrow of God (1964:162) is a transposition, or a translingual, rendering of an Ibo speech into English. It shows clearly how knowledge of the discourse structure of African speech is necessary in order to create the kind of underlying logicality and coherence required to comprehend such indigenous discourse. A paraphrase is provided for the purpose of illustration. (a) ‘I salute you all. … When an adult is in the house the she-goat is not left to suffer the pains of parturition on its tether. That is what our ancestors have said. But what have we seen here today? We have seen people speak because they are afraid to be called cowards. Others have spoken the way they spoke because they are hungry for war. Let us

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Paul F. Bandia leave all that aside. If in truth the farmland is ours, Ulu will fight on our side. But if it is not we shall know soon enough. I would not have spoken again today if I had not seen adults in the house neglecting their duty. Ogbuefi Egonwanne, as one of the three oldest men in Umuaro should have reminded us that our fathers did not fight a war of blame. But instead of that he wants to teach our emissary how to carry fire and water in the same mouth. Have we not heard that a boy sent by his father to steal does not go stealthily but breaks the door with his feet? Why does Egonwanne trouble himself about small things when big ones are overlooked? We want war. How Akulalia speaks to his mother’s people is a small thing. He can spit into their face if he likes. When we hear a house has fallen do we ask if the ceiling fell with it? I salute you all.’ (b) Our ancestors believed that it is the responsibility of the adult to share his wisdom with the young so as to prevent the young from following the wrong course in life. Instead, today what we see here is adults neglecting their duties, because they are afraid to be called cowards. Others have said things which only betray their resolve to go to war. But all this is besides the point. The fact is, if the farmland is really ours we can count on our god Ulu to be on our side. But remember Ulu shall not take part in an unjust war. I would not have spoken again today if I had not seen adults in the house neglecting their duty. Ogbuefi Egonwanne, as one of the three oldest men in Umuaro, should have reminded us that our fathers never fought an unjust war; but rather he encourages the young emissaries to go and deliver a message of war and yet he expects them to do so peacefully. If you send an emissary to declare war on your enemy it doesn’t really matter how he does it. Egonwanne therefore does not seem to have his priorities straight. The fact is, we want war and it does not really matter how we declare it. Thank you.

There is certainly a rhetorical difference between passages (a) and (b). Passage (b), a paraphrase of passage (a), is far from what Achebe would have his village elders say. As Achebe would affirm, passage (b) is not ‘in character’ with the “ways of speaking” (Hymes 1972:279) of the Ibo people. It may be closer to “standard” Western English, but it does not have the ethnolinguistic characteristics of Ibo discourse as illustrated in the speech in passage (a). Many factors explain why passage (b) is a de-Africanized version of passage (a). In passage (b) the speaker opens the speech with a proverb and concludes with another proverb, giving the text a distinct local flavour and also a certain authority since proverbs are indicative of wisdom and knowledgeability. In passage

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(b) the proverbs, and also the rhetorical questions, have been “translated” into straight declarative and assertive statements, with the result that the tone of the text is flat and the local colour is lost. The elimination of proverbs and rhetorical questions in (b) reduces the deliberate yet subtle repetitiveness of (a) and its dampening effect, turning the speaker’s comments into a blunt and direct attack. Although Ezeulu intends to rebuke Egonwanne for his irresponsible behaviour, in passage (a) the message is laced with wisdom and couched in very subtle and carefully crafted language, which is designed to drive home a point without engaging in any obvious personal and direct attack. The reader (or listener) is expected to grasp the message through a careful decoding of the inference, implication and implicature embedded in the proverbs, the rhetorical questions and the clever turn of phrases. Passage (b) is therefore a fluent translation which attempts to minimize the cultural specificity of the Ibo speech, adapting it to the expectations or intelligibilities of the domesticating English language. Passage (a) can be described as an Ibo speech cloaked, or dressed, in an English garment with the deliberate intent of carrying across the remainder, or difference, of Ibo speech. Achebe therefore adopts a minoritizing strategy to preserve the Ibo character of the text by resisting the assimilative tendency of a hegemonic colonial language. A common strategy for ensuring textual coherence in traditional African discourse without being explicitly assertive is through the use of rhetorical questions. These may play a summative or evaluative role, or a macro-sentential role as they may help in uniting the entire discourse (Chishimba 1984). The following passage from Arrow of God is a case in point (1964:143-144; my italics): But there is one thing which is not clear to me in this summons. Perhaps it is clear to others; if so someone should explain it to me. Ezeulu has told us that the white ruler has asked him to go to Okperi. Now it is not clear to me whether it is wrong for a man to ask his friend to visit him. When we have a feast do we not send for our friends in other clans to come and share it with us, and do they not also ask us to their own celebrations? The white man is Ezeulu’s friend and has sent for him. What is so strange about that? He did not send for me. He did not send for Udeozo; he did not send for the priest of Idemili; he did not send for the priest of Eru; he did not send for the priest of Ogwugwu to come and see him. He has asked Ezeulu. Why? Because they are friends. Or does Ezeulu think that their friendship should stop short of entering each other’s houses? Does he want the white man to be his friend only by word of mouth? Did not our elders tell us that as soon as we shake hands with a leper he will want an embrace? It seems to me

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Paul F. Bandia that Ezeulu has shaken hands with a man of white body.’ This brought low murmurs of applause and even some laughter. Like many potent things from which people shrink in fear leprosy is nearly always called by its more polite and appeasing name – white body. … ‘What I say is this,’ continued Nwaka, ‘a man who brings ant-ridden faggots into this hut should expect the visit of lizards. But if Ezeulu is now telling us that he is tired of the white man’s friendship our advice to him should be: You tied the knot, you should also know how to undo it. You passed the shit that is smelling; you should carry it away. Fortunately the evil charm brought in at the end of a pole is not too difficult to take outside again. ‘I have heard one or two voices murmuring that it is against the custom for the priest of Ulu to travel far from his hut. I want to ask such people: Is this the first time Ezeulu would be going to Okperi? Who was the white man’s witness that year we fought for our land – and lost?’ He waited for the general murmuring to die down. ‘My words are finished. I salute you all.’

The above speech is replete with rhetorical questions, which in fact determine the flow and direction of the arguments. The speaker is mounting a virulent attack against a leader of the clan, the Chief Priest of Ulu, and thus has to conceal his cynicism and disgust in indirect language. He uses rhetorical questions as a means of inclusion with the desire to exonerate himself from being solely responsible for the message. To strengthen this sense of inclusion, he uses integrative possessive references and general truths that have the force of associating the audience with the speaker. He says, for instance, “When we have a feast do we not send for our friends in other clans to come and share it with us, and do they not ask us to their own celebrations?”; “Did not our elders tell us that as soon as we shake hands with a leper he will want an embrace?”. The speaker can thus level accusations at the Chief Priest and not be held responsible for them. The speaker also piles up rhetorical questions to ensure a semblance of coherence in building up his arguments. At the surface intersentential level, these may create the impression of textual incoherence or even disjointedness in the passage. However, textual coherence of the passage is ensured by the reader (or listener) by resorting to extra-sentential clues and the knowledge of other extralinguistic strategies of discourse production. The questions generally require knowledge of the political climate in Umuaro at the time and the age-old rivalry between the speaker and his opponent in order to grasp the message. The summative or evaluative nature of the questions is designed to enable the audience to refresh their memories about recent political events in

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Umuaro for which, according to the speaker, the Chief Priest ought to be held accountable. The questions can thus suggest a great deal of information without necessarily having to outline all the facts. If the rhetorical questions were to be recast into declarative or assertive statements, the accusations would become direct and tactless, and some ideas would appear repetitive or redundant. Textual coherence is thus also ensured by the repeated or frequent use of strategies of inclusion. As mentioned earlier, inclusion occurs when the speaker strives to appeal to the sympathy of the audience by attempting to share responsibility for what is being said with the audience. It has been remarked that in many African oral traditions, there are rules that require that the speaker ‘depersonalize’ his speech. In fact, this ties in with the idea that there is hardly any claim of individual authorship as far as items of African oral tradition are concerned. The passage discussed above contains several elements of inclusion and the effect has been to create a strong feeling of ‘ingroupness’ in the audience. The speaker invariably uses “we”, “us”, “our elders”, “our friends”, “our advice to him would be…”, and so on. These collective pronouns depersonalize the speech and leave one with the impression that the speech is made on behalf of the people. Besides, in traditional Africa it is praiseworthy to be knowledgeable and yet be modest about it. Knowledge is hardly the sole property of an individual, especially since wisdom is believed to be handed down from generation to generation. Therefore, although at the surface intersentential level African oral speech might seem incoherent or disjointed (from the standpoint of Western discourse practices), it is textually coherent at a deeper level, as long as the interpretative procedures are known. These procedures are conditioned by sociocultural rules of speaking in the context of interpersonal verbal interaction.

4. Proverbs, aphorisms and intercultural narratives The importance of proverbs and aphorisms in African oral literature is encapsulated in these words by Achebe: “Proverbs are the palm oil with which words are eaten” (Things Fall Apart, 1958:5). For most African peoples, the proverb has proven to be the most appropriate medium through which a feeling for language, imagery and the expression of abstract ideas can be realized. Proverbs are characterized by a compressed and allusive phraseology usually in metaphorical form. They convey universal truths and provide a rich source of imagery and pithy expression that can be quite apt in expressing ideas that would otherwise require more elaborate forms of discourse. A preference for proverbs as a discourse type highlights the significance of speaking in symbolic terms among African peoples (Enahoro 1966). Figurative language is

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indeed a mode of expression in many different traditions, and this rich form of expression is often taken up in creative writing. Reproducing African proverbs in European-language fiction is a well-known writing strategy with the overall effect of tying Euro-African fiction to its oral antecedent. The use of these proverbs in Europhone writing can be said to be representational as they carry across aspects of African thought and philosophy, thus resisting any attempt at assimilation by the majoritarian colonial language. There is, of course, an aesthetic aspect to their use, as they can enrich and enhance the narrative quality of Euro-African discourse. African proverbs stand out as cultural markers in Euro-African texts, constantly reminding the reader, by its very own displacement, of its status as a translated discourse in this context of intercultural writing. Proverbs are closely interwoven with other aspects of linguistic and literary behaviour. In most cultures proverbial expression and other types of literary art (including the art of conversation) mutually enrich and act upon each other. At least in this sense, African proverbs are not very different from those in any literate culture. There is often a fine line between proverbs and other similar literary forms (e.g., sayings, anecdotes, riddles, allegories, etc.). The difficulty of defining the proverb can be seen in the number of hyphenated proverb types that exist. There are proverb-sayings, proverb-names, proverb-fables, proverb-riddles, etc. Taylor (1962:1), a renowned paroemiologist, states in despair that “the definition of a proverb is too difficult to repay the undertaking”. Several definitions have been provided by lexicographers, but they all seem to be incomplete and insufficient. Shaw (1972:306) defines a proverb as: A short saying, usually of unknown or ancient origins, that expresses some useful thought or commonplace truth. In the Bible, a proverb is a profound saying or maxim that requires interpretation. Proverbs are usually expressed in simple, homely language that is sometimes allegorical or symbolic….

There is, however, some general agreement as to what constitutes a proverb. According to Finnegan a proverb is “a saying in more or less fixed form marked by ‘shortness, sense and salt’ and distinguished by the popular acceptance of the truth tersely expressed in it” (1970:393). Proverbs can be distinguished from straightforward maxims by their terseness, relative fixity and some poetic quality in style and sense. Finnegan points out that African proverbs do not always have a specialized occasion for their use. For instance, while riddles and stories are usually used for relaxation after a hard day’s work (for example), proverbs can be used on any sort of occasion, even in general

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conversation.3 What actually sets proverbs apart from everyday speech is their poetic form and their figurative mode of expression. They are often wrapped in allusive language or picturesque form of expression, concealing deeper meaning as they present ideas in a simple and straightforward manner. They can be cast in various forms, and can be used to accomplish several aims. For instance, proverbs can take the form of direct similes, e.g., “To marry is like putting a snake in one’s handbag” (Southern Bantu proverb) or “A wife is like a blanket; when you cover yourself with it, it irritates you, and yet, if you cast is aside you feel cold” (Ashanti proverb).4 Both examples are meant to give advice, or comment on life’s experience. Some forms are used to bring out the foolishness in an idea or action, e.g., “If a boy says he wants to tie water with a string, ask him if he means the water in the pot or the water in the lagoon” (Ewe proverb). Proverbs can also take the form of hyperbole and exaggeration, e.g., “You will not see the elephant moving on your head, only the louse moving on another’s” (Fulani proverb). Some may take the form of a paradox, e.g., “The want of work to do makes a man get up early to salute his enemy” (a comment on the effect of idleness) (Hausa proverb).5 Other forms can be used to express humour by playing on the fact that an idea is far-fetched, e.g., “He who waits to see a crab wink will tarry long upon the shore” (Yoruba proverb).6 The above examples, which are translations from various African languages, show that some knowledge of the indigenous culture is usually necessary in order to fully comprehend the use and meaning of proverbs. In some contexts, the same proverb may be used to suggest a variety of different truths, or different facets of the same truth, or even its opposite. Some proverbs may be obscure even to local individuals or groups, and may require some seasoning in the traditional lore. The use of proverbs is closely associated with knowledgeability and wisdom, and such wisdom comes with age and may vary according to one’s social role, status, gender, etc. The complexity of the forms and uses of African proverbs foreshadows the translation difficulties involved in their representation in literate Western languages.

4.1 Proverb patterns and style There do not seem to be any general rules for the formation of proverbs in Africa. However, different peoples have their own favourite forms and certain 3

This is, of course, true of proverbs anywhere. Examples cited in Finnegan (1970:396). 5 Examples cited in Finnegan (1970:397-98); see also Dundes and Arewa (1964) and Herzog (1936). 6 Cited in Gbadamosi and Beier (1959:60). 4

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common patterns often emerge. Pithiness and economy seem to be major factors achieved through grammatical concord, negative, positive or contrast propositions, reduplication, etc. Elision is also used to achieve economy of wording. Whole words can be left out (often for the sake of rhythm). This makes for a terse expression which when translated may result in a very wordy proverb. Generally, proverbs in abbreviated form are preferred to more drawn-out ones. Wellerisms may also be used to give point or authority to a proverbial saying by using quotations attributed to some real or fictional character. Some proverbs are cast as rhetorical questions, while others may appear in the singular or plural, with various verb tenses, or in the first, second or third persons. They may sometimes exist in two forms – the full and the abbreviated; the abbreviated form is usually the cited one. African proverbs are generally noted for their special patterns which in many cases give a poetic flavour to the saying. Various devices are used to express thought succinctly, and at times rhythmically. Archaic or unusual words and picturesque phrasing often add to the effectiveness of the proverb. It is in their actual use that African proverbs can often be distinguished from other forms of ordinary speech.7

4.2 Proverb content and meaning African proverbs deal with every aspect of human life. The meaning of proverbs is often heavily grounded in their context of use, and any attempt to grasp the allusive content of proverbs must often be accompanied by a study of the situation or context of their use. Each cultural community tends to use its own experiences for the content of its proverbs. For example, the Ashanti proverb “Wisdom is not gold-dust that it should be tied up and put away” tells the well-known Ashanti (Ghana – formerly the Gold Coast) experience with gold; the Fulani proverb “Les vêtements cachent le corps mais ne cachent pas la généalogie” (Clothing can cover one’s body, but cannot cover one’s genealogy; meaning: even a rich and well-dressed man of servile origin will still only be a slave; “appearances are not everything”) shows the Fulani interest in social rank (Finnegan 1970:405-406). African proverbs are therefore very context-bound. Although it is often possible to guess at the meaning of a proverb, it is practically impossible to grasp its full meaning without some knowledge of the occasion and purpose of its actual use. Besides, a particular proverb may take on different forms and may be applied differently from one society to another. Indeed, the actual 7

See Finnegan (1970) for a detailed discussion of the form and style of African proverbs.

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application and interpretation of a proverb depends, to a large extent, on the context in which it is used. As a Fante elder once put it, “There is no proverb without the situation” (Evans-Pritchard 1963:7). Proverbs have been used in a variety of ways by many civilizations and they have proven to be an apt and rich means of communication. They are often chosen over other forms of expression because of their inherent qualities of detachment and generalization. These qualities make it possible for a speaker who uses a proverb to draw attention to the implications of his statements, and yet not be vulnerable to the intensity of feeling or reaction he might have created. Proverbs are also known for their oblique and allusive nature, which makes it possible to use them effectively in a variety of ways. In Africa, like elsewhere, it is not uncommon to find an abundant use of proverbs in law cases and disputes. In fact, the quotation of an appropriate proverb may sway a case in favour of a potentially guilty defendant. Local judges and counsellors are expected to be very skilled in the use of proverbs, as this Yoruba proverb indicates, “A counsellor who understands proverbs soon sets matters right”. The following comment by Finnegan (1970:412) sums up the important role played by proverbs in the legal proceedings of non-literate societies: In some Western countries, there are provisions in the legal system for minimising personal clashes involved in lawsuits while at the same time making it possible for each side to present their case effectively by the relative impersonality of the written word, and by the institution of counsels for each of the two parties, who, as well as forwarding their clients’ interests, impose a kind of veil which prevents direct confrontation. It seems that in certain non-literate African societies the use of proverbs may fulfil something of the same function.

Proverbs are therefore useful in situations where there is potential for conflict. Proverbs are also used for instructive or educational purposes and for the transmission of cultural traditions. For example, during initiation rites among some ethnic groups, initiates are instructed in the proverbs and aphorisms of their society. Given their implicit generalized import, proverbs are a suitable and succinct means of verbalizing socially prescribed actions and attitudes. Through proverbs a certain view of the world, as analysed and interpreted by a people, is expressed. They are said to represent a people’s philosophy. Herzog (1936) demonstrates the flexibility of proverbs by showing that the same proverb may be used as advice, instruction or warning, and may be cited in different situations or even used in contradictory senses. The proverb is particularly suited to give depth and elegance to speech through its allusive, figurative and poetic mode of expression. It has proven to be an instrument

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of communication through which a wide range of human experience can be commented upon and analysed. It expresses generalizations and principles in a graphic and concise manner and highlights the wider implications of specific situations. As we have seen, in many African societies the act of oratory is very highly valued, and an accomplished orator is expected to be able to adorn his speech with proverbs. The ability to quote proverbs aptly, readily and profusely is particularly admired. Even everyday conversations are given colour by the use of proverbs. Nyembezi (1954:44) alludes to the importance of proverbs for Africans when he asserts that they are essential to life and language and that “without them, the language would be but a skeleton without flesh, a body without soul”. African proverbs have affected life and literature in Africa in several ways. They occur on all occasions when language is used either as an art form or as a tool for communication. Their use reveals a deep knowledge of the sociocultural setting of which they are a part. Obiechina (1975:156) summarizes the significance of proverbs in traditional communities in these words: Proverbs are the kernels which contain the wisdom of the traditional people. They are philosophical and moral expositions shrunk to a few words, and they form a mnemonic device in societies in which everything worth knowing and relevant to day-to-day life has to be committed to memory. Of their nature, they perform an ideological function by making available the ideas and values encapsulated in these memorable and easily reproduced forms.

The significance of proverbs in traditional discourse has not escaped African writers who borrow extensively from the artistic and communicative attributes of this discourse type to enrich and embellish their work. Given their often set forms (of expression) and the general truths they convey, these proverbs are often reproduced in European-language works through direct transpositions meant to retain and communicate their very essence as kernels of African philosophy. The writing of African proverbs in European languages is more of a translingual than a cultural transformation process. Their form and content are maintained rather than replaced by transparent equivalents in the host European language. Given that proverbs often express universal truths that can be conveyed in various ways in different language cultures, it is the aesthetics of proverb formation in traditional Africa as well as the artistry in performance that enhance the narrative quality of Euro-African novels. Particular attention is therefore paid to these features in transferring African proverbs to alien European languages.

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By their very nature, proverbs lend themselves easily to indirect discourse which, as has been shown, is a cherished quality in the traditional African context where oratorical ability is highly valued. As mentioned earlier, they are used to convey age-old truths, to portray the speaker as wise and versed in traditional lore, summarize an otherwise long statement, neutralize the effect of an otherwise unpleasant statement, etc. Ambrose Monye (1987:111) states the following regarding proverbs as indirect discourse-types: Indirectness in proverb usage helps to smooth out friction between the speaker and his listener during conversation; has some aesthetic function: it helps the speaker to characterise his ideas by making them concrete so as to be memorable; it helps him also to avoid monotony by discarding hackneyed words and expressions: it enables him to involve his listener in metaphorical reasoning; it helps him to use an embellished language to address his listener, who usually treasures such language usage; all of these being factors which constitute the critical canons with which his listeners evaluate his speech.

African proverbs, like proverbs in general, are indeed particularly suited to discoursal indirecteness because of the largely metaphorical language in which they are expressed. This indirectness is expressed in several ways in African traditional discourse: through semantic truncation, brevity (summarizing otherwise long statements) and neutralization (of otherwise unpleasant statements). African proverbs are couched in a type of language, sometimes esoteric, which contributes to their indirect nature. The peculiar nature of this language might pose problems for someone not familiar with the linguistic and socio-cultural background of the African proverb. A primary function of proverbs as used by African writers is to display the wisdom and oratorical skills of the speaker, and these skills often require a ready command of diverse proverbs. Indeed, the abundant and skilful use of proverbs marks out an individual as knowledgeable in the ways, customs and beliefs of his people. It is a skill that is acquired over time, and that is why it seems to be the exclusive privilege of the elders who may use proverbs to educate, caution or advise their people without appearing to be arrogant or condescending. They may then use language that is more subtle and entertaining rather than straightforward or blunt. In Things Fall Apart, Achebe (1958:5) alludes to this fact: Having spoken plainly so far, Okoye said the next half a dozen sentences in proverbs. Among the Ibo the art of conversation is regarded very highly, and proverbs are the palm-oil with which words are eaten.

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The following extract from Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964:11; my italics) is about a parent cautioning his son against blind courage: But two things spoiled Obika. He drank palm wine to excess, and he was given to sudden and fiery anger. And being as strong as rock he was always inflicting injuries on others. His father who preferred him to Edogo, his quiet and brooding half-brother, nevertheless said to him often: ‘It is praiseworthy to be brave and fearless, my son, but sometimes it is better to be a coward. We often stand in the compound of a coward to point at the ruins where a brave man used to live. The man who has never submitted to anything will soon submit to the burial mat.8

The two proverbs, which play a summative role in the text, are captured in a highly expressive and suggestive language, full of wisdom and the kind of insight that can only come with age. With these proverbs a father advises his son about the virtues of being level-headed and a little subdued rather than aggressive and volatile. A paraphrase of the proverbs into a more direct language would turn them into a direct reprimand (rather than an advice). The following example from Oyono’s Une vie de boy (1960:1) is also meant as an advice, and its language is also highly indirect: “Nous mangions en silence car la bouche qui parle ne mange pas” / “We eat in silence, for while the mouth speaks it does not serve for eating” (Houseboy, 1966:1). The use of proverbs for discoursal indirectness is best illustrated in cases where proverbs are used as a means of neutralizing the effect of an otherwise unpleasant statement. In such circumstances, the proverb is cloaked in a language which allows the speaker to make a point that may be unpleasant to the listener (or the target of the statement) without appearing to be deliberately seeking to offend him. A characteristic of such neutralizing proverbs is that they always begin with an introductory formula in which the speaker attributes the proverbs to a common authorship of the people or their elders or ancestors, such as “as our people say”, “our elders used to say”, “we have a saying that” and “as the saying goes” (see Finnegan 1970:401). This is also a strategy of inclusion. In the case of wellerisms, a proverb-statement is often attributed to an animal or bird character. For example, “Eneke the bird says that since men have learnt to shoot without missing, he has learnt to fly without perching” (Things Fall Apart, Achebe 1958:16). This technique of using proverbs for neutralizing effect is particularly noticeable in situations where elders are 8

Burial mat: a piece of mat (usually made out of palm fronds) used to fold a corpse for burial in some traditional African communities before the coffin was introduced.

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consciously trying to avoid hurting each other’s feelings, as tradition dictates they must show respect for one another. In a speech taken from Arrow of God (discussed earlier) Achebe shows how two respected elders of a village come down on opposite sides of a dispute and wittingly present arguments in support of their positions, in the course of which they level serious attacks against each other. But since the attacks are made specifically through proverbs, the implied aggression and insults are camouflaged in a neutralizing language. The Chief Priest, Ezeulu, says “When an adult is in the house the she-goat is not left to suffer the pains of parturition on its tether” (1964:18); this is understood as an attack against the village elders for not advising the young about the perils of an unjust war. The point is reinforced by two more proverbs: “Have you not heard that a boy sent by his father to steal does not go stealthily but breaks the door with his feet?”; “When we hear a house has fallen do we ask if the ceiling fell with it?” (meaning, if you declare war against an enemy, it does not really matter how you do it). A paraphrase of these proverbs into a more direct and straightforward language, thereby laying bare their implicature, would turn them into aggressive, critical and unpleasant statements. In the same novel, when Nwaku says to the Chief Priest Ezeulu: “Did not our elders tell us that as soon as we shake hands with a leper he will want an embrace?” (ibid.:143), he is criticizing the Chief Priest for befriending the white man, and warning him of the potential danger. Nwaka adds in the same breath, “a man who brings ant-ridden faggots into this hut should expect the visit of lizards”. This can be paraphrased as: You welcomed the white man into this village, you should now be ready to deal with the problems he will create for us. He goes on to say, “You tied the knot, you should also know how to undo it. You passed the shit that is smelling, you should carry it away. Fortunately, the evil charm brought in at the end of a pole is not too difficult to take outside again” (ibid.:144). Paraphrased, this reads: You allowed the white man to settle in this village; you should also know how to deal with him. Fortunately, you are not very close friends yet, so it should not be difficult to get rid of him. These virulent attacks by Nwaka against the Chief Priest are calculated to hurt him politically and diminish his standing in the community, but since they are expressed in proverbs, they take on the form of general truths and thus exonerate Nwaka from engaging in personal attacks against the Chief Priest. The following proverb, from Oyono’s Une vie de boy, is used by a young woman to tease a young man about his sexuality: “C’est peut-être parce que son coupe-coupe n’est pas tranchant qu’il a préféré le garder dans son fourreau” (1956:68) / “Perhaps it’s because his knife is not very sharp he prefers to keep it in its sheath” (Houseboy, 1966:43). It serves to neutralize the effect of

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a comment which would otherwise be extremely direct, graphic and provocative. The young woman, a native, goes on to say, “Le chien peut-il crever de faim à côté de la viande de son maître? On n’enterre pas le bouc jusqu’aux cornes, on l’enterre tout entier”. (1956:69) / “The dog can die of hunger beside his master’s meat. They don’t bury the goat up to the horns. They bury him altogether” (1966:44). This may be paraphrased as: My lover (your master, the white man) has asked you to look after me; if you are a “real” man you should be able to seduce me. Proverbs are also used by African writers as a means of achieving brevity in discourse. This type of indirect discourse allows the author (or the speaker) to summarize an entire discourse in a few captivating words. Proverbs used in this manner function in much the same way as imagery and symbolism when used as a summation of larger meanings. For example, in Une vie de boy, when the main protagonist Toundi answers Madame’s question about whether he will someday abandon Christianity with the proverb “la rivière ne remonte pas à sa source” (1956:89) / “The river does not go back to its spring” (1966:56), he is summing up an entire philosophical debate about the long-term success of the African’s conversion to Christianity. In several instances, proverbs are used to introduce or summarize a narrative rather than simply occurring in a conversation between characters. The following is an example, from Arrow of God, of the use of a proverb to introduce a point to be made immediately after in the discourse (Achebe 1964:85): Yes we are talking about the white man’s road. But when the roof and walls of a house fall in, the ceiling is not left standing. The white man, the new religion, the soldiers, the new road – they are all part of the same thing. The white man has a gun, a matchet, a bow and carries fire in his mouth. He does not fight with one weapon alone.

The following proverb from Things Fall Apart, on the other hand, summarizes the narrative that immediately comes before (Achebe 1958:87): Obierika was a man who thought about things. When the will of the goddess had been done, he sat down in his obi and mourned his friend’s calamity. Why should a man suffer so grievously for an offence he had committed inadvertently? But although he thought for a long time he found no answer. He was merely led into greater complexities. He remembered his wife’s twin children, whom he had thrown away. What crime had they committed? The earth had decreed that they were an offence on the land and must be destroyed. And if the clan did not exact punishment for an offence against the great goddess, her wrath

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was loosed on all the land and not just on the offender. As the elders said, if one finger brought oil it soiled the others.

The proverb sums up the points that have just been made in the preceding narrative: it only takes one bad individual to corrupt an entire group of people and result in collective punishment. A similar proverb from Arrow of God serves to summarize a speaker’s prose comment (Achebe 1964:59): It is good for a misfortune like this to happen once in a while… so that we can know the thoughts of our friends and neighbors. Unless the wind blows we do not see the fowl’s rump.

In the following passage from the same novel (Achebe 1964:26), proverbs are used to summarize whole segments of discourse serving as a conclusion to the narrative. This is what is called a “cluster” technique (see Chishimba 1984): The reed we were blowing is now crushed. When I spoke two markets ago in this very place I used the proverb of the she-goat. I was then talking to Ogbuefi Egonwanne who was the adult in the house. I told him that he should have spoken up against what we were planning, instead of which he put a piece of live coal into the child’s palm and ask him to carry it with care. We all have seen with what care he carried it. I was not then talking to Egonwanne alone but to all the elders here who left what they should have done and did another, who were in the house and yet the she-goat suffered in her parturition.

The two summative proverbs each lend credibility to the ordinary prose material they summarize by relating the arguments to facts that are universally acknowledged by the village community, facts that are expressed in a terse language and that have become fossilized in the oral tradition of the people. Proverbs used as summaries can sometimes act as a means of instructing the listener about the moral of a story. In the following extract from Arrow of God (Achebe 1964:99), Akuebue is lecturing the sons of his friend, the Chief Priest, about respect for their father. He says: This is what I tell my own children. I tell them that a man always has more sense than his children. Those of you who think they are wiser than their father forget that it is from a man’s own stock of sense that he gives out to his sons. That is why a boy who tries to wrestle with his father gets blinded by the old man’s loin-cloth.

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The proverb refers to an old myth that is used to instruct children against disobeying their elders and to instil fear in them. Another function of proverbs as used by African writers is semantic truncation. Chishimba (1984:176) describes semantic truncation in relation to proverb use as “one in which the logical relation between two utterances (texts) is pre-empted by the fact that the second or third or other expression is a proverb”. The concept as used here is similar to formal syntactic truncation in which a grammatical element is deleted because it is understood. An example of this kind of proverb usage is illustrated in this statement from Oyono’s Une vie de boy: “Je serai le boy du chef des blancs: le chien du roi est le roi des chiens” (1956:32) / “I shall be the Chief European’s boy. The dog of the King is the King of dogs” (Houseboy, 1966:20). The logical link between the first statement and the proverb is pre-empted as the reader is expected to understand the link between them and the message they are intended to communicate. In this context the proverb means: “Since I am going to be the Chief Colonial administrator’s servant, I will therefore be the most important houseboy in the District”. Other examples of this use of proverbs can be seen in the following statements from Arrow of God : “Have you not heard that when two brothers fight, a stranger reaps the harvest?” (1964:131)9 “I have already said that what this new religion will bring to Umuaro wears a hat on its head”. (1964:45) “What that man Ezeulu will bring to Umuaro is pregnant and nursing a baby at the same time”. (1964:52)10 “That is what our sages meant when they said that a man who has nowhere else to put his hand for support puts it on his own knee”. (1964:134)

Green (1975:226-240) has discussed this kind of syntactic distribution of proverbs, noting that while some proverbs can indeed be embedded in sentences without losing their property of implicature, others simply cannot and must be used independently of other non-proverb clauses. She asserts that linguistics must consider proverbs as part of a speaker’s total socio-cultural competence. 9

Suggesting that a house cannot stand against itself, this Ibo proverb alludes to patriarchal lineage and laws of succession. Succession goes from father to son; in the absence of any male heir in the immediate family, succession then goes to a distant male relative. 10 There is a strong taboo against a nursing mother who is still breast-feeding her baby becoming pregnant.

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Besides exploiting the various functions of proverbs, African writers strive to reproduce the opaque and peculiar language of proverbs in their European language works in an attempt to enhance the narrative as well as the poetic quality of their fiction. These proverbs, written in English or French, are distinctly African in that, although the message conveyed deals with universal human experience, their terms of reference are heavily grounded in African ecological and cultural reality. The peculiar language of African proverbs poses specific problems to those listeners without the socio-cultural knowledge necessary to understand them. Moreover, the polysemic nature of some African proverbs (discussed earlier) adds to the difficulty of interpreting them, particularly in the context of intercultural writing, or translation. A close look at the interpreted meaning of some African proverbs would reveal the degree of sociocultural and sociolinguistic knowledge embedded in the language of proverbs. Obviously, interpretations are based on the context in which the proverbs are used in the novels: Proverb: “The chicken says when you are in a new town stand with only one foot, for where you stand may be a grave”. (Okara, The Voice, 1964:51) Meaning: Be careful when dealing with strangers. Proverb: “I kept saying: Tomorrow I shall go, tomorrow I shall go, like a toad which lost the chance of growing a tail because of I am coming, I am coming”. (Achebe, Arrow of God, 1964:185). Meaning: Strike while the iron is hot.

This proverb comes from a popular African tale. Onana (1975:87) cites a version of the tale found among the Bambara of Senegal and Mali: L’ancêtre des grenouilles était à pourvoir chaque bestiole de sa queue. Une jeune grenouille pensa: ‘Ma grand-mère m’en gardera bien une en réserve; j’irai la chercher demain.’ Mais le lendemain, quand elle arriva, la distribution était terminée, et c’est cette grenouille négligente qui devint l’aïeule des grenouilles que l’on voit dépourvues. Translation: The ancestor of frogs was about to endow each descendant with a tail. A young frog thought: ‘My grand-mother will surely put one aside for me; I’ll go fetch it tomorrow.’ However, by the time she arrived the following day the distribution was over, and it is this

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The following are further examples from Arrow of God. The proverbs are particularly culture-bound and require a careful deciphering of language in order to grasp their signification. “Unless a penis dies young it will surely eat bearded meat”. (1964:142) “A woman does not carry her father’s obi to her husband”. (1964:12) “When a man of cunning dies a man of cunning buries him”. (1964:24) “He who sees an old hag squatting should leave her alone”. (1964:282) “The man who belittles the sickness which Monkey has suffered should ask to see the eyes which his nurse got from blowing the sick fire”. (1964:283)

The carrying over of the peculiar, and somewhat esoteric, language of African proverbs into an alien European language is a translation process whose complexity can be gauged by the varying degrees of success in representing these proverbs in European language novels. The representations range from mere paraphrases to quasi-literal renditions based on formal and semantic calques. The role language plays in shaping the proverbs is highly indicative of the importance of indirectness in traditional African discourse. Proverbs are by nature dependent upon implicature as a communicative strategy. The writer as translator faces the choice of whether to repress this implicature by compensating for it in the translating language (either through footnotes or by incorporating supplementary material in the translation) or to retain the remainder, that peculiar aspect of the proverb which eludes assimilation or domestication by the hegemonic colonial language. Postcolonial African literature preserves its identity through a deliberate writing of the remainder into the alien colonial language.

5. Intercultural narratives and ‘African time’ concepts There are still many ways in which items of African oral tradition are represented in the works of writers of Europhone literature. One of these cultural representations is the translation or transliteration of “African time” into the

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European language of writing. Apart from the particular use of language in the traditional African context, there are certain universal concepts that take on specific interpretations and functions within the African logos. For instance, the concept of time in traditional Africa is significantly different from that in modern European language cultures, in terms of its culture-specific forms of representation and referentiality, and may thus pose specific problems of expression for African authors working in European languages, and difficulties of interpretation for non-African readers. The following dialogue, from Arrow of God, between two Colonial Administrators regarding the age of an African servant illustrates the kind of misunderstanding and conflict that may arise from the difference in the perception of time between African and European traditions (Achebe 1964:35): He’s a fine specimen, isn’t he? He’s been with me four years. He was a little boy of about thirteen – by my own calculation, they [natives] have no idea of years – when I took him on. He was absolutely raw.’ ‘When you say they’ve no idea of years…’ ‘They understand seasons, I don’t mean that. But ask a man how old he is and he doesn’t begin to have an idea.’

That Captain Winterbottom could have such disdain for the traditional African’s concept of time is not surprising since he had the duty to “civilize” the natives and was therefore not interested in the details of their culture. Captain Winterbottom translates the native African into Western conceptions of time, resulting in his assessment of the native as ignorant or even juvenile, mainly because the native cannot tell his own age in terms of a Western calendar. In traditional African societies, time was reckoned by depending on the movement of certain natural phenomena such as the moon, the sun, the seasons and the tides, or by some well-established time frames or time events or known time durations. For instance, a villager could describe the time it took him to get to another village in terms of the generally acknowledged duration of time it takes to go from the village square to a local market. Time was also reckoned by relatively concrete or stable factors such as the first and second cock crow, sunrise, sunset, overhead sun, or the length of shadows, as well as by such social events as mealtimes, wine-tapping times, and time of return from the farm (Obiechina 1975). Other concrete ways of delimiting time were the use of market days to indicate the weekly cycle, and the lunar cycle to break the year and create a temporal framework for the major annual festivities. Historical time was determined by reference to landmarks in the life of the community and to contemporaneous events, or by recourse to a genealogical “chart” (Obiechina 1975:123). The historical past was important only in terms

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of how it related to current needs, and only those events which were relevant to social relationships in the community were retained. The Ibo peoples of Nigeria, for instance, had a four-day week, the relevant days being “Afo”, “Nkwo”, “Eke” and “Oye” in chronological order, as this passage from Arrow of God reveals (Achebe 1964:28): The war was waged from one Afo to the next. On the day it began Umuaro killed two men of Okperi. The next day was Nkwo, and so there was no fighting. On the two following days, Eke and Oye, the fighting grew fierce. Umuaro killed four men and Okperi replied with three, one of the three being Akukalia’s brother, Okoye. The next day, Afo, saw the war brought to a sudden close. The white man, Wintabota, brought soldiers to Umuaro and stopped it. The story of what these soldiers did in Abame was still told with fear, and so Umuaro made no effort to resist but laid down their arms.

As stated in the passage, the war lasted a whole week (four days), although there was no fighting on the second day of the week, Nkwo. The Colonial Administrator intervened to stop the war on the first day of the second week (the next Afo). There are other statements from the novel which indicate that the Ibo people had a four-day week. For instance, the idea is confirmed either in a direct statement such as, “His mother had told him the reason was that in Okperi people washed every day and were clean while in Umuaro they never touched water for the whole four days of the week” (1964:22), or in this statement where the idea is merely implied, “As he approached the centre of the market place, Ezeulu re-enacted the First Coming of Ulu and how each of the four Days put obstacles in his way” (ibid.:70). Market days are often very important time referents used to indicate the weekly cycle, as can be seen in these statements from Things Fall Apart (italics added): “He was ill for three market weeks”. (1958:20) “On what market-day was it born?” (1958:29) “For many market weeks nothing else happened”. (1958:98) “The night was already far spent when the guests rose to go, taking their bride home to spend seven market weeks with his suitor’s family”. (1958:83) “But even in such cases they set their limit at seven market weeks or twenty-eight days [i.e., four-day week]”. (1958:106)11 11

Achebe provides an in-text explanation here, reminding the reader that the count is based on a four-day week.

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And also these statements from Arrow of God (italics added): “When are you going back to him [your husband]?” – One market come next Oye”. (1964:75) “For three markets Ibe could barely rise from his bed” (1964:12). “When I spoke two markets ago in this very place I used the proverbs of the she-goat…” (1964:26) “Then one morning, on the eighth Eke market since his arrest he was suddenly told he was free to go home”. (1964:178)

Similarly, the traditional peoples of West Africa use some cultural events of importance to the community to demarcate time: fixed festivals, religious ceremonies, and the planting and harvesting seasons. Generally, there are two seasons, the rainy and the dry. For these mainly agrarian societies the rainy season is the season of agricultural work, planting, weeding and cultivation, while the harvesting is done in the dry season, which is also the season for rest and preparation for the next rainy season’s activities. The fixed festivals and ceremonies therefore take place in the dry season, with a few exceptions. All these festivities and agricultural activities have become important signposts for organizing time. For example, in Arrow of God, time is kept in check in relation to the occurrence of the “New Yam Festival” (1964:207); a certain week is referred to as the “Week of Peace” in Things Fall Apart (1958:21), when no one is allowed to work or break the peace. Events are also scheduled in relation to the planting and harvesting seasons: “During the last planting season a white man had appeared in their clan” (Things Fall Apart, 1958:97). “The daughter of his friend, Egonwanne, who died three years come next harvest” (Arrow of God, 1964:169); “at the end of the carefree season between harvest and planting” (Things Fall Apart, 1958:20-21); “It is right for a man to take his wife home… But I want to remind you that when we begin to plant crops it will be one year since she began to live in my compound” (Arrow of God, 1964:62). The moon, in particular, is also constantly referred to as a basis for reckoning time. This phenomenon is widespread among peoples of most preindustrialized societies, where the lunar movement was used for timing their activities and where, in some cases, such as among the ancient Romans, this had even led to the creation of a lunar-based calendar. In Things Fall Apart, for instance, the following statements about time are made in reference to the moon: “There was famine in those days and Tortoise had not eaten a good meal for two moons”. (1958:68)

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“Three moons ago… on an Eke market-day a little band of fugitives came into our town”. (1958:97)

Also, in Arrow of God, the novel begins with the entire clan of Umuaro waiting for the first glimpse of the new moon in order to set the date for the Festival of the Pumpkin leaves. The Chief Priest of Ulu, who is responsible for sighting the moon and declaring the day of celebration, is also responsible for the communal calendar, which he regulates by eating one of the thirteen sacred yams that mark the thirteen lunar months of the year at the appearance of each new moon. Another traditional way of stating time can be seen in this comment taken from Things Fall Apart: “His name was Uchendu, and it was he who had received Okonkwo’s mother twenty and ten years before when she had been brought home from Umuofia to be buried with her people” (1958:91). The time expression here also provides clues on how the Ibo people count. Obviously, transcultural representations of culture-specific conceptions of time take on a whole new significance in the event of communication between two radically different cultures, such as can be seen in the attempt to represent African time concepts in European language literature. The time-based expressions discussed so far are generally literal transpositions from an indigenous language-culture into English. These transpositions are cases of resistant translation aimed at avoiding wholesale colonial assimilation of minoritized cultures, by drawing attention to indigenous modes of representation regarding some universal and cosmic realities. It goes without saying that in order to comprehend the African concept of time it is necessary to understand the world view of the African people and their attitude towards such matters. In Things Fall Apart, when Achebe says, “so that even when it was said that a ceremony would begin ‘after the midday meal’ everyone understood that it would begin a long time later, when the sun’s heat had softened” (1958:62), we begin to understand the origins or reasons for what has been referred to by some Westerners, in derogatory terms, as “African time”, an expression used to denote what others see as the characteristic lack of punctuality of the African people. Obiechina (1975) has pointed to the fact that time in the African traditional consciousness is less significant than social institutions such as ethics, religion and aesthetics. He explains that since the traditional setting is largely agrarian and small in scale, time and space have less significance than in the urban, or industrial, setting. And in the words of Nkem Nwanko (quoted in Obiechina 1975:135): Punctuality is not one of the virtues of the Aniocha man. He takes time over his snuff and his palm wine and if you attempted to hurry him

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from either he would excuse himself by reminding you of the proverb: where the runner reaches there the walker will reach eventually.12

The general attitude towards time in the traditional context can be summed up in this statement found in the oral tradition or belief systems of many West African cultures: “The time a man wakes up is his morning” (Arrow of God, 1964:111).

6. The aesthetics of vulgarity Representing humour as expressed in traditional African discourse in European languages is a complex process associated with the writing and translating of culture. Although laughter is a universal phenomenon and distinguishes humans from other living creatures, humour is essentially local, varying from one culture to another, and highly dependent upon language and cultural context. Humour is therefore perceptively different, and the divergence of cultural paradigms can block the perception and translation of complex cultural patterns such as humour from radically different cultures (Tymoczko 1999b:191). The representation and reception of the humour in Euro-African fiction highlights the difficulty of expressing the autonomous cultural paradigms of colonized or minority peoples, especially if translation aims to account for the difference or specificity of postcolonial culture. Humour in traditional African discourse is expressed in many different ways, including the use of “vulgar” language. A reader of West African literature in European languages is likely to notice the somewhat unrestrained use of what could be referred to as “vulgar” language (for lack of a better term).13 There is an abundant use of sexual and scatological material to express what could be described in some instances as obscene or grotesque humour. The ease with which some West African writers use this kind of language in their works points to the fact that they are probably relying on the cultural acceptability of this practice in the oral traditions from which they get their material. In fact, these West African writers can find support for this practice in the African narrative tradition. In some traditional African societies there is a 12

This discussion of the African’s sociocultural relation to time reminds one of the attempts made by the French to explain away President Mitterand’s consistently late arrival at activities during the 1991 summit of the G7 countries in London, by claiming that it is customary for the French to be “fashionably late” for social events. 13 The term “vulgar” language is used here to point out the “realism”, expliciteness or straightforwardness with which certain West African writers express ideas that are generally considered too indecent to be mentioned in public.

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form of licence to use “vulgar” language (such as language referring to private body parts, sexually explicit language and language generally considered too indecent to be mentioned in public) when formulating aspects of discourse considered to be highly artistic in the oral tradition, such as proverbs, sayings and aphorisms. In fact, “foul” language will not raise eyebrows in some traditional African contexts if it is used to make a statement or comment marked by wisdom and profound thought.14 In other words, those readers who are aware of the grounding of the creative use of obscene and grotesque language in some African narrative traditions, and the translation and representation of that comic tradition in European-language writing, will instead be captivated by the implied wisdom and profundity of the thought expressed, and will appreciate the complexity of cultural presuppositions behind the implied humour. In some African cultures, it is not unusual to find “vulgar” expressions being used as terms of endearment (or affection) to designate loved ones in much the same way as lovers are referred to affectionately in metropolitan French as “Mon chou, mon poulet” or in English as “My little duckling”, etc. It is therefore not “offensive” to the African reader when in Oyono’s novel, Une Vie de Boy, a father unhappy with his son’s unruliness and attempts to avoid corporal punishment tries to force him into submission with the following words (1956:18-20): … Je te conseille de t’arrêter! … Si tu fais encore un pas, je considérerai cela comme une injure et que tu peux coucher avec ta mère. … Si tu esquives encore, c’est que tu peux coucher avec ta grand-mère, ma mère! … Tu oses me parler sur ce ton! Une goutte de mon liquide qui me parle ainsi! Arrête-toi ou je te maudis! … Bien! … , je verrai où tu passeras la nuit! Je dirai à ta mère que tu nous as insultés. Pour entrer dans la case, ton chemin passe par le trou de mon anus. Translation: … I warn you, you had better stop. If you go one more step backwards, that will be an insult to me. I will take it as a sign that you are capable of taking your mother to bed. … If you dodge again it means you are capable of taking my mother, your grandmother, to bed. … How dare you speak to me like that! A drop of my own liquid speaking to me like that! Unless you stand still at once, I shall curse you. … Very well then, … We’ll see where you spend the night. I will tell your mother you have insulted us both. Your way back into the house will pass through my anus. (Houseboy, 1966:11) 14

We are dealing here with attitudes in the traditional context, which should not be confused with those in a Westernized African setting where Christianity has played a major role in shaping people’s attitudes towards matters of propriety and morality.

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The language of the above text is vulgar and explicit, and it seems a little heavy-handed to direct such incestuous claims against a son with the sole intent to subdue him. However, given the context in which all this is happening, the father’s use of such coarse language could be understood as a desperate attempt to regain control of his household. In a last-ditch effort to reassert authority over his unruly son, he reminds him that he is only a drop of his sperm (“une goutte de mon liquide” / “a drop of my own liquid”) and that only he (the father) can allow the son entry into the house (“pour entrer dans la case, ton chemin passe par le trou de mon anus” / “your way back into the house will pass through my anus”). Strong as it may seem, the language is intended to express humour through the obscene or the grotesque, by the use of serious taboos as a form of blackmail in a matter that is of little or no major consequence. Although the following comments (discussed earlier in the context of proverbs and aphorisms) drawn from the same novel are made by younger characters in a rather playful situation, the vulgarity of the language draws its legitimacy from such occurrences in traditional African discourse. A young woman teases a young man about his lack of (sexual) interest in her with the following comments: “C’est peut-être parce que son coupe-coupe n,est pas tranchant qu’il a préféré le garder dans son fourreau” (Oyono 1956:68) / “Perhaps it’s because his knife is not very sharp he prefers to keep it in its sheath” (Houseboy, 1966:43), thus insinuating that the young man may be impotent. The teasing continues as she says, “Le chien peut-il crever de faim à côté de la viande de son maître! On n’enterre pas le bouc jusqu’aux cornes, on l’enterre tout entier” (1956:69) / “The dog can die of hunger beside his master’s meat. They don’t bury the goat up to the horns. They bury him altogether” (Houseboy, 1966:44). In this example, discussed earlier from a different angle, as a proverb, the comment is about the fact that a colonial official, who would like to hide his love affair with a native woman from his peers, has asked a houseboy to watch over her. Unhappy with the way she is treated by her colonial lover, she invites the native boy to have sex with her, using the imagery of a hunting dog guarding his master’s game and yet dying of hunger. Further on in the novel another young woman teases the houseboy about the size of his penis when she says, “Des petites hanches comme les tiennes sont souvent le nid des grands boas” (1956:144) / “Slender hips like you’ve got are often the nest for a great big snake” (Houseboy, 1966:95). And whining about his wife’s infidelity, the Colonial Administrator, the Commandant who could understand disparaging comments made by the natives in their vernacular, translates “Ngovina ya ngal a ves zut bisalak a be metua” as “le Commandant dont la femme écarte les jambes dans les rigoles

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et dans les voitures” (1956:149-150) / “the Commandant whose wife opens her legs in ditches and in cars” (Houseboy, 1966:98). It is likely that Oyono chooses to write down the comment in the native vernacular and then provide a French translation because the French alone could never quite capture the full impact of the slur or mockery, especially with respect to its oral aesthetics. Obviously, there is a way of saying this in the vernacular that creates a comic effect (somewhat diminished in the French translation) by enhancing the quality of scandal or mockery. Patterns of humour may vary from culture to culture, and even comic responses to some universally acknowledged acts of humour may differ from one society to another. Differences between cultures account for divergences in the perception of the comic, especially in terms of the appreciation of relevant forms of expression. Vulgarity, or explicit language, as a form of the comic, though grounded in African oral narratives, is not always sexual in nature, and may take the form of statements about common human experience that are usually not mentioned in public. For instance, as they walk along a path in the forest a young woman excuses herself to answer the call of nature, saying to her companion, “Avance seul! Je vais voir M. W.-C. à qui on ne lève pas le chapeau… mais le pagne!” (1956:153)/ “Go ahead by yourself. I am going to see Monsieur W.C. When you meet him you don’t lift your hat, you lift your skirt” (Houseboy, 1966:101). And the author adds, “Son derrière disparut dans une touffe d’herbes” (1956:153) / “Her behind disappeared into a clump of grass” (Houseboy, 1966:101). The humour or derision in this example is crafted around the clash of Western (colonial) and native perceptions of acceptable cultural practices. Even in its monolingual expression, the language is particularly hybrid, blending Western notions such as “W.-C” (water closet) and traditions of respect “lever le chapeau” (lift or raise your hat) with acceptable local practices such as relieving oneself in a forest, made easy by wearing a local attire (“le pagne” / loincloth). The humour is brought out in the satire implied in the parallel between raising one’s hat to a colonial European and the woman raising her loincloth to relieve herself in the forest which she calls Mr. W.-C. It is at once a mockery of colonial coterie and a parody of the colonial European’s secretive, sexual exploitation of the native woman.15 One also notices the abundant use of ‘vulgar’ language in the works of Achebe, which are based on the Ibo culture. Achebe makes use of such language particularly in situations where symbolic or metaphorical expressions, such as proverbs, sayings, similes and aphorisms, are used to comment on serious issues. In these cases the comic language is highly idiomatic and couched in a 15

“Lever le pagne” is a rough equivalent of “raising one’s skirt”, with the implied sexual connotation.

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figurative style that is loaded with signification and often difficult to interpret. In Arrow of God, for instance, the Chief Priest of Ulu indulges in a philosophical discussion about the limits of his power and authority and concludes with the following remarks: “Better say that it [power] was not there, that it was no more than the power in the anus of the proud dog who sought to put out a furnace with his puny fart” (1964:4; italics added). Later in the novel, the Chief Priest tries to assert authority in his household when he uses a variation of the above comment: “To you whatever I say in this house is no more effective than the fart a dog breaks to put out a fire”. In the following passage, also from Arrow of God, Achebe captures the explicit language of his people used to talk about matters of sexual beliefs and practices (1964:122; italics added): Although Okuata emerged at dawn feeling awkward and bashful in her unaccustomed loin-cloth it was a very proud bashfulness. She could go without shame to salute her husband’s parents because she had been ‘found at home’. Her husband was even now arranging to send the goat and other presents to her mother in Umuezeani for giving him an unspoilt bride. She felt greatly relieved for although she had always known she was a virgin she had had a secret fear which sometimes whispered in her ear and made her start. It was the thought of the moonlight play when Obiora had put his penis between her thighs. True, he had only succeeded in playing at the entrance but she could not be too sure. She had not slept very much, not as much as her husband; but she had been happy. Sometimes she tried to forget her happiness and to think how she would have felt had things turned out differently. For many years to come she would have walked like one afraid the earth might bite her. Every girl knew of Ogbanje Omenyi whose husband was said to have sent to her parents for a matchet to cut the bush on either side of the highway which she carried between her thighs.

A young bride is happy to be “found at home”, that is, to be found a virgin by her husband, and ponders over what would have happened to her if things had turned out differently. Achebe uses very graphic language to express this traditional Ibo belief and practice (i.e., abstinence from pre-marital sex) and by so doing heightens the concerns of the young bride. He concludes by evoking the plight of a character in Ibo mythology, Ogbanje Omenyi, who was depicted in a children’s story about the immorality of pre-marital sex. Achebe translates literally from the Ibo folktale when he describes the folk character’s private parts in these graphic terms: “the bush on either side of the highway which she carried between her thighs”. Another extremely graphic or explicit use of “vulgar” language by Achebe

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can be seen in this Ibo proverb from the same novel: “If we have life there will be time enough for palm wine. Unless the penis dies young it will surely eat bearded meat” (1964:142). Achebe once again provides what seems like a direct translation of this proverb from the Ibo narrative tradition. The proverb is couched in an extremely sexual metaphor, and Achebe translates the Ibo expression literally as “bearded meat” and not “hairy meat” (to refer to the woman’s private parts) because the Ibo world view sees it that way. Referring to human or animal genitalia through euphemisms sometimes requires the use of very descriptive, explicit or graphic expressions. Hence, the woman’s private part is referred to as “bearded meat” through an implied simile between the woman’s pubic hair and a man’s beard. What is important to the native African, however, is not the explicit nature of the language, but rather the wisdom conveyed by the ultimate message of the proverb which is aimed at advocating patience and hope. Some of the “vulgar” expressions could merely be classified as ‘obscene’ by readers who may not perceive the implied seriousness or humour. Although many of these expressions occur in curses, a great many are also used in serious statements that are meant to educate, caution, inform or advise. Cursing is indeed a good example of obscene or grotesque humour derived from an attempt to provoke laughter through the use of coarse language either to ridicule, to insult, or to express harsh or ugly emotions towards someone. Examples of the use of vulgar or obscene language for cursing abound in African fiction, and may take their cues from such practices in oral culture. The following invective from Things Fall Apart, “Go and burn your mother’s genitals” (1958:110), is proffered by an angry Priest of the local religion to Christian converts who threatened to burn down the shrines of the local gods. In Arrow of God, two young men whose villages are about to go to war against each other get into a fight and try to brow-beat each other with the following comments: “Go back to your house or I will make you eat shit”. “If you want to shout like a castrated bull you must wait until you return to Umuaro. I have told you this place is called Okperi” (1964:24). Cursing is a common occurrence in some West African oral discourses in much the same way as “sacres” became part of the French Canadian oral culture. The cursing may not always be direct and blunt, it may sometimes take the form of an indirect rebuke. We have already seen the following example from Arrow of God in a serious speech given by an elder to criticize the local Chief Priest for befriending the white man: “You tied the knot, you should also know how to undo it. You passed the shit that is smelling; you should carry it away” (1964:144). Here we see how a venerable elder is using “foul language” on a very solemn occasion to convey the seriousness of what he is saying, as

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he rebukes the Chief Priest for not showing leadership in their fight against the white man’s encroachment upon their land. In the following example, the Chief Priest pokes fun at the white man for being a coward and brags about his own valour: “I prefer to deal with a man who throws up a stone and puts his head to receive it not one who shouts for a fight but when it comes he trembles and passes premature shit” (1964:179). To reinforce the idea that he is not afraid of the white colonial administrator, the Chief Priest continues in these strong words: “If I had stolen his goat or killed his brother or fucked his wife then I might plunge into the bush when I heard his voice” (1964:145). As mentioned earlier, indecent language might also be used to make serious statements with the desire to inform, advise, caution, or educate the listener. The following examples from Arrow of God are instances of the use of “foul” language, usually of a non-sexual nature, by elders to accomplish some of the aims mentioned above. The Chief Priest of Ulu, by virtue of his office, warns his people against waging an unjust war in these words: “If you go to war to avenge a man who passed shit on the head of his mother’s father, Ulu will not follow you to be soiled in the corruption” (1964:27). In a game of wit between two elders (the Chief Priest and his friend, Abuekue) the following statement is made; it is more like a riddle, and often used to advise children against falsehood and greed: “What do we say happens to the man who eats and then makes his mouth as if it has never seen food? … It makes his anus dry up. Did your mother not tell you that?” (1964:110). Another advice is given in this statement: “He who will swallow udala seeds must consider the size of his anus” (1964:226). Udala seeds are known to be quite sizeable. A visitor just in from walking in the rain says, “I am going out in the rain again… Washing my feet now would be like cleaning my anus before passing excrement” (1964:184). In spite of the graphic language, the visitor’s comments show that he is knowledgeable in the ways and customs of his hosts (who had offered him water to wash his feet). Other natural and social phenomena common to our human experience but usually unmentionable in public are also used in the traditional African setting to make wise and educating statements. For example, this seemingly ‘unappetising’ statement is made by an elder to encourage people to speak out their minds: “Who would swallow phlegm for fear of offending others?” (Arrow of God, 1964:165). Caution and restraint are advised in this humorous saying, “He who sees an old hag squatting should leave her alone; who knows how she breathes” (ibid.:226). And this saying alludes to the limits of Man’s knowledge and ability: “When the air is fouled by a man on top of a palm tree the fly is confused” (ibid.). Finally, the statement, “When death wants to take a little dog it prevents it from smelling even excrement” (ibid.) is a serious

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comment on the inevitability of death. Thus what might seem at face value to be an indiscriminate use of vulgar and indecent language in the works of some African authors is indeed a practice that is deeply rooted in the oral cultures from which the authors draw their inspiration. Chinweizu et al. allude to this peculiar use of language when they talk about “the open and healthy treatment of sex (in West African literature) in contrast to the Western obsession with either prudery or prurience” (1980:159). The mention of private body parts and the use of indecent language in public are also taboos in the traditional African context, but only when they are not being used as an oral narrative device to communicate wise and meaningful information. Furthermore, the use of such vulgar language as a form of the comic reveals the complexity of cultural presuppositions involved in the recognition, appreciation and translation of humour. Obviously, comic responses do vary according to cultural background and world view, and this is particularly true in the case of distant cultures and languages, and in contexts of unequal power relations such as those between the colonized and the colonizer, where such vulgarity can be used as an aesthetic of resistance. Divergences in cultural paradigms relating to humour highlight the difficulty of translating the comic, as humour is constructed by language and cultural context. Such difficulty must be overcome if translation is to convey the cultural paradigms of colonized peoples and to assert the autonomy and authenticity of postcolonial cultures.

4. Linguistic Experimentation and Intercultural Writing

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1. Introduction The stylized language of African Europhone literature has been influenced, not only by the aesthetics of African oral cultures, but also by the linguistic systems of African languages. The inspiration derived from oral narratives and the need to write in an alien code have merged in the African writer’s effort at forging a language capable of expressing African thought and culture in global languages with literary capital, such as English and French. As a result, Europhone writers have resorted to various forms of linguistic experimentation based on innovative practices that are inspired by the form and content of African language cultures. The representation of aspects of vernacular oral narratives in a foreign writing medium is characterized by a degree of acculturation, or indigenization, or contextualization of the European language, resulting in a deviant variety of that language. It is my contention that the various processes by which Europhone literature emulates or adopts aspects of African languages and cultures can be likened to translation practices and accounted for by postcolonial translation theory. The creative writing as translation practised by Europhone writers generates a hybrid language, a “third code” (Bhabha 1994), which is neither entirely European nor entirely African, resisting the hegemonic universalism of the dominant European language while rejecting the reductionist nativism advocated by proponents of indigenous language writing. This hybrid language, located between the writer’s European and African experiences, has definable characteristics which can be described from a syntactic, semantic and pragmatic point of view. These characteristics, which highlight the specificity of African European language use, reveal the lexico-grammatical processes involved in the Africanization of the European colonial language.1 Formal experimentation, which is basically linguistic in nature, is a strategy by which postcolonial or minority-culture literatures seek to challenge dominant standards of language, poetics and culture by introducing new formal resources and paradigms into the dominant receptor language culture. Such innovative formations often reflect the author’s native language and its related oral narrative tradition. Chantal Zabus (1990) refers to this process of Africanization as othering the European language, which she argues can 1

The language of Europhone literature may not always reflect the real and actual usage of the European language in contemporary African society.

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occur in the following ways: (1) relexification – the “forging of a new literaryaesthetic medium or ‘third code’ out of the alien, dominant European lexicon” (350); (2) ‘cushioning’ (tagging an explanatory word or phrase onto the West African word) and ‘contextualisation’ (providing areas of immediate contexts” (359). Both approaches combined represent what she refers to as ‘indigenization’, i.e. “the attempt at subverting the linguistic difference or otherness of the European language by indigenizing it” (ibid.:349). In African European language writing, othering can be understood generally as a process of indigenization which unfolds through various strategies such as lexical innovation, semantic shifts, syntactic or collocational shifts, and sociolectal innovations and vernacularization.

2. Lexical innovation and formation In his study of the Indianization of English, Kachru (1983) defines contextualization as a process whereby certain context-specific features are assigned to a second language in order to make it a part of the meaning and behaviour potential of the speaker. He also discusses the concepts of transfer and interference to throw light on cases where elements or features of the native language and culture are assigned to the second language, thus turning the second language into a vehicle for deviation and innovation in terms of its content and form. While Kachru’s definition of contextualization could be deemed appropriate to describing the indigenizing process of European languages in Euro-African literature, his theory of interference may not apply in this case given that innovative formalisms in Euro-African writing are not merely the consequence of another-tongue interference (as is often the case in second language acquisition) but rather the result of a conscious and deliberate attempt at ‘bending’ the European language to convey African linguistic and socio-cultural reality. Contextualization and transfer may occur when African writers introduce African indigenous words and expressions into the European language structure, assign new meaning to European language words, or combine African words with European ones (or two European words for that matter) without regard for combinatory or collocational rules, all in an attempt to capture African reality within an alien colonial language. African writers have often resorted to collocational deviation or innovation to express African thought in the colonially derived languages. Also known as collocational shifts (Chomsky 1965), these are instances in which two or more collocated or concatenated forms used to express a fixed meaning violate native language selection restrictions. In cases where the collocated forms do not violate such restrictions, the

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second language user may assign a new meaning to the forms, which alters their likely co-occurrence in native use. Thus, collocational shifts (or innovations) often result in a violation of the selectional restrictions, co-occurrence and lexical concatenation patterns of the native language.

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3. Semantic shifts In Chishimba (1984:217), semantic shift is defined as “the assignment of features of meaning in the source language of the speaker/hearer to known lexical items in the second language such that the derived meaning is more relevant to the new user and is no longer native to the native speaker”. As an example of semantic shifts, he mentions the use of names of body parts such as “chest”, “stomach”, “head” and “heart” to describe emotion in many societies, and infers that this “may reflect a universal tendency for humanity to associate feelings with symbolism” (ibid.:218). Shifts (collocational or semantic) are generally restricted to sub-sentence levels, for example lexical items, set phrases, lexical idioms and individual words. They are important in this study in terms of highlighting the role played by African languages in determining the choice of European-language equivalents to convey African thought. An example of semantic shift can be seen in the way African kinship terms violate expected native selectional and combinatory restrictions of the European language. As we have seen in previous discussions, kinship terms such as “mother”, “father”, “brother” and “sister” take on whole new meanings in a traditional African context. The terms are not often used to refer to strict biological relations (see Angogo and Hancock 1980:73). In many instances, their semantic range is broadened to include other shades of meaning. For instance, it is not unusual in traditional African society to refer to all elder women as “mother” and to all elder men as “father”, usually as a sign of respect and deference, without implying any biological relation. “Brother” can be used to refer to a male subject who is not much older than the speaker. In fact, the terms “brothers” and “sisters” are used respectively to refer to all male and female members of a community as a means of ensuring group solidarity and to reinforce the belief that all the members of a clan (for example) share a common ancestry. When in Arrow of God Uduezue refers to his sister’s son, Akukalia, as “son” (and not “nephew”) (Achebe 1964:21), he introduces a semantic shift in the use of the word “son”. In traditional Africa, older members of the community can refer to the much younger females and males as “daughters” and “sons”, respectively, thus emphasizing a sense of communal responsibility towards the raising and upbringing of the young. A similar

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phenomenon occurs when in Things Fall Apart the Priestess, Agbala, calls Ezinma her daughter and takes her away from her biological mother to go on a religious or ritualistic trip in the middle of the night (Achebe 1958:71). And in Mongo Beti’s Mission terminée, when the old man, Bikokolo, intervenes in a village dispute concerning a young man’s reluctance to go on an errand for the village, he says to the young man’s aunt (1957:25): Ma fille, de quoi t’inquiètes-tu donc? Le père de ce gosse, de ce bébé comme tu dis, est absent, certes. Mais il est bien tranquille où il se trouve en ce moment, il fait ses affaires sans souci, car il sait que cet enfant a en ma personne un père qui le chérit encore plus que luimême. Ah! si cet homme entendait les paroles sacrilèges que tu viens de proférer….

Translation (Mission to Kala, trans. Peter Green, 1964:13): My child, what are you worried about? The boy’s father is absent, agreed. But he is not in the least anxious about his son. He can attend to his business with an easy mind. He knows that in me the boy has a father who cares for him even more closely than he does himself. Dear me, if the good man were to have heard those – those blasphemous remarks of yours just now….

The old man, who has no biological ties to the young man and his aunt, refers to the aunt as “ma fille”, assuming that as the oldest man in the village every young man and woman can be socio-culturally understood to be under his paternal (patriarchal) authority. He thinks the young man should heed his words since as the oldest man in the village he can be counted upon to give him fatherly advice. These examples show how kinship terms tend to undergo semantic shifts in the African context and take on extended meaning. A semantic shift can also occur when a European-language word is assigned a new meaning that can only be understood within the native African context in which it is used. For example, talking about the appearance of the new moon in Arrow of God, someone says, “But how is it sitting?… I don’t like its posture … Its legs were up in the air” (1964:2). The use of “sitting” and “legs” here is indeed unusual given their denotative meaning (though likely from a metaphorical standpoint). The words can only be understood in their new context of usage which seeks to express an African world view in the English language. These lexical items are literal translations of indigenous words or expressions used to describe the positioning of the moon or some such

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heavenly bodies.2 The pointed tips of a crescent-shaped new moon are referred to as its “legs”, which in this case are “up in the air” suggesting bad omen. The following example from the same novel is another instance of semantic shift: “We shall not bring war to you. We are coming to whisper together like in-law and in-law” (ibid.:61). The expression “to whisper together” as used here is non-native to English, and is the closest possible representation of the idea as it is expressed and understood in the Ibo language. When dealing with serious matters such as negotiating marriage (or settling conjugal disputes) the families concerned come together, in some degree of privacy and intimacy, to discuss the terms of the marriage (or settlement). It is considered taboo to make the bride price public. It is also considered taboo to settle marital disputes in public, for it is like “washing one’s linen in public”. Hence, the Ibo expression used to describe the manner in which these negotiations are carried out can be rendered literally into English by the expression “to whisper together”. It does not mean that the people concerned are talking in hushed tones or in whispers. On the contrary, such meetings are often very animated (or spirited). The expression “to whisper together” conveys the implied ideas of secrecy and intimacy involved in such events. As Bokamba (1982) has pointed out, in this context, “whispering together” is preferred by West Africans over “private talk” (see also Chishimba 1984:215). This is indeed about translating taboos. The following are other instances of this kind of semantic shift: From Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964): “Her own badness whistles” (p. 67), meaning: she is a very evil person. “They are quiet” (p. 94), meaning: all is well with my family. “This type of heat is not empty-handed” (p. 95), meaning: it is the kind of heat that is often followed by a tropical storm.

From Achebe’s No Longer at Ease (1960): “your head is not correct” (p. 62), meaning: you are not of sound mind. “if laughter catches you” (p. 62), meaning: if you feel like laughing.3

2

For example, among the Bamilekes of Western Cameroon, if one wants to know the time by the position of the sun, one would say something that translates literally into English as “How is the sun sitting?”. 3 By analogy with “to be caught by fear”.

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From Okara’s The Voice (1964): “Okolo had no chest” (p. 23), meaning: Okolo had no courage. “He had no shadow” (p. 23), meaning: he had no personality. “He had no inside” (p. 23), meaning: he had no guts (understood metaphorically). “Who gets money reach him?”4 (p. 118), meaning: who is as rich as he?

As in Standard English, the verb “to eat” has many socio-culturally determined uses in some West African languages. However, its African use often results in a significant shift in the meaning of the verb as it is generally understood in the European language. For instance, in the Bamileke language spoken in the western province of Cameroon (and this generalization would be more or less true for most Bantu and Semi-Bantu languages), besides its usual meaning of consuming food, “eat” can be used in the following ways (my examples): “This month he will eat the contribution money”, meaning: this month the contributions go to him. “His son was eaten by the witch”, meaning: the witch killed his son (through witchcraft); “He ate the household”, meaning: he is the successor (heir) to his father;

In No Longer at Ease, Achebe provides this example from the Ibo language: “You think white men don’t eat bribe” (1960:33), meaning: Europeans can also be bribed.

In Aké, Soyinka translates literally from Yoruba when he writes: “We’ve come to eat Birthday” (1981:30), meaning: we have come (together) to celebrate someone’s birthday.

Another instance of semantic shift is when European language words are 4

The word “reach” in this statement is used to express quantity or degree. The meaning of the word has been modified to express the idea “as rich as…” The following statement often heard in West African varieties of English: “I don’t have money reach you” would translate into Standard English as “I don’t have as much money as you do”.

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strung together to create an Africanized idiomatic expression. Here are some examples:

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From Achebe’s Things Fall Apart (1958): “I cannot yet find a mouth with which to tell the story” (p. 34), meaning: the story has left me speechless.

From Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964): “How can a man with a penis between his thighs be beaten and carried away from his village?” (pp. 60-61), meaning: a courageous man; roughly the equivalent of “a man with balls”. “You must know that there are more people with greedy, long throats in the pursuit of medicine than anywhere else” (p 121), meaning: charlatans. “Fortunately the road makes even a cripple hungry for a walk” (p. 123), meaning: wish to go for a walk. “Ogbuefi Nwaka, do not speak into my words” (144), meaning: do not speak while I am speaking. “I did not know that you and he had suddenly become palm oil and salt” (p. 93), or “tight friends”, meaning: “very close friends”.

Besides Africanizing European words and groups of words, the West African writer has in some instances transformed the European language into a hybrid linguistic form by emulating African idiomatic expressions. In these instances, the West African writer has merely sought to translate oral narrative forms literally from his native language into the European language, in an attempt to stay as close as possible to their intended meaning. A good example of this kind of transliteration can be found in Okara’s novel, The Voice (1964), in which he carries out a verbatim translation of his Ijaw language into English. The result is a curious concatenation of English words in a syntax alien to the English language but reflective of the lexico-grammatical structure of his native Ijaw. The following excerpt from the novel illustrates Okara’s unique use of the African idiom in the English language. You asked me why I am giving you my hands in this happening-thing, when you have become the enemy of everything in the town? Well, I am giving you my hands and my insides and even my shadow to let them see in their insides that if even the people do not know, we, you and I, know and have prepared our bodies to stand in front of them and tell them so. They now feel that I really am a witch, so I put fear into their insides. That sweetened my inside because I had wanted to

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remain a witch in their eyes so that I could do something against them. Then you returned, and when I started to hear the happening-things in your name, my hopes rose to the eye of the sky. And then yesterday you came running, being pursued by the people. So I called you in. These are my answering words to your questioning words. (p. 56)

Expressions such as “my inside”, “my shadow”, “this happening-thing”, “that sweetened my inside”, “my answering words to your questioning words” and “the eye of the sky” are a clear attempt by Okara to capture the full scope of meaning of some Ijaw expressions in the English language. Elsewhere, English syntax is completely turned upside down: “Who are you people be?… If you are coming-in people be, then come in” (ibid.:26-27); “You cannot a thing I have done not put on my head… How can you on my head put a thing that happened not?” (p. 66). Okara has developed a style of writing based on the crafting of indigenous-sounding expressions by effectively translating oral narrative formations from the vernacular.5 He makes the following comment regarding his transliterations of African words and expressions (1963:15): Some words and expressions are still relevant to the present-day life of the world, while others are rooted in the legends and tales of a far-gone day. Take the expression “he is timid”, for example. The equivalent in Ijaw is “he has no chest” or “he has no shadow”. Now a person without a chest in the physical sense can only mean a human that does not exist. The idea becomes clearer in the second translation. A person who does not cast a shadow of course does not exist. All this means is that a timid person is not fit to live. Here, perhaps, we are hearing the echoes of the battles in those days when the strong and the brave lived. But is this not true of the world today?

The use of African idioms in European languages in the hope of capturing their total signification is quite prevalent in the works of West African writers. The following are a few statements or expressions written in what might seem to be Standard English but whose apparent non-nativeness can only be understood in the light of the subtexts or underlying African languages and cultures. Examples from Arrow of God (Achebe 1964): “Moon may your face meeting mine bring good fortune” (p. 2). “May good meet the face of every man and every woman” (p. 6).

5

See Okara (1963) for a discussion of this strategy of writing as translation.

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“And I think I should remind you again to hold your tongues in your hand when we get there and leave the talking to me” (p. 20). “This my friend” (p. 96) (this friend of mine). “bite and blow” (p. 145). This is an idiomatic expression which has crept into West African English. It comes from a popular folktale, part of which Achebe paraphrases in Arrow of God, when he writes: “They looked to him like rats gnawing away at the sole of a sleeper’s foot, biting and then blowing air on the wound to soothe it” (p. 145). “Bite and blow” is a rough equivalent of the American slang “to soft-soap someone”, meaning “to flatter someone”.

Other examples include: “I shall slap okro seeds out of your mouth” (A Man of the People, Achebe 1966:161) (i.e., I shall give you a good thrashing). “May we live to see tomorrow” (The Voice, Okara 1964:51) (a traditional way of saying “goodnight”). “bone-to-bone dance” (my example) (i.e, ballroom dance in a school for boys – no girls involved).

In a postcolonial environment where multilingualism is often the norm, different languages or varying linguistic registers jostle for space, creating considerable potential for translatable discourse. This linguistic diversity and the related problem of translation evoke the issue of language choice and its related political as well as stylistic ramifications. The choice to write in a cosmopolitan international language points to a context of competing languages with the potential to enrich style through a resourceful exploitation of the existing heteronomy and cacophony. Once the writer chooses to write in a cosmopolitan tongue, the vernacular will exert itself in many ways, leaving its mark on the colonial language of writing. Many of the characters that are cast in postcolonial fiction are often ignorant of the European language of writing, thus pointing to an act of simultaneous translating as the writer strives to render the thoughts and words of these characters in an alien language. Writing the utterances of a character in a language the character is not supposed to know is indeed a form of translating, understood metaphorically as the writer’s desire to provide the native with a medium, a global language, for speaking to the outside world. The writer is working within the paradigm of a cultural context where the chosen language of the narrative is of limited use. He can highlight the insufficiency of the chosen language of writing through

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a variety of signalling devices based on an interplay of languages. By so doing, he attempts to overcome the shortcomings of using a single cosmopolitan language to represent what is essentially a bilingual or polylingual postcolonial discourse. The African writer’s attempts at finding a medium accessible to the international reader force him to interweave the multitude of dialects that exist in a postcolonial multicultural environment in the hope of creating a generally comprehensible linguistic medium. The linguistically and culturally multilayered language of writing is in some ways a “voice-over”, or a simultaneous translation of the local, indigenous characters’ own discourse. This kind of translation as writing raises the intractable issue of writing in a language other than the mother tongue, which is often the case for many postcolonial writers and is tantamount to writing and translating into a second language.6 The writing-as-translation practised by some postcolonial writers has its own drawbacks as the author’s conversion or translation of a vernacular into his European language of writing may be fraught with difficulties and may come at a heavy price. The Nigerian writer Buchi Emecheta states clearly that English “is not my emotional language”, and that when she renders a passage in Ibo into English “it becomes flat, we don’t get the same rhythm” (1996:85-86). In her view, the native idiom as well as the deep meaning of certain native expressions are completely lost in the act of translation, because “there are certain shades and delicacies of expression that aren’t available in English” (ibid.). Hence, such postcolonial writing can be considered as a direct representation, or ‘translation’ into a colonial language, with a certain degree of linguistic or cultural dependency upon the native vernacular. Recognizing the untranslatability of many Ijaw words and expressions, Okara attempts to stick as closely as possible to the vernacular by translating almost wordfor-word, rendering the vernacular as literally as possible into English. The Zimbabwean writer Zimunya also alludes to the frustrations inherent to the process of writing in an alien language when he says that “there are some areas where the English language is too stifling, too inflexible, rigid, and cannot quickly translate feelings, moods, experiences that we have…. We only render the meaning, but not the feeling. The feeling is lost. The Feeling!” (cited in Williams 1998:36-37). Postcolonial writing as translation highlights the difficulties of translation with respect to reaching across borders fortified by a deep historical and ideological divide that may seem impenetrable by language or by culture. 6

Second language in terms of the order or sequence of language acquisition, rather than language proficiency.

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4. Interpolations of the vernacular Many West African writers acknowledge the ultimate untranslatability of certain traditional concepts within the limited scope of a European language narrative, and therefore resort to the practice of creative interpolation of indigenous words and expressions within the Europhone narrative. The discourse of Europhone literature is often interspersed with words and expressions from the native languages of the characters in the novels. This occasional interpolation, or intercalation, of the vernacular into the fabric of the Euro-African text calls attention to the inherent multilingualism of postcolonial society and suggests a linguistic hierarchy that is made evident in the literary heteroglossia practised by postcolonial writers. The use of indigenous words and expressions constitutes a problem not only for non-African readers, but also for other Africans who may not be familiar with the author’s, or the character’s, ancestral language. Sometimes guessing the meaning of these vernacular words and expressions is virtually impossible, and that is why a vast array of writing strategies has been devised in order to ensure readability and enhance the logical flow of the text. Over the years, these strategies have ranged from appending footnotes and glossaries to foregrounding the native words by an explanation, a gloss, or its translation. Foregrounding or flanking a word by an explanation or what can be called an in-text, or interlinear, translation has gradually become the preferred strategy over footnotes and glossaries, as the latter can sometimes become highly intrusive informational digressions with the undesired effect of turning the novel into an anthropological reference. Footnotes and glossaries are by their very nature located outside the main text, constituting a kind of parallel ‘sub-text’ which forces the reader to constantly go outside the main text in search of cultural information, thus interrupting the reading experience. Peter Young (1971, 1973) refers to the various foregrounding strategies as “cushioning”, a term “coined after the common device used by translators and compilers to ‘cushion’ Middle French medical terms with their Latin equivalents or calques” (Zabus 1990:351). Young splits the strategies into two main types, overt cushioning and covert cushioning. Overt cushioning occurs when the explanation for a given term (or lexical item) is provided in the text, while covert cushioning involves “the fashioning of the immediate co-text into a careful context or explanation” (1971:40). Discussing the interpolation of vernacular words as a viable alternative to relexification in othering the European language Zabus (1990:351) states that “[w]hen African words or phrases describing culturally bound objects or occurrences cannot be transparently conveyed (translated or relexified) in the Europhone text,

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the writer resorts to the methods of “cushioning” and “contextualising””. She further argues that “these methods… antedate and will outlive relexification because the Europhone writer will always be compelled to provide areas of immediate context (contextualisation) or tag an explanatory word or phrase (cushioning) onto the West African word” (ibid.).7 However, Zabus also points out the limitations of cushioning by showing how an excessive use of vernacular words can reveal an almost pathological yearning for the mother tongue, transforming the text into a “schizo-text” and inhibiting the reader’s aesthetic response (ibid.:356). She therefore shows a preference for what she refers to as “contextualisation by inference” (in which all references are self-explanatory), which she believes holds greater promise than cushioning. Zabus’ concept of “contextualization by inference” seems to be a broad term encompassing the various devices or strategies that fall under what I refer to either as in-text translation (or interlinear translation) of vernacular language items (i.e., fairly direct translation of the vernacular) or in-text contextualization such as glosses, paraphrases, comments, explanatory phrases or statements placed in apposition to the indigenous word or expression. Examples of the use of in-text translation or in-text contextualization abound in Euro-African literature.8 From Things Fall Apart (Achebe 1958): “He is Okonkwo kpom-kwem, exact, perfect” (p. 49). “The proper name for a corn-cob with only a few scattered grains was eze-agadi-nwayi, or the teeth of an old woman” (p. 25). “Where did you bury your iyi-uwa?… You buried it in the ground somewhere so that you can die and return again to torment your mother”(p. 57).

Although Young has argued that when cushioning an African word the writer is “not so much influenced by his mother tongue as being compelled by simple denotational necessity” (1976:25), it is also likely that the main motivation for the use of native words and expressions is their socio-cultural relevance and their role as signposts asserting the African identity of the text, as clearly argued in Chishimba (1984:227): When one of Achebe’s characters says: ‘He is Okonkwo kpom-kwem, exact, perfect’, somehow he (Achebe) could not imagine the reader 7

Also see Tymoczko’s concept of ‘frontloading’ (1999a). These devices and practices are related to the phenomena of code-switching and codemixing, which will be discussed later.

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seeing the ways the old man said these words if he only used the English words. The translation, thus, is just a redundancy aspect, because we know that the full impact of meaning is already achieved, even if we do not necessarily understand Ibo.

The Ibo term kpom-kwem is immediately cushioned by a direct translation, “exact, perfect”, in an attempt to drive home the impact of the term on a non-Ibo reader. Yet, though effective in clarifying the Ibo term, these in-text translations fall short of capturing the dramatic effect implied in the rhythmic onomatopoeic qualities of the Ibo term. In the second example, “the teeth of an old woman” is provided as a gloss translation of the Ibo expression “Eze-agadi-nwayi”. The translation is tagged on to the Ibo term by the use of the conjunction “or”, as a deliberate attempt to convey the meaning of the indigenous expression to an international readership. In the third example, the Ibo term iyi-uwa is immediately followed by an elaborate in-text explanation of this complex reality in Ibo cosmology, or African mythology for that matter. Although the reader can infer from the explanation that iyi-uwa is something that a child can bury in the ground so that they can return after death to torment their parents, the explanation is not sufficiently contextualized to give the reader a clear understanding of the mythical concept of iyi-uwa. This kind of covert cushioning therefore has its limitations, as the reader is forced into a guessing game and distracted by the desire to make sense of an interlinear translation or an in-text explanation, thus disrupting the reading experience. In such circumstances the vernacular word stands out within the Europhone text as an unsuccessful transplant, calling undue attention to itself and initiating a process that verges on anthropological inquiry. The following example from Oyono’s Une Vie de Boy is quite interesting in that the conversation which includes a statement in the vernacular and its translation is indeed between two European colonialists (1956:149-50): “Pour eux, je n’étais plus que ‘Ngovina ya ngal a ves zut bisalak a be metua! Sais-tu ce que cela veut dire? Bien sûr que non! Tu as toujours méprisé les dialectes indigènes… Eh bien, partout où je passe, je ne suis plus que le Commandant dont la femme écarte les jambes dans les rigoles et dans les voitures”.

Translation (Houseboy, 1966:98): For them I was “ngovina ya ngal a ves zut bisalak a be metua”. Do you know what that means? Of course you don’t. You never bothered to learn the local language. Well, it means everywhere I go I am now the Commandant whose wife opens her legs in ditches and in cars.

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In the African tradition of naming (or nicknaming) with a semantic content, the natives have come up with a suitable byname for the despised colonialist Commandant based on the rumoured sexual indiscretions of the Commandant’s wife. The Commandant, who possesses a smattering of the local dialect, confronts his wife with the native statement which she obviously does not understand. He then provides an in-text translation of the statement for the benefit of his wife, and ultimately the international reader. The author’s use of in-text translation here is meant to lay bare the humour implied in the obscene and grotesque nature of the native statement, as well as to give the reader an insight into native perceptions of the colonialists. The Commandant resorts to translation as a means of his own empowerment as he simultaneously shows off his knowledge (however limited) of the local dialect while chastising his wife for her aloofness towards the affairs of the colony and for causing him such embarrassment. Explanations, translations or glosses tagged onto a native word, expression or statement might sometimes appear repetitive or redundant, since they merely repeat what has already been expressed in the indigenous language. Yet the effect would not be the same if the vernacular were completely avoided. Vernacular interpolations are not just motivated by a lack of terminological equivalence, nor are they simply a denotational necessity or the result of a desire to preserve meaning. In fact, interspersing vernacular items within the Euro-African text adds local colour to the text, and placing them side-by-side with their gloss, explanation or translation creates a unique aesthetic effect characteristic of postcolonial writing. Trans-cultural communication, particularly across distant or alien languages and cultures, is an important consideration in postcolonial writing. The importance of communication ultimately overrides linguistic differences to include the more global cultural context that the author seeks to represent in his work. Obviously, the interpolation of unglossed or uncushioned vernacular items in Europhone literature can prevent successful communication with an international readership that is not familiar with the author’s indigenous language and culture. Yet there have been instances where unglossed vernacular items have not diminished the global reception of a postcolonial novel. Arundhati Roy, for instance, introduces quite a few unglossed Malayalam words in The God of Small Things, yet the words do not seem to have been obtrusive enough to prevent the novel from gaining world-wide recognition. Wole Soyinka, the Nobel laureate, has been known to pepper his English language narrative with a constant interpolation of vernacular words which may not always be glossed. And Patrick Chamoiseau, the Martinican writer, won the Prix

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Goncourt, a French prize for literature, with his novel Texaco, which is heavily interspersed with unexplained lexical items from the local Creole language. In most of these works, vernacular or ‘exotic’ words have not been disruptive to the reading experience as their meaning potential could be grasped through a process of ‘contextualization by inference’ rather than through direct translations or explanations. According to the authors of The Empire Writes Back, the introduction of unglossed vernacular words “forces the reader into an active engagement with the horizons of the culture in which these terms have meaning” (Ashcroft et al. 1989:65). As a marker of postcolonial discourse, the foregrounded vernacular word is “first a sign of distinctiveness … [and], more importantly, … an endorsement of the facility of the discourse situation, a recognition that the message event, the ‘scene of the Word,’ has full authority in the process of cultural and linguistic intersection” (ibid.). In other words, the untranslated vernacular word calls attention to itself, rendering the text occasionally inaccessible, hence forcing the non-African reader to engage in a reading process that involves a fair measure of translating, and that recognizes the autonomy and authenticity of the postcolonial novel. Apart from the occasional search for the meaning, explanation or translation of the native words and expressions in the glossary or footnote, the use of indigenous words and expressions, for the most part, is not particularly intrusive for readers. The European language of writing in which the vernacular words are inserted does not appear to have suffered any major violation of its lexico-grammatical structures. The reason for this is that the native words are usually introduced such that they fit in with the syntactic and grammatical characteristics of the European language. In other words, they agree grammatically and syntactically with what Kachru (1978) has referred to as “constraints” on (code) mixing and (code) switching. That is, the choice of the slot in which the native words and expressions are placed adheres to the grammatical rules and native intuition of the European language reader. The postcolonial writer’s preoccupation with maintaining the colonial language syntax has much to do with the aesthetics and convenience of the reading experience, and should not be seen as a timid attempt to disrupt the dominance or hegemony of the imperial language. Thus the interpolation of vernacular words and expressions within the EuroAfrican text is a writing strategy aimed at enhancing local colour and achieving relevance and authenticity without any significant disruption of the flow of the postcolonial European language discourse. The introduction of such vernacular words engages the postcolonial writer in an in-text translation activity, either through cushioning or contextualization, which ultimately confirms the

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postcolonial writer’s role as a translator of a minoritized language culture into a majoritarian hegemonic language. The vernacular word is there to remind the reader of an imaginary original, a meta-text of culture (Tymoczko 1999a) which informs and nourishes the writer’s creativity. The vernacular word is only a “trace” (Zabus 1990) of this original and stands out as an element of resistance to the glottopolitical assimilation, transparent or fluent translatability of the African logos.

5. Hybrid formations and some lexical innovation strategies For some African writers, translating as a writing strategy often amounts to the creation of hybrid lexical items located somewhere in the space in-between the vernacular and the colonial language. These words and expressions, crafted in an hybrid in-between language, are often literal translations from the vernacular or from the oral narrative, and are structured to conform to the word formation rules of the colonial language. A common form of lexical innovation occurs when a native word or expression does not have a ready equivalent in the European language. The author then creates a compound word, usually following the basic pattern of word formation in the European language, although the resulting compound word is not native to the European language of writing. African praise names (found particularly in elegiac poetry and the panegyric) are often captured in European language writing through this form of lexical compounding. For example, in Une vie de boy, Oyono creates the compound “Jeunes-qui-seront-bientôt-des-hommes” (1956:19) / “Boys-who-are-soon-to-be-men” (Houseboy, 1966:11) as a translation for an idea which might have been expressed in one word or in a statement in the native language. In The Voice, Okara talks of “this never-happened-before thing” and the apparent honesty of a character is captured in the name “Oneman-one-face” (1964:98). The writer may aesthetically choose to create such compound words, which may be pithy renditions or summaries of much longer expressions from the indigenous language. In another innovation strategy, European language words are paired, combined or put together (although not necessarily through compounding) to account for concepts and realities that are foreign to the European language culture. In several instances the combined words undergo collocational shifts as they do not always follow either the European language’s morpho-syntactic or lexico-semantic rules of co-occurrence and word-formation. Violation of these colonial language rules highlights the non-nativeness of the combined words and consequently their Africanness. The following are a few examples:

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From Things Fall Apart (Achebe 1958):

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“ten and one wives” (p. 37) “twice four hundred yams” (p. 16) “snake-lizard” (p. 59) “her husband’s wife” (p. 76)

From Une Vie de Boy (Oyono 1956): “fiancée-maîtresse” (p, 13) “homme-femme blanc” (p. 17) “rat-panthère” (p. 13) 9

By practising this kind of innovation through semantic and collocational shifts, the African writer indigenizes the European language, thus shaping and adapting it to carry and sustain the weight of the colonial subject’s sociocultural experience. Linguistic experimentation as a writing strategy allows for devices such as repetition and reduplication which, though not exclusive to postcolonial writing, often result in innovative formations that give a distinct flavour to Euro-African discourse. Repetition and reduplication play an important role in African oral narrative practices and are often used for emphasis or semantic augmentation (besides other aesthetic effects such as rhythm and musicality). This practice has been extended to European language writing, where there is an abundant use of lexical repetition to highlight moments of excitement or intensity, or to express disgust, anger, surprise, etc. (Obiechina 1975; Chinweizu et al. 1980). The following examples are taken from Arrow of God (Achebe 1964): “It is this lick lick lick which prevents women from growing a beard” (p. 64) (to show disgust) “whisper together like in-law and in-law” (p. 61), (parallel augmentation in the repetition of the term “in-law” to emphasize the idea of cooperation and solidarity).

And from Things Fall Apart (Achebe 1958): “Okonkwo passed the rope, or tie-tie, to the boys” (p. 41) (tie-tie here refers to a traditional underwear. The repetition of “tie” calls attention 9 Also, “bush-beef” (i.e., wild game); “bush-man” (i.e., uncivilized person) (my examples); “mistress of ceremony” (by analogy with “master of ceremony”) said of a midwife who presides over female initiation rites (see Chishimba 1984:222).

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to the manner in which the underwear (or rope or string) is worn. It is worth noting how tie-tie is placed in apposition to ‘rope’ and how both terms ‘translate’ or ‘cushion’ each other.

Instead of using the adverb of quantity “too much”, Okara (The Voice, 1964) repeats adjectives and adverbs as an augmentation strategy to express the idea of abundance: At last the black black night like the back of a cooking pot entered his inside and grabbing his thoughts, threw them out into the blacker than black night. And Okoro walked, stumbled, walked with an inside empty of thoughts except the black black night. (p. 166)

And about softness he writes: It’s a very soft thing, soft as water, softer than softness. (p. 168)

About wickedness: I know the world is not bad but your coming with me will not make it bad more than badness. (p. 167)

Okara’s abundant use of this rhetorical device reveals the degree to which he is indebted to traditional narrative aesthetics. It has been said that instead of using a modifying adverb in the African oral narrative, single words are reiterated for intensity as a matter of preference (Finnegan 1970; Obiechina 1975; Coussy 1988). Hence “black black night” is used instead of “very black night” to emphasize the sense of darkness. Sometimes, whole sentences, phrases, images or symbols can be repeated or reduplicated. This practice is also deeply rooted in the African folktale, where it is often used for dramatic effect. Okara employs this technique as he strives to reproduce such oral narrative patterns form his native Ijaw. The following passage from The Voice illustrates this point (1964:77): Okolo for years and years lay on the cold cold floor at the rock-like darkness staring. Then suddenly he saw a light. He drew his feet with all his soul and his feet came. He drew his hands and his hands came. He stood up with his eyes on the light and walked towards the light. As he moved towards the light, the light also moved back. He moved faster and the light also moved faster back. Okolo ran. Okolo ran and hit a wall with his head. Okolo looked and the light was no more. He

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then stretched his hands forth and touched the wall. His fingers felt dents and holes. Okolo walked sideways like a crab with his fingers on the wall, feeling dents and holes, dents and holes in the rock-like darkness until his feet struck an object. As Okolo stopped and felt the object his body became cold. His heartbeat echoed in the rock-like darkness and his head expanded. Still, he felt along the object until his fingers went into two holes. As his fingers went into the holes he quickly withdrew them and ran. He ran and fell, ran and fell over other objects. He ran and knocked against the wall and fell. Still he ran, then suddenly stopped. He saw a light in front of him. He moved gently crouching forward like a hunter stalking game. Then when he nearly reached the light, he rushed forward.

Okara has been commended for his mastery of the art of repetition, a rhetorical device that is used frequently in traditional African discourse (Coussy 1988). There is an abundance of repetitions and reduplications in the above passage, which is meant to heighten our sense of the action. Short and dramatic phrases and sentences are reiterated: “Okolo for years and years lay on the cold cold floor”; “Okolo ran and the light also ran. Okolo ran, the light ran”; “He ran and fell, ran and fell”. The reiteration of these short dramatic phrases and sentences creates a concrete physical sensation of the danger stalking Okolo. Also, as an aesthetic device, repetition and reduplication remind the reader of the fact that the passage is both a written and a translated version of what is fundamentally an oral narrative from the Ijaw language. A similar phenomenon is at work in the next passage where the word “eyes” is reiterated to create an intense sensation regarding the sadness that has befallen those people (ibid.:80): So Okolo walked in Sologa of the Big One passing frustrated eyes, ground-looking eyes, harlots’ eyes, nothing-looking eyes, hot eyes, cold eyes, bruised eyes, despairing eyes, nothing-caring eyes, grabbing eyes, dust-filled eyes, aping eyes.

Another form of repetition (indeed, reduplication), borrowed from the African oral narrative, occurs when two words with a related meaning are mentioned in the same sentence, usually for emphasis. Below is an example from Achebe’s Arrow of God (1958:72): Great Ulu who kills and saves, I implore you to cleanse my household of all defilement. If I have spoken it with my mouth or seen it with my eyes, or if I have heard it with my ears or stepped on it with my foot

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or if it has come through my children or my friends or kinsfolk let it follow these leaves.

The above passage is a prayer or incantation asking the gods for purification. The repetition of “spoken…mouth”, “seen…eyes”, “heard…ears”, “stepped… foot”, may seem redundant to someone not familiar with such techniques in oral literature. Of course, one can only see with one’s eyes, hear with one’s ears, speak with one’s mouth and so forth; however, this kind of lexical repetition is quite common in traditional African discourse, particularly in ritualistic discourse, to mark the solemnity of the occasion or activity.

6. Recreating ornamental discourse There has been a great deal of speculation about the reasons for the apparent characteristic use of a highly stylized and ornamental language in African European-language fiction (see Mazrui 1975; Obiechina 1975; Coussy 1988). Early African works of fiction, especially those with an obvious subtext of the traditional oral discourse, have been said to use language that is highly formal and somewhat recherché, often without regard for level or register. Some Africanist scholars have acknowledged this phenomenon and have attributed it to the kind of formal education received at the hands of the colonial administration (Enahoro 1966; Mazrui 1975). They point to a school system in which education was administered mainly through a rote method of memorizing and recalling long lists of words and their definitions, including such things as synonyms, antonyms, idioms, proverbs, sayings and famous quotations (Mazrui 1975; Chishimba 1984). This led to a situation whereby it was considered prestigious to use ‘big’ words and a high-flown style when expressing oneself in the colonial language. Africanist scholars argue that the educational system set up by the colonial administration exposed Africans to a register of language not flexible enough to enable them to choose the right words for the right situation. Regarding the English language, for instance, Chinweizu et al. (1980:113) talk of “old-fashioned teachers who not only frowned on the use of pidgin, patois, Creole, colloquialisms and other species of ‘bad English’… but who also hold up and almost exclusively teach prose stylists of the pre-Joycean, pre-experimentalist eras”.10 As a consequence, Africans exposed to colonial education began to believe that using big words and a high-flown style was a sign of learnedness, intelligence, sophistication and even affluence (Chinweizu et al. 1980; Chishimba 1984). Achebe points 10 See also Ngugi wa Thiongo’o (1986) for his comments on the harsh treatment meted out to pupils in schools in colonial Kenya for speaking their native languages rather than English.

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out in No Longer at Ease how it was expected of young people to come back home from school speaking with big words (1960:31-33). Generally, as stated, by Enahoro (1966:59), for those who initiated the “Oxford accent”, “the more confusing you are, the higher is your intellect and the greater your esteem”. Although there is considerable evidence to suggest that the colonial educational system instilled this love of big words and a high-flown language in Africans, it seems likely that some explanation for this tendency can also be found in the oratorical practices of traditional African discourse. Indeed, it seems rather tenuous to attribute this tendency only to a mimicry of colonial discourse and habits. Moreover, the tendency to use a high-flown style can still be observed in African European language speakers of the younger generations, born in the postcolonial era, who may have had little or no contact with the colonial education system. It would be interesting indeed to see if this phenomenon occurred in other formerly colonized parts of the world, particularly those with a strong indigenous writing or literate culture. Generally, the form or structure of most oral traditions is said to be fairly complicated in nature (see Finnegan 1970). For example, the structure of African traditional poetry has been found to be quite highly stylized. In fact, when it comes to oratory, the traditional African narrative has been shown to be even more sophisticated (Finnegan 1970; Chinweizu et al., 1980; Coussy 1988). Traditional African oratorical discourse is replete with quotations of wise sayings, proverbs, aphorisms and so on, and characterized by an elegant style. It seems reasonable to suggest that the desire to emulate the stylistic elegance and sophistication inherent in the African oral narrative has led to the transposition of these characteristics onto the colonial language either consciously or unconsciously. Chief among the ways in which educated Africans display their interest in highly stylized and ornamental discourse is their frequent use of quotations. The tendency to quote wise sayings, proverbs and revered authorities (such as ancestors and local elders) has been carried over into the colonial language. The difference is that unlike in the past, when Africans quoted their ancestors and elders, today the educated African tends to quote from Western classics. Mazrui (1975) mentions how the educated African uses Greek and Latin mythology to refer to current African experience. Enahoro (1966:59) also points out that in Nigeria you were considered “progressive” if you began a statement by saying, “As Shakespeare said…”; it was a sign of assimilation with the Englishman. Chishimba (1984:77) lists a few Latin and Greek words that the educated African would use without regard to the register or context: ad infinitum instead of ‘without end’; et cetera instead of ‘and so on’; quid pro quo, a priori, per se, etc. The spread of Christianity in Africa has also been cited as a reason for

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the tendency among Africans to quote. The practice by Christian missionaries of quoting from the Bible is believed to have been passed on to African Christians.11 It is safe to state that even though for some Africans it was considered prestigious to quote from the Classics or even the Bible, the tendency to quote did not begin with the advent of Western civilization in Africa. The use of quotations in African discourse is as old as African oral tradition itself, and their function is similar to that of proverbs, wise sayings and statements of general truth, namely to lend credence to a piece of oratory and increase the esteem of the speaker in the eyes of his people. Also, conversational wit, which is highly regarded even during a simple fireside chat, requires a ready command of diverse proverbs, wise sayings and other forms of quotations. Therefore, what the African bilingual elite is doing with the European classics is reminiscent of what their forefathers did with the wisdom of the African oral tradition. About this practice among English-speaking Africans, Mazrui (1975: 152) writes: “It might even be argued that great figures in English literature (who were quoted by Africans) were now subject to the laws of conversation in indigenous African languages”. Thus the African bilingual elite has often quoted from prominent European scholars, not just in order to appear learned or educated, but rather as a continuation of their own way of speaking. Some African writers have exploited the tendency to quote from the Bible and the Western classics in their works (mainly to create humour or for derision) . The Cameroonian writer Mongo Beti (Mission Terminée) gives some of his characters fictitious Christian names such as “Petrus Fils-de-Dieu” / “Petrus Son-of-God” so called because of the character’s broken morals. “Saint Yohannes de Kala” / “Duckfoot Johnny (or St John of Kala)”, a local catechist who hides his kegs of wine in a place called the “sources vives” (1957:170) / “Living Fountains” (Mission to Kala, 1958:115). Beti also makes fun of the tendency among Africans to quote from Greco-Latin mythology, when the main character of his novel, Medza, talks about his experience to a group of illiterate villagers and yet employs knowledge mainly acquired from the classics. He equates his mission to go to a neighbouring village and bring back the escaped wife of his uncle to “l’imprudente idée (qui) était venue au roi de Sparte d’aller seul récupérer Hélène en Troade” (1957:45) / “… as if Menelaus had conceived the rash notion of going off to the Troad to rescue Helen on his own” (Mission to Kala, 1958:28-29). Achebe (A Man of the People, 1966) also mocks the tendency to use an elevated style when semi-literate characters fascinated with a foreign language of prestige make statements like the following: 11

The influence of Classical Arabic, with its highly stylized, ornamental and esoteric language should also be mentioned here.

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An endless stream of students will be enabled to drink deep at the Prierian spring of knowledge. (p. 70). Ungrateful ingrates whose stock in trade was character assassination ... (p. 80).

The tendency to use an elegant style of address in the African oral tradition, particularly in greetings, salutations, praise names or titles, is evident in the following example. In Okara’s The Voice, an opportunistic politician, Dr. Abadi, pledges support for his leader resolving to “fight under the august leadership of our most honourable leader” (1964:102). There is some similarity between this statement and statements of praise from the oral tradition, such as “Ogalanya, Evil Dog that Warms His Body through the Head” (Achebe’s Arrow of God, 1964:39) and “Dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth” (Achebe’s Things Fall Apart, 1958:66). As a result of this fascination with a highly stylized and elevated language, the African elite became particularly interested in the ‘Officialese’ used by the colonial administration and retained it for the running of their newly independent state (Chinweizu et al. 1980; Chishimba 1984; Gérard 1986). Chishimba (1984) points out that even today it is common to find high-sounding officialese such as “It is hereby notified that…”, “Individuals shall henceforth…”, “Notice is hereby given that…”, etc. Such officialese could also be found in everyday contexts of communication such as letter-writing and conversations. Its use often marks the speaker as higher in status, learned and cultivated, even though it is often superfluous, redundant and in some cases incomprehensible. On the whole, then, inasmuch as these practices that are observed in the European language writing of African authors can be partly attributed to practices in the oral tradition, it is not an exaggeration to claim that, by its very hybrid nature, the language of Euro-African fiction has been fashioned partly through a process of translation. African intercultural writing is highly indebted to traditional African discourse, traces of which manifest themselves as a kind of subtext to the European-language fiction.

5. Literary Heteroglossia, Sociolects, Translation

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1. Pidgins and creoles in creative writing African European-language fiction draws on a variety of sociolects or locallycreated hybrid languages used widely in the postcolony. Some of these hybrid languages, which began as rudimentary contact languages, have evolved into lingua francas spoken by large populations from various ethnic groups and diverse sociocultural backgrounds. These lingua francas – such as West African Pidgin English (WAPE) and le pidgin français (pidgin French) – have seen their inclusion in African Europhone literature increase dramatically over the years, ranging from sporadic or scanty dialogues between uneducated or semiliterate characters to wholesale or complete writing of fiction in these hybrid languages.1 The sociolects play a vital role in African postcolonial literature, and it is interesting to study their significance and the difficulties they pose for intercultural writing and translation. West African Pidgin English is a term used to designate a hybrid language that has evolved from a pidgin to what is today a creole spoken as a mother tongue or first language by some people born of inter-ethnic marriages and by many displaced urban dwellers in Africa. According to Mufwene (2001:xiii), creole vernaculars are new language varieties which originated in the appropriation of non-standard varieties of Western European languages by populations that were not (fully) of European descent in seventeenthto-nineteenth century European (sub)-tropical colonies.

These creole vernaculars are significantly different from, and should not be confused with, the indigenized standard varieties of European languages used in the ex-colonies, aspects of which have been discussed in the previous chapters. The hybrid vernaculars are determined by their external ecology, that is, the socioeconomic, sociohistorical and ethnographic environment in which they have evolved (such as the contact setting and power relations between groups of speakers), as well as their internal ecology, namely “the nature of the coexistence of the units and principles of a linguistic system before and/or during the change” (Mufwene 2001:xii). Capitalizing on the differences between settlement and exploitation colonization, Mufwene points out that European colonization of Africa was, for the most part, based on the exploitation model, 1

See Ken Sara Wiwa’s Sozaboy, written entirely in “Rotten English”.

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which imposed social segregation and limited exposure to colonial languages. This has resulted in indigenized varieties of colonial languages which function as lingua francas and are used for specific purposes without posing any significant threat to indigenous African languages (ibid.:21).2 In this respect, European colonial languages are mere additions to the African linguistic repertoire and, through contact with indigenous languages, have evolved either into pidgins and creoles or have been indigenized into standard varieties such as African English and African French. West African Pidgin English is largely the result of a combination of several African languages and some European colonial languages (English, French, Portuguese, etc.) linking a metropolitan lexicon to a local syntax (see Todd 1982, 1984; Schneider 1966). Although an English-based creole, with English as its main lexifier, it is important to note that this hybrid system is based on heterogenous nonstandard lexifiers of the European languages, and the kinds of contact that motivated its development may not be different from those that were at the basis, for instance, of the development of Vulgar Latin into Romance languages. According to Mufwene (ibid.), the linguistic effects of European contact with Africa were highly dependent upon the prevailing style of colonization, whether trade, settlement or exploitation colonization. Trade colonization involved random and limited contact between European traders and their African counterparts. This limited and infrequent exposure to the adopted European languages led to the development of what has been referred to as “broken languages”, underlining the minimal uses to which elements of the European lexifiers were put. In settlement colonies (e.g., Cape Verde, Sao Tomé and Réunion), creole varieties were produced that eventually replaced the indigenous languages spoken by displaced peoples from diverse linguistic backgrounds. This was not the case in Nigeria and Cameroon, for instance, which began as trade colonies and became exploitation colonies in the late nineteenth century. Nigerian and Cameroonian Pidgin Englishes are primarily lingua francas which developed when both countries were still trade colonies (see Todd 1982, 1984; Gilman 1985; Mufwene 2001). They have been described as “expanded pidgins”, because their grammar is as complex as that of a creole language, and they have become a first language for some speakers. Colonization style is an important factor in understanding the subtle differences between pidgins and creoles, and also the relative differences between the pidgin/creole vernaculars used by Europhone writers. It is interesting to note that although pidgins and creoles developed in a contact situation, Africans were the main agents – principal actors in developing these 2

There are also lingua francas that are lexified by languages indigenous to Africa (e.g., Lingala, Sango, Kituba, Swahili).

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hybrid languages. These hybrid languages developed during the trade era, at a time when Europeans showed very little interest in African languages. Consequently, it was up to the Africans in the situation of contact to make the effort and adopt the European languages as lingua francas. Without a cross-linguistic model to follow, some varieties were close approximations of the European language while others deviated in various ways and to differing extents from the European language lexifier (Mufwene 2001). The grammar, and particularly the syntax, of West African Pidgin English is largely influenced by the grammar of the African languages with which the European language has come into contact. Aspects of African oral tradition can also be found in this pidgin/creole variety. Adejare (1998) points out that grammatical features of varieties of English-based pidgins spoken in geographically distinct areas share striking similarities, and are quite different from a beginner’s English. Pidgin English is therefore a language with its own grammatical structure, and is certainly not always the African writer’s inventive assumption of how it is spoken. Expressing his disgust with James Cary’s colonialist caricature of the African protagonist in the novel Mister Johnson, Achebe emphasizes the point that Pidgin is not “a sort of Uncle Tom’s dialect” but rather “a language in itself, not something you can just cook up” (cited in Wilkinson 1992:49). In fact, he states quite clearly that such negative treatment of Africans in some novels about Africa was partly the reason why he became a writer. In his words, he realized that “the story we had to tell could not be told for us by anyone else, no matter how gifted or well intentioned” (1975:123). Indeed, one might say that pidgins are a classic case of what can emerge when two or more mutually alien languages and cultures come into contact. They may appear to speakers of the European lexifier language as mere distortions or the results of a poor grasp of language, but to the pidgin speaker they are languages in their own right with their own rules of grammar and usage. The use of pidgin spread fairly rapidly among Africans, particularly because of the numerous peculiarities of the indigenous languages and cultures it had absorbed. Pidgin has long thrived as the contact language used by the uneducated or semi-literate urban dwellers from various ethnic backgrounds. Initially, most of these urban dwellers were from the working class and often characterized by their low level of formal education and low economic and social status (Obiechina 1975). But today Pidgin is used by Africans of all social and economic backgrounds. Well-educated West Africans use Pidgin in interaction with their uneducated counterparts from different ethnic groups, and also to talk among themselves in certain informal contexts. In fact, West Africans of all backgrounds use Pidgin as an expression of group solidarity,

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and to reinforce a sense of integration, a use of language that Malinowski refers to as “phatic communion” (see Ogden and Richards 1923:315). It could also be said that Pidgin flourished not only because the traditional African initially found it difficult to communicate fluently in the relevant European languages, but also because given the nature of Pidgin (a blend of African and European languages), most Africans found it to be a better medium than the European languages for expressing certain traditional African concepts and ideas. From a creative writing perspective, Pidgin can be used for brevity in some contexts, in preference to a more Standard English, as can be seen in the following sentence taken from Achebe’s novel, Anthills of the Savanna, and its translation into Standard English (for illustration): ‘You think na so we do am come reach superintendent?”(1987:132) (Do you think this is how I have worked all these years and succeeded in becoming superintendent?). The Standard English version is drawn out and clumsy, and is also too formal and less realistic given its context in the novel. In early West African novels dealing with colonial times, Pidgin was mainly used as a means of communication between characters depicted as native Africans working for the colonial administration and their white masters. These native functionaries formed a class apart, distinguished by what they believed was their knowledge of the white man’s language. Their proximity to the white colonists gave them a false sense of superiority over their fellow countrymen, as they quickly cast themselves into a competing role vis-à-vis traditional authority. These functionaries, who were often ordinary people at the bottom of the hierarchy in traditional society, sought to undermine traditional authority and assume the mantle of the future. The following passage from Arrow of God (1964:152-54; my emphasis) shows how two African policemen working for the colonial administration would speak to their countrymen in the local vernacular, but would confer with each other in Pidgin English, as if it had become a private code for a new class of Africans: Meanwhile the policemen arrived at Ezeulu’s hut. They were then no longer in the mood for playing. They spoke sharply, baring all their weapons at once. ‘Which one of you is called Ezeulu?’ asked the corporal. ‘Which Ezeulu?’ asked Edogo. ‘Don’t ask me which Ezeulu again or I shall slap okro seeds out of your mouth. I say who is called Ezeulu here?’ ‘And I say which Ezeulu? Or don’t you know who you are looking for?’ The four men in the hut said nothing. Women and children thronged the door leading from the hut into the inner compound. There was fear and anxiety in the faces.

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Paul F. Bandia ‘All right,’ said the corporal in English. ‘Jus now you go sabby which Ezeulu. Gi me dat ting.’3 This last sentence was directed to his companion who immediately produced the handcuffs from his pocket … The two policemen conferred in the white man’s tongue to the great admiration of the villagers. ‘Sometime na dat two porson we cross for road,’4 said the corporal. ‘Sometime na dem,’ said his companion. ‘but we no go return back jus like dat. All dis waka wey we waka come here no fit go for nating.’5 The corporal thought about it. The other continued: ‘Sometime na lie dem de lie. I no wan make dem put trouble for we head.’6 The corporal still thought about it. He was convinced that the men spoke the truth but it was necessary to frighten them a little, if only to coax a sizeable ‘kola’ out of them. He addressed them in Ibo: ‘We think that you may be telling us a lie and so we must make quite sure otherwise the white man will punish us. What we shall do then is to take two of you – handcuffed – to Okperi. If we find Ezeulu there we shall set you free; if not …’. He completed with a sideways movement of the head which spoke more clearly than words. ‘Which two shall we take?’

The humour in this passage is based on the fact that the policemen believe they are speaking Standard English, the white man’s tongue, when they speak Pidgin. Achebe highlights this delusion and the sense of pride felt by the policemen with the statements “said the corporal in English” and “conferred in the white man’s tongue to the great admiration of the villagers”. The policemen speak to the villagers in Ibo, the local vernacular, but speak to each other in Pidgin English with the sole intention of impressing and intimidating the villagers who do not speak Pidgin, and like the policemen, would not know the difference between Pidgin and Standard English. Through the writing of pidgin discourses into what is primarily a text in Standard English, Achebe seeks to disrupt the text and stretch English to achieve resistant effects. The reader’s attention is drawn to the consequent disruption of traditional society in the wake of colonialism, epitomized by the crude arrogance and corruption of the new authority. That Ezeulu, the Chief Priest of Olu, should be summoned to a distant village by the colonial administrator, and two ordinary policemen 3

“All right. Now, you’ll know which Ezeulu we are looking for. Give me that thing (handcuffs)” (my translation). 4 “Maybe it’s the two men we passed on the way” (my translation). 5 “Maybe it’s them … But we cannot go back empty-handed. All the trekking we did to get here cannot go unrewarded” (my translation). 6 “ Maybe they are lying …. I don’t want them to get us into trouble” (my translation).

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should so disrespect his household, marks a symbolic overthrow, the beginning of the end for the pre-eminence of traditional authority. The choice of Pidgin here, as a dialect of English, is intentional and political, symbolizing the new order, and ironically the new language of power and prestige. As mentioned earlier, colonial varieties of pidgin have evolved into postcolonial lingua francas, ironically marking the lasting effects of colonialism. Gilman (1979:272) points to the relative autonomy of Pidgin: Pidgin … is different from English and used for different purposes, so that people who know English quite well continue to use Pidgin for some purposes, and English for others. It is this ability of speakers to keep the two languages separate and use them for different purposes, which distinguishes Pidgin from imperfectly learned English.

Pidgin therefore seems to have evolved, over the years, from a language of communication between the native African and the colonist into a lingua franca of the West African peoples. This evolution has also meant that as more and more Africans have become educated in English, a wide variety of pidgins have developed, ranging from the pidgin spoken by Achebe’s illiterate characters of the colonial era to the pidgin spoken today by the western educated elite. Derek Bickerton (1975) places pidgin on a language continuum in relation to Standard English. He discusses a “dynamic system” within which there are variants ranging from a “basilect” (the variety furthest from English) through the “mesolect” (the variety spoken by semi-literate individuals) to the “acrolect” ( in this case, standard West African English). According to Bickerton’s continuum, the variety of pidgin one speaks is determined by how much English one knows. In other words, knowledge of pidgin is inversely proportional to knowledge of Standard English. Based on this idea, pidgin does not constitute a language, in so far as one end of the continuum is indistinguishable from English (ibid.:166). In recent times, this view has been seriously questioned by studies that show a clear distinction between the grammar of pidgin and English. Loreto Todd (1982), for example, describes West African pidgin as an “expanded pidgin”7 7

Holm (1988:5) explains the notion of “expanded pidgin” as follows: “It has been suggested that … stabilization requires tertiary hybridization, in which two or more groups of substrate speakers adopt the pidgin for communicating with each other. If superstrate speakers become the least important part of this pidgin triangle and close contact is established and maintained between substrate speakers over an extended period of time, an expanded pidgin emerges: the simpler structure of the earlier pidgin is elaborated to meet more demanding communicative needs”.

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as opposed to a “restricted pidgin” in an attempt to assign it an independent status. West African Pidgin English is today considered an independent language, rather than a “basilect” variety of English, for a variety of reasons. Firstly, many speakers of Pidgin are not conversant with English, and for these speakers Pidgin is another language with a somewhat similar status to their native vernacular, except that Pidgin has an additional advantage in that it allows communication across different ethnic groups. Also, Pidgin has become the primary language for most children born to parents from different ethnic backgrounds, and also for many urban dwellers. Thirdly, as a lingua franca, Pidgin continues to pose a serious threat in terms of potentially replacing native vernaculars, while English, even in its indigenized form, has become a vernacular for only a very small minority of speakers. This is an indication that Pidgin continues to be internalized by non-English speakers, that is, independently of English. Lastly, according to Mufwene (1988), the study of the grammar of Pidgin is not particularly different from the study of the grammar of other languages (1988:265; my emphasis): I assume in Mufwene (1986) the position that PCs (pidgins and Creoles) do not constitute a formal type of language which may be contrasted with other traditional types such as the isolating vs. agglutinating vs. fusional vs. polysynthetic languages, or the SVO vs. SOV vs. VSO, etc. languages; moreover, they have so far revealed no property that has not been attested in any non-PC language. Insofar as the formal properties of language are concerned, there is no particular PC innovation…. It seems … logical to assume that the study of PCs is not different from that of other languages.

Holm concurs (1988:1; my emphasis): If one examines them as linguistic systems … it becomes evident that these systems (pidgins and creoles) are quite different from those of the language from which they drew their lexicon …. Their lexical source or base language (are) so different, in fact, that they can hardly be considered as even dialects of their base language.

Romaine (1988:7), on her part, deplores the fact that Many still believe that pidgins and creoles are parasitic rather than independent linguistic systems, which are the result of random mixing. …Part of the problem in this attitude has been the lack of descriptive models for dealing with highly variable and rapidly changing systems.

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The existing categories of linguistic analysis are biased toward the description of autonomous, discrete language systems.

And to highlight the difference between pidgins and their source language, Gilman (1979:7) says that “[m]any pidgin languages have quite complex syntactic systems. In particular CP (Cameroonian Pidgin) has many types of transformations not found in English”. These are just a few of the arguments by expert creolists in favour of the independent status and autonomy of some pidgins and creoles. Therefore, instead of placing Pidgin at the lowest end on an English language continuum as Bickerton does, Pidgin should be assumed to have a continuum of its own, quite distinct from the English language continuum in West Africa. The Pidgin language continuum would feature a basilect, a minimal variety spoken by the Western educated elite, a mesolect spoken by semi-literate individuals (who may confuse Pidgin with Standard English), and an acrolect used by people with hardly any exposure to English, people who neither speak nor understand English. The Pidgin continuum is therefore the reverse or opposite of the English language continuum, with its most basic form available to the educated elite and its most sophisticated variety spoken by the least educated segment of the population. Pidgin Continuum Basilect

educated elite speakers

Mesolect

semi-literate speakers

Acrolect

non-educated speakers

What this analysis indicates is that although knowledge of Pidgin may vary with the level of education or degree of exposure to English, it is not necessarily the case that Pidgin is the most basic form of English, or a poor cousin of English, so to speak. Pidgin English has ceased to be stigmatized over the years, and as a lingua franca it is not often viewed by its speakers in a diglossic relationship to English (Ferguson 1959:325), with the implied superiority and prestige of English. Hence, the relationship between Pidgin and Standard English could be said to be interlinguistic rather intralinguistic (see Wald et al. 1973). It is necessary to make this distinction between Pidgin and the English language in West Africa in order to have a clear understanding of the nature and use of Pidgin in the works of African writers. It is also important to note that West African Pidgin is clearly distinct from what has been derogatorily

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referred to by some as ‘Broken English’.8 ‘Broken English’ could be placed on a West African English continuum, somewhere between the basilect and the acrolect, and could be described as the variety of English spoken by someone (usually semi-literate) who has only an approximate command of standard West African English. In fact, it could be described as ‘bad’ English, which Pidgin is not. The back and forth movement between the European language of writing and Pidgin which takes place in the West African novel can therefore be adequately described as code-switching between two relatively autonomous languages, and not as a movement between the high and low varieties of the same language. In the following passage from Arrow of God (Achebe 1964:155), the semi-literate John Nwodika speaks to his European boss in Pidgin English, switches to his native Ibo language to speak to his people, then switches back to Pidgin English for the benefit of a non-Ibo speaking African: ‘Did I not say so?’ he asked the other servants after their master had been removed to hospital. ‘Was it for nothing I refused to follow the policemen? I told them that the Chief Priest of Umuaro is not a soup you can lick in a hurry.’ His voice carried a note of pride. ‘Our master thinks that because he is a white man our medicine cannot touch him.’ He switched over to English for the benefit of Clarke’s steward who came in just then and who did not speak Ibo. ‘I used to tellam say Blackman juju no be something wey man fit take play. But when I tellam na so so laugh im de laugh. When he finish laugh he call me John and I say Massa. He say you talk bush talk. I tellam say O-o, one day go be one day. You no see now?’9

What seems striking in the pidgin segment of the above passage is the reproduction of African oral narrative devices such as the repetition in “na so so laugh im de laugh”. As mentioned earlier, repetition is a common feature in most West African languages, and is often used for emphasis, drama, or to drive home a point. The statement “na so so laugh im de laugh” is equivalent 8

“He looked round slowly, sank into utter despair and even turned to broken English, ‘Look how we sleep like munmu. We no even sabbe wetin that bastard done leave behind’” (Soyinka, Aké, 1981:191). 9 I used to tell him that nobody fools around with black magic. But each time I said so he would simply laugh it off. When he finished laughing he would call out my name “John” and I would answer “Sir”. He would say, “You are talking like a ‘savage’”. Then I would tell him, “Well, some day when you will have first-hand experience of it, you will believe me”. And that day has come. (my translation)

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to “He always laughed it off” or “He would simply laugh it off”. There is also the blend of repetition and onomatopoeia in the very expressive “o-o” sound borrowed literally from African traditional discourse. In the above passage it is used as a sign of resignation in response to the European master’s unwillingness to believe the speaker. Its meaning is highly determined by the way it is pronounced, and here Achebe attempts to guide the reader with the pronunciation (and therefore meaning) by combining a capital “O” and a small “o”. In the same novel, “O-o” is used in the following speech by the Chief Priest advising his people against war: “I can see tomorrow; that is why I can tell Umuaro: come out from this because there is death there or do this because there is profit in it. If they listen to me, O-o; if they refuse to listen, O-o. I have passed the stage of dancing to receive presents” (ibid.:132). The oral expression, O-o, is elliptical and avoids a waste of words for the Chief Priest in what is an imminent declaration of war. In the above passage, an African proverb is translated literally into Pidgin as “One day go be one day”. This is a well-known proverb among speakers of pidgin, the rough equivalent of the Shakespearian “Beware the Ides of March”. The pidgin rendition attempts to capture the simple yet rhythmic and specialized language of the African proverb. Besides assigning to the characters the appropriate language suitable to their position in the social fabric of colonial society, the use of pidgin adds a certain measure of local colour to the novel and deals with the setting in a more realistic manner.

2. Linguistic hybridity in Francophone literature As pointed out in an earlier discussion, in the days prior to and immediately following independence postcolonial intercultural writing in Francophone Africa seemed to have followed a slightly different route from its Anglophone counterpart in matters pertaining to colonial language use. There was a need to emulate metropolitan French language and style for reasons discussed earlier, which left very little room for linguistic innovations and the writing of African varieties of French. Yet, some French-speaking writers also felt the need to represent the various sociolinguistic groups that made up the fabric of West African society in their novels, by depicting the varieties of French used in the postcolony. For instance, much like Chinua Achebe did in English, Ferdinand Oyono, in his novel Une vie de boy, which deals with colonial life, sought to reproduce the variety of French illiterate or village characters would use in interacting verbally with their European masters. Several decades after independence, heteroglossic and polylingual practices have become commonplace in Francophone writing, as the writers have become more daring and less

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committed to the metropolitan ideals. In fact, these writers have been encouraged by the current practices of linguistic appropriation of the French language and its adaptation for local use in French-speaking countries. However, writing the linguistic polyvalency of Francophone society has not always been easy, for a variety of reasons. Although today some scholars point to some form of ‘pidgin French’ in some West African countries (e.g., Côte d’Ivoire, Cameroon), it can safely be said that a pidgin has not evolved from the French language in West Africa to the same degree as it has from English. Some of the reasons can be attributed to the differences between British and French colonization, particularly with respect to language policies and education. What one finds on the ground in Francophone Africa is a contact language born of the coexistence of numerous local languages and French and, in some cases, including English or Pidgin English.10 A hybrid variety of French is thus created, and this variety has a vehicular function next to standard French, which is used for education and other functions of prestige. There is therefore an acknowledged hierarchy between standard French and this hybrid variety spoken by a national or transnational linguistic community.11 In his study of the sociolinguistic situation of the French language in West Africa, Wald (1973) proposes two possible scenarios: (a) French as an official language exists side by side with the langue véhiculaire (lingua franca) of the community; (b) French is both the official language and the lingua franca of the community (in the absence of an indigenous African lingua franca). According 10 The following are some varieties of popular French spoken mostly in African urban centres: • Français deMoussa, Français de Treichville, or Petit français (considered by some to be a form of creole) spoken in Côte d’Ivoire and highly influenced by DioulaTaboussi, the most popular local language (see Tallon 1984); • Camfranglais, a mixture of French, English, Pidgin English and the national languages spoken in Cameroon (see Ewané 1989). This variety is closely linked to the youth culture; • The variety spoken in the Democratic Republic of Congo (formerly Zaire), which is highly influenced by Lingala (itself an indigenous lingua franca), as well as remnants of belgicismes left over from the colonial era; • The variety spoken in Rwanda, heavily influenced by Swahili (a lingua franca) and a local language (Kinyarwanda) and also belgicismes and, more recently, canadianismes inherited from Canadian coopérants; • The variety spoken in Senegal, which is heavily influenced by Wolof, the main national language. (For more details see Inventaire des particularités lexicales du Français en Afrique noire 1988). 11 It should be pointed out that these hybrid varieties are different from what is generally referred to as français africain, which is the indigenized standard West African French (similar to standard West African English).

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to Wald, given scenario (a), there will be “discontinuité interlinguistique” (linguistic discontinuity; ibid.:123), that is, French will be reserved for the educated elite and will thus remain standard with little or no chance of becoming pidginized. In scenario (b), by contrast, French will tend to get closer and closer to the African vernaculars, and at some point it will be difficult to know exactly where people draw a line between speaking a French-based pidgin and the French language proper. In Francophone African countries, there is a form of ‘cohabitation’ between standard French and local vernacular languages, which often results in a hybrid variety of French spoken mostly by the uneducated, or at least it originates with them even when it is eventually picked up and made trendy by the youth culture. This hybrid variety of French does not fit the strict definition of a ‘pidgin’ language, for several reasons. First, unlike pidgin English, this variety has currency mainly within the illiterate population, even though students, the young, have at times created hybrid varieties for use in popular culture. Secondly, the grammar and structure of such hybrid French is highly idiolectal, idiosyncratic and generally unstable, since it is quite likely that the hybrid language will vary from one city to another, or from one linguistic community to another. Thirdly, the use of hybrid French is much more restricted than pidgin English.12 It is often used for verbal interaction between illiterate speakers from different ethnic groups, or between an educated Francophone and a non-educated interlocutor. Another significant difference between pidgin English and this hybrid variety of French is that speakers of pidgin English generally make a clear distinction with Standard English, which they refer to as ‘Gramma’ (i.e. grammar), whereas that kind of distinction is often not clear in the minds of speakers of hybrid French. This is why this variety of French has been referred to as ‘broken French’ (rather than pidgin or creole). And for a while, speakers of metropolitan French had derogatorily dubbed it “Français petit-nègre” (Alexandre 1972:59). It could also be said that the use of pidgin English in a West African novel written in English may not automatically convey any stigmatized, sociolinguistic information about the speaker as it would for a speaker of the so-called “Français petit-nègre” in a Francophone novel. As in Anglophone writing, the use of hybrid French in African fiction has evolved a great deal since the period immediately before and after independence, and up to the current neo-colonial times. Although the hybrid French 12

It is interesting to note here that in more recent times some Francophone musicians have been known to sing in pidgin English, but scarcely in any form of “broken French”.

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of early Francophone fiction has been referred to as “Français petit-nègre”, it would be unrealistic to liken this to more recent occurrences of hybrid French. In fact, contemporary speakers of hybrid French in Africa do not necessarily consider their language inferior to standard French, or limited to poor uneducated users. Today’s speakers of hybrid French see it as the result of a logical movement of decolonization, beginning with emancipation, then independence and finally appropriation of the French language. There is some pleasure and psychological satisfaction in appropriating and playing with the words of an alien colonial language which does not shy away from extolling its own beauty (“la langue de Voltaire”). In today’s postcolony, the use of hybrid French is mainly about subverting the colonial idiom, whereas in the early days it was more about making do with what one knew, or how much one possessed, of the metropolitan language. Hence, today there is a kind of linguistic cohabitation which fuels the African’s desire to speak French, but a variety that is couched in his own ‘tongue’ and which reflects the relative autonomy and visibility of the francophonie within the global literary space. Examples of the ‘broken French’ referred to as “Français petit-nègre” abound in early Francophone fiction cast in colonial times. Ferdinand Oyono’s Une Vie de Boy (1956) foregrounds ‘broken French’ in the novel, particularly in dialogues between the natives and the Europeans. In the following passage, a French colonial official pokes fun at the ‘broken French’ spoken by the natives: ““Monz’ami”, dit Gosier-d’Oiseau en imitant faussement le petit nègre, “nous pas buveurs indigènes!”” (ibid.:77) / ““Man”, said Gullet in a poor imitation of pidgin, “We no be native drinkers”” (Houseboy, 1966:49). There is a hypercorrective transfer of ‘z’, which is used as a linking sound in the plural form ‘Mes amis’ to the singular ‘mon ami’. Also, the français petit-nègre is characterized here by the elision or dropping of grammatical elements such as the verb and the ‘ne’ particle of negation.

In the following example, another colonial official teases his servant about his unwavering belief in Christian doctrine: “petit Joseph pati rôti en enfer” (1956:34) / “Small Joseph go burn in hell” (Houseboy, 1966:22). A native police officer answers his European boss : “Y en a vérité, Sep (Chef)” (1956:39) / “It is truth, sah” (Houseboy, 1966:25). It is interesting to note that the author himself occasionally referred to this ‘broken French’ in the novel as “petit-nègre”. He highlights the language’s hybrid nature in the following comment: “Les élèves chantèrent d’une seule traite dans une langue qui n’était

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ni le français ni la leur. C’était un étrange baragouin que les villageois prenaient pour du français et le Français pour la langue indigène” (1956 :63) / “The children sang, without any pauses, in a language which was not their own or French but the strange gibberish which village people suppose is French and Frenchmen suppose is the vernacular” (Houseboy, 1966 :40). Interestingly, there seems to be a greater use of pidgin or hybrid vernaculars in fiction dealing with a more modern African context. Speakers of pidgin in this context vary from the non-educated or semi-literate persons to the more contemporary speaker who uses pidgin by choice in certain instances in spite of their fluency in the colonial languages. It is therefore necessary to qualify some of the assessments of the sociolinguistic background of speakers of pidgin in African society, and consequently in novels cast in this society. It is generally assumed that the pidgin-speaking characters in the West African novel are often from the urban slums and working-class quarters, and that they generally have a low level of formal education as well as a low economic and social status. While this may be true regarding pre-independence and early postcolonial fiction, the reality is indeed a bit more complex with respect to more contemporary African literature. The fact is that speakers of pidgin constitute a strong force in the urban areas, and largely thanks to them pidgin has become the lingua franca of most urban dwellers (Obiechina 1975). In Achebe’s A Man of the People (1966), an urban novel, there is an abundant use of pidgin by characters who have refined their pidgin to a point where they can come up with idiomatic expressions in pidgin fashioned after such expressions in the oral tradition. For example, when a character expresses disgust at the suggestion that the more modern Cambridge Certificate is as good as the Standard Six Certificate they obtained in their day, he says: “Who dash frog coat”13 (ibid.:11), meaning “You must be kidding”. In the same novel, one character says of another, “E fool pass garri”14 (ibid.:56), meaning “He is very foolish”; another character exclaims with disbelief, “True, give me tori” (ibid.:20), that is “Oh really, tell me about it”. What seems striking in these pidgin statements is that, although some English words are used, they are clearly patterned after the language of such expressions in African oral 13

In WAPE the term “dash” means to give something away for free. A literal translation would be something like “Who gave away a coat to a frog?”. There is also a veiled reference to the English “frock coat”, which in the (post)colonial context was associated with British education. 14 “Garri” is a kind of flour made out of cassava (manioc). When it is soaked in water it rises (or swells), that is, it becomes “full”, increases in quantity but without augmenting its nutritional value. It is very filling and gives a false impression of satisfaction. Hence, the play on words “full” and “fool”.

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narratives. Who dash frog coat, for instance, is a replica of what happens in traditional African folktales, namely the assignment of human traits to animal characters. As is the case in most African folktales, the humour is implied in the idea of a frog, or an animal character, owning a coat, or wearing one. The statement generally refers to someone acting above his or her station. As Africans became increasingly interested in Western education, it was considered prestigious to wear a coat (or a frock coat), which was generally identified with the intellectual elite. The speaker is making light of a situation by likening it to a frog owning a coat. The humour and impact of E fool pass garri are also based on the oral narrative device of attributing human qualities to animals and objects. In this case, an individual is ridiculed by being compared to a popular dish (“garri”). True, give me tori is reminiscent of the manner in which people show excitement about gossip in some traditional contexts. African European-language writers are increasingly aware of the status of West African pidgin English as a lingua franca, which they are increasingly incorporating in fiction, sometimes without the need to consciously ‘translate’ pidgin passages into Standard English for the benefit of their international readership. They employ various devices and writing techniques to facilitate comprehension, while maintaining the aesthetic appeal of pidgin segments in the novel. Reading these novels becomes a process of translation for people who do not understand Pidgin, but also a foreignizing experience which takes the reader into the realm of life as it is lived, at least linguistically, in the postcolony.

3. Polylingualism and intercultural writing African European-language writing, like most postcolonial texts, is characterized by a deliberate use of multiple languages within the same discourse, sometimes shaped to conform to the aesthetic requirements of the main language of writing, or at times left as such to reflect their occurrence in the postcolony, or enhanced to highlight their presence as forms of resistance to the dominant colonial language. The postcolonial context is by nature multilingual as a result of the imposition of colonial languages for use in a context where many indigenous languages already coexist. Although the majority of the world may not be living the postcolonial experience, it is interesting to note that a significant majority of the world’s population speaks or deals with at least two languages. This fact may at times be overlooked given the enormous economic and political power wielded by the small minority of monolingual nations. Polylingual writing therefore comes naturally to postcolonial writers, for whom multilingualism is a fact of life. It is rather interesting to note that

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the world’s majority of multilingual speakers have been reduced to minorities within various modern nation states, marginalized and forced to use the dominant language and to succumb to the whims of the powerful monolinguals. As a consequence, these marginalized groups engage in all sorts of linguistic and aesthetic practices to reclaim their rights and assert their autonomy. Given their sheer number and imposing presence across the planet, their claims cannot be ignored, and this has contributed to making the issue of multilingualism a major factor in contemporary thought. According to Édouard Glissant (1996), it is no longer possible in our contemporary world for a writer to create or write in a monolingual vacuum. We live in a world where there is an ever-presence of languages around us, so that even when a writer is unfamiliar with other languages, he or she is consciously or unconsciously under their influence as they work. The writer is forced to take account of the “imaginaries des langues” (the imaginary of languages; ibid.:112). Although this fact is common to all writers, it is even more relevant for writers in the periphery, whose language is minoritized and who are forced to write in the dominant language to find space within the global literary marketplace. Yet, in spite of this fact of multilingualism and the “imaginaires des langues”, contemporary literary practice still seeks to locate multilingualism and define its contours within the matrix of the dominant language of writing. Given the tendency toward a dominant monolingual practice, polylingualism becomes an aesthetic means of resistance and contestation, a means of projecting alterity. The use of several languages forces the reader into “an active engagement with the horizon of the culture in which these terms have meaning” (Ashcroft et al. 1989:65). But a question that can be raised here is whether the scanty use of minority or marginalized language items within the matrix of a dominant language is enough to ensure resistance to the hegemony of imperial languages, or whether it is merely an aesthetic device that could be construed as enhancing the exoticism of postcolonial fiction. The coexistence of indigenous languages, locally-derived hybrid forms, and the colonial language in postcolonial writing is based on an unequal relationship of diglossia, whereby the dominant colonial language exerts a centripetal force on all other languages in the text. There is a constant attempt to make the signification of these ‘minor’ languages available to the monolingual reader who is fluent in the dominant language through various devices or strategies, including translation, paraphrase, gloss, explanation and so on. The local languages must explain and translate themselves to the imperial language, mirroring a fact of postcolonial existence. What this indicates is that polylingual writing in the postcolonial context hasn’t quite succeeded in undoing the imperial grip (or dominance) of colonial languages. And if this is

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the case, how do forms of contestation and resistance play out in postcolonial writing, and to what end, besides their aesthetic appeal and the casual recourse to multilingual representation in contemporary literature? Given their multilingual experience and faced with an unfavourable fact of linguistic hierarchy or diglossia, postcolonial writers are condemned somewhat to think (and breathe) language, to make language an important and indispensable paradigm in their work. This heightened consciousness of language is a fact of life for those authors of what Deleuze and Guattari have referred to as “minor/minority” literature, that is, literature written by a minority in a dominant language (1986, 1987), often with a strong tendency for deterritorializing language. For these writers language is a source of discomfort, of doubt, of a tension between complete integration within the metropolitan norm on the one hand and a potentially exaggerated expression of exoticism on the other. Immersed as they are in multilingualism and translingual practices, the writers find themselves in the same kind of impossibilities as Kafka: impossibility of not writing, impossibility of writing in the colonizer’s language, and the impossibility of writing otherwise. How do they feel about writing in an imperial tongue, and to what extent is their multilingual writing practice a reaction against this unfortunate fact of history? How far can they go to ensure that their writing is a reflection of their multiple linguistic reality? Should their contact with many languages and the choice of writing in a non-indigenous language necessarily command a polylingual or heteroglossic practice? These and other related questions can be explored through various theories that have dealt with the topic of multilingualism and to a certain extent, polylingual writing. There is no doubt that writing in a non-indigenous language, whether as a second or first language, has placed the issue of multilingualism in literature at the cutting edge of contemporary literary criticism. A growing interest in the relation between literary criticism and cultural history and the expansion of fields such as cultural studies have highlighted issues of transnationalism, transculturality and so forth, which have in turn brought questions related to multilingual matters in literature and in society to the forefront. This is not to say that interest in multiple language writing is a new phenomenon. Mikhaïl Bakhtin’s oeuvres had already established the role and significance of language plurality in the development of the modern European novel. Bakhtin’s theory of dialogism paved the way for a discussion of the inherent multilingualism of a literary text. The many translations of his concept of multilingualism – in English by Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson as heteroglossia and polyglossia; in French by Tzvetan Todorov as hétéroglossie (diverse languages), hétérologie (varieties of the same language) and hétérophonie (diversity of

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individual voices) – have contributed to spreading a view of the literary text as inherently multilingual. Although his work has given rise to a great variety of research in the field, it should be pointed out that Bakhtin was mainly concerned with the heterogeneity within one and the same language, and not necessarily the systematic juxtaposing of several languages within the same discourse. And despite the fact that for Bakhtin there is no monolingualism in literature given that the latter is inherently heteroglossic, this does not go far enough for current modernist thinking which seeks to highlight the role of literary heteroglossia in minimizing the hegemony of a single literary language. (Post-) modernist approaches seem more interested in polylingualism which has the potential to disrupt norms or develop an aesthetics of contestation, of displacement or of resistance. The inherent heteroglossia of classical French literature does not share the same roots or objectives as the deliberate heteroglossic practices of the so-called minor literatures which involve a movement of language towards its extremes (Deleuze and Guattari 1986:41). Literary heteroglossia in the context of competing languages, placed side by side or used alternately, can be better understood through theories from fields such as postcolonialism and the sociolinguistic study of multilingual practices. Postcolonial studies, with its emphasis on transnationalism, hybridity and the translating state of culture (see Bhabha 1994) have become a venue for apprehending the aesthetics of polylingualism in literary production. As a corollary of colonization, the displacement and migration of peoples brought about changes that would challenge the notion of a national language and a homogenous culture paving the way for understanding language and culture from the point of view of a transnational experience. According to Bhabha, hybridity, a main characteristic of the postcolonial condition, disrupts the relation between national language and culture, and points to a culture of difference, of displacement of signification, of translation. Postcolonial productions have the subversive capacity to transform a dominant discourse into a terrain for intervention, thus creating new realities and identities in an always mutating cultural construction (1994:112). The authors of The Empire Writes Back (Ashcroft et al. 1989) heralded these new possibilities when they confidently proclaimed the emerging diversity in English literature with the advent of postcolonial literatures written in a great variety of Englishes. By so doing, they ushered in a variety of “minor” literatures in English, in the sense of Deleuze and Guattari, which again seemed to emphasize a Bakhtinian understanding of heteroglossia, that is, languages within the paradigm of a dominant language. They state (ibid.:8): … the distinction between English and english will be used throughout our text as an indication of the various ways in which the language has

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Paul F. Bandia been employed by different linguistic communities in the post-colonial world. … In practice the history of this distinction between English and the various post-colonial englishes in use today has been the claims of a powerful ‘center’ and a multitude of intersecting usages designed as ‘peripheries’. The language of these ‘peripheries’ was shaped by an oppressive discourse of power. Yet they have been the site of some of the most exciting and innovative literatures of the modern world and this has, at least in part, been the result of the energies uncovered by the political tension between the idea of a normative code and a variety of regional usages.

But polylingual practice in postcolonial literature also includes multiple language use, confronting indigenous languages or locally-derived hybrid forms with the dominant colonial language of writing. The subversive character of polylingual writing in the postcolonial context has been discussed by many critics who see in it the creation of a counter-hegemonic discourse to the imperial language. For instance, discussing polylingual practices in some contemporary North African Francophone novels, Samia Mehrez points out that the tendency to bring together different symbolic and often unequal representations of the colonizing and the colonized world calls for a more global or pluralistic reading practice which goes beyond the usual, normative reading of monolingual literature. As she puts it, “so long as the institutions that form the reader have not changed, the works of Francophone North African writers will resist and defy colonial and imperialist monolingualism which continues to believe that it can read the world through its own dominant language” (1992:136-37). Traces of indigenous languages can be found either in the materiality of African Europhone literature or in the deep structure of what might seem on the surface to be a discourse written solely in the colonial language. Literary creativity involves movement between languages and alternating between various codes, an aesthetic which seems to have become a mode of writing, an end in itself, in the quest for authenticity and autonomy. Yet, as pointed out by Chantal Zabus (1991), polylingual writing in African literature, which may be used as a strategy to resist the hegemony implied in homogenous linguistic representations, has to contend with the unequal power relations among languages on the international scene. There is always the danger that traces of indigenous languages may be perceived as mere exotic enhancements which in no way jeopardize the supremacy or dominance of the colonial language. The Martinican writer and critic Édouard Glissant also cautions against what he calls the “particularismes” and the false optimism engendered by peppering a text written in a dominant language with bits of so-called minority languages (1996:21; my translation):

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Subversion comes from creolization (linguistic) and not from creolisms. What people notice in creolization is creolisms, the introduction of Creole words into the French language, making new French words based on Creole words. That is, I believe, the exotic aspect of the issue.15

Glissant speaks of a “chaos-monde” (‘chaos world’) in which the meeting of languages will be a conflicting yet felicitous event, a multilingual aesthetic made possible by the “imaginaires des langues” (ibid.:114). Like Bhabha, Glissant believes in the perpetual mutation and formation of identities and therefore rejects the notion of “créolité” as defined by the authors of Éloge de la créolité, because he sees in it an attempt to create and define a static creole identity. The blind fetishization of language or culture through a polylingual practice of writing may in the long run only serve to reproduce the same forms of hegemony that it is meant to resist. In fact, Mehrez (1992) cites an instance where the innovative multilingual strategies employed by Francophone North African writers were not at all perceived as subversive but rather lauded by French President François Mitterand as a testimony to the universality of the French language. The co-opting of postcolonial multilingual practices for the enhancement of the metropolitan language undermines the significance of the linguistic hybridization of colonial languages as a means of contestation. Moreover, the trend in this process of hybridization points towards a systematic usurping of subaltern languages by an imperial language which becomes revitalized “through a most unreciprocal creolization” (Zabus 1991:183). The French linguist Louis-Jean Calvet used the term “glottophagie” to refer to this devouring of indigenous languages by the dominant colonial language, which underlines the unequal power relations between languages as used in a literature that seeks to ensure accessibility to a monolingual metropolitan reader. Discussing the postcolonial Caribbean context, the authors of Éloge de la créolité (In Praise of Creoleness) proudly extol the virtues of their multilingual heritage (Creole, French, English, Spanish, Portuguese, etc.), but equally point out that the terms of linguistic exchange are unequal and indeed biased in favour of metropolitan norms (Bernabé et al. 1989:44-50). Michael Cronin raises some concerns about the high expectations associated with confronting hegemony with hybrid practices when he states: “The question is whether in the global system a heteroglossic discourse of translation is not 15 La subversion vient de la créolisation (ici, linguistique) et non des créolismes. Ce que les gens retiennent de la créolisation, c’est le créolisme, c’est-à-dire : introduire dans la langue française des mots créoles, fabriquer des mots français nouveaux à partir des mots créoles. Je trouve que c’est le côté exotique de la question.

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being used to evacuate a polyglossic reality of translation so that eventually heteroglossia and hegemony become synonymous – sameness through difference” (2000:120). Nonetheless, accounting for the postcolonial condition in literature has indeed disrupted monolingual writing conventions by emphasizing a multilingual writing practice with far-reaching implications for understanding issues of ideology, identity and power relations in the context of literary and cultural translation.

4. Code-switching and literary stylistics One of the mechanisms of polylingual postcolonial writing is the strategic alternating of languages within the literary text through the sociolinguistic practice of code-switching and code-mixing. This practice is distinct from other multilingual phenomena such as interference, transfer, borrowing and shifts in that the latter can occur in the speech of monolingual speakers while code-switching is rooted in a multilingual existence. In other words, codeswitching is only possible in a context of competing knowledge or command of languages, which of course implies that code-switching is never a neutral act, since it occurs in situations of unequal power relations between languages and of ideologically determined choices in relation to questions of identity, in-group solidarity and national language. By its very definition, code-switching is more amenable to use in understanding polylingual postcolonial writing practice than the Bakhtinian concept of intralingual heterogeneity. Unlike the Bakhtinian approach, which extols diversity within monolingualism, codeswitching takes as its starting point the material presence and coexistence of several languages. While literary critics have so far worked on the basis of the language of the text, sociolinguists consider the alternating of languages not as a normal occurrence but rather as a legitimate discoursal practice. Gumperz highlights this point when he states that “[i]n spite of prevailing stereotypes, existing descriptive and historical information on bilingualism provides little support for the contention that code switching is unusual and either historically transitory or a mere matter of individual preference” (1982:20). Although much of what has been written on code-switching is based on field work – that is, studying its spontaneous occurrence in real life situations – rather than on the study of literary texts, the science of code-switching has the potential to enlighten us on the interventionist writing of postcolonial authors as they attempt to fashion a counter-hegemonic discourse in a predominantly metropolitan idiom. For Bakhtinian critics, code-switching is the mere juxtaposing of languages in a text, and it therefore does not correspond to Bakhtin’s understanding of literary heteroglossia. While it is true that literary

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code-switching is rather calculated, non-spontaneous and often the creation of a particular author, it is also true that some authors seek to emulate the code-switching practices of the linguistic subjects being depicted in fiction and therefore share similar motivations for their use in society, especially in the postcolonial context. So far, in postcolonial translation studies there has been a preference for the study of the more timid interventionist practices of appropriating or decentring the dominant language, but without a clear desire to confront so-called minor languages with the dominant idiom. In spite of the dramatic conclusions regarding the ultimate assertion of the postcolonial subject’s identity, the paramount authority of the dominant metropolitan idiom is still very much alive as the minor language “remainder” (Lecercle 1990) seeks a space within the larger territory of the dominant idiom. Yet postcolonial theorists see deterritorializing the colonial language as a more significant instance of disruption and renewal, while forms of code-switching, or the juxtaposition of various codes within a discourse, is considered more conventional and having very little impact on the integrity of the dominant language. In other words, while deterritorialization, or linguistic hybridization, has the merit of significantly altering the dominant language from within, the juxtaposing of different codes is seen as a normative process which seems to reinforce the boundaries, and inevitably the hierarchy, between languages (see Mehrez 1992; Venuti 1998; Adejunmobi 1998). It can however be argued that code-switching can also challenge the neat separation of languages and the implied hierarchy, emphasizing through its materiality the collaboration between languages. With respect to African Europhone writing, Bandia (1996) points out that although on the surface intrasentential level code-switching is carried out in a rather less intrusive way by conforming to the grammar and syntax of the dominant language, its real impact can be felt in the analysis of the deep structure of meaning, where the use of code-switching foregrounds issues of identity, ideology and unequal power relations. This, of course, is in keeping with the views of sociolinguists who have studied code-switching not just as a purely linguistic phenomenon, but also for its potential to offer insights into social relations within a given linguistic community (Gal 1988). In her study of European-language literature in West Africa, Zabus (1990, 1991) makes the point that, unlike other multilingual manifestations, code-switching plays certain specific cultural roles in a text. For instance, the side-by-side display of indigenous language items and European language ones is an indication of the untransferability of the African logos and resistance to the colonial language which, in spite of its power and influence, cannot wholly account for African sociocultural reality. It is thus forced to remain an alien language, exerting its

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influence but never quite achieving total control, its imperial reach kept in check by the elusive nature of the African logos. Zabus cautions that the tendency to bend the dominant language to express indigenous language aesthetics would imply an unproblematic (or unfettered) transportation of indigenous cultural material into the territory of an alien dominant language. The various devices or techniques by which such cultural material is integrated into the sphere of the dominant language (such as through translation, paraphrase, or contextualization) often require a degree of compromise that might indeed undermine the power of representation of the indigenous languages. While asserting the presence, either materially or spiritually, of indigenous languages, the writing of hybridity may also have the effect of removing indigenous items from their natural space (using them as mere props) and eventually denying them the potential to be the main vehicle for their own literature (see Adejunmobi 1998). Thus, European language hybrid writing can be said to have pulled the rug from under indigenous vernacular writing, as it were. However, codeswitching, or the traces of vernacular languages within the colonial language space, is a call for sharing textual space and a stalwart to linguistic hegemony, or even glottophagia. Although Zabus’ claim (1991:182) that the material presence of other languages vis-à-vis the dominant language of writing is an indication that the latter cannot always account for the cultural connotations of minor languages, it should be pointed out that African Europhone writers do not resort to codeswitching in the vernacular only when the European language of writing is incapable of expressing an indigenous reality. Apart from what some consider to be its aesthetic appeal, code-switching is sometimes used mainly to generate heterogeneity and challenge the authority and universalism of the imperial language, underlining the illusion of its transparency. There is a linguistic relativism here which attempts to seize the initiative from the dominant language while clamouring for the acknowledgment of the intrinsic heterogeneity of the postcolonial world. By creating a discourse whereby different languages or linguistic registers jostle for space, there is a deliberate attempt at a levelling out of languages and a quest for an egalitarian perception of language. However, in the postcolonial context, the gamut of potentially translatable speech is broad and enticing, which highlights the fact that linguistic diversity in a context of unequal encounters cannot be easily resolved by the levelling out of languages. The sociolinguistic study of code-switching has clearly established a link with the political and ideological constraints of alternating languages in the context of unequal power relations. Monica Heller, for instance, discusses the role of code-switching in what she describes as “the politics of language,

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... [i.e.] the way in which language practices are bound up in the creation, exercise, maintenance or change of relations of power” (1995:159). Like other sociolinguists interested in the socio-political significance (or import) of code-switching (see Gal 1988; Woolard 1985), Monica Heller borrows extensively from Pierre Bourdieu’s concept of symbolic capital and the economy of linguistic exchanges. Bourdieu considers linguistic forms as symbolic capital that is unevenly distributed in a market where linguistic practices circulate, interact with one another, and coexist in a hierarchical order. Symbolic domination is therefore implied in the process by which hierarchy is established among linguistic practices. This symbolic domination is a direct correlate of the reproduction of social order (or stratification). Building on Bourdieu’s thought, sociolinguists with an interest in power relations work on the basis of the coexistence of several conflicting sources of symbolic domination. A study of the dynamics of linguistics reveals the presence of acts of resistance against hegemonic linguistic forces as well as the struggle for change within the social order. In the sociolinguistic study of power relations and their potential mutations, code-switching provides an interesting forum in that it involves the manipulation of conventions that govern the link between linguistic attitudes and social organization. According to Heller, “[c]ode-switching becomes available as a resource for the exercise of, or resistance to, power by virtue of its place in the repertoire of the individual speakers, on the one hand, and of its position with respect to other forms of language practices in circulation, on the other” (1995:159). Kathryn Woolard points out that the sociolinguistic study of code-switching has thrown light on the issue of the reproduction of social order by clarifying the significance of factors such as mobility, change and the forces of contradiction. In her view, no hegemonic force can exert its influence on the entire gamut of linguistic behaviours and on all speakers. Linguistic markets are far from homogenous and linguistic forms are not chosen based only on the status symbol they confer upon the speaker. There are other motivating factors such as group membership or group solidarity, for instance, which may incline the speaker to resist the pressure to use the dominant idiom in favour of the minor or dominated language (1985:744): The sociolinguistic distinction between status and solidarity reveals a significant fissure in the monolith of linguistic hegemony and contradictory forces in the apparently integrated linguistic market. Even where there is recognition of the authority of the legitimate language, there can be repudiation of its value on an important contrasting dimension. Competing sets of value exist, creating strong pressure in favour of the ‘illegitimate’ languages in the vernacular market.

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Hence, the study of sociolinguistic power relations reveals that the interests and motivations of groups, as well as communities, may vary. That is why Susan Gal proposes an understanding of the significance of code-switching that goes well beyond its local provenance to include more global considerations of historical or socio-political import. As she puts it (1998:248), Although strategies of language choice are local conventions maintained by local social networks, the evaluation of codes, and even some aspects of the switching strategies, are nevertheless best understood as symbolic responses to a systemic context much wider and historically deeper than the local community and its current role expectations.

In a similar vein, Michael Meeuwis and Jan Bloommaert point out that a full understanding of the social implications of code-switching can only be attained through an appreciation of the phenomenon at the micro- and macrosocial levels and in the interaction between both levels (1994:412). This kind of interaction is particularly enlightening in the case of minority groups for whom code-switching is a normal way of life, and who are constantly aware that in spite of the hybrid code-switched formations, languages are generally conceived as separate entities, which is an interesting fact about code-switchers who, unlike their monolingual counterparts, are generally aware of the existence of other modes of discourse. Code-switching both affirms and challenges the frontiers between languages and can occur both as the result of colonization, or the institution of language hierarchy on the international scene, or simply as an in-group marker of a linguistic community as distinct from others. In instances where there is confrontation between languages and an implied hierarchy, or where, according to Woolard, the linguistic and political economy is subject to ideological concerns, “opposition between linguistic codes is almost always socially and ideologically activated, even as it is challenged” (1998:11). Today, there is an increased use of code-switching in literary texts in an attempt to capture or represent the multilingual or multicultural reality of the postcolonial world. Those literary texts which contain a massive use of code-switching or other forms of heteroglossic expressions often stand out by virtue of their innovative linguistic formalism. Regarding the polylingual practice of code-switching in Chicano literature as a reflection of social reality, Alfred Arteaga (1994:11) argues that The border as discursive and existential fact does something to the interpretation of Chicano writing. It removes the discussion of the styles of linguistic interplay from the realm of the aesthetic alone because the border is a space where English and Spanish compete for presence

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and authority. … Here, verse is born of and sustained on conflict that has real world consequence.

Code-switching as a manifestation of linguistic confrontation, connivance or contradiction in the real world can also be played out in the literary text. Literary theory and criticism can only be grateful to the discipline of sociolinguistics, which has succeeded in establishing a framework for identifying and conceptualizing the linguistic practice of code-switching and polylingualism.

5. Code-switching, translation and resistance Although much has been written about hybridity and polylingualism in postcolonial literature, including code-switching as a writing technique (Omole 1998; Gordon and Williams 1998), translation studies has paid little attention to these current realities, probably because translation has often been conceived as a means of bridging the gap between two distinct, autonomous and homogenous linguistic entities. Yet, as bilingual or multilingual practitioners, translators should know better since translated texts, both pragmatic and literary, often contain forms of code-switched or code-mixed discourses as well as other more nuanced forms of linguistic blends. In fact, these are some of the textual features that are often more easily gleaned in studies that seek to establish the characteristics of the translated text as opposed to the original. The normative practice of translation, whose objective has always been the transparent and unadulterated insertion of an alien text within the discourse of a neatly defined monolithic receptor language culture, has been shown to be a myth. Translations are generally crafted with some foreignizing and some domesticating strategies. There is no such thing as a completely domesticated translation since the target language culture is called upon to be receptive to an alien source culture; and there is no such thing as a completely foreignized translation since, by the very nature of things, the receiving culture marks its presence and determines to what extent it can be intelligibly foreignized. Therefore, translation, by its very nature, is a rich and productive site for understanding the linguistic and socio-cultural practice of code-switching and mixing, as well as the expression of other forms of heteroglossia. Translation theory can therefore contribute a great deal to our understanding of multilingualism or polylingualism in literature. Several postcolonial studies of translation have addressed the issue of power inequalities among languages, and these have in effect raised doubts about the concept of symmetrical reciprocity (Cronin 2000:147) as a moral or ethical obligation of translation. Georges Steiner states that “[t]he enactment

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of reciprocity in order to restore balance is the crux of the métier and morals of translation” (1975:316). This statement, which may be verifiably true in the event of an exchange between symmetrical powers, loses its force in the domain of colonial or postcolonial translation practice, where power relations are decidedly unequal between the dominant metropolitan idiom and the dominated languages of the colonized. Postcolonial studies of translation have shown that inequality is inherent to the postcolonial situation and that this inequality is played out in a symbolic domination which underlies and directs the movement of translation. In other words, translation into the colonized language will tend to impose the colonizer’s culture, while translation into the colonial language will seek to eradicate differences and minimize the specificity or autonomy of local productions (Rafael 1988; Niranjana 1992). Either way, translation expresses itself as an intrinsically hegemonic activity. Niranjana, in particular, takes issue with Steiner’s hermeneutic approach which seems to overlook the hegemonic face of translation (1992:59): Steiner suggests that the faithful translator “creates a condition of significant exchange. The arrows of meaning, of cultural, psychological benefaction, move both ways. There is, ideally, exchange without loss”. I need not reiterate the idea of the futility of such remarks in the colonial context, where the “exchange” is far from equal and the “benefaction” highly dubious, where the asymmetry between languages is perpetuated by imperial rule.

Translation has thus been shown to be both a site for the cultivation and reproduction of hegemonic practices and for enacting resistance to these same practices. Lawrence Venuti (1995) discusses power inequalities in the marginal treatment of minority literatures in Anglo-American culture, explaining how the latter is exported to the rest of the world but remains closed to outside influences by translating very little. This power asymmetry is also discussed by Richard Jacquemond, who points out the disproportionate amount of translation being carried out between the West and the Third World: “Translations from languages of the South represent at best 1 or 2 percent of the translated book market in the North, while in the South 98 or 99 percent of this market is made up of books translated from Northern languages” (1992:139). This imbalance in translation practices between the North and the South, between former colonial powers and their ex-colonies, shows how, in spite of a quest for symmetrical reciprocity, translation remains an area where language hierarchy prevails, as “[t]ranslation theory itself remains hostage to the perceptions and interests of major languages” (Cronin 1995:94). Cronin illustrates this point by drawing parallels between the marginalized treatment of minority languages

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within Europe and such treatment of dominated language cultures in the postcolonial context. Recent theoretical arguments in favour of an enhanced visibility for translators and translation practice (Berman 1984; Venuti 1995) have explored the possibility of polylingual or heteroglossic literary practice as a site for enhancing the visibility of translation. Confronting languages within the same literary discourse calls for a reading practice based loosely on the concept of translation. In other words, there is a back and forth movement between languages in the reading of polylingual literature which mirrors the act of translating. In fact, multilingual or polylingual writing can be said to be a concrete example of the notion of intercultural writing as translation in terms of its materiality, as well as the processes of its reading and comprehension. Ironically, literary heteroglossia or polylingualism highlights the importance of translation by refusing to translate or assimilate vestiges of minority languages into the dominant idiom. Linguistic diversity is thus maintained through a deliberate resistance to translation, or the transfer of a language item to the domain of another language, as pointedly stated by Cronin (2000:95; emphasis in original): It is resistance to translation, not acceptance, that generates translation. If a group of individuals or a people agree to translate themselves into another language, that is if they accept translation unreservedly, then the need for translation soon disappears. For the translated there is no more translation.

It can therefore be surmised that postcolonial polylingual writing practice is a deliberate attempt to resist the hegemony of translation by opposing assimilation to the dominant metropolitan language. The postcolonial subject rejects the totalizing effect of dominant language by refusing to translate himself totally or unreservedly, in other words, by refusing to disappear or to exist only as a translated being, or as the shadow of the métropole. Seen in this light, resistance to translation becomes a means for asserting the plurality of cultures. Translation can thus be conceived as an agent of linguistic diversity and coexistence (Cronin 1998:148-49) rather than a source for erasure or assimilation of subaltern cultures. Code-switching and mixing as practised in African Europhone literature provide ample proof of the need to expand translation theory to include such instances of linguistic and cultural transfer which call for resisting or countering assimilative or hegemonic forces, and thus preserving pluralism – which, after all, is the raison d’être of translation. In a context of power inequalities, alternating codes in creative writing transcends an aesthetic essence or a purely linguistic need to involve deliberate manifestations of subjectivity and identity.

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In dealing with the phenomenon of code-switching and mixing as a writing technique in African European-language literature, it is important to have a broad view of its potential manifestation in discourse, which may not always correspond to a strict linguistic definition of the concept. Although well-formed linguistic types such as tag-switching, intrasentential and intersentential switching are fairly common in Euro-African literature, other forms of language alternation are also used, such as the insertion of whole paragraphs of ‘minor’ languages within a discourse written mainly in the metropolitan idiom. Furthermore, code-switching occurs at the border between a dominant metropolitan language, on the one hand, and a variety of indigenous, or locally-derived hybrid languages on the other. There are hardly any conventions governing the use of code-switching in Euro-African writing; however, there are a few trends that one can only begin to systematize by studying code-switching practices in the African novel. For instance, indigenous words or expressions are used when it appears that no European language word can quite grasp the full range of signification; stock characters are made to speak in their own language when it has a bearing on the general plot of the story; colonially-derived hybrid languages are made to contrast with authentic indigenous languages, or used materially and symbolically as a go-between language straddling the African world and the alien colonial presence; and alternating language also occurs for the sheer artistry and poetics of placing a highly signifying local word in a discourse written in an international idiom. In some ways, it is designed to alert the international readership to the literary aesthetic emanating from the postcolony. From a psychoanalytic standpoint, the practice of code-switching could also reveal a desire to counter the general malaise of using an alien idiom, by reminding the international reader that it is after all the story of a people who have their own tongue that is being told in a colonially-imposed language. The question as to why African writers choose to write in colonial languages rather than in their vernaculars is ever-present at the back of the minds of both African writers and critics (Ngugi 1986), which may explain the need for disrupting and appropriating the colonial language through various forms of linguistic experimentation and innovation. This discomfort or malaise is partly to blame for the schizophrenic or contradictory attitude of someone like Buchi Emecheta, a Nigerian writer living in London. She is known to have stated that her native Ibo language comes naturally to her and that her English translations don’t quite capture the Ibo world view. But then she seems to be proud of the fact that her recent works are placed under the rubric of British literature and not African literature in bookstores because, according to her, living in London for so long has rendered her English less “stilted” than that of writers working out of Africa. This kind of linguistic

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complex, which is more severe in the case of writers gravely affected by what Achebe (2000) has referred to as the consequence of “dispossession”, has something to do with the range of multilingual practices in African Europhone literature. On the one hand, there are those writers who seek to assert Africanness by marking the presence of African languages and vernaculars in their work, and, on the other hand, there are those whose ultimate goal is for their work to blend in with the monolingualism of metropolitan writing. For some writers, sprinkling their European-language text with indigenous words and expressions or local hybrid languages is an attempt to appeal to the local readership for whom some of these linguistic expressions may reflect their particular idiolect or idiosyncratic language use. In spite of the occasional explanations and translations of vernacular sequences for the benefit of the international reader, the Ibo reader of Achebe’s novel, for instance, will no doubt have a more intimate relationship and understanding of the vernacular reality. The same is true on a broader scale for speakers of West African Pidgin English. In some respects therefore there seems to be a desire to address two distinct constituencies, namely the world of vernacular readers and the world of international modes of communication. Multilingual or polylingual writing seems to flourish in current Francophone literature mainly as a result of a more audacious tampering with the French language in society. After decades of vain or unrewarded attempts at pleasing the Académie française, Francophone writers, especially those of the younger generation, are aligning themselves with their public and emulating the linguistic habits of their speech community. The idiom of the postcolony is multilingual and polyphonous, characterized by the plurivocity and the heteronomy of the varied segments of society. Publishing houses, which are mainly located in the metropole, are turning postmodernist heteroglossic practices into a marketable asset, and the phenomenon has proven to be a shot in the arm for the enterprise of literary criticism. In the current climate of globalization, migration and the displacement of peoples and cultures, multilingualism and linguistic polyphony are fast becoming a staple in some quarters of the metropole itself (witness, for example, the littérature beure in France and urban Black English in England). This fast-growing reality can only enhance polylingual practices in society as well as in literature. Code-switching in Euro-African literature generally occurs between the European language and the native vernacular or a locally-derived hybrid language. In the Anglophone context, switching is usually between English and the writer’s native tongue or Pidgin English, while for Francophones codeswitching may involve French and the writer’s native language or some variety of “broken” French or even Pidgin English. In contexts where historically

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there has been some proximity between colonial languages such as French and English, and even German, some hybrid language varieties have evolved parallel to existing pidgin languages. For instance, franglais is a combination of French and English (including traces of local vernaculars) commonly used in parts of West Africa, though on a more limited scale than Pidgin English. It is interesting to note that in spite of its appeal among the educated, franglais has not managed to supplant Pidgin English in Anglophone discourse, but has occasionally done so with the more unstable varieties of popular French. This may be due to the fact that Pidgin English is generally recognized as a stable and autonomous language which is spoken even by Francophones who may not be conversant with English. In other words, it is not unusual to find a smattering of Pidgin English in French-language texts, alongside occurrences of “broken” French or even franglais. As a lingua franca, therefore, Pidgin English cuts across colonial linguistic barriers and is available to the Anglophone as well as the Francophone writer. The same is true for other popular forms of artistic expression, for example in music and in drama. Indeed, in African Europhone literature, code-switching can be conceived as a catch-all term which aptly describes the various multilingual or polylingual writing strategies discussed earlier in this book, including the interpolation of vernacular language items in European-language prose and the sporadic use of hybrid languages such as pidgins and Creoles, broken French, and other hybrid formations that may deviate from metropolitan linguistic norms. The fact of inserting or integrating these various languages or discourse-types in a narrative written mainly in the standard metropolitan idiom allows for a characterization of the postcolonial novel, not only as a polylingual, heteronymous entity, but also as an example of how literature can be written with the full, albeit unequal, participation of different competing languages. With respect to the relationship between code-switching and translation theory, African writers use a variety of strategies to elucidate the meaning of words and expressions drawn from other languages and introduced into their European language work. These strategies, which range from glosses, explanations and paraphrases to implicatures, paratexts and direct translations, are related to the processes and procedures of translation. Their ultimate function is to “translate” or render the meaning of the unfamiliar language for the benefit of the reader. I have referred to these strategies previously as in-text translation, a term coined to reflect a growing preference for more subtle and less intrusive or cumbersome forms of “translations” of meaning (Bandia 1996). In more recent times, postcolonial writers and critics have found paratexts such as footnotes, endnotes or glossaries, which are placed outside the body of the novel, to be aesthetically unappealing and pandering to the exotic

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expectations of the reader, making some novels seem more anthropological, informational, than literary. This growing interest in the use of in-text translation may be linked to a refusal to turn the African novel into a pedagogical or didactic tool for the learning of African culture. There is resistance to serving African culture on a silver platter, as it were, in the dominant colonial language. When one of Achebe’s character’s says, “He is Okonkwo Kpom-kwem, exact, perfect” (Things Fall Apart, 1958:227), the reader then understands that the Ibo expression Kpom-Kwem means ‘exact’ or ‘perfect’. The overall meaning is expressed through a passive or unconscious translation which gives more weight to the lone Ibo term as it takes at least two English words to say roughly the same thing. Achebe throws in the words ‘exact’ and ‘perfect’ as if it was an afterthought, and the implied hesitation between the two words only confirms the difficulty of finding an English term that can adequately translate or capture the full range of meaning of the Ibo expression. The statement would not carry the same weight both stylistically and semantically if Achebe had dropped the Ibo word. Although the non-Ibo reader can grasp the general meaning of the term as it is flanked by its approximate English equivalents, he or she is also summoned to reckon with the multilingualism and the plurivocity of the African Europhone text. Zabus (1991) has rightly remarked that the time has not yet come when African words can be used in European language texts without the need for translation, as is the case with Latin or Greek words. While this is true and highlights the power inequalities between colonized and hegemonic languages, it is also fair to say that in-text translation practices either through relexification (Zabus 1990, 1991) or cushioning (Young 1971, 1973) have helped to dilute the stigmatization of African literature as anthropology or cultural didactics. In the following passage, Ferdinand Oyono (Houseboy, 1966:98) highlights the importance of the vernacular in the colonial context by making the Commandant, the most powerful colonial official, speak in the vernacular and then translate into French for the benefit of his wife, who has considerable disdain for the natives: For them I was “ngovina ya ngal a ves zut bisalak a be metua”. Do you know what that means? Of course you don’t. You never bothered to learn the local language. Well, it means everywhere I go I am now the Commandant whose wife opens her legs in ditches and in cars.16 16

Pour eux, je n’étais plus que ‘Ngovina ya ngal a ves zut bisalak a be metua’! Sais-tu ce que cela veut dire? Bien sûr que non! Tu as toujours méprisé les dialectes indigènes … Eh bien, partout où je passe, je ne suis plus que le Commandant dont la femme écarte les jambes dans les rigoles et dans les voitures (Une vie de boy, 1956:149-50).

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The Commandant’s wife represents the kind of colonist for whom the natives are obviously less than human and are only good as servants. She goes about her illicit affairs with white men in the colony, in complete disregard of the presence of the native servants, who are like mere shadows in her household. Since she denies the natives their humanity, she cannot possibly imagine that the entire village is gossiping about her adulterous affairs. Her disdain for the natives and their language prevents her from knowing what they are saying about her. The Commandant’s acquired bilingualism, the result of an unshakeable devotion to the colonial project, is here contrasted with his wife’s arrogant, imperialist monolingualism. His knowledge of the local vernacular allows him to find out, in a most humiliating way, that he is being cuckolded by his wife. In his rebuke, it is interesting that the Commandant seems equally critical of his wife’s infidelity, her lack of knowledge of the vernacular and a general lack of interest in native affairs. To drive home the point, the Commandant confidently utters the insult levelled at him in the vernacular and then translates it, rather than state it outright to his wife in French. The seriousness of the rebuke is enhanced by the interplay of the vernacular and its French equivalent. The materiality of the vernacular statement conveys the obscenity of Madame’s actions, and this is most likely enhanced by the Commandant’s non-native articulation of the highly graphic native statement. Code-switching thus becomes an effective tool for this kind of colonial satire, as native discourse is placed side-by-side with translations in the metropolitan idiom to dramatize tensions and resistance as played out in the power inequalities of the colonial context. For the purpose of illustration, I would like to take up once more the following excerpt, which is not only an excellent example of code-switching between English and Pidgin English, but also an instance where a whole paragraph is written in the hybrid language, a challenge for the monolingual English reader (Achebe, Arrow of God, 1964:155): ‘Did I not say so?’ he asked the other servants after their master had been removed to hospital. ‘Was it for nothing I refused to follow the policemen? I told them that the Chief Priest of Umuaro is not a soup you can lick in a hurry.’ His voice carried a note of pride. ‘Our master thinks that because he is a white man our medicine cannot touch him.’ He switched over to English for the benefit of Clarke’s steward who came in just then and who did not speak Ibo. ‘I used to tellam say Blackman juju no be something wey man fit take play. But when I tellam na so so laugh im de laugh. When he finish

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laugh he call me John and I say Massa. He say you talk bush talk. I tellam say O-o, one day go be one day. You no see now?’17

This is an elaborate form of code-switching that is neither the intra- nor intersentential switching often discussed by sociolinguists. It could be referred to broadly as a form of intertextual code-switching, whereby an elaborate discourse in one language is followed by a related discourse in another language. From a writing point of view, intertextual code-switching is a deliberate and decisive attempt to undermine the hegemony of the colonial language by opening up a space for discourses in minor languages. It is quite telling that Achebe makes no attempt to “translate” the pidgin discourse into Standard English, placing the burden squarely on the shoulders of the monolingual English reader to decipher this English-based hybrid language. He informs the reader that for the native servant this hybrid language is English, which is the language used to speak to the white man and the non-Ibo. It is likely that Achebe refuses to translate in solidarity with the native who expects any speaker of English to understand him. It must be frustrating for a monolingual speaker to see English words strung together in such an unusual manner, with seemingly familiar grammatical particles used in quite unfamiliar ways. There is an implied sense of pride and elation as the servant switches from Ibo (rendered in Standard English) to what he considers to be English. He is anxious to share with his fellow Africans the wisdom of his people and the strength of their traditional beliefs in the face of an invasive and dominant colonial power. He attributes the colonist’s illness to black magic, which in his opinion the colonist deserves for having been disrespectful towards the Chief Priest of Umuaro. A subtext highlighting the servant’s elation that the white master cannot quite figure out black magic is paralleled in the challenge thrown at the monolingual English reader to decode the pidgin text. In this example, code-switching occurs not as the result of a lack of English equivalents, but as a wilful writing in of the variety of ‘English’ spoken by those Africans who worked in various capacities for the colonial administration. However, there are many instances when pidgin words and expressions are used for lack of an English equivalent, or maybe deliberately for aesthetic effect. Wole Soyinka peppers his text with pidgin words drawn from the culinary vocabulary of some popular West African dishes: akara, jogi, moinmoin, 17 I used to tell him that nobody fools around with black magic. But each time I said so he would simply laugh it off. When he finished laughing he would call out my name “John” and I would answer “Sir”. He would say, “You are talking like a ‘savage’”. Then I would tell him, “Well, some day when you will have first-hand experience of it, you will believe me”. And that day has come. (my translation)

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legi (Aké, 1981:39). These are delicacies made from black-eyed beans which are sold in urban areas in West Africa. Having evolved in such urban settings mainly for the purposes of petty trade (commerce), the terms are rooted in Pidgin, the lingua franca spoken by urban dwellers from various ethnic groups, although they may be lexical hybrids of some ethnic words. Akara, for instance, is said to be a deformation of “Accra”, the capital city of Ghana, where it is believed the delicacy originated. It is interesting to note that the delicacy is known by the same name in the West Indies and in other former African slave communities. Akara, and other such hybrid culinary terms, are diasporic terms known to most communities across the Black diaspora. Their relatively global status may indeed enhance the readability of novels in which these hybrid pidgin terms are used, hence the often limited need for translation. Besides describing an urban gastronomic reality, the terms function as signposts of africanity, inducing local colour in the African novel written in an alien European language. When one of the characters in Soyinka’s novel, Aké, says: “Look how we sleep like munmu” (1981:191), the author is giving voice to the character by allowing him to speak in his own language. The pidgin statement is indeed a clichéd saying, a kind of proverb known to most speakers of West African Pidgin English, who will instantly grasp the implied self-deprecating humour. To “sleep like munmu” is literally to “sleep like a deaf and dumb person” who, according to popular belief, is likely to sleep on for a very long time since he or she is not attuned to the goings-on of his or her environment. Munmu is a pidgin word for ‘deaf and dumb’, an onomatopoeic expression, also used metaphorically to mean ‘stupid’, ‘lazy’, ‘foolish’, ‘dumb’ ‘slow-coach’, and so on. It is obviously not a good thing to say about the ‘hearing impaired’ and the ‘speech-challenged’ in our current climate of political correctness. However, from a literary aesthetic standpoint, the pidgin saying effects humour and disrupts the dominant English prose, avoiding a levelling off of languages and drawing attention to the heteroglossic reality of the postcolony. Similar code-switching practices between standard French and ‘broken French’ occur in Francophone literature, but with significant differences both in terms of their materiality and the underlying ideological motives. As indicated earlier, while Pidgin English has evolved into a relatively stable language, ‘broken French’ has remained rather rudimentary and eclectic, assuming different forms in different social, historical and linguistic contexts. The ‘broken French’ used in novels set in colonial times is significantly different from that spoken in novels dealing with the postcolony. In the early colonial novels ‘broken French’ was used mainly to mimic the basic French of the illiterate natives. Passages in this hybrid language were often meant to ridicule their

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speakers, and may at times be proffered by colonists to poke fun at the natives who were said to speak “français petit-nègre”, a derogatory term indeed. In Oyono’s Une vie de boy, a novel set in colonial times, a colonist makes fun of his native servant by mimicking his ‘broken French’: “Monz’ami, …nous pas buveurs indigenes!” (1956:77) / “Man … We no be native drinkers” (Houseboy, 1966:49); “Petit Joseph pati rôti en enfer” (1956:34) / “Small Joseph go burn in hell” (Houseboy, 1966:22). Because broken French is without structure or grammar, it is easier to imitate than West African Pidgin English, which is why the colonist can get away with his insult. A colonist could not attempt such a mimicry in Pidgin English without running the risk of making a fool of himself. So, the French colonist, in a position of power, and as owner of the language, ridicules the native’s tentative effort to master the language of the new order, a flagrant display of imperial arrogance and linguistic hegemony. This kind of deliberate code-switching by the speaker of the dominant language is equally disruptive, but with the intent to call the reader’s attention to the dominance, universalism and monolingualism of the metropolitan centre. The colonist, who may not be required to learn the language of the natives, is obviously impatient with the native’s poor knowledge of the language of empire, a fact which is reflective of French assimilation policy in the colony. In the second example, the colonist is making fun of the native’s zeal and naïve belief in the Christian faith. Joseph Toundi, the houseboy and main protagonist, is being ridiculed in this cynical reminder of Christian doctrine that sinners will end up in hell where they will burn forever. It is said in broken French, not because Toundi does not understand his master’s language, but because the colonist seeks to emphasize the simplicity or naïveté of the native believer. Ferdinand Oyono disrupts the French text with such hybrid sequences mainly as a satirical depiction of colonial life. Language is viewed as a tool for colonial oppression and dispossession. More modern Francophone novels often contain a more prominent use of non-standard varieties of French, which may vary from popular broken French to what is known as français africain (African French), heavily influenced by indigenous languages and the oral tradition.18 In Mongo Beti’s Trop de soleil tue l’amour (Too Much Sun Kills Love), a novel published in 1999, there are broad intertextual code-switched passages, as the narrative is in standard French and the dialogue, for the most part, in français africain. The difference between the two varieties is not as significant as that between two distinct languages, however for the metropolitan reader code-switching involving passages of français africain can be disruptive and may require a reading-as-translation strategy. 18

A well-known example of this variety of French is Ahmadou Kourouma’s français malinké in the novel Le soleil des indépendances.

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In Trop de soleil tue l’amour, Mongo Beti (1999) incorporates vast segments of English passages, having to do mostly with jazz music, in a novel written in French. It is not clear whether Beti alternates French and English passages in this instance to make a political point, but it is evident that besides displaying nostalgia and knowledge of jazz music, there is an overall aesthetic effect in keeping with the intellectual Francophone’s occasional use of English as a mark of intellectual sophistication. This is even more so in Beti’s home country of Cameroon, the setting of his novel, where French and English are the official languages. Such forays into bilingual language games are fairly commonplace in Cameroon, and it is hardly surprising that Beti would insert so much English material into his French text. Granted that most Francophone jazz lovers would be familiar with these jazz titles and jazz stories in English, yet from a writing standpoint their imposing presence in a French novel contributes to the heteronomy of the text by undercutting the dominance of the French, especially given that most of the characters are made to speak français africain and that one of the sub-themes of the novel is criticism of French neo-colonial influences. Another theme which warrants the use of English is Beti’s subtle comparison of conditions in the African postcolony and the lot of African Americans today, who have turned a hard struggle for survival into a rich and exportable culture such as jazz music. Also, there is always an implied rebuking of French imperialism when a Francophone writer, especially one who has returned home after several decades of exile in France, turns to Anglo-American society and culture for inspiration. Beti is known to have been very critical of French imperialism in Africa,19 and his use of English in this post-exile novel in such a significant way, coupled with a fascination for African American culture, seems to be a deliberate attempt at undermining the dominance and influence of French. Code-switching is therefore an important writing strategy in postcolonial African Europhone literature, made possible by the inherent multilingualism of the African postcolony and driven by the unequal power relations between indigenous languages, hybrid formations and the dominant colonial languages. There is a juggling for position among these languages in a context of diglossia and polylingualism. The reading of code-switched discourse therefore mirrors the procedures of translation, as reading becomes a movement from one language to another, and a decoding of minor languages which, in effect, have been used variously to counter the hegemony of the colonial language as well as to enhance a local aesthetic. 19

See Beti’s essay, La France contre l’Afrique. Retour au Cameroun, Paris : Éditions La Découverte, 1993.

6. Intercultural Writing and Inter-European Language Translation

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1. Interculturality, heteroglossia and inter-European language translation The practice of intercultural writing as translation has serious implications for various discourses of literary and cultural translation, and for interlingual translation theory for that matter. The writing of orality and the practice of literary heteroglossia involved in African Europhone literature makes for a peculiar source text that is uncharacteristically different from most texts translated between relatively close or non-distant languages and cultures. The African Europhone literary text is in many ways a hybrid text, a sort of creolized translation which draws heavily from African oral culture. It is a blend of orality and writing, of African and European language cultures, and of various expressions of transculturality and transnationalism. It is, in short, a generous representation of orature steeped in postcolonial forms of modernity and cosmopolitanism, with a conscious desire to retain and express traces of its Africanity. This hybrid, creolized literature, which has found refuge in an alien colonial tongue, is usually more likely to be translated into another colonial language of wider use than into an indigenous African language. The reasons for this continuous preference for European-language writing or translation have been discussed, but suffice it to say that the enterprise of literary translation in Africa is a mainly European-language affair as, in one way or another, a colonial language is usually involved and translation between indigenous languages is fairly scarce.1 The African writer has chosen to appropriate the European language by infiltrating it through the multiple voices and languages characteristic of the postcolonial condition. The practice of literary heteroglossia then becomes a writing strategy, a means of expressing the complexity and multiple identities that make up the fabric of postcolonial society. Therefore, the issue here for translation is how to capture this myriad of signs and significations in another largely mono-cultural European colonial language. Literary translation has been a long and varied practice in Africa, ranging from representations of oral narratives in pictograms or hieroglyphic scripts to more contemporary expressions in Arabic, local lingua francas, or European 1

It is interesting to note here that even a diehard proponent of vernacular writing such as Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who had a change of mind after a successful career in English-language writing, quickly asserts his right to translate his works in Gikuyu into European languages for a wider readership (wa Thiong’o 1986).

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colonial languages. However, as an established enterprise based on a practice of commercial scriptorium, the translation of African literature took an upward turn in the early decades after independence, when European-based publishers such as Heinemann, Éditions de Seuil and some American publishers took an interest in African literature. Many translations were carried out under the auspices of these publishers, and were destined for a relatively small readership in Africa and others across the world interested in African literature for academic or personal reasons. In Africa, these translations were often read as originals by interested groups in schools, universities and other cultural organizations. The aim of these commercialized translation projects seems to have been to make African literature available in the colonial languages by sharing Europeanlanguage creative works across colonially-imposed linguistic boundaries. It was therefore not unusual for English-speaking Africans to read the works of Francophone writers in English and vice versa, as if they were originals, without the slightest hint of an exercise in reading in translation. For the most part, African literature has been understood, taught and disseminated through translation, which is an unfortunate fact of history – that such an important continent should be understood, even by its own progeny, mainly through a culture of translation. In academia, literature departments lumped originals and translations together, and the translations passed for originals as long as they were in the required language of instruction. It is interesting to note that African governments and public organizations have shown little interest in sponsoring literary translation initiatives, since they have been mostly concerned with the more pressing demands for public service translators. Given this fact, it is not surprising that most translations of African Europhone literature have been carried out by non-Africans living in the colonial metropolis or generally in the West. This attitude was perpetrated by the Western-based publishing firms, who initially took an interest in African literature at a time when fluent European-language bilingualism was rare among Africans as a result of distinct and mutually exclusive colonial practices. For a long time, Africans schooled in two or more European languages were required to meet public service needs in the field of diplomacy and international relations, rather than to become translators. In fact, some Africans had internalized colonial linguistic attitudes, which had led them to be dismissive or even resentful of other colonial language cultures.2 Also, literary translation, particularly between 2

In Cameroon, for instance, officially bilingual in French and English, there is great suspicion and unease between the Francophone and Anglophone communities. Another telling example is the case of the famous Nigerian musician, Fela Ransom Kuti, who during a concert show in Montreal refused to address his Québécois audience in French and declared, “One colonial language is enough for me”.

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colonial languages, had not yet attained the status of viable commercial scriptoria. There might further have been a preference in these publishing houses for so-called native speaker translators, which raises the issue of who is better qualified to translate African European-language literature: Is it the Westerneducated African writing in what is for some a second language, but who is intimately familiar with the logos of African culture? Or should it be a native European translator for whom the colonial language is a mother tongue, but who may not be able to internalize the deep structures of African sociocultural reality? It is rather ironic that in the early days translation activity in Africa was mainly between indigenous languages and foreign or colonial languages (as practised in anthropology, religion and trade), whereas in more recent times African translation practice has been largely between alien European languages, and in some cases has involved locally-derived lingua francas. Foreign language activity, either by way of creative writing or translation, has had a negative impact on indigenous language use in Africa. In fact, some Africanists are concerned about the fact that foreign language use has greatly diminished the chances of indigenous languages as a medium of art, literature and cultural expression. These seemingly anecdotal facts are not meant as a digression from our main concern, which is to theorize African literary translation practice, but rather to provide a context for understanding the “translation horizon” (Berman 1995) and how it relates to the “translation project” (ibid.) involved in African Europhone literature. Given the tendency to read published translations as originals, the colonial language of writing seems to serve as a mere conduit for an indigenous literature with its own content and modes of expression. These properties are assumed to remain the same regardless of the European language being used. Hence translation of this literature could be viewed as a mere instance of cultural transfer between alien colonial languages. It would seem therefore that in such a translation pragmatic considerations about language have priority over purely linguistic ones, and the translator’s ability to grasp and transmit the author’s communicative intent precedes his or her ability to transpose the author’s linguistic competence in the target language. Yet, the translation of African Europhone literature is not such a simple and straightforward matter of shifting content from one European language into another, or pouring old wine in new skin, so to speak. The translation of African literature is about expressing African thought and sociocultural reality, as gleaned from the oral tradition in many instances, in an alien European language, and reconciling the African world view and European modes of expression. It is an intercultural translation activity whereby issues of transculturality and transnationalism are explored in the light of literary transfer between remote languages and

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cultures, with the added dimension of the ideological ramifications of expressing the literature of a minoritized community in the language of a dominant majoritarian culture. The translation of African Europhone literature is a form of rewriting accomplished through a process of double transposition. Given its empirical nature, immersed as it is in various manifestations of transculturality, orature and linguistic hybridity, the Euro-African text is itself a ‘translated’ discourse, which can only be carried into another language through a complex creative process tantamount to re-translating a translated text. The practice of African colonial language writing changes the terms of translation insofar as it complicates or disrupts the symbiotic relationship between the original and the translation. The colonial language text is not an original in the classic sense of a stable monolithic entity from one language culture to be transposed in predictable ways to another homogenous language culture. Given their historical legacy in Africa and their specific linguistic genius, colonial languages do not apprehend African sociocultural reality or logos in the same manner.3 Colonial language writing challenges the assumption that it is generally easier to translate between genetically and historically related languages such as English and French, as the colonial language text introduces a cultural variable which is native to Africa and alien to both colonial languages of writing and translation. It is tempting to assume that inter-European language translation of African literature is a mere transfer of African reality from one colonial language into another. Nothing can be further from the truth. European colonial languages have historically grappled with the cultural and historical representations of Africanness in various ways, in different epocs. Such representations have at times been domesticating or foreignizing depending on the changing cultural trends and tastes in the colonial métropole. This may explain, in part, the British fascination with exotic and foreignizing African English writing and the French preference for an assimilative discourse through a domesticated expression of Africanity in the French language.4 Inter-European language translation is therefore a complex process of colonial language rewriting, manipulation and translation (cf. Hermans 1985; Lefevere 1992). As stated earlier, pragmatic considerations about language have priority over purely linguistic ones in the translation of African postcolonial literature. There is a delicate balance here between communicative and linguistic competencies, which places emphasis on the translator’s ability to grasp and transmit the author’s broad communicative intent as expressed in his or her style of intercultural writing. African postcolonial translation deals with the 3 4

See discussions in Chapter 2 on these differences due to disparate colonial policies. See discussion in Chapter 2.

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tenuous and incongruous relationship between African thought (as expressed in African oral tradition) and its European language of expression. It explores the linguistic attitudes that govern this kind of intercultural translation activity, navigating the middle passage between the literature of the “colonized” and the language of the “colonizer” (Calvet 1979).

2. Towards a postcolonial translation theory for African literature Early discussions of European-language translations in Africa were mostly about the works of Western anthropologists, linguists, administrators and missionaries who sought to translate the African world view steeped in oral tradition into a Western language culture. The results were mainly domesticating translations, often exoticized particularly through the use of heavy paratextual material for the consumption of Western audiences. It was also believed that the translation of African oral narratives would provide some insight into local cultures and thus facilitate efforts towards colonial governmentality. Several studies have attempted to deconstruct, or expose, the imperialist subtexts of such ethnographic translation theories and practices (Rafael 1988; Asad 1986; Niranjana 1992). In more recent times, African oral narratives have been captured in writing either as direct translations of complete oral pieces such as elegies, panegyrics or folktales, or as selective translations or creative renditions interwoven within some fictional works in European languages. As pointed out in the previous chapters, this creative writing of orality, which may or may not be deliberate for some writers, is generally the result of aesthetic and linguistic considerations that are neither conscious nor calculated, achieved through a process of reciprocal translation, of a back and forth movement between the writer’s oral culture and the adopted colonial language. The creative writing of orality in fiction is an attempt by writers on the periphery to deal with issues of distance and decentring from the global literary space, by devising a distinctive language through the practice of selftranslation, as well as a form of dual translation or the merger of two disparate language cultures. Indeed, several parallels can be drawn between postcolonial intercultural writing and translation.5 They both involve movement from one language culture into another, except that in postcolonial intercultural writing 5

Postcolonial intercultural writing can be likened to translation in terms of the aesthetic and creative processes involved in the representation of otherness in the colonial language. Many African writers have evoked the concept of translation, both metaphorically and linguistically, in describing their efforts in fictionalizing African reality for the global marketplace.

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translation is understood in a metaphorical sense of displacement or movement from one’s context of origin into an alien, imposed sphere. In other words, while interlingual translation usually involves importing foreign elements into one’s own domesticating culture, intercultural writing as translation is often a movement in the opposite direction, an inverse movement of representation of the Self in the language of the Other. It is a movement of resistance, of displacement or transportation, and of migration, as African sociocultural reality is pulled out of its familiar surroundings and thrust into an alien, and historically hostile, environment. It is a movement of deterritorialization, which, in turn, triggers a reterritorialization of language, a contextualization of culture, and calls on various strategies of acculturation and appropriation. In other words, intercultural writing as translation is the attempt to recreate in a dominant colonizing language the life-world of the colonized. This understanding of postcolonial intercultural writing is indeed the crux of the matter in translation criticism of African Europhone literature. Attempts at theorizing African literary translation practice have been few and far between. Chantal Zabus (1991) studies the process of indigenizing European languages in African literature, a process which she refers to as “relexification” rather than translation as there is no obvious concrete or physical original. Zabus’ study takes the view, which has been around since the late 1960s, that African European language writing is indeed translation since many African authors seek to express African reality in their acquired second language. The authors, for the most part, are believed to merely reproduce the grammatical and syntactic patterns of their native vernacular in a colonial language reshaped to capture an essentially African world view. While this may hold true for writers such as the semi-literate Amos Tutuola or the idiosyncratic language innovators such as Gabriel Okara and Ahmadou Kourouma, who admit to translating or writing their vernacular into the colonial language, the view cannot be applied wholesale to African fiction writing which has evolved over many decades and has earned its own lettre de noblesse as an authentic art form, taking its rightful place among world literatures. Writing in a second language does not always imply translating, especially for those African writers who are fairly bilingual (or in some cases multilingual) and are conversant with both African and European language cultures. Though a good and thorough paralinguistic account of indigenous influences on African European language writing, Zabus’ study is mainly descriptive and is not informed by current translation theory. Writing in an acquired or imposed second language does not always imply translation or transcoding, although traces of indigenous language culture can be discerned in the European-language text. It is interesting to note that these indigenous

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influences are usually ascertained as a result of their incongruence in the colonial language text, given that they often stand out as “remainders” (Lecercle 1990) or visible traces of the source language culture in a creative process of writing as translation. Their visibility is often directly proportional to the degree of “abusive translation” (Lewis 1985, cited in Venuti 2004:257) practised in capturing African vocabulary within the European idiom. Kwame Anthony Appiah advocates the notion of “thick translation” for translating African literature. He thus proposes the use of heavy paratextual material which may prove indispensable to explaining African thought and sociocultural reality to the world. Discussing the translation of African proverbs through the Gricean maxims, Appiah points out that proverbs and sayings are utterances whose connotative meanings may extend well beyond their denotative meanings, and which are extremely context-bound. Appiah views translation as a mainly pedagogical exercise in which “thick translation” is a means of enhancing the understanding of African oral tradition and literature. In his view, “thick translation”, which “seeks with its annotations and its accompanying glosses to locate the text in a rich cultural and linguistic context, is eminently worth doing” (1993:817). Although meaningful for some opaque proverbs and aphorisms, Appiah’s “thick translation” approach seems to be in line with orientalist anthropological practices which often seek to turn so-called primitive cultures into exotic artefacts for Western consumption. His approach is rendered somewhat obsolete by today’s postcolonial writers (or translators) who view annotations, prefatory material and other forms of paratexts as unnecessary for an accessible reading of African literature. These writers inscribe paratexts within colonialist hermeneutics, and instead prefer a more subtle form of explanation or elucidation through writing, between the lines as it were, in a manner that is less obtrusive and less likely to undermine the assertion of African identity within their texts. Furthermore, heavy paratextual material may undermine the artistry and aesthetics of the creative work by drawing attention away from the story line and directing it at sociological, anthropological or historical details, thus interrupting the smooth flow, or reading experience, of the text and minimizing its literary aesthetic quality. Over a decade ago, I attempted to theorize the translation of African European language literature as a “two-tier approach to intercultural translation” involving a “primary level” in which the African writer transposes his thoughts, which come more naturally to him in his vernacular African language (i.e., the oral narrative) into an alien European language; and the “secondary level” where the translator transfers “the African thought from one European language to another” (Bandia 1993:61). Since then I have emphasized the point that the “primary level”, which I refer to as initial or foundational translation, as it

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establishes the African literary text through a process of writing as translation, is not always a simple and straightforward transposition of African sociocultural material into the colonial European language. For one thing, African writers are not always translating when they write in their adopted European language. It is important to reiterate here that for many postcolonial writers the European language is not considered a second language as far as writing is concerned, for it is often the first and main language of writing they know. They may have an excellent command of their ancestral language, but may have had formal education mainly, if not only, in the European language, which then becomes the language in which creative writing comes naturally to them. Therefore, the visibility of indigenous language artefacts within the surface construction of colonial language writing is not so much the consequence of writing in a second language as it is the result of negotiating the distance between the African and the European language cultures. In other words, the primary level of translation is predicated upon the incommensurability of language and culture between the postcolony and the métropole. In this context, the African writers assume a translational position (Berman 1995) that is highly determined by their transcultural posturing or hybrid identity, effectively making them what Pascale Casanova calls “translated men” (2004:257). Given this ambivalent identity, the reasoning that because they are writing in a second language and therefore must be translating is flawed. African writers, like most authors of minority literatures, are faced in one form or another with, sometimes inevitable, questions of translation. As postcolonial writers, “they are caught in a dramatic structural contradiction that forces them to choose between translation into a literary language that cuts them off from their compatriots, but that gives them literary existence, and retreat into a small language that condemns them to invisibility or else to a purely national literary existence” (Casanova 2004:257).6 This tension forces the African European-language writer to resort to various forms of aesthetic and linguistic solutions, including creative strategic translating as a way of reconciling global literary imperatives and national obligations. Like any other artist, they may resort to specific language practices designed to sustain the Africanness of their work. It is these specific language practices that I refer to as instances of intercultural writing as translation. These practices are often drawn from or inspired by similar practices in African oral narratives. Therefore, at the ‘secondary level’ of translation, i.e. the inter-European language translation of postcolonial Europhone literature, one is indirectly dealing with the source vernacular language and culture. At this level, the 6

I would say condemned to an ethno-literary existence, as most African nations are known to be composed of many ethnic groups, with their own languages.

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source European-language text will inevitably contain instances of interculturality or translated vernacular that will be “thrice removed from reality” in the target European language, as it will be that much farther from the initial source, that is, the African oral narrative. I therefore proposed a source-text oriented approach to translating Euro-African literature, taking into account the form and content of the underlying oral narrative embedded within the deep structure of the original. The approach “is not a literal translation per se, but translation written at the level of the source-text culture, in order to ensure that both the translator and the reader are receiving the message at the level of the source-text culture” (1993:58). However, further research into the secondary level dealing with inter-European language translation seems to point to a more nuanced or complex translation process that is neither entirely source-oriented nor entirely target-oriented (as will be shown in this study). Moredewun Adejunmobi (1998) takes issue with my intercultural translation approach and with Zabus’ “relexification” theory, which he describes as “compositional translation”, that is, ultimately a translation based on an “imaginary” original with no physical source document. Adejunmobi’s main concern is the possible undermining of vernacular language literature. In his view, the characterization of African European-language writing as translation allows the author to create the illusion of the authenticity of the original by positioning themselves as translators or mere “mediators”, thus abdicating responsibility for their authorship in order to evade criticism by advocates of vernacular language writing. Adejunmobi believes that there is a risk here that the writer might be seen as a real translator, and the imaginary source text as a real text. The issue, he cautions, is that this view of writing as translation “diverts attention from the real impediments to publishing literature in languages like Ijo or Malinke” (ibid.:169). Notwithstanding Adejunmobi’s criticism, recent developments in postcolonial translation theory have, in one way or another, borne out my initial musings on intercultural writing as translation by highlighting the way in which postcolonial literature “so often co-opts one language to perform the job of others” (Fraser 2000:40). The groundbreaking collection of essays on postcolonialism and translation edited by Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi (1999) has shown how “translation is an inevitable aspect of all writing that stems from multicultural and multilingual communities” (Fraser 2000:40). Regarding the Indian novel in English, Maria Tymoczko has pointed out that translation of some kind is involved at almost every level. She argues that “the act of writing in English is not ‘merely’ one of translation of an Indian text into the English language, but a quest for a space which is created by translation and assimilation and hence transforms all three – the Indian text,

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context and the English language” (1999a:42). It can be inferred from these statements that postcolonial writing often involves a fair amount of translating either from a real or imaginary source language culture. Prominent among works that deal with discourses about postcolonial translations are Eric Cheyfitz’ The Poetics of Imperialism (1991), Tesjawini Niranjana’s Siting Translation (1992) and Vicente Rafael’s Contracting Colonialism (1988). Postcolonial translation theorists often assign a metaphorical meaning to the term translation, which they view in terms of power differentials between the colonized and the colonizer. Cheyfitz, for instance, understands translation as a metaphor for historical conquest, domination and subjugation of peoples, their cultures and languages from the Greco-Roman Antiquity until current times. Niranjana’s study of ethnography and translation views the latter as essentially imperialistic and colonizing, and thus argues for a transformative practice, or “retranslation” of colonized peoples’ texts (from the perspective of the colonial subject) as a decolonizing strategy. For Rafael, conversion and conquest go together, that is, conversion into Christianity and the Spanish colonization of the Philippines. Rafael explores the role of translation in this process and celebrates the resulting hybridity as a factor which generates diversity and creativity (the mixture of Tagalog and Spanish and American culture in the modern Philippines). These works and many others (see Jacquemond 1992; Mehrez 1992; Bhabha 1994; Asad 1986; Simon and St-Pierre 2000; Bassnett and Trivedi 1999; Tymoczko 1999a, 1999b) have laid the foundation of postcolonial translation theory, and the celebration of hybridity as a postcolonial condition accounts more fully for the current state of affairs. There has been a shift from the tendency to glorify pre-colonial geographies and cultures, hence vilifying the colonial enterprise, to accepting the postcolonial condition and dealing with its richness and plurality of cultures which increasingly characterize today’s world. The acceptance and celebration of hybridity as a vital component of the postcolonial condition opens up new avenues for exploring postcolonial translation theory without getting bogged down in the age-old dichotomies or binary oppositions that have characterized translation theory for so long. Postcolonial translation theory is therefore gradually moving away from early attempts to harness foreignism or radical literalism for a dissident or counterhegemonic translation practice. Even attempts at co-opting the hybridized middle grounds within foreignist practices (see Venuti 1995) only serve to blur the issue and do not take postcolonial translation theory beyond the current impass of foreignizing versus domesticating translation. Samia Mehrez’s (1992) essay “Translation and the Postcolonial Experience: The Francophone North African text” is one of the first articles to cast

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postcolonial translation theory in terms of cultural and linguistic hybridity. Mehrez discusses the impact of linguistic hybridity (common in postcolonial situations) on traditional translation theory, which is based on a notion of equivalence dependent upon a clear distinction between source and target language. Hybridity raises questions about the very notion of a “foreign text” or the original, and its implied status as the starting point of a translation. It also draws attention to the relationship between the original and its translation, raising questions about the extent to which the translation is governed by the original. Other issues are similarly put to the test, such as the implied hierarchy between languages and the translation of what is essentially a linguistically multi-layered or translated source text into another language. My attempts at theorizing African postcolonial translation are therefore informed by the concept of hybridity, the creation of an in-between language culture, which indeed reflects the real condition of the African postcolonial writer as a translated subject (Casanova 2004). In today’s postcolonial context, the African writer has managed to transcend the unrealistic demands of having to choose between the colonizer’s language and his native vernacular. The writer has chosen to forge a language which allows him or her to use both language systems at once, thus doing away with colonial norms of expression and subverting the implied language hierarchies. This approach to studying postcolonial translations is particularly pertinent in today’s world, where constant relocation, displacement and migration have rendered cultural boundaries obsolete, creating hybrid identities and border cultures. A discursive space has been created in which the text exists as a polymorphous, shifting and nomadic entity, and the text can no longer be viewed as a monolithic entity with an historically, linguistically or empirically stable identity. Rather than dwelling on fixed dichotomies based on neat, monolithic categorization of origin and target, translation theory should recognize hybridity as an active site of cultural production. The quest for a ‘new’ postcolonial identity (hence the hybridity) has been variously referred to as “provincializing the West” (Chakrabarty 1992) and “moving the centre” (Ngugi wa Thiong’o 1993). In both cases the purpose is to break down the hierarchy between centre and periphery, unity and diversity (Robinson 1997a:21), as well as between the dominant language and a pluralized language. Thus the hybrid middle ground emerges as a site of negotiation (Bhabha 1994), a site of hybrid identities and linguistic creolization, which is read by most postcolonial critics as a positive comment on crosscultural enrichment. The significance of the hybrid or métissé text can be measured in the following comment by Mehrez (1992:121-22):

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Paul F. Bandia It was crucial for the postcolonial text to challenge both its own indigenous, conventional models as well as the dominant structures and institutions of the colonizer in a newly forged language that would accomplish this double movement. Indeed, the ultimate goal of such literature was to subvert hierarchies by bringing together the ‘dominant’ and the ‘underdeveloped’, by exploding and confounding different symbolic worlds and separate systems of signification in order to create a mutual interdependence and intersignification”.

We are therefore in the presence of cultural productions, or texts, featuring intertextuality as a “deliberate, built-in feature of the aesthetic effect” (Jameson 1991:20). Postmodernism, postcolonialism and cultural studies have laid the groundwork for a new approach to critical understanding in our globalized world, where identities are articulated across hyphens, transitions or in-between passages rather than firmly located in any one culture, language or place. African postcolonial writing is a prime example of expressions of transnationalism and interculturality, which clearly fits Kafka’s definition of a minority/minor literature and its revolutionary condition. The African text is characterized by a kind of formal experimentation which challenges dominant standards of language, poetics and culture by introducing new formal resources and paradigms into the dominant receptor culture. Formal experimentation amounts to the creation of what Deleuze calls “linguistic Third World zones” (1986:27), which in the African context constitutes a “minor literature”, that is, a “literature which a minority constructs with a major language” (ibid.:16). For Deleuze, the term “minor” refers to the revolutionary conditions for every literature, even (and especially) in the midst of a great or established literature. Formal experimentation, expressed in terms of linguistic innovations and transcultural practices in Euro-African literature, is a site for understanding issues of transnationalism and interculturality in the current context of globalization. Translation by its very nature deals with plurality and heterogeneity. An investigation of the hybrid or intercultural discourse of postcolonial fiction can indeed take our understanding of translation phenomena beyond the normative prescriptions of traditional translation theory.

3. From orature to writing: Accented translation between colonial languages The translation of orally-based texts – particularly that between, or across, two discrete, or distant language cultures – is a double transposition process:

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from one language to another, on the one hand, and from an oral to a written discourse on the other. The former can be termed a movement of transculturality and the latter a movement of intermediality. This double movement intersects and is confounded in the preservation of orality in writing in an act of translation. The language of African oral tradition, as in most oral cultures, is characteristically different from everyday language, though traces of this traditional discourse can be found in the colonial language and its derivatives co-existing within the postcolony. The sublimely artistic nature of the African oral narrative often requires a highly stylized language for its expression. In order to have a better understanding of the difficulty of translating orally-based cultures, it is necessary as a first step to comprehend the process of transposing an oral “text” into a written one. There are obviously fundamental differences between spoken and written language. This topic has been widely discussed by scholars of discourse analysis and others. Suffice it to say that transposing orality into writing quite often implies a loss of some oral characteristics of the ‘text’ that are not easily represented in writing. Usually an oral production contains non-linguistic elements such as tone of voice, rhythm, music, gestures and facial expressions, which become important as the audience can actually capture the effect of these elements in a performance situation. Even silence can at times play a significant role in an oral performance. According to Gaston Canu (cited in Jean-Derive 1975:41; my translation), these are all factors that are difficult to capture in a written text: Oral literature is by definition a ‘spoken’ and not a ‘written’ literature. The transcription of oral texts in French or in the vernacular is therefore a true betrayal as the tone, the gestures, the look, and even the silences are all part and parcel of the oral style. How could they be rendered with a pen?7

Explanatory footnotes may be helpful at times but they may be so many and cumbersome that the reader would have to search his or her way through them, and this often results in undermining the consistency of the text and interrupting the reading experience. Given the difficulties involved in the translation of oral literature (Scheub 1971), any written version of an oral piece is at best an approximation of the original because of the simple fact that what actually occurs is a displacement 7 “La littérature orale, par définition, est une littérature ‘parlée’ et non écrite. La transcription des textes oraux, tant en français qu’en langue vernaculaire, est donc une véritable trahison car le ton, le geste, le regard et même les silences sont partie intégrante du style oratoire. Comment pourrait-on les rendre par la plume?” (in Jean Derive, 1975, p. 41).

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from one art form (orature) to another (literature).Yet, there is an urgent need to preserve the oral traditions of the world, which are fast declining before the onslaught of globalization, and which are the only remaining testimonies to the rich cultures of many pre-industrialized societies. One of the ways of ensuring the survival of these oral cultures has been through writing, in spite of the medium’s shortcomings – for example, the fact that colonial writing systems are often alien to the oral traditions. Regarding the African oral tradition, Geneviève Calame-Griaule sums up the situation with these few words of encouragement (1963:74; my translation): The expressive value of the African vocabulary poses a real challenge for translation. Moreover, the symbolic nature of the texts, the role played by allusions and enigmatic expressions, render these texts opaque and rather inaccessible for a Western audience and call for extensive paratextual commentary…. The best translation and the best commentary will never be able to convey the truly “oral” qualities of the text and the ‘personality’ of the narrative or of the poet, that come across so naturally when recited. However, these difficulties are inherent to the translation process, in varying degrees, and have never prevented anyone from trying to convey the literary qualities of one language into another. As far as African literature is concerned, we believe it deserves at least a try.8

This is precisely what some African writers have tried to achieve as they weave features of African orature into European language fiction. These writers partially assume the role of master storytellers, or griots, as they attempt to translate, or reproduce, the narrative style and linguistic features of their respective oral narratives within fictional writing in the colonial language. In this regard, Chinua Achebe’s success in capturing the style and flavour of the Ibo orature in English has been particularly exemplary. The stakes are thus set high for the translator who wishes to convey the African writer’s artistry in an alien European language. 8

“La valeur expressive du vocabulaire africain pose de graves problèmes de traduction. Plus encore le caractère symbolique des textes, le rôle que jouent l’allusion et l’expression énigmatique, les empêchent d’être directement transmissibles à un public occidental et obligent à tout un appareil de commentaires . . . . Enfin la meilleure traduction et le meilleur commentaire ne pourront jamais rendre les qualités proprement “orales” des textes, celles que leur confère, le temps d’une récitation, la personnalité du contenu ou du poète. Cependant, ces difficultés sont celles de toute traduction, à des degrés divers, et elles n’ont jamais empêché personne d’essayer de faire passer les valeurs littéraires d’une langue dans une autre. En ce qui concerne la littérature africaine, on nous permettra de dire qu’elle mérite au moins la tentative” (Calame-Griaule 1963:74).

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A look at specific instances of inter-European language translations of traces of African traditional discourse in fiction can provide an insight into the significance of translation for postcolonial writing. These ‘traces’ of orature drawn from postcolonial novels do not only confirm the indebtedness of postcolonial fiction to indigenous narrative practices, but also illustrate the complexity of forms of representation of Otherness in alien universalizing language cultures. In isolating oral narrative influences in Euro-African fiction it is important to note that reproductions of orature are often the stylized written discourse of the African writer, whose poetic licence may lead to a subjective or idiosyncratic ‘distortion’ of the oral narrative. Therefore, just as no two renditions of an oral ‘text’ in performance are the same, so do stylized representations of orality vary from one writer to another. Also, the writing of orality may vary in terms of each writer’s ability or desire to bridge the gulf between African and European language cultures. In other words, some writers may choose to foreignize or domesticate (through assimilation) aspects of oral tradition in European language texts. Although these choices may depend on other factors such as the writer’s degree of intimacy with the colonial language as well as some considerations related to readability and marketability, it is generally agreed that problems of translation vary proportionately with the distance between the participating language cultures. Hence, translation between non-related heterogenous language systems, such as between African and European language cultures, is more likely to involve a higher decisionmaking process, requiring a more interventionist role for the translator, than translation between relatively homogenous ones.

4. Tripartite or three-tier approach What makes the translation of African literature between two colonial languages different from the usual practice of interlingual translation is the fact that the translation of African literature necessarily involves two levels or stages of crosscultural interpretation. It should be remembered that, in terms of the influence of oral narratives, the postcolonial text is the result of a double transposition process, reconciling distant or alien language cultures on the one hand, and negotiating the passage from orality to writing on the other. The postcolonial text is therefore culturally and linguistically multilayered, a specimen of hybridity resulting from a double movement of transculturality and intermediality. These characteristics call for an inter-European language translation process which is tripartite or three-tiered in that the translation follows a trajectory that begins in effect with the decipherment of the indigenous orature or the writer’s metatext of culture (cf. Tymoczko 1999), then continues

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through a crosscultural analysis of the representation of Africanness in the author’s European language of writing, and finally the representation of the postcolonial text in another colonial language. Given this trajectory, it becomes clear that inter-European language translation of postcolonial literature is not a mere carry over of content or a mindless substitution of colonial languages. Indeed, as a first step, the postcolonial translator is called upon to journey with the writer through the labyrinth of orature that informs his writing, through the strategies of representation of Otherness, and subsequently part ways with the writer in order to recreate in another colonial language those instances of orality and postcoloniality that are fundamental to the Europhone text. As mentioned earlier, for historical reasons as well as for reasons related to linguistic genus, colonial languages have tended to understand African sociocultural reality in fundamentally different ways, and this fact is brought to bear on colonial language translations. The entire process involved in African postcolonial translation can be sketched as follows: The initial translation phase (cross-cultural interpretation 1): Orature + postcoloniality (postcolonial experience) → European L1 = Europhone literature/postcolonial text (i.e., Postcolonial translator’s decipherment of African writer’s orature or metatext of culture + representation (or translation) in the writer’s European language of writing) Secondary translation phase (cross-cultural interpretation 2): Europhone literature/postcolonial text → European L2 (i.e., African European language fiction translated into a second European (or colonial) language. The European L1 then becomes the source language and European L2 becomes the target language into which the African writer’s fictional manipulation of orature and his or her (post)colonial experience are translated. Tripartite or three-tier translation process: O/P → El + O/P → E2 + O/P (Orature + Postcoloniality → European L1 + Orature/postcoloniality → European L2 + Orature/Postoloniality)

As can be seen in this graphic representation of the tripartite process of African European language translation, the writer’s oral artistry or orature and (post)colonial experience are a constant in this transfer process between colonial languages. However, far from being a direct or straightforward transfer, each translating colonial language attempts to grasp the blend of orature and

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postcoloniality from the source, that is, in terms of the indigenous or native experience and how this experience is played out within specific colonial histories.

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4.1 Initial translation or the orality/writing interface In many respects the initial translation phase of African postcolonial translation practice is grounded in the intercultural writing practice discussed in the previous chapter. The translator of African Europhone literature is at once the double of the African writer and his or her translator. The postcolonial translator’s horizon is determined by what can be described as the African writer-translator’s project as circumscribed by the interface between orality and writing or the representation of orality and the postcolonial experience in the colonial language. At this stage, the postcolonial translator seeks to impersonate the writer in order to gain a good grasp of the initial meta-culture. The initial translation phase deals with the writer’s representation of African thought in his or her European language of writing. It is a complex translation process as the author has to pass from an oral medium into a written one and from one language and culture into another that is remote, alien or non-related. In his role as ‘translator’, the writer is a cultural agent whose ability to represent African thought in his work depends largely on the degree to which he is familiar with the oral art of his people, and his degree of intimacy with the European language. The translation or representation of aspects of orality is the writer’s own ‘distortion’ of the oral narrative, since what he expresses in his European language of writing is highly determined by his degree of bilingualism and biculturalism. Besides the general difficulty of recording an orally-based text in writing, the African author’s “life-world” (Gadamer 1976) (as a bilingual or bicultural individual) affects his interpretation of the African reality. The postcolonial translator has to be alive to the writer’s bi-linguality and bi-culturality, which in effect account for the hybridity of postcolonial discourse. We have seen in the previous chapter that African writers borrow heavily from their oral traditions and in some instances translate aspects of the oral narrative literally into their European language of writing. In order to retain the essence of the African oral tradition as much as possible, they resort to translation techniques such as transliteration, calque, transposition, transfer or translation shifts. In order to preserve the African character of the discourse there is hardly any adaptation or search for target-culture equivalents. It is essential to preserve the sense of difference of the source-language culture so as to create an appropriate universe in the translation or hybrid postcolonial text.

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As mentioned before, the sociocultural and linguistic influences of African oral tradition on the African writer’s European language of writing can be viewed as a means of Africanizing European languages through translation. It is the kind of translation whereby sociocultural aspects of the source language are carried over without regard for target language norms. However, what makes this writing-as-translation practice unusual is the fact that the writer-translator is working from his mother-tongue into his second language. As a native speaker of the source language, he is less likely to activate scenes that deviate from those activated by native speakers of the source language (Snell-Hornby 1988:81). Therefore, apart from the author’s desire to retain the Africanness of the source language culture, the target language stands a very good chance of being Africanized by virtue of the fact that the writertranslator may choose to impose his African vernacular upon the European language of writing. His “life-world” can only be captured in a European language adjusted to accommodate his sociocultural experience. This fact is of prime importance to colonial language translators who may not share the author’s postcolonial experience or have non-mediated access to the author’s native source culture, and are thus likely to miss out on the author’s deliberate adjusting or manipulation of the colonial language. Since the 1980s, most approaches to translation have adopted an orientation towards cultural rather than linguistic transfer, and have viewed translation as an act of communication rather than a process of transcoding. This trend, generally referred to as the “cultural turn” in translation, has tended to view the text as “an integral part of the world and not an isolated specimen of language” (Snell-Hornby 1988:43-44). According to Snell-Hornby (ibid.:44; my emphasis), The text is embedded in a given situation, which is itself conditioned by its sociocultural background. The translation is then dependent on its function as a text “implanted” in the target culture, whereby there is the alternative of either preserving the original function of the source text in its culture . . . or of changing the function to adapt to specified needs in the target culture.

Although this kind of either/or understanding of the function of translation can apply within the framework of some translation theories and practices (Skopos theory, polysystems theory, etc.), postcolonial translations are not easily explained by such dichotomies. The postcolonial writer-translator seems as preoccupied with “preserving the original function of the source text in its culture” as he is with “changing the function to adapt to specified needs in the target culture”. In other words, in postcolonial writing as translation the

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surface materiality of the oral culture is replicated in the colonial language, while its original function in the local folklore is often overridden and directed towards other ideological designs, such as asserting identity and resisting colonialism. Although the culture-specificity of any literary work retains its validity for the peoples and regions to which the work belongs, postcolonial texts often appeal to contexts outside the colonial space for a variety of reasons, including the desire to redress the unequal power relations between the métropole and the postcolony. Hence, contrary to the prevailing practice in literary translation, whereby contextual specifics of the source-language culture are often adapted to the target-language culture, translation by African writers seeks to infuse the European language with African sociocultural reality, thus appropriating the language, depriving it of its imperialist function and adapting it to the revolutionary needs of the postcolonial subject. The compositional translation practised by the African writer is therefore a negotiating process whereby traditional African discourse is cloaked in colonial garb in a variety of literary styles, which often depend on the degree of linguistic appropriation practised by the writer. The result can indeed vary from creative adaptations in elegant standard language to linguistic transformations that in some ways are meant to compel the colonial language to account for the specific linguistic practices in the postcolony. Ultimately, this process of translation as negotiation can be conceived in roughly the sense in which Oladele Taiaro thinks Amos Tutuola “has carried over Yoruba speech habits into English and writes in English as he would speak in Yoruba” and that “he has simply and boldly . . . carried across into his English prose the linguistic patterns and literary habits of his Yoruba language using English words as counters. He is basically speaking Yoruba but using English words” (1976:75). Compositional translation, or the writing of African orature in colonial languages, is largely effected through what can be described as translation shifts (Catford 1965). Translation shifts, as practised by African writers, is a ready solution for what Catford (ibid.) refers to as cultural untranslatability. The latter, as opposed to linguistic untranslatability, occurs when a situational feature which is functionally relevant for the source language text is unavailable in the target language culture (ibid.:99). As indicated in the previous chapter, such translation shifts would include calques, semantic shifts and collocational shifts. Calques are almost literal translations of native words and expressions into European languages, as in these examples from Achebe (1964): “village medicine-woman” (p. 14); “goat-skin bag, snuff-bottle and drinking horn (p. 51)”. They can also include translations of whole sentences or native expressions that are usually considered to be proverbial sayings

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or idiomatic expressions in the native language. Such calques are language specific utterances that are translated into the European language, and which can only be understood in terms of the world-view of the particular linguistic community. As Chishimba has observed, “[t]his type of expression(s) need paraphrasing to be understood in anything close to standard native English. The reason is that while translating the language, it is not easy to establish an equivalency of the phenomena being referred to at the sociocultural level” (1984:215). For example, in the last chapter it was seen that, for the most part, African proverbs are expressed in European languages by the use of calques that are in effect European language words made to conform to the African language prose. The proverbs are quite often word-for-word translations from the native language, replete with imagery drawn from the geographical, social, historical and cultural background of the African universe. Calqued translations ensure that the local imagery and metaphor remain unaltered in the colonial language. As a translation technique, semantic shift is quite similar to calques but can be distinguished by the way new meaning is assigned to known European words or groups of words. Collocational shift is a translation technique which allows the African writer to combine European language words without regard for collocational rules such as selectional restrictions or co-occurrence patterns. When the collocated forms do not violate the rules, the African author may assign a new meaning to the forms, thus altering their likely co-occurrence in native use. The violation of collocational rules is a deliberate subversion of the colonial language. Collocational shift may also occur when the African writer disrupts the European language syntax in order to reflect the syntax of his native language. Sometimes compound words are formed following the grammatical patterns of compounding, although the formation may not be native to the European language.9 The compounds are used either as summaries of longer vernacular expressions or as expressions of elaborate ideas conveyed by pithy vernacular language items. Translation shifts are therefore vernacular translation strategies used to subvert the colonial language in an attempt to retain the semantic and stylistic characteristics of indigenous language cultures.

4.2 Postcolonial translation as conversion As indicated earlier, the second phase of African postcolonial translation involves the conversion of the literary representation of African orature and postcoloniality in the writer’s European language to another colonial language. This is the final stage in what has been referred to as a tripartite or three-tier 9

See discussion of praise names in the preceding chapter.

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translation process:

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Orality & postcoloniality + European language 1 → European language 2 (O/P + E1 → E2 + O/P).

At this stage, postcolonial translation can be likened to a process of conversion, not in the historical-religious sense of the word (Rafael 1988), but rather in a sense similar to currency conversion between different economic geographies or systems. Currency exchange or transfer is not always wholesale, but rather involves conversion to its appropriate value in the receiving economic context. Like a commodity whose commercial value is adaptable to specific markets and their currency, African oral tradition and sociocultural reality, which assume a certain “cultural capital” in the writer’s colonial language, are transferred to another colonial language according to the terms of conversion, so to speak, appropriate for the receiving language culture. The terms of conversion may vary from one colonial language to another, depending on each language’s history of colonization in Africa, as well as the relations between African and colonial language cultures on the one hand, and those between the rival colonial languages themselves on the other. For instance, as pointed out earlier, colonial English had a different relationship with African language cultures from colonial French for a variety of reasons, based on their respective colonial practices. Therefore, as a cultural commodity, the African world view as captured in one colonial language may require other conditions for representation in another colonial language. There is bound to be some transactions for the appropriate transfer of cultural capital from the African logos to the translating colonial language. Hence, the need for a translation-as-conversion strategy to negotiate the conditions of representation in the target colonial language. In this instance, the writer’s European language of writing functions as a language of mediation as it becomes the medium through which the postcolonial translator apprehends the African world view. African European-to-European language translation is therefore a mediated translation insofar as the original cultural artefact is not understood within its native linguistic environs, but rather through a middle passage, a mediating language, that is, the author’s European language of writing. This cultural artefact is then filtered or put through the prism (or lens) of the receiving colonial language in a process of translation as conversion. The African world view has been expressed in one form or another in various colonial traditions. Translations from African oral traditions have contributed to the dissemination of African national patrimonies beyond local language communities to broader entities such as the Francophone, Anglophone,

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Lusophone and Hispanophone peoples of the world. There is indeed a thriving literary practice in colonial languages across Africa, including translation from African languages. However, French and English are the two main European languages of writing in West Africa, which is the geographical area of focus for this analysis. Although Spanish and Portuguese are spoken in a number of countries in Africa, their use is rather limited demographically and regionally within the continent. These limitations are reflected in the relatively small volume of literary productions in Spanish or Portuguese. This study thus explores African writing and translation between English and French, which are the two colonial languages used widely in most regions of Africa, both for daily communication and literary creativity. Roman Jakobson (1959) distinguishes between three kinds of translation: intralingual (between two subsystems of one language); interlingual (in the conventional sense, between two languages); and intersemiotic (between different semiotic systems). Following Jakobson’s classification, it can be said that African postcolonial translating involves an interlingual as well as an intersemiotic translation process, as both the content and formal characteristics of African oral culture are crucial to the full representation of meaning in the written target language. For the most part, the African content and form have already been captured by the African author in what might be considered an intralingual translation process of writing African culture in the author’s European language of writing. It is this African content and form that the translator has to carry across into another European language culture (European L2), however, not in a straightforward sense of transportation from point A to point B, but rather in a more complex process of interpretation and conversion from postcolonial context A to postcolonial context B. Discussing the inter-European language translation of Achebe’s fiction, Ekundayo Simpson puts it this way: “Since the author has already bridged the gap between the Nigerian idiom and the European one, all the translator has to do is to find the equivalent expression and register in the foreign language” (1979:79). Although Ekundayo’s statement confirms the fact that the postcolonial text is a reconciliation of the African and European idioms, his assessment of the translation process between colonial languages is rather simplistic. African Inter-European language translation is not just about seeking equivalents between colonial languages, but is rather about the representation of the African world view in specific (post)colonial contexts. It is not simply a search for equivalency between English and French, such as might occur in the translation of some European reality for different European audiences, but rather expressing African sociocultural reality in an alien colonial language with its own specific historical and cultural circumstances. Many factors come

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into play to render African European-to-European language translation more complicated than it may seem at first sight. Languages, particularly hegemonic ones like English and French, have a tendency to either universalize cultures or understand realities in terms of their own particular world view or history. Furthermore, each language belongs to a specific linguistic genus, which shapes or determines its own ways of expressing reality, and how the language relates to non-indigenous or foreign material. Thus, although somewhat homogenous, the English and French language cultures do not always share the same world view and obviously have divergent colonial historiographies in Africa, likely to influence their respective understanding and representation of African reality. It is indeed shortsighted to account for differences between English and French translations in postcolonial contexts in purely linguistic terms. Translation criticism based on notions of linguistic equivalency has led to what today might be considered old-fashioned and ‘unscientific’ claims such as the following (Parkman 1971:64): English is concrete and sees reality from the outside while French is more abstract and sees things from the inside; by its concrete verbs and its particles English defines movement and shape more clearly than French. It has a more marked sense of evolution by reason of its continuous tenses. French is often more analytic and English more synthetic.

It is rather refreshing to know that translation criticism is no longer prone to such sweeping and superficial statements, which often hovered around the sacrosanct concept of linguistic equivalency in normative or traditional translation practice. Yet, something can be said of this kind of commentary which in some ways strives to highlight the importance of linguistic genus or language-specific factors in translation. Divergence in perception often results in linguistic and cultural differences between colonial language representations of African reality. Such extralinguistic differences will thus add to the difficulty of ‘transferring’ African thought from one European language into another. Based on the experience of translating Achebe’s Arrow of God into French, Irène d’Almeida states the following (1981:24): The English and the French do not apprehend the world in the same manner, and as a result marked differences exist not only linguistically but also culturally between the two languages. Indeed culture and language are closely interrelated, because languages do not operate in isolation but within and as part of cultures, and cultures differ from each other in different ways. It is through language that culture

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is expressed and, on the other hand, a culture nourishes the language that carries it, and that is why new cultural experiences often make it necessary to enlarge the resources of language.

It is the interrelationship between language and culture that makes it difficult to envisage how a language can cope with the demand that it shake off its own culture, as it were, to serve as a medium for conveying another remote or alien culture. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the source text is itself multi-layered, involving two cultural-linguistic systems, namely the author’s European language of writing and the African language culture being transmitted. The coming together of the two results in a source text of a hybrid nature, which is bound to pose specific translation problems. Furthermore, there is a subjective dimension to the translation process, which is that the postcolonial translator’s own “life-world” and experience can have a significant impact on the translation. According to Gadamer (1976), an understanding cannot be achieved that is completely free of the interpreter’s own “life-world”. In his view, the interpreter, or translator, is a “victim” of his own concrete hermeneutic situation, and all interpretative understanding is necessarily bound to preconceptions and prejudgements. Only by further penetrating the material of an alien language with an openness to cultural differences can the interpreter’s preconceptions derived from his or her own cultural background show themselves to be arbitrary. Yet, the problem for interpretation and translation is not simply the interpreter’s having his or her own language, practice and form of life but the unselfconscious imposition of these values on the resulting interpretation. In literary translation practice, it is generally agreed that the translator should strive to operate at the level of the author, thus assuming that both translator and target audience receive the text at the author’s level within his or her culture (Newmark 1989). It is therefore advantageous for the translator to share a similar “life-world” with the author. For instance, following this line of thinking it could be assumed that if the translator of African European language fiction is African he or she will be more familiar with the cultural background of the narrative to be translated. This is d’Almeida’s opinion as evident in the following statement (1981:25): When it is an African person who is translating an African writer, impersonation is somewhat easier and more effective because the African person is more familiar with the cultural background in which the actions occur and in which the characters are set. Religious rituals, festivals, customs and even day-to-day occurrences are seen from within because they are part of a shared experience.

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Although this may be true in many respects, d’Almeida overlooks the fact that African culture is not homogenous, but varies widely across the numerous linguistic and ethnic groups on the African continent. Many African writers borrow from their specific ethnic or national culture, which may be different from the oral traditions of other ethnic groups. For instance, the Ibo world view in Achebe’s novels may have little in common with Soyinka’s Yoruba universe, even though both cultures exist within the same national geographic space of Nigeria. In other words, the author and the translator could both be Africans but may not share the same cultural background, which is generally the case in literary translation practice. It is therefore not obvious that a Yoruba translator, for instance, will do a better job of translating Achebe’s Ibo world view than a non-African translator. In spite of the degree of historical, geographical and cultural proximity, there is no guarantee that the job will be easier for the non-Ibo African translator who may bring along his or her own perception of the oral tradition reality. Even assuming that Achebe’s translator is a native speaker of Ibo, there will still be the issue of dealing with the problems of expressing ideas he or she understands best in their native tongue in what is essentially an alien European language. That said, there is no guarantee either that the native European language speaker will do a better job in transposing African orature into his or her native language, given the complexity involved in expressing African thought in colonial languages discussed so far. The issue of who is best qualified to translate African literature is indeed a touchy one, and should be dealt with within the framework of an ethics of postcolonial translation. It is generally believed in the world of professional translation that a native speaker of the language into which a translation is being carried out is best qualified for the task. In other words, the general tendency is for one to translate into one’s own mother-tongue. However, in African colonial language translation, interpretation and understanding of the source culture take precedence over everything else, including so-called native speaker prerogatives. Emphasis here should be placed on the interpretative ability of the translator and not just on his or her communicative skills, as understanding is a necessary prelude to communication and conversion. As astutely argued by Simpson (1980:14-18): The fact that many Africans attain what is ‘close to mother-tongue competence in at least the languages of their former colonial masters’ implies that the African translators too should be tried. But we are not calling for any charitable treatment of Africans. The compelling reason is in fact cultural. Many African writers have so localized the use of

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Paul F. Bandia the languages of colonization by passing them through the matrix of their own cultural background that much may be lost to the uninitiated European translator whose only title to competence is that he is working into his own mother-tongue. There are now abundant examples of African cultural facts for which Africans across the colonial boundaries have a better sense of equivalence. In other words, there are terms used or created by English-speaking Africans which their French-speaking counterparts would express better in French than the mother-tongue French speaker of the colonial metropolis, and vice-versa. What this means is that African works to be translated should at least involve the collaboration of Africans.

Simpson’s comment provides some food for thought regarding what Antoine Berman has referred to as the translator’s positionality and subjectivity as well as the translation project and horizon (1995). Although Simpson’s argument is meant to counter the preference for Western translators of African literature by some publishers, it can also be construed as an acknowledgment of the precedence of culture over language in African colonial language translating. The statement also confirms the fact that postcolonial translation as conversion is more about representation of aspects of transculturality and transnationalism than it is about linguistic equivalency or interlinguality. The importance of the cultural imperative is enhanced as the source text is written not in the source culture’s language but rather in the author’s second language, wherein priority is given to preserving the source language culture. Hence, in the practice of postcolonial translation as conversion, the ‘ideal’ translator is one who is less likely to “activate scenes that diverge from the author’s intentions or deviate from those activated by a native speaker of the source language (a frequent cause of translation error)” (Snell-Hornby 1988:81), the source language here being that which is culturally linked to the African world view. The result of this kind of translating as conversion is necessarily thrice removed from reality, since it is the end game of a complex interpretative movement from the African oral tradition through an initial translation process into the author’s European language of writing and finally through a translation as conversion process into a second European language.

5. Between Francophone and Anglophone literatures: translation as conversion The relationship between African Francophone and Anglophone literatures, and other African literatures in colonial languages for that matter, is one of translation. African European language literature is by its very nature a translated literature

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insofar as it relates or expresses the African world view in an alien language. The idea of a national literature finding its expression mainly in a foreign tongue is itself an unfortunate consequence of the continent’s colonial past, which has led to calls from some quarters for an authentic African literature in indigenous African languages. Some critics consider it futile, defeatist or self-deprecating for “dominated writers” to spend so much time and talent crafting ways and devising means to capture the African logos in the language of the colonizer. Yet, there is something to be said for the artistry and skill involved, even if only from a purely aesthetic standpoint, and for the ideals of making African literature available across ethnic and linguistic boundaries in Africa, as well as affording visibility for African literature in the world republic of letters (Casanova 2004). Hence, far from being a negative critique, the assessment of postcolonial African literature as a literature of translation, as evidenced in its multiple epithets of Francophone, Anglophone, Lusophone and Hispanophone, is rather the measure of the literature’s expansion beyond the limits of ethnicity and nationality to encompass larger geographical and historical entities, with far-reaching consequences for the dissemination of African literature within Africa and outside the continent. Granted that these epithets recall an often unpleasant historical past of colonial domination and oppression, but they have nonetheless come to represent an undeniable fact integral to Africa’s modern history and have become signposts of the continent’s entangled destiny with the rest of the globalized world. Translation, both as a concept and practice, is at the centre of today’s postmodern society in Africa where, given the multiplicity of languages and cultures and the rampant urbanization and migration of peoples, there is a proliferation of crosscultural activities as well as an increase in situations of cultural and linguistic hybridity. The role of translation in the process of globalization has made it possible for ordinary people in Africa to have access to plays, songs, music, dance and other art forms through a variety of media, including translated literature either for popular consumption or for use in specialized spheres such as academic institutions. There is therefore a great deal of interest in translation in terms of the need to bridge the gap between indigenous language communities as well as between larger colonial language geographies. African Europhone literatures are an important cultural commodity used to build bridges between the larger colonially-defined entities, as well as to convey African humanism, art and culture to the world. In a seminal article titled “Emotional Bias in the Translation and Presentation of African Oral Art”, written in the immediate post-independence era, B.W. Andrezejewski states (1965:95):

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So far, however, the oral cultures of Africa are little known in the world outside, and have made as yet hardly any contribution to a better understanding of man in his African aspect. African sculpture, music and dancing have made their impact outside Africa, but they are in this respect much more fortunate than oral art: they appeal directly to the eye and the ear and need no one to translate them.

Today, the oral cultures of Africa are better known in the world, thanks to numerous translations from African to European languages and between colonial languages. Literary translation has played a significant role in disseminating African oral cultures to the world, thus contributing to human history and confirming the universality of human values and the fundamental commonality of human nature. Andrezejewski denounced what he saw as an emotional bias toward the oral art of Africa, as it did not get the same attention as African sculpture, music and dance, which were obviously more readily available to satisfy orientalist and exotic tastes or needs (ibid.): In conversations with otherwise well-educated people one may be asked questions like can Africans have literature if some of their languages are still unwritten or if they have very little Printed materials? If one replies that oral art is a type of literature and refers to examples from old English, Ancient Greek, Icelandic or Provençal literatures, the reaction is at best skepticism, at worst horror, as if the comparison were somehow blasphemous.

This attitude prevailed in the early days when African oral art was of interest mainly to cultural anthropologists, and was scorned by literary scholars. African literary works were frequently turned down by Western publishing houses as they were often considered anthropological or sociological pieces rather than literature. The attitude also prevailed in academic circles – Wole Soyinka, the Nobel Laureate, jokingly revealed in his book Myth, Literature and the African World that some important personalities at Cambridge University obviously did not believe in a ‘mythical beast’ known as African literature. In fact, at the time African literature was assigned to the department of anthropology. Such bias against African literature due to its oral antecedent only began to subside when African writers who were bilingual and bicultural in both African and European language cultures began to express African oral art in fiction written in international languages. The literary significance of African oral art was asserted through its translation and representation in major African languages and lingua francas, as well as in the alien colonial languages. Therefore, African oral art owes much of its success and recognition

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to translation; for, as Andrezejewski points out, “[i]f Greek literature can be studied in translation why cannot the same be done with African oral art?” (1965:101). Andrezejewski believed strongly in the importance of translation in giving the oral cultures of Africa the visibility and recognition they deserved. As he saw it, “[t]he reason why the artistic worth of African oral art has not yet met with the appreciation it deserves lies … in the dearth of good translation and insufficient research” (ibid.:95). African oral art has come a long way since Andrezejewski’s insightful observations and lamentations, as can be seen in its expression through various media such as film, television, radio and literature. Through these media, African oral cultures have reached audiences on the continent and beyond, mainly through translations either in writing, in speech, or in performance. African Europhone literature is a major area where translation has served to transmit oral cultures across ethnic boundaries and to acquaint non-Africans with African culture and its role in the evolution of the history of humanity. The concept of postcolonial translation as conversion has to do with the sustenance and dissemination of the oral art of Africa in colonial languages that are today part and parcel of the African linguistic landscape. It is about the conversion, from one language culture to another, of culture-specific items drawn from oral narratives and used in European language fiction. Postcolonial translation as conversion is not a straightforward search for linguistic equivalents, but rather a serious undertaking to maintain the African world view in the alien colonial language. Cultural items such as names, references and modes of address present specific challenges as their occurrences in the European language are often the result of the author’s creative endeavour to capture them as they exist in African languages. African praise names, for instance, pose specific problems as they are often expressed in elaborate compound formations that may not take the same form in English or French. For example, in Achebe’s Arrow of God, a young man teases his sister about her running nose by calling her “Never-a-dry-season-in-the-nose” (1964:210). Achebe decides to create a compound expression in English to capture this nickname which is expressed in accordance with the tendency for African names to have meaning. He applies a well-known technique, namely the use of hyphens, in maintaining the nominal quality of the nickname. D’Almeida et al. provide the following translation: “Regardez son nez qui n’a jamais connu de saison sèche!” (1978:276). The French translation takes neither the form of a praise name nor that of a nickname. The oral tradition flavour that Achebe intentionally sought to preserve by using a compound structure has been lost in this rather loose comment in French about the girl’s nose. A backtranslation of the French

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into English would not result in anything close to a compound name with its orality intact. It is important in this translation as conversion process to adjust the translating language to the oral artistry being conveyed in the postcolonial text. A similar explanation would hold true for the translation of the nickname “Anthill nose” (Achebe 1964:210) as “Et ton nez à toi? Il ressemble à une termitière” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:276). It is surprising that the translators did not think of something as straightforward as “Nez-de-termitière”, which would have been much closer to the one-word expression and would have maintained its form as a nickname and, consequently, its oral narrative quality. The translation of “One Who Acts With Power” (Achebe 1964:150) as “Celle dont les actes sont empreintes de puissance” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:280) is rather wordy and seems more like an explanation than a praise name. It also loses out somewhat on the oral narrative quality of the original reference. However, a notable exception is Green’s translation of “Abraham le Désossé” (Beti 1957:52) as “Abraham the Boneless Wonder” (Green 1958:32), which is generally quite adequate, as it maintains the praise-name (nickname) structure of the original and brings out the humour implied in the name by the use of the word “Wonder”. D’Almeida et al. also translate the references “Yesterday’s body” (1964:123), and “Yesterday’s wood ash” (ibid.) as “sans un corps nouveau” (1978:166) and “les cendres de la veille” (ibid.:168), respectively. Of the two translations, “les cendres de la veille” sounds more like a reference. Since “yesterday’s” is a modifier in both references in the original, one would imagine that the translators would have rendered “Yesterday’s body” as “le corps de la veille” in much the same way as they had translated “Yesterday’s wood ash” as “les cendres de la veille”. At least, this would have given the expression the characteristic of a reference in much the same way as it has in the oral narrative. In the translation of these names and references, their oral narrative characteristics are just as important as the meaning conveyed by the names. The translator should therefore endeavour to reproduce the oral poetry in the names which, after all, constitutes the significance of their use in the creative works of the authors. Michel Ligny is quite aware of this fact when he translates the praise names “Dry-meat-that-fills-the-mouth” (Achebe 1958:66) as “Viande-sèche-qui-emplit-la-bouche” (1966:114); and “Fire-that-burnswithout-faggots” (Achebe 1958:66) as “Feu-qui-brûle-sans-fagots” (1966:114). By using hyphens to create elaborate compound formations, Ligny takes up the style that Achebe had used to capture the Ibo praise names, thus retaining the sense of grandeur and terror that these warlike characters can instill. Kinship terms also encode cultural characteristics that should be preserved in the translation, as they are used deliberately by the African European language writer to enhance the local colour of his works. In this regard,

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d’Almeida et al. translate Achebe’s “Son of our daughter” (1964:23) as “Fils de notre fille” (1978:37) ; “Father of my mother” (1964:23) as “Père de ma Mère” (1978:38); “Mother of my husband” (1964:73) as “Mère de mon Mari” (1978:102). Okara’s direct translation from Ijaw, “Your father’s father’s father” (1964:95), is translated as “Père du père de ton père” (Sevry 1985:91); “the son of the son of the son of Bumo” (1964:96) is translated as “le fils du fils du fils de Bumo” (Sevry 1985:92). The translator of Camara Laye’s Enfant noir showed his awareness of the importance of kinship terms by translating the question “Êtes-vous mon oncle Mamadou?” (Laye 1954:169) as “Are you my father’s brother, Mamadou?” (Kirkup 1959:122), instead of “Are you my uncle, Mamadou?”, thus improving somewhat on the author’s version. This is a clear example of translation as conversion, whereby the focus is on the initial cultural, or oral tradition content of the novel. Pre-Independence Francophone writers were less audacious than their Anglophone counterparts in modifying and adapting the colonial language to the structures of their oral narratives. Francophone writers seemed more constrained by the strict grammar that was promoted and monitored by the Académie française, which may explain why Camara Laye would at times express such kinship relations in metropolitan French language and culture, as “Êtes-vous mon oncle, Mamadou?” rather than “Êtes-vous le frère de ma mère, Mamadou?”. Kirkup’s translation ignores the standard French rendition and represents the statement in its traditional African expression. Translating items that have undergone semantic or collocational shifts in the author’s European language of writing also requires conversion in order to reproduce the sociocultural meaning of the items as initially intended by the author. The following words and expressions (mentioned in the last chapter) seem unusual in English as they are initial translations of culture-specific concepts or ways of speaking drawn from the author’s oral tradition. The French translations ought to strive to maintain these concepts and their oral artistry. (1) “How is it (moon) sitting? . . . its (moon) legs were up in the air” (Achebe 1964:2) “Comment s’est-elle placée? . . . ses ‘pointes’ étaient en l’air” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:13) (2) “to whisper together like in-Law and in-Law” (Achebe 1964:61) “pour vous chuchoter quelque chose dans l’oreille, comme cela se fait entre beaux-parents” (d’Aldeima et al. 1978:86) (3) “Her own badness whistles” (Achebe 1964:67) “Son mauvais caractère crève l’œil” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:95)

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(4) “Who gets money reach him” (Okara 1964:118) “Qui peut avec de l’argent l’atteindre?” (Sevry 1985:115).

As indicated in the preceding chapter, the use of “legs” and even “sitting” in (1) is unusual in the English language. In other words, it is unusual to talk of the “legs of the moon” or the “moon sitting” in the English world view, although an English author has the poetic licence or artistic freedom to invent such expressions. In this context, Achebe has sought to reproduce a concept from the Ibo cosmology by merely translating literally from his native tongue, in which the two pointed, or sharp, ends of the crescent-shaped new moon are referred to as “legs”. Achebe’s French translators put the word “pointes” (for “legs”) between quotation marks probably to indicate that they were aware of the culture-specific use of “legs” but could not find a better rendition in French. The translation of “sitting” by “placée”, instead of “assise”, may not be an appropriate conversion as it also constitutes some loss in the representation of this traditional concept. The expression in (2), “to whisper together like in-law and in-law”, is loaded with sociocultural meaning and implications that may escape the non-African but are easily understood by an African conversant with his or her oral tradition. The expression implies much more than a simple idea of conversation, discussion, chat and so on. It connotes the secrecy, rituals and solemnity of occasion involved in marriage negotiations in traditional Africa. In fact, being Africans themselves, the translators were clearly conscious of the sociocultural import of the expression, which may explain why they came up with what appears to be an over-translation. The French translation may also be the result of a deliberate attempt to reveal the implicature (Grice 1975) to readers without the required sociocultural knowledge. Expressions like “chuchoter quelque chose dans l’oreille” and “comme cela se fait entre beaux-parents” might capture the implied humour and idea of secrecy and intimacy, but they sound more like explanations, rather than translations, of the traditional concept of “whispering together”. Through such explanations the cultural meaning is maintained, the stylization of orality is retained somewhat, yet one has the feeling that some parts of the translation (e.g. “quelque chose dans l’oreille”) are mere additions to the idea of “chuchoter” (“to whisper”). This is an instance of translation as conversion whereby linguistic genus and authorial artistry are combined to produce a postcolonial text that is succinct and striking but difficult to emulate in another colonial language. In (3) the word “whistles” is a literal translation from the Ibo language and carries with it a certain world view. The expression means that the character is notoriously wicked. The translators opt for an idiomatic expression that can

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be more easily understood by the non-African reader (“Son mauvais caractère, crève l’oeil”), which of course has an equivalent meaning, but unfortunately it does not convey the Ibo world view. The word “whistle” in English also means “advertise”, but it is not the main idea implied in the Ibo expression. Many West African languages also use “whistle” in this sense. The translators choose a French idiomatic expression, “crève l’oeil”, which conveys the meaning of “advertise” but loses out on the local colour and cultural meaning contained in this West African use of the word “whistle”. The application of the word “reach” in (4) is reminiscent of its use in West African Pidgin English. However, it is also a literal translation from the Ijaw language. It is rather unfortunate that the translator was unaware of this specific use of “reach”, which has crept into West African English. The original, “Who gets money reach him?”, means “Who has as much money as he?” or “Nobody is as rich as he”. But the translation, “Qui peut avec de l’argent l’atteindre?”, renders the standard, denotative meaning of “reach” in English, meaning literally “Who can reach him with money?” or “Can anyone reach him with money?”. The translation might thus convey the impression that it is difficult to get the attention of the individual in question with money, which is the exact opposite of what the original statement is meant to convey. Viewed against the backdrop of the entire novel, the individual in question is a rich man who made his fortune through bribery and corruption. Indeed, you can only get his attention by using money as a bait, that is, by offering him a bribe. The statement would translate into French as “Qui est aussi riche que lui?”. If the West African use of “reach” is to be taken into account, the translation would be something like: “Qui peut avec de l’argent atteindre son niveau (ou son rang)?” A comparison of the following passage from Okara’s The Voice (1964:56) with its French translation will hopefully throw more light on the difficulty of translating culture-specific items in the African novel from one European language into another: You asked me why I am giving you my hands in this happening-thing, when you have become the enemy of everything in the town? Well, I am giving you my hands and my inside and even my shadow to let them see in their insides that if even the people do not know, we, you and I, know and have prepared our bodies to stand in front of them and tell them so. They now feel that I really am a witch, so I put fear into their insides. That sweetened my inside because I had wanted to remain a witch in their eyes so that I could do something against them. Then you returned, and when I started to hear the happening-things in

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Translation by Jean Sevry (1985:48): Tu m’as demandé pourquoi je te prête main-forte en cette chose qui arrive au moment où en ville tout se dresse contre toi? Eh bien, je te prête main-forte et mon for intérieur et jusqu’à mon ombre pour qu’ils puissent voir en leur for intérieur que même si les gens ne savent pas, nous, toi et moi, nous savons et nous avons préparé nos corps à se dresser devant eux pour le leur dire. Maintenant, ils croient vraiment que je suis une sorcière, aussi je mets de la peur en leur for intérieur. Et cela a mis de la douceur en mon for intérieur puisque j’avais souhaité rester une sorcière à leurs yeux afin que je puisse faire quelque chose contre eux. Et puis tu es revenu, et lorsque j’ai commencé à entendre les choses qui se passaient en ton nom, mes espoirs sont montés jusqu’à l’oeil du ciel. Et puis hier tu es venu en courant, puisque les gens te poursuivaient. Alors je t’ai invité à entrer. Voilà les mots qui font réponse à tes mots qui faisaient question.

It was mentioned in the previous chapter that Okara’s novel is replete with passages translated almost literally from the Ijaw language. This verbatim translation resulted in an unusual use of English words, sometimes arranged in a syntax alien to the English language. Jean Sevry acknowledges the difficulty he faced with the translation of this peculiar novel in a foreword to his translation. He explains that the word “inside” (which he translates as “for intérieur”) comes from the Ijaw word “Biri”, “which is located in the abdomen and is the locus of emotions. The emotions will overwhelm and take complete control of a person including their speech, so that there is permanent dialogue with the ghost or spirit, which is the ultimate reference of symbolization”10 (1985:8; my translation). This kind of cultural insight is necessary for any conversion to take place in translation. Sevry translates “my shadow” (i.e. “my personality”) literally as “mon ombre”, but renders the compound expression “this happening-thing” simply as “cette chose”. Although “cette chose” does not carry the same cultural weight as “this happening-thing”, Sevry might have tried to compensate for the 10 “qui est localisé dans l’abdomen et qui est le lieu des émotions. Celles-ci vont s’emparer de toute la personne jusqu’à lui donner la parole, de sorte que le dialogue avec l’esprit, siège de la symbolisation indispensable, est permanent” (Jean Sevry, La Voix, 1985 :8).

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loss by translating “I am giving you my hands” by “Je te prête main-forte” (a strong helping hand). An Ijaw expression such as “that sweetened my inside” is translated as “Et cela a mis de la douceur en mon for intérieur”; “These are my answering words to your questioning words” is translated as “voilà les mots qui font réponse à tes mots qui faisaient question”. Sevry also had to deal with Okara’s frequent syntactic jugglery in statements such as “Who are you people be?” (1964:26), translated as “Et vous, les gens, qui pouvez-vous être?” (1985:15); “If you are coming-in people be, then come in” (1964:27), translated as “Si vous devez être des gens à entrer, alors entrez” (1985:15); “You cannot a thing I have done not put on my head; How can you on my head put a thing that happened not?” (1964:66), translated as “Vous ne pouvez pas une chose qui point n’ai accomplie me faire endosser; Comment pouvez-vous me faire endosser une chose qui point ne s’est passée?” (1985:60). Sevry’s translations are indeed revealing of his translation positionality (Berman 1995), which is based on the intent to capture and convert the Ijaw world view in French in much the same way that the author, Okara, had “converted” the Ijaw world view into English. In this translation as conversion process one has the impression that the French translator strives to work directly from the native oral literature, as the English text, the author’s novel, becomes the medium for grasping the oral culture, playing the role of mediation, rather than the ultimate original, in the translation process. Gabriel Okara is one of those African writers who admit to fictional writing through translating, sometimes literally, from their native language and oral tradition. This in effect makes the novel, The Voice, a kind of fiction created through translation, or through a process of translating as fictionalization. The French version is essentially a re-creation or re-translation which seeks to recapture Okara’s creative use of the Ijaw narrative and aesthetics in another alien colonial language. The largely vernacular-based expressions in the novel pose specific translation problems, dealt with at varying degrees of success in the French translation. There are some disparities between the author’s renditions of vernacular-based expressions and their French translations, which may be due to the fact that the English version is written by the African author translating almost literally from his native vernacular, while the French version is a translation of the African writer’s text done by a Frenchman who may not share the writer’s sensibilities or intimate knowledge of the Ijaw language and culture. A close examination of the translations would, however, reveal some bright spots and a measure of ingenuity by Sevry. He “bends” the French language in an attempt to reproduce Okara’s unusual syntax, and, being somewhat confined by the genus of the French language, resorts to the use of archaic negative structures such as “que point n’ai accomplie” and “qui point ne

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s’est passée” to compensate for the lack of a similar syntactic play in French. The noun phrase “coming-in people be” is translated by something equally bizarre, “des gens à entrer”. The expression “put on my head”, meaning: put the blame on me or hold me responsible (or in Standard English: to be on my head), is a literal translation of an expression that exists in some West African languages. Indeed, the expression is also well-known in West African Pidgin English as “put trouble for my head”. Sevry, however, chooses to translate the expression by its idiomatic equivalent in French, “me faire endosser”. There is, therefore, a form of transposition regarding the metaphorical use of body parts, from “head” in English to “dos” in French, which translates into “shoulder” in English, as in the expression “to shoulder responsibility for”. This kind of idiomatic translation, though helpful to a native French reader, misses out on the sociocultural significance of the expression. In postcolonial translation, issues of transculturality or linguistic and cultural representation often take precedence over idiomatic considerations. Also of some importance to the study of intercultural translation are those statements or expressions, mentioned in the last chapter, written in what might seem to be a standard or metropolitan variety of the European language, but whose linguistic specificity and meaning are embedded in the related African oral culture. These are some examples and their respective French translations: (1) “Moon, may your face meeting mine bring good fortune” (Achebe 1964:2) “Lune, puisses-tu me voir et m’apporter le bonheur” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:12) (2) “May good meet the face of every man and every woman” (Achebe 1964:6) “Puisse le bien aller à la rencontre de chaque homme et de chaque femme” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:17) (3) “hold your tongues in your hand” (Achebe 1964:20) “retenir vos langues” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:34) (4) “This my friend” (i.e. this friend of mine) (Achebe 1964:96) “Celui-ci, de mon ami” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:131) (5) “I can see tomorrow” (Achebe 1964:132) “Je peux voir l’avenir” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:178) (6) “May we live to see tomorrow” (i.e. goodnight) (Okara 1964:51) “Puissions-nous voir le jour qui va suivre” (Sevry 1985:43)

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(7) “long throats” (Achebe 1964:121) “les gens cupids” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:162)

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(8) “hungry for a walk” (Achebe 1964:126) “envie de marcher” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:185) (9) “They are quiet” (Achebe 1964:110) “Ils sont sages” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:149) (10) “speak into my words” (Achebe 1964:144) “mêler tes mots aux miens” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:193) (11) “her husband’s senior wife” (Achebe 1964:123) “la première épouse de son mari” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:166) (12) “to be found at home” (Achebe 1964:122) “trouver à la maison” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:165) (13) “at the end of the carefree season between harvest and planting” (Achebe 1958:20-21) “à la fin de la saison sans souci qui s’étend entre la recolte et les semailles” (Ligny 1966:40)

The statement in (1) is typical of a way of speaking common among many African traditional peoples. It falls within a certain register of expressions used in prayers, incantations, religious or ritualistic ceremonies. The “shining” of the moon is referred to as the “face of the moon”. The appearance of the new moon is highly symbolic in traditional Africa (and in many pre-industrialized cultures, for that matter) and is closely linked to the activities and beliefs of the people. Given its ritualistic import, a flicker or ray of light from the new moon falling on the speaker’s face is described here as “the face of the moon meeting the face of the speaker”, and this is believed to bring good fortune to the speaker. The translation of “may your face meeting mine” as “puissestu me voir” deviates from the native idiom, but it still conveys the mystic or ritualistic character of the statement, as the French translation seems to imply faith in animism by insinuating that the moon has animate qualities and can see. The native idiom “may good meet the face of” in (2) is similar to the expression “may your face meeting mine” in (1). These are calqued expressions from the author’s African language. “May good meet the face of” is translated as “puisse le bien aller à la rencontre de”, which is more appropriate and significantly different from the translation of “may your face meeting mine”

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as “puisses-tu me voir”. Aware of the significance of these native idioms and their importation from the oral narratives, the translators grappled with ways of reproducing them in French, which required taking into account cultural, linguistic and aesthetic considerations that may be significantly different from those applied by the English language writer. The expression “hold your tongues in your hand” in (3) is a variation of the English expression “hold your tongue”, and is a way of saying “keep your mouth shut”. It carries with it a ring of authority. The translation “retenez vos langues” adequately conveys the message as it literally translates the Standard English expression “hold your tongue”, but seems more like a linguistic translation than cultural conversion as it gives priority to idiomatic usage rather than re-create the culture-specific aspect of the expression conveyed in the segment “in your hand”. The expression “hold your tongues in your hand” (which has a variant elsewhere in the novel as “put your tongues in your scabbard”) conveys the Ibo world view and highlights issues of authority and social hierarchy in ways that the idiomatic English equivalent “hold your tongue” does not. “This my friend” in (4), which is commonly used in West African English and Pidgin, is another calque from the West African vernaculars. It shows how the demonstrative is used together with a possessive adjective to convey a sense of intimacy, familiarity, closeness or endearment in African languages. It simply means “this friend of mine”, which is what one would be inclined to say in standard European English. The translation “Celui-ci, de mon ami” shows that the translators may have been aware of the specific or contextbound usage of the expression; however, it does not adequately convey the meaning of the original. In fact, it is an unusual expression in French which might have been acceptable if it had captured the sociocultural essence of the original expression. “I can see tomorrow” in (5) is a native way of saying “I can see into the future”, as the French translation “Je peux voir l’avenir” would reveal. The French version, however, is a standard idiomatic translation rather than a conversion of a native cultural view into French. The Ijaw people of Nigeria bid each other goodnight by saying “May we live to see tomorrow” in (6). The statement comes from a time when venturing out at night was dangerous as wild animals roamed about in the villages. It often happened that people would bid each other goodnight and wake up the next morning to learn that their companion of the night before had been killed by a wild animal. Thus, this kind of expression carries with it a great deal of sociocultural history which the translator must take seriously. Sevry’s translation, “puissions-nous voir le jour qui va suivre”, though somewhat wordy, is a reasonably adequate translation of the expression. The translation assumes a prayer-like form and

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re-creates the aura of fear and foreboding imminent in the Ijaw expression. In some African languages, and in West African Pidgin as well, the expression “long throat” in (7) is used to refer to a greedy person. There is a certain local image attached to the expression, which in effect describes the gesture of some greedy person stretching his or her neck to look over longingly at the cooking pot or someone else’s dish. This humorous image is somewhat lost in the standard French translation “les gens cupides”. The use of the word “hungry” in the expression “hungry for a walk” is another instance where a literal translation from the vernacular language assigns new meaning and function to a word in the European language. In some West African languages, the word “hungry” is used metaphorically to convey a longing or desire for something.11 The translation “envie de marcher” adequately conveys the meaning of the African expression, but it fails to capture its world view. “They are quiet”, a native way of saying “my people (family) are well”, is well rendered as “Ils sont sages” to retain the implied humour. “Speak into my words” in (10) is beautifully rendered as “mêler tes mots aux miens”. Also, “her husband’s senior wife” in (11), a concept foreign to European languages and cultures, is translated through conversion as “la première épouse de son mari” (instead of the literal rendition “l’épouse ainée de son mari”), which provides some explanation of the concept for a reader not familiar with the practice of polygamy. “To be found at home” in (12) (i.e. to be married a virgin) is translated as “trouver ‘à la maison’”, which misses the point completely. This may explain why “à la maison” is put between quotation marks; it is an indication of the difficulty the translators might have had in finding a French equivalent for the native expression. In characteristic fashion, Achebe provides some information about the meaning of “carefree season” in (13) by informing the reader that it is the period between harvest and planting. Obiechina provides additional information when he describes the season as “the season of rest from labour, the season of festivities and of peace” (1975:125). It was the season when people did the “lighter task of the after-harvest season” (ibid.). Hence, the predominant factor here is the idea of relaxation, peace and celebrations. Ligny’s translation of “carefree season” as “saison sans souci” (“worry-free season”) is, for lack of a better rendition, acceptable; however, it still leaves something to be desired. It expresses the idea that during this season people try to forget about their 11 The expression “hungry for” is also used metaphorically in standard British and American English. But, although one can say “Hungry for love”, for example, it would be unusual to say “hungry for a walk” (except creatively) in these major varieties of English.

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problems or worries, but it fails to convey the idea that it was also a season of festivities and the celebration of traditional values. The English and French languages cope with the difficulty of capturing the full scope of meaning of the African idiom with varying degrees of success. This difference in the potential of both languages in dealing with the culturespecific elements of the African oral narrative is clearly stated by d’Almeida (1980:24), who has first-hand experience of translating the African novel between the two colonial languages: Linguistically English and French differ in many ways. For instance, although English is lexically richer, it is a much more concise language than French, which is rather diffuse. Also, English is basically a concrete language whereas French is more abstract. English is synthetic whereas French is analytic. Syntactically, English constructions can often be exactly matched in French but it is not always so.12

It was also mentioned in the last chapter that the technique of repetition and reduplication plays an important role in the African narrative tradition. It can be used for emphasis or semantic augmentation of the item being repeated. This inherent characteristic of the African oral narrative carries with it important communicative value that must be taken into account in the act of translation. In the statement “It is this lick lick lick which prevents women from growing a beard” (Achebe 1964:69), the repetition of “lick” is meant to enhance the sense of disgust (or resentment) felt by the speaker. It also reflects the repetitious nature of the act of licking soup from either a bowl or a spoon or a ladle. In the traditional context, it is often jokingly stated that women do not eat much at dinner time because by the time they finish cooking they will have “licked” their fill of the meal. Thus, the above statement is taken from a folktale that is narrated to children to explain playfully why young men grow beards and young women do not. The statement is translated as “C’est parce que les femmes ne font que 1écher les louches qu’elles n’ont pas de barbe” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:90). The translators have not bothered to reproduce the repetition. Rather, they have provided an explanation, “lécher les louches”, for “lick lick lick”. While, from an aesthetic standpoint, the alliteration built around the “l” sound has been skillfully reproduced in “lécher les louches”, the repetition that is used as an art form in African oral narrative has been 12 Although this may be another superficial assessment of the difficulties involved in African colonial language translating, it is worth noting the opinion of a translator who has first-hand experience with representing African oral culture in colonial languages.

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ignored. Perhaps the translators feel the alliteration adequately replaces the repetition. Gabriel Okara, as we have seen, carries the practice of repetition to greater heights in The Voice (1964) when he translates from his native Ijaw into English. The novel is replete with repetitions such as “black black night”; “blacker than black night” (ibid.:76) (to mean “very dark night”), translated as “le noir de cette nuit noire”; “la nuit plus noire que le noir” (Sevry 1985:71). Jean Sevry, who translated The Voice, provides this explanation regarding the difficulty Okara must have faced in translating from his native Ijaw language into English, and the difficulty subsequently faced by Sevry when he translated the novel into French. He makes particular mention of the problems encountered in dealing with the technique of repetition (1985:6-7; my translation): Ijaw is a tonal system; English is a stress-timed language. The organization of surface structures is fundamentally different as are the verbal and grammatical gender systems. The vast variety of ideophones available to speakers allows them to express an infinite range of sensations and moods. In his writing, Okara tries to convey this by doubling or tripling expressions which are only a very approximative equivalent. The translator will then try to convey this reality by using sentences such as: “Et maintenant tes cheveux sont noirs, très noirs et plus noirs que le noir”. Translating The Voice is like going back to the roots of Okara’s writing and retracing the steps of his research and writing process.13

Thus repetition and reduplication are at times a means of coping with the difficulty of translating from a tone-based language into a stress-timed language (English) or a syllabic language (French). And when Sevry describes his translation approach as finding or retracing Okara’s writing or following the same research itinerary, he is indeed highlighting the importance of understanding postcolonial translation as cultural conversion. Jean Sevry’s translation of The Voice shows that he was quite aware of the significance “Ijaw est un système tonal; l’anglais est une langue accentuée. L’arrangement des chaînes de surface est fondamentalement différent tout autant que le système des verbes ou des genres. Les idéophones abondent, ce qui permet au locuteur de nuancer à l’infini l’expression de ses sensations et des modalités. Okara s’efforce d’en rendre compte par des redoublements ou des triplements qui ne sont que des équivalences très approximatives; ce que le traducteur tentera à son tour de rendre par des phrases comme: “Et maintenant tes cheveux sont noirs très noirs et plus noirs que le noir.” Traduire La Voix revient, en quelque sorte, à retrouver 1’écriture d’Okara et à passer par les mêmes itinéraires de recherches” (Jean Sevry, La Voix, 1985 :6-7). 13

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of the technique of repetition in the African oral narrative. The translators of Achebe’s Arrow of God (1964) seemed less conscious of the significance of this narrative technique and, consequently, tended to render repetitions and reduplications by straightforward statements that simply strove to explain the idea being conveyed through repetition, not the effect. One of the techniques employed by African writers is the use of obscenity and offensive language, referred to in the previous chapter as “vulgarity”, which has the specific aim of breaking with established conventions of Western prurience through a specific enactment of literary violence. This kind of challenge to the standards of literary and linguistic correctness imposed by the colonial language culture is made possible because vulgarity is an acceptable form of aesthetics in the oral traditions from which African writers draw their material. The open and healthy treatment of sex in the African novel, including other forms of obscenities and offensive language, represents a challenge for writers and translators alike who have to determine how to capture or translate passages that might be perceived as vulgar without hurting the sensibilities of the target readers. The following are some ‘vulgar’ statements and their translations: (1) “le Commandant dont la femme écarte les jambes dans les rigoles et dans les voitures” (Oyono 1956:149-50) “the Commandant whose wife opens her legs in ditches and in cars” (Reed 1966:98) (2) “De petites hanches comme les tiennes sont souvent le nid des grands boas” (Oyono 1956:144) “Slender hips like you’ve got are often the nest for a great big snake” (Reed 1966:95) (3) “Go and burn your mother’s genitals” (Achebe 1958:110) “Allez brûler les parties de votre mère” (Ligny 1966:188) (4) “You passed the shit that is smelling; you should carry it away” (Achebe 1964:144) “tu as fait des selles nauséabondes, tu devrais pouvoir les ramasser” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:193) (5) “he trembles and passes premature shit” (1964:179) “(il) tremble et se met à faire des selles avant l’heure” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:235) (6) “If you go to war to avenge a man who passed shit on the head of his mother’s father …” (Achebe 1964:27)

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“Si vous voulez faire la guerre pour venger un homme qui a deposé des excréments sur la tête du père de sa mère…” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:42) (7) “the bush on either side of the highway which she carried between her thighs” (Achebe 1964:122) “l’herbe folle des deux côtés de la grande route qu’elle avait entre les jambes” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:166)

On the whole, the translators dealt with these so-called vulgar passages with openness and frankness, rendering every minute detail almost verbatim. In many instances, they resorted to literal translation in order to preserve the sociocultural relevance of the passages, but in a few cases euphemisms and inexact equivalents were used. It is difficult to ascertain whether these were due to the translator’s (or his or her anticipated readership’s) discomfort with the apparent vulgar nature of the expressions. For instance, “your mother’s genitals” is translated as “les parties de votre mère”. “Parties”, of course, is understood as “parties sexuelles”, and in spite of its vulgar meaning, it seems to have been preferred over the more technical and graphic term “génitales”. In the next example, “You passed the shit that is smelling” is translated as “tu as fait des selles nauséabondes”; the translators use a more “recherché” or refined terminology in “selles” and “nauséabondes”. “Selles” is a medical term which is used here at the wrong level instead of excrément or, better still, “merde”. The translation of “a man who passed shit on the head of his mother’s father” as “un homme qui a déposé des excréments sur la tête du père de sa mere” is also the wrong level and does not seem to carry the same weight as its native equivalent. A rendition such as “un homme qui a chié sur la tête du père de sa mère” may be a better reflection of the impact of the statement within its native ecology. Translating “premature shit” as “des selles avant l’heure” is definitely inaccurate. In fact, “faire des selles avant l’heure” may create the impression that the person in question had a fixed time at which he would defecate. A translation such as “chier prématurément” captures the African idiom more adequately. Also, translating “bush” in (7) as “l’herbe folle” instead of “la brousse”, which is the equivalent French word in West Africa, leaves something to be desired. The proverb is another culturally-charged medium of expression in the traditional African context. The role played by proverbs in traditional Africa has been discussed in greater detail in the preceding chapter. The African author’s writing of proverbs in the colonial language, it was said, is often the result of a literal translation strategy, or transliteration, from the author’s native vernacular, with the aim of retaining the world view expressed in the

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proverbs and maintaining their culture specificity. Snell-Hornby endorses this approach when she states that “[t]he essential problem posed by metaphor in translation is that different cultures, hence different languages, conceptualize and create symbols in varying ways, and therefore the sense of the metaphor is frequently culture-specific” (1988:57). The African proverb is a condensed form of expression which carries with it a diversity of factors inherent to the ecological, social and cultural make up of the African world. The proverbs are deeply embedded within the African logos and derive meaning from the sociocultural context in which they are used. In his essay entitled “La traduction et la lettre – ou l’auberge du lointain”,14 Antoine Berman discusses the translation of proverbs and metaphors as he attempts to outline the merits of literalism (1985:36; my translation): As they are based on an experience that is fundamentally identical, proverbs in one language almost always have an equivalent in another language. Thus, the German proverb “the morning air has gold in its mouth” seems to correspond to the French proverb “the world belongs to those who wake up early in the morning”. Translating the proverb would therefore imply simply finding its equivalent (a different formulation of the same expression of wisdom). Hence, the translator faced with a foreign proverb has two options: look for an equivalent or translate it literally, word for word. He or she must also translate its rhythm, its length (or brevity), its alliterations, etc. Proverbs are also about the form. The translation task is indeed located between two poles: word for word translation of a German proverb which will retain “gold”, “morning”, “mouth” (not found in the French equivalent) and the translation of the proverb-form, which, in order to reach its goals, can eventually lead to stretching the French language and to modifying certain elements of the original.15 14

In Berman, Les Tours de Babel, 1985:35-150. “Reposant sur une expérience en principe identique, les proverbes d’une langue ont presque toujours des équivalents dans une autre langue. Ainsi, à l’allemand “l’air du matin a de l’or dans la bouche” semble correspondre, en France, “le monde appartient à ceux qui se 1èvent tôt”. Traduire le proverbe serait donc trouver son équivalent (la formulation différente de la même sagesse). Aussi le traducteur se voit-il placé, face à un proverbe étranger, à la croisée des chemins: ou rechercher son équivalent supposé, ou le traduire “littéralement”, “mot à mot”. Il faut aussi traduire son rythme, sa longueur (ou sa concision), ses éventuelles allitérations, etc. Car un proverbe est une forme. Le travail traductif se situe précisément entre ces deux pôles: la traduction “mot à mot” du proverbe allemande qui conservera “or”, “matin”, “bouche” (qu’on ne trouve pas dans 1’équivalent français) et la traduction de la forme-proverbe, laquelle peut éventuellement être amenée, pour parvenir à ses fins, à forcer le français et à modifier certains élements de l’original.” (Berman 1985:36)

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Berman clearly views literal translation as the most reliable way of preserving the originality of proverbs. He argues that literal translation is not slavish word-for-word translating (“mot à mot servile”) when he asserts that the work on the letter is neither a calque nor a (problematic) reproduction, but rather paying attention to the play of signifiers (“Tel me paraît être le travail sur la lettre: ni calque, ni (problématique) reproduction, mais attention portée au jeu des signifiants”) (1985:36). Berman points to the fact that the significance of literal translation raises serious doubts about the notion of equivalence. In his view, looking for equivalents is not simply looking for an invariant meaning, an ideal meaning expressed in different proverbs in different languages. It reveals much about linguistic attitudes. As he puts it (ibid.:37; my translation): It is refusing to allow in the translating language the foreignness of the original German proverb, the mouthful of gold of the German morning air; it is refusing to turn the translating language into a “refuge for foreignness” (“l’auberge du lointain”); it is, for us, Gallicizing or turning into French: an old tradition. For the translator who was trained in that school of thought, translation is about conveying meaning while making the meaning clearer, ridding it of the obscurities inherent in the foreignness of the foreign tongue. That is the caricature vision of Nida’s famous “dynamic equivalence”. Yet this “dynamic equivalence” remains the gospel truth for most translators. Any attempt to work on the “letter” still seems “experimental”… On the contrary, it is the opposite theory (“dynamic equivalence”) that is essentially “experimental” (in terms of the exact sciences) in that it is always methodologizing.16

Berman’s preference for a non-servile literality prepares the ground for understanding the process involved in translating African proverbs into European languages. It is important to understand the writing and translation of African proverbs not merely as the enactment of unbridled literality but rather as a 16

“C’est refuser d’introduire dans la langue traduisante l’étrangeté du proverbe original, la bouche pleine d’or de l’air matinal allemande, c’est refuser de faire de la langue traduisante “l’auberge du lointain”, c’est, pour nous, franciser: vieille tradition. Pour le traducteur formé à cette école, la traduction est une transmission de sens qui, en même temps, est tenue de rendre ce sens plus clair, de le nettoyer des obscurités inhérentes à 1’étrangeté de la langue étrangère. Telle est, caricaturale, la fameuse “équivalence dynamique” de Nida. Or, cette “équivalence dynamique” reste 1’évangile du tout-venant des traducteurs. Toute tentative de travail sur la lettre. . . apparaît encore comme “expérimentale”. . . . Au contraire, c’est la théorie inverse [“équivalence dynamique”] qui est d’essence “expérimentale” (au sens des sciences exactes) en ce qu’elle est, toujours, méthodologisante.” (Berman 1985:37).

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complex trajectory whose objective is to effect the cultural conversion of traditional African locutions and aphorisms into alien European languages. Given this fact, far from being a mere process of linguistic substitution, the translation of African proverbs from one European language to another involves the rerepresentation or re-creation of the proverbs in yet another culturally distant or alien language. The translation process is made even more difficult by the fact that the proverbs do not often have direct equivalents in European languages, not necessarily in terms of their meaning or real-life implications or references, but rather in their manner of expression, evocation or cultural allusiveness. And even when some semblance of equivalence can be established, it often fails to capture the world view expressed by the African proverb through the relevant ecological and social metaphors. There are therefore pragmatic and sociocultural factors that must be taken into account in translating the African proverb in order to retain its culture specificity. Here are some examples of African proverbs and their translations: (1) “Nous mangions en silence car la bouche qui parle ne mange pas” (Oyono 1956:1) “We eat in silence, for while the mouth speaks it does not serve for eating” (Reed 1966:1) (2) “An old woman is always uneasy when dry bones are mentioned in a proverb” (Achebe 1958:15) “Une vieille femme est toujours gênée quand on parle d’os desséchés dans un proverbe” (Ligny 1966:30) (3) “Unless the penis dies young it will surely eat bearded meat” (Achebe 1964:142) “Si le penis ne meurt pas jeune, il mangera sûrement la chair recouverte de poils” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:91) (4) “What that man Ezeulu will bring to Umuaro is pregnant and nursing a baby at the same time” (Achebe 1964:52) “Ce que cet Ezeulu apportera à Umuaro est comme une femme enceinte qui allaite un enfant en même temps” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:73) (5) “Unless the wind blows we do not see the fowl’s rump” (Achebe 1964:59) “Si le vent ne souffle pas, on ne peut pas voir la croupe de la volaille” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:83) (6) “Whenever you see a toad jumping in broad daylight, then know

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that something is after its life” (Achebe 1958:143) “Toutes les fois que tu verras un crapaud bondir en plein jour, alors sache que quelque chose menace sa vie” (Ligny 1966:246) (7) “A man who brings ant-ridden faggots into his hut should expect the visit of lizards” (Achebe 1964:144) “Un homme qui amène des fagots infestés de fourmis dans sa case doit s’attendre à la visite des 1ézards (d’Almeida et al. 1978:193) (8) “If you roast a bird of the air before a fowl, the fowl’s head aches” (Okara 1964:89) “Si tu fais rôtir un oiseau de l’air devant une volaille, la volaille a la migraine” (Sevry 1985:85) (9) “The fly that struts around a mound of excrements wastes his time; the mound will always be greater than the fly. The thing that beats the drums for ngwesi is inside the ground. Darkness is so great that it gives horns to a dog. He who builds a homestead before another can boast more broken pots. It is ofo that gives rainwater power to cut dry earth. The man who walks ahead of his fellows spots spirits on the way. Bat said that he knew his ugliness and chose to fly by night. When the air is fouled by a man on top of a palm tree the fly is confused. An ill-fated man drinks water and it catches in its teeth.” (Achebe 1964:225-226) “La mouche qui se pavane sur un tas d’excréments perd son temps, car le tas sera toujours plus grand que la mouche. La chose qui bat le tam-tam pour ngwesi est à l’intérieur du sol. L’obscurité est si dense qu’elle donne des cornes à un chien. Celui qui construit sa maison avant un autre peut se vanter d’avoir plus de canaris brisés. C’est l’ofo qui donne à la pluie la puissance de couper la terre desséchée. L’homme qui marche devant ses compagnons repère les esprits sur son chemin. La chauve-souris dit qu’elle sait combien elle est laide, c’est pourquoi elle a choisi de voler la nuit. Quand un homme fait un pet à la cîme d’un palmier, la mouche est déroutée. Un homme malchanceux boit de l’eau, et l’eau lui attrape la dent.” (d’Almeida et al. 1978:294)

The above translations are fairly literal as they seek to retain the essence and ecology of the African proverbs. The translators have merely used other European language words to express an African thought pattern, in much the same way as the African author used the words of his European language of writing to capture the African idiom as originally expressed in the proverb. However, in a few instances, the translation failed to retain certain metaphors

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as captured in the initial translation from the native vernacular. Proverb (3), an extremely sexual metaphor, is adequately translated in terms of conveying meaning; however, the translation of “bearded meat” as “la chair recouverte de poils” (flesh covered with hair), though an adequate “explicitation” of the original expression, fails to reflect the image that this direct translation from the Ibo language is meant to convey. Achebe translates the Ibo expression literally as “bearded meat” rather than “hairy meat” because the Ibo world view sees it that way. A more appropriate translation could be something like “de la viande barbue”, as literal as it may seem, which is more likely to alert the reader to the cultural specificity of the proverb as well as the related connotations. The translators of proverb (4) tried to skirt around the difficulty of rendering it into French by translating the metaphor by a simile. This strategy appeals to a translation by analogy approach, rather than a direct translation of the original. The importance of proverbs in the discourse of the Ibo people can be seen in the series of proverbs in (9). This is the language of the spirit or ghost (or someone possessed by a spirit) which spills out proverb after proverb in a form of incantation or ritualistic discourse, in a bid “to create an atmosphere of awe and mystery” (d’Almeida 1980:26). The proverbs are thus used in an “esoteric manner” to build up a language that is incomprehensible to the common people; it is a language understood only by the spirits, gods and their priests. This highly specialized language has been rendered literally into English by the author, which is what the French translators have done, in the hope of preserving its ritualistic and mysterious aura. For, as Berman puts it, “even if the meaning is identical, replacing one saying with its equivalent in the other language is indeed a form of ethnocentrism, which repeated on a grand scale will result in absurdity”17 (1985:80; my translation). Proverbs are highly culture-specific in that even if they refer to the same reality or experience their manner of expression is embedded in the logos or world view of the specific source culture. Therefore, transporting or translating proverbs across languages requires a process of conversion or adjustment to the source language culture and semiotics. In the last chapter we discussed the role locally-derived hybrid languages such as Pidgin English (WAPE) and other creolized varieties played in West African society and their significance as contact languages or lingua francas. It was pointed out that some West African writers use WAPE, particularly in dialogue, in an attempt to assign the appropriate variety of the colonial language to stock characters representing speakers of that variety, in a bid to capture the 17

“même si le sens est identique, remplacer un idiotisme par son équivalent, est un ethnocentrisme qui, répété à grande échelle, aboutirait à [une] absurdité.”

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complex and varied sociolinguistic landscape of West African society. It was also mentioned that WAPE is heavily influenced by the grammar of African languages, and consequently by the oral traditions conveyed by these languages. Indeed, as stated earlier, a hybrid between Western colonial languages and African languages, WAPE sometimes provides a much more accessible means of expressing ideas from the African local narrative tradition that may not find easy expression in the European language. At times, even when such ideas are expressed in European languages there is likely to be significant loss of local colour or even meaning. In discussing what he refers to as the “network of vernacular languages” (“réseaux langagiers vernaculaires”), Antoine Berman (1985:78-79) argues strongly for the retention of vernacular languages in translation. According to Berman, every great prose nurtures a close relationship with a network of vernacular languages, as the inherent polylingualism of prose necessarily involves a plurality of vernacular elements. Also, prose appeals to vernacular languages to ensure its concreteness, as vernaculars are in essence more corporal or physical, more iconic than cultivated language. The provincial Picard word “biblioteux” is more expressive than the standard French word “livresque” (bookish), the Old French word “sorcelage” is richer than “sorcellerie” (sorcery), the French Caribbean term “disrespecter” is more direct, or more to the point, than the standard French expression “manquer de respect” (to lack respect). Prose generally strives to capture the intrinsic orality of vernacular languages. The effacement of vernaculars will significantly alter the textuality of prose works. It is therefore important to retain the “network of vernacular languages” in the translation process, in much the same way as it is important to represent the social fabric of African society through the various “dialectal” practices of the characters in a novel. As Berman puts it (1985:66; my translation): Literary prose is characterized primarily by the fact that it captures, condenses and blends the entire polylingual space of a community. It mobilizes and activates the totality of “languages” that coexist in a language…. In terms of the form, this language cosmos which is the prose, and above all the novel, is characterized by a certain “informity” (informité), resulting from the massive mixing of languages in the novel.18 18

“La prose littéraire se caractérise en premier lieu par le fait qu’elle capte, condense et entremêle tout l’espace polylangagier d’une communauté. Elle mobilise et active la totalité des “langues” coexistant dans une langue. . . . au point de vue de la forme, ce cosmos langagier qu’est la prose, et au premier chef le roman, se caractérise par une certaine informité, qui résulte de 1’énorme brassage des langues opéré dans l’oeuvre.”

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While Berman implores the translator to preserve vernaculars, he nonetheless condemns the strategies of exoticization (emphasizing the vernacular according to a certain stereotype of it) and popularization (rendering a foreign vernacular by a local one). These two strategies often come together in cases where the foreign vernacular is replaced with a local equivalent, as in the following (cited in Venuti 2000:294; emphasis in original): … using Parisian slang to translate the lunfardo of Buenos Aires, the Normandy dialect to translate the language of the Andes or Abruzzese. Unfortunately, a vernacular clings tightly to its soil and completely resists any direct translating into another vernacular. Translation can occur only between “cultivated” languages. An exoticization that turns the foreign from abroad into the foreign at home winds up merely ridiculing the original.

Eugene Nida (1976:55) also alludes to the significance of maintaining dialect forms in translation when he says: More frequently the dialect forms used by writers are either horizontal (geographical) or vertical (socioeconomic) dialects, and rarely do authors or translators consistently represent all the details of such dialects, but at least certain easily recognized features are selected that serve to signal the type of dialect being used. A form such as ‘you all’ is supposed to typify Southern American English, and boid ‘bird’ and goil ‘girl’ are supposed to represent the Lower east Side of New York City. The problem for the translator is to find in a foreign language a dialect with approximately the same status and connotations. Rarely is the dialect match fully successful, for the values associated with a particular dialect are often highly specific.

In discussing the concept of equivalence, Catford (1965:112) also alludes to the varieties of ‘language’ that can be found in a novel. He mentions the idiolect, which helps to identify a character in a novel, dialectal variants (e.g. geo-social ones, as in the translation of a passage from Cockney in the Southeast of England into Parisian), and various language levels (popular, familiar, colloquial, etc.). The ideas set forth by these scholars show how important it is to represent society in a novel fully by including the various sociolinguistic backgrounds of the characters, and, above all, they point to the difficulty and the necessity of translating what Berman calls the network of vernacular languages (“les réseaux langagiers vernaculaires”; 1985:78)) found in certain novels. These

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dialect forms are often charged with meaning and can reveal a great deal of information about the people, culture or society depicted in the novel. It is therefore essential to preserve the sociocultural elements as well as the various semantic and expressive aspects of the dialect forms in the translation process. All great prose abounds in images, expressions, figures, proverbs, aphorisms, idioms, etc., which are often grounded in the vernacular. Although these forms of expression may convey meaning that can be readily expressed by parallel forms in other languages, translating such culture-specific expressions by merely replacing them with foreign language equivalents verges on ethnocentrism. In fact, this would amount to the kind of absurdity whereby a network of French or English cultural images or realities is used to express African sociocultural realities. Any recourse to cultural equivalents minimizes the authentic discourse of the African narrative. “Of course”, says Berman, “a proverb may have its equivalents in other languages, but … these equivalents do not translate it. To translate is not to search for equivalences. The desire to replace ignores, furthermore, the existence in us of a proverb consciousness which immediately detects, in a new proverb, the brother of an authentic one: the world of our proverbs is thus augmented and enriched” (cited in Venuti 2000:295). It is therefore important to acknowledge the significance of the superimposition of languages in fiction and the integral relationship of tension between the vernacular and the Koine, between the underlying or deep linguistic structures and the surface language, and consequently avoid a homogenized translation. Berman’s discussion of linguistic superimpositions brings to mind Mikhaïl Bakhtin’s idea that the novel assembles a heterology or diversity of discursive types, a heteroglossia or diversity of languages, and heterophony or diversity of voices (Bakhtin 1982:89; see also Venuti 2000:296). The difficulty in translating pidgins or creoles in the African novel lies in the fact that there is hardly any direct equivalent relationship between English-based pidgins and French-based pidgins in West Africa, which have evolved through distinct colonial histories and have quite separate grammars. Some light has been thrown on the different status of these two varieties of locally-derived hybrid languages in the previous chapter. Pidgin passages in the West African novel in English are easily recognizable and comprehensible as they are written in a ‘language’ that is identifiable as West African Pidgin English (WAPE), a lingua franca which in some contexts has become the first language of many speakers. One cannot say the same for passages of Frenchbased pidgins since they do not often reflect, or emanate from, an established form of pidgin, but rather represent a sort of ‘broken’ French which varies from one author to another just as it varies from one group of speakers to another in real-life usage. In fact, a French-based pidgin passage is often the idiosyncratic

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creation of the Francophone writer who tries to imagine or emulate the kind of ‘broken’ French spoken by the illiterate or semi-literate characters of his or her novel, whereas an English-based pidgin passage will generally have parallel forms within the Pidgin English communities in West Africa. In other words, the English-based passage is often reflective of the pidgin spoken in real life, whereas the French-based pidgin is not. The subjective or idiolectal creation of French-based pidgin passages implies that the reader of Francophone novels will rely on his or her own intuition to pick through the ‘mess’ created by the author’s deliberate ‘de-grammatization’ of the French language in order to figure out what the character (or speaker) is saying. Indeed, the impression quite often created by a French-based pidgin passage is that the speaker has a poor mastery of the French language, whereas any reader familiar with the English-based pidgin will recognize such a passage as belonging to a well-established lingua franca in West Africa. Given this fact, it seems inappropriate to continue to refer to WAPE as ‘rotten’ English, ‘bad’ English or ‘broken’ English, as WAPE is fairly autonomous nowadays and not determined by the colonial superstrate English. A close look at the following English-based pidgin passage (Achebe 1964:155) and its translation into a so-called French-based pidgin will illustrate the point: I use to tellam say blackman juju no be someting wey man fit take play. But when I tellam na so so laugh im de laugh. When he finish laugh he call me John and I say Massa. He say You talk bush talk. I tellam say 0-o, one day go be one day. You no see now?

Standard English (my translation): I used to tell him that nobody fools around with black magic. But each time I said so he would simply laugh it off. When he finished laughing he would call out my name “John” and I would answer “Sir”. He would say, “You are talking like a ‘savage’”. Then I would say to him, “Well, some day you will experience it first-hand, and then you will believe me”. And that day has come.

French translation (d’Almeida et al. 1978:206): Moi dire lui que gri-gri de l’homme noir être quelque chose avec quoi personne y doit jouer. Mais quand moi dire lui, lui rire, rire seulement. Quand lui fini rire, lui dit “John” et moi répond “Missé”, y dit moi aussi parler comme broussard. Moi dis lui “O-o, un jour va vini et on va voir”. Ti voi maintnant?

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Apart from the “unnaturalness” of this kind of mimicry as translation, what is also striking is the apparent lack of identity of the French version due to a significant loss of those aspects of African oral tradition which constitute the ethnolinguistic underpinnings of the passage in West African Pidgin English. In other words, there is hardly anything typically West African in the Frenchbased pidgin passage, whereas the English-based pidgin passage is clearly identifiable as West African Pidgin, though a Nigerian variety (as distinct from a Cameroonian, Ghanaian or Sierra Leonese variety). Indeed, the French-based pidgin passage could also be attributed to an illiterate speaker of French in many former French colonies outside Africa. One of the salient features of African oral narrative lost in the translation is the repetition in “na so so laugh im de laugh”. “So so” is recognizeable as a grammatical unit in Pidgin English, often used to signal emphasis, recurrence or duration (Todd 1982; 1984). The French version “lui rire, rire seulement”, though a repetition, does not reflect the grammatical importance of the expression “so so” in Pidgin English. Another aspect of the African oral narrative lost in the translation is the Pidgin proverb (fashioned after the African proverb) “One day go be one day”. Paraphrasing it into Standard English without losing its oral narrative quality is extremely difficult. My translation of this into Standard English (“And that day has come”) does not carry the same cultural weight as the Pidgin original. Its translation into French as “un jour va vini . . . et on va voir” is inadequate as the translation is a mere de-grammatized French and cannot be recognized as a proverb, with all the attributes of wisdom, pithiness and succinctness usually implied. Hence, due to the significant loss of its oral antecedents, the proverb and the prophetic statement it encodes are barely recognizeable in translation as such, or as West African, and consequently cannot enjoy the same status as the original passage in West African Pidgin English. The following passage from Arrow of God (Achebe 1964:153-54) and its translation will hopefully throw more light on the difficulty of translating Pidgin passages due to the difference in status between English-based and so-called French-based pidgins: The two policemen conferred in the white man’s tongue to the great admiration of the villagers. “Sometine na dat two porson we cross for road” said the Corporal. “Sometine na dem” said his companion. “But we no go return back jus like dat. All dis waka wey we waka come here no fit go for nating”. The Corporal thought about it. The other continued – “Sometine na lie dem de lie. I no wan make dem put trouble for we head”.

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Standard English (my translation): The two policemen conferred in the white man’s tongue to the great admiration of the villagers. “Maybe it’s the two men we passed on our way here”, said the corporal. “Maybe it’s them”, his companion replied. “But we can’t go back empty-handed. All the trekking we did to get here cannot go for nothing”. The Corporal thought about it. The other continued – “Maybe they are lying to us. I don’t want them to get us into trouble”.

French translation (d’Almeida et al. 1978:204-205): Les deux policiers se consultèrent dans la langue de 1’homme blanc, à la grande admiration des villageois. C’est pê-ête les deux hommes-là nous rencontrer sur la route, dit le caporal. Pê-ête c’est eux, repondit son compagnon. Mais nous pas retourner comme ça. Tout cette marche nous marcher! Ça peut pas ête pour rien. Le caporal réfléchit. L’autre continua. Pê-ête eux mentir. Moi veux pas eux mête palabre sur nos têtes.

The translators have made quite a commendable effort to render the humour, meaning and poetics of the above Pidgin passage. Although the translation is mainly in ‘broken’ French, it will generally require just a little effort on the part of an informed reader to grasp the message of the dialogue and feel its effect. In fact, it is far more comprehensible than the Pidgin English passage, as it leaves obvious standard French language traces within its de-grammatized structures, which can be gleaned and pieced together by the Francophone reader. The latter point bears testimony to the relative autonomy, or independent status, of West African Pidgin English, which is not easy to grasp by non-pidginophones who may be fluent in English. However, one has the feeling that there is something missing in the translation; something I will refer to as the ‘Africanness’ of the dialogue. For instance, in the statement “All dis waka wey we waka come here no fit go for nating”, the expression “no fit go for nating” is well-known to pidginophones, often used by corrupt officials and local law enforcement officers when they are determined to extort money from an individual not found guilty of a purported offence. These corrupt officials usually push their victims to the limit until they find a reason to extort a bribe from them, for as the saying goes, “nating no fit go for nating” (i.e., nothing goes for nothing). The translation “Tout cette marche nous marcher! Ça peut pas ête pour rien” is at best a reproduction of the meaning implied in the original statement, but

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it clearly does not have the same impact in the French text as the idiomatic expression does in the English text. The value of its idiomaticity gives this very pithy and intense Pidgin expression all its significance and weight in the novel. It will take a translation as conversion approach to retain its aphoristic qualities, which are grounded in a postcolonial reality rather than within the world view of traditional African society. Aware of the incommensurability of the French-based and English-based pidgins, d’Almeida (1980:28) sums up the difficulty encountered in translating the above passages in these words: The solution which consists in inventing a substitute language to translate Pidgin English may be questioned by some or even condemned by others. Indeed, “a pidgin is a marginal language which arises to fulfil certain restricted communication needs among people who have no common language” . . . . The emphasis is put on the word language because although it is looked down upon by many as being a bastardized form of English plus a few other borrowings, Pidgin English is indeed a language in its own right with its lexical and syntactic peculiarities. As far as we know and at least in West Africa there is no French Pidgin in that sense, except perhaps in Ivory Coast. This of course does not justify the fallacious assumption which would have one believe that in the former French Colonies French was spoken very well or not at all. As a matter of fact some people who, for one reason or the other did not master French did speak and still speak a kind of unorthodox French derogatorily called “Français petit-nègre”. It is because this so-called language seems to be the nearest one can find to Pidgin English that we have chosen to translate it in this manner. As a result one could wonder whether the use of an invented “petit-nègre” is artistically and culturally justifiable or whether the shortcomings notwithstanding this device does convey the meaning and the feeling conveyed by the writer. We may concede that perhaps technically it may not be totally appropriate.

Indeed, it is not totally appropriate to render the culture-specificity of a wellestablished, locally-derived lingua franca such as WAPE by means of an invented and highly idiosyncratic jargon which takes its cue from a raciallycharged and derogatory expression such as “français petit-nègre”. It is also worthwhile to study what happens when so-called French-based pidgins (i.e. ‘broken’ French), which are much less codified, are translated into the more codified English-based pidgins of West Africa. One would expect the process to be much easier, as the translation is carried out from a much

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less standardized form of pidgin into a relatively more stable and recognizeable variety. The following are examples of French-based pidgin drawn from Oyono’s Une Vie de Boy (1956) and their English translations:

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(1) “Monz’ami, . . . nous pas buveurs indigènes!” (1956:77) “Man . . . We no be native drinkers” (Reed 1966:49) (2) “Petit Joseph pati rôti en enfer” (1956:34) “Small Joseph go burn in hell” (Reed 1966:22) (3) “Y en a vérité, Sep (Chef)” (1956:39) “It is truth, sah” (Reed 1966:25) (4) “Movié (mon vieux! en petit nègre)! .... Zeuil-de-Panthère cogner comme Gosier-d’Oiseau! Lui donner moi coup de pied qui en a fait comme soufat’soud, ... Zeuil y en a pas rire ...” (1956:40) “Man . . . Panther-Eye beat like Gullet. Him kick me bam! Go like dynamite. Panther-Eye no joke” (Reed 1966:25)

Reed’s English translation of these pidgin sequences reveals the fact that, as a non-native speaker of West African Pidgin English, he relied heavily on the principle of rendering what has been referred to as ‘broken French’ by ‘broken English’. He followed the French text very closely in order to come up with what he imagines should be the kind of English spoken by such characters in the novel. The result is a kind of colonial English reminiscent of the way colonial administrators and missionaries spoke, talking down to the natives. Although this approach might be suitable for translating those mocking statements made by the colonists, it is highly unlikely that a West African speaker will use this kind of ‘artificial’ and reconstructed pidgin English. Rather than inventing some unrecognizable hybrid language, it might have been more appropriate for Reed to seek the help of native speakers of West African Pidgin English, which would have led to a translation that is more representative of the kind of pidgin spoken by such characters in the West African setting. The translation of (1) as “Man ... We no be native drinkers” and (2) as “Small Joseph go burn in hell” reminds one of the kind of approximate pidgin spoken by European missionaries and colonists in Africa. A native speaker of West African Pidgin would say something like: (1) “Massa. ... We no de drink mimbo like bush people”, the noun phrase “native drinkers” being a little too recherché for the illiterate speaker of Pidgin and a bit too close to the superstrate English; for (2) “Small Joseph i go burn for hellfire”, “Go burn in hell” is closer to the acrolect variety of Pidgin that is not available to the

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illiterate speaker of Pidgin. A native-speaker of West African Pidgin English might translate “Y en a verité, Sep” as “Na true, sah” and not “It’s truth, sah” as rendered by Reed. “Na”, of course, is the recognized equivalent of “It’s” in West African Pidgin English (Todd 1982; 1984). The noun “truth”, moreover, may not be used in Pidgin. Reed’s translations suggest that he might have had an international readership in mind, as he seems willing to sacrifice linguistic and culture-specificity for clarity. The translation of passage (4) clearly indicates that Reed merely sought to replace what is obviously ‘broken French’ with ‘broken English’ (as opposed to a codified Pidgin English). For a West African Pidgin-English audience the translation would normally read something like the following: “Massa . . . Panther-Eye i de beat like Gullet. i kick me bam i be like thunder. PantherEye no de joke”. Apart from using the wrong pidgin syntax and grammar, Reed uses “dynamite”, a word which is not available to the illiterate speaker of Pidgin. The translations I have suggested are generally more representative of the kind of pidgin spoken by these West African characters. Reed’s renditions hardly represent the speech of any linguistic community in that part of the world, except for the community of Western missionaries, government officials and businessmen who occasionally attempt to carry on a conversation in pidgin with illiterate indigenous people. The translation of pidgins is therefore not an easy task. d’Almeida likens it to the difficulty of translating dialects from a specific source language into a target language, as in translating a dialogue written in Scottish English into French (1980:28). In the event of such translation difficulty, it may be advisable to resort to a form of radical translation (Quine 1960). Since there is really no established (or standard) variety of French-based pidgin in West Africa, it would be appropriate for the translator to seek the help of speakers of ‘broken French’. This is particularly necessary since, unlike educated English-speaking Africans, the educated French-speaking African hardly uses ‘broken French’ even when his interlocutor is an illiterate French-speaking African. Unlike the Anglophone writer who often has a good command of the English-based pidgin, the Francophone writer hardly uses ‘broken French’ outside creative writing; he or she therefore cannot manipulate the ‘language’ with the same skill and ease as the uneducated speaker of ‘broken French’. This may explain why in African Francophone fiction there is considerable discrepancy in the representation of ‘pidgin’ language dialogues even among characters from similar cultural contexts. Thus, the translation of culture-specific items in the works of African writers is a complex process of conversion, rather than plain translation, into other cultural contexts, with the aim of sustaining and imparting the African

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life world. These works are closely linked to the cultural milieu of which they are a product, in terms of their environmental, social, cultural and linguistic background. The difficulty facing the translator of this kind of literature is that of expressing the African world view through a foreign language for a potential readership that may not be familiar with the sociocultural background of the works. The translator thus has to strive to reconstruct the appropriate universe of the African world in the translation. In this crosscultural communication approach to translation and literary criticism, I have discussed some of the strategies involved in the event of communication between two remote, or non-related, linguistic and cultural systems, brought together by such historical circumstances as colonization, which imply intercultural exchange in a context of unequal power relations. My aim in this chapter has essentially been to make use of the intercultural writing and communication analyses in the preceding chapter to lend support to the translatability thesis. The validity of the theory of universal communicability (Habermas 1979, 1984), which implies a theory of universal translatability, is enhanced by this study of crosscultural communication and translation. In fact, there are many more factors common to all human experience than there are factors peculiar to each ethnocultural community, which explains why the act of translation is ever-present in our everyday lives. The few differences that separate us can be overcome in the process of communication through the kind of good will implied in what Quine (1969) refers to as the Principle of Charity and Grice (1975) as the Cooperative Principle. The representation of African thought in European languages is thus a crosscultural translation process in which the relevance of the sociocultural distance between the African and the European world views calls for a translation process whereby the “translator achieves in his hermeneutic effort, a certain degree of equi-culturality, in transferring the social and cultural meanings of the SL culture into the TL culture” (Chellappan 1988:161). This translation process has far-reaching implications for translation theory, especially regarding issues related to non-Western cultures, as well as today’s cultures of globalization.

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7. African Europhone Literature and the Ethics of Translation 1. Creative Writing and translating in non-indigenous or second languages The sociocultural and linguistic processes involved in the stylization of African oral discourse in Europhone literature can reveal a great deal about creative writing and translating in a non-indigenous or second language, particularly in today’s postcolonial and globalization contexts where the majority of the world’s population engages in serious communication through various media and technologies in languages that are non-indigenous or alien to their cultural heritage. From an ideological or power relations standpoint, it is worth noting that the vast majority of the world’s population is either bilingual or multilingual, and yet in the current context of globalization the direction of world affairs is determined by the politically and economically powerful monolingual states, which constitute a sizeable minority of the world’s population but whose languages have spread across the globe through trade and imperialism. Creative writing in non-native languages, as practised in some postcolonial literatures, is indeed a forum for studying intercultural communication and its implications for intercultural translation, and consequently for translation theory and ethics. The expression of African thought in European languages is a classic example of contact between remote (or non-related) languages and cultures, and thus provides a framework for the study of the creative processes that occur naturally in language contact situations. This encounter between African and European languages and cultures in the postcolonial context has given rise to an Africanized variety of European languages, some locally-derived hybrid languages, creoles, lingua francas and other forms of contact languages. This multiplicity of languages and the ensuing context of diglossia and literary heteroglossia complicate matters somewhat with regards to defining and understanding theoretical and ethical issues related to global or transnational literary and cultural transfers or issues of translingualism and transculturality in translation. In this concluding chapter, I will attempt to sum up the implications of this study for a variety of interrelated themes that have significance to questions of literary and cultural exchange in the global marketplace and ultimately for translation studies and other areas of theoretical and applied linguistics.

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1.1 The impact of orality There is no doubt that the African oral tradition has moulded the thought processes and language of many African writers, particularly those of the early postcolonial era, and consequently has become the basis for the Africanization of colonial languages in literature. Thanks to its artistry as well as its linguistic and sociocultural significance, the African oral tradition became a source of inspiration for the African writer and a means for decolonizing African literature. It offered the writer the reservoir of values, aesthetics and sensibilities of traditional African life which were to be taken up in fiction to assert the identity of an emerging African literature. In order to counter the general tendency to emulate the Western literary style prevalent in most former colonies, African writers looked for ways of incorporating in their works ideas and narrative devices drawn from oral narratives. They sought to capture the flavour of African life, both past and present, by creating a link between contemporary African literary sensibilities and oral narratives steeped in their ancient origins. This rediscovery of Africa’s ancient roots was not simply the result of some cultural sentimentalism with respect to the past or the quest for some measure of authenticity, but was rather due to an emerging trend that saw the literary exploitation of oral tradition as providing the means for approaching literature as a social phenomenon (Obiechina 1975; Mazrui 1975; Chinweizu et al. 1980), with the implied benefit of mounting resistance to colonial oppression and domination. Many African writers draw strength from an indigenous narrative tradition through which their works enjoy legitimization within the global literary market. To echo Chinweizu et al. (1980:173): African novelists could find support for their practice in the African narrative tradition. [For instance], the communalist ethos; the unexaggerated prominence of the individual within his society; the open and healthy treatment of sex in contrast to the Western obsession with either prudery and prurience; the utilization of proverbs; succinctness of description as against pointillist excess or rhapsodic luxuriance; the use of stock characters and situations in parabolic presentations; magic, ghost, and the supernatural; characterization through allusions, praise names and metaphors, [these are some of the contributions of the African oral narrative to the African novel].

African oral literature (like most oral literatures) is known for its economy of means (Chinweizu et al. 1980), and its inherent ability to condense elaborate

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meanings in a terse and concise form of expression such as the proverb has been instrumental in the African writer’s effort to capture African life in the novel. The African writer has thus benefited from the full range of genres in the African prose tradition in his creative attempt to express the African lifeworld in the colonial language. By modelling aspects of their narrative style on the African narrative tradition, African writers have captured and eternalized (through writing) the traditional world of the African people. The foregrounding of orality in colonial language writing can be viewed in terms of the internationalization of literature as the contextual use of language, in this case, the contextual use of the English and French languages in African literary production. This use of language within specific geographies confirms the claim that the English and French languages are now being used worldwide and that, today, those aspects of context that regulate their use are not all native to these European languages. In the traditional African setting, as in all language communities, context determines speech variety and speech is in turn marked by sociolinguistic factors such as age, gender, kinship ties, wisdom, and so on. There is an abundant use of discourse strategies such as indirectness, implicitness and inference in African discourse as evidenced in the use of proverbs, rhetorical questions and collective nouns. This culture-specific use of language is what has been carried over to the European languages. Pragmatics is therefore the study of what practical phenomena a linguistic community associates with the use of language. It is the study of how various cultures manipulate language forms to express meaning peculiar to each culture. It is our awareness of this cultural dimension of language which accounts for our true understanding of those statements that often say more than is generally meant at face value, which Grice (1975) refers to as implicature and Searle (1975) calls indirect speech acts. In the case of African Europhone literature, non-native users of a (European) language have come to assign culture-bound characteristics to an alien language for their own use. African oral culture has thus to a large extent shaped colonial language writing, whose reading in this context requires a good grasp of the underlying metatext of orality. It has been shown that African speech is usually so culture-dependent that one cannot always rely on logic alone to grasp its full meaning potential. For instance, although proverbs have been shown to throw more light on an idea, or present ideas in a more succinct fashion, their occurrence in a sentence does not always bear a direct or logical relationship to other items of the sentence or text. The perception of coherence, connectivity, relatedness, orderliness and similar aspects of discourse are often culture-bound (Enahoro 1966; Yamuna Kachru 1983; Chishimba 1984), as different linguistic communities may have different discourse strategies or differing interpretations of such strategies.

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General theories based on a study of Western languages and cultures may therefore not apply to situations where the Western languages are being used in a non-native mode on a national scale. Take, for example, the Gricean maxims of quality, quantity, relation and manner which govern conversation or verbal interaction in Western society. Although based on the use of English, when these maxims are appropriated by so-called non-native speakers and imbued with elements from another culture, they appear to be constantly violated in conversation. Yet, in these non-native settings, the violations do not necessarily result in any form of miscommunication among participants in the conversation; rather, they are part of the participants’ culture-specific norms or ways of speaking and indeed enhance rather than diminish communicability. Grice’s maxims are based on a discourse of linearity where violations can only yield meaning through implicature. This implies that in order to grasp the speaker’s intention, his or her comments must be placed in a context or be understood through inference or implication. However, this study has shown that linearity is hardly a fundamental attribute of African discourse and that ambiguity, redundancy, circularity, loquacity, obscurity, indirectness, etc. are all strategies of verbal interaction in the cultures of Africa, which systematically violate Grice’s maxims and therefore pose a serious challenge to speakers, writers or translators with a mainly Western mindset. Yet we cannot account for instances of African speech merely as violations of maxims that were formulated according to specifications considered appropriate for the English language in its native setting. How often have we heard of stories of the colonial era where the native’s intelligence is questioned as he is mocked by the colonist for beating about the bush, for going on in circles or rambling, as he employs African oral stylistics and pragmatics in speech, the only strategies available to him, in an imposed colonial language for that matter. In more recent times, in what amounts to self-denigrating mimicry of colonial practices (see Bhabha 1994), we have heard other Westernized elitist Africans dismiss their fellow countryman’s speech as superfluous, winding or verbose, blaming its shortcomings on what they consider to be the ill-effects of oral tradition. I remember a teacher of English composition in an African institution turning a course on summary or précis-writing into a venue for ridding students of what he considered to be the negative influence of the oral narrative tradition. Yet, the impact of orality in shaping a uniquely African discourse cannot be denied, and this has played a significant role in carving out a space for African literature and culture in the global marketplace. The role of orality in world literatures is indispensable to a poetics of translation that can account for the multiplicity of voices, discourses and linguistic practices within the global literary economy.

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1.2 Language contact and cultural encounter The expression of African thought in European languages through intercultural writing and translation provides an interesting forum for studying languages and cultures in contact. In a language contact situation, issues of bilingualism, multilingualism, language change and nativeness arise. As mentioned earlier, bilingualism is a common phenomenon all over the world, and most countries are multilingual (Fishman 1968, 1978; Ferguson 1978; Hancock 1986). In most of these countries verbal interaction may involve more than one language at a time, and the use of strategies such as code-switching and code-mixing is fairly common. Discourses emerging from such contexts are already quite heteroglossic, with languages and cultures meshed together to produce polylingual or linguistically multilayered texts that pose specific problems for translation. The heteroglossic writing practice of the African author raises important questions about the linguistic status of a bilingual subject and the myth of the native speaker. These questions are even more pressing in a field like translation studies where, although normative considerations of language use have traditionally been the overriding concern, a majority of participants are at least bilingual and work from and into languages that may not be native to their communities. According to Ferguson, “the whole mystique of native and mother tongue should probably be quietly dropped from the linguist’s set of professional myths about language”, for the simple reason that “the spreading language1 shows variation related in complex ways to the earlier language competence of the new users” (1982:ix). Ferguson has in mind all those bilingual and multilingual people all over the world for whom being monolingual is the exception rather than the rule. Indeed, the tendency to base linguistic description and explanation of the nature of language solely on the native or mother language is no longer adequate to account for the full range of linguistic and sociolinguistic occurrences of any one global language. For Labov (1968), linguists who base their research solely on the native variety have perhaps inadvertently moved away from studying the nature of language to exploring their own personal idiolect. The tendency to concentrate on the native variety becomes absurd when one realizes that there are fewer people in the world who speak only one language than those who must speak more than one language as part of everyday communication (Fishman 1978). There is ample evidence today that a native speaker of a language can also possess a good command of another language, to the point where he or she 1

For example, global languages such as English or French.

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is able to use both languages in the appropriate situation and context without violating, or mixing up, the two sets of rules (Ferguson 1978, 1982; Kachru 1982a, 1982b). In our contemporary world that is continually being shaped by mass migration, displacement and rapid urbanization, there are all kinds of communities, families and societies with various language combinations available to speakers from a very young age. It is not unusual to find speakers in largely cosmopolitan areas who manipulate several languages with equal dexterity. The question, therefore, is: what kind of a native speaker is today’s multilingual subject who is equally exposed to several languages for his or her daily use? For example, what kind of a native speaker is the African writer who has a thorough knowledge of his European language of writing, and in some cases, a better written knowledge of the European language than of his native tongue? What is the mother tongue of a child born of an inter-ethnic marriage in an English-speaking universe whose mother is not Anglo-Saxon but who speaks to her child mainly in English? And how will such a child fare in a translation studies or language programme where selection criteria are based on normative definitions of mother-tongue competence and language combinations are restricted to considerations of one’s linguistic origins or provenance? Aware of the changing demographics and the multilingual and multi-ethnic make up of our society, most North American institutions have rejected the term ‘mother tongue’ and now prefer the term ‘native or near native’ competence or proficiency with respect to global languages such as English, French and Spanish. In Europe, some institutions now skirt around the issue by casting language combinations in terms of Language A and Language B, mindful of the fact that many proficient speakers of major languages may have other languages as mother tongue. In many universities today foreign literatures are taught in translation, which complicates matters by detaching literature from its language of origin, thus minimizing the significance of the relationship between language and culture. These are very important questions for literary and translation studies as they challenge the sacrosanct belief in a stable, uniform and monolithic original, an original which has long been thought a prerequisite for translation to take place into another such monolithic entity. These questions locate the issue of linguistic and cultural hybridity at the centre of literary criticism and translation theory. Consider, for example, the issue of literary heteroglossia and polylingualism discussed earlier with regard to code-mixing and code-switching practices in creative writing. It is important for linguistic inquiry and for translation studies to seek to understand the ability of certain speakers to be proficient in many languages and at times to fuse more than one language in a single discourse or utterance. This kind of competence might reveal something about the

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grammar of today’s multilingual subjects, and consequently the grammar of texts produced in these contexts of cultural and linguistic plurality. Examples of code-mixing and switching can be found in the way African writers adorn their work with elements from their indigenous languages as they write in European languages. As mentioned before, what is striking about this kind of code-mixing and switching in African creative writing is that the sentential constituents drawn from the indigenous language follow the morphological and syntactic rules of the European language of writing into which they are introduced. Code-switching is also used to represent the social fabric of modern African society through language, by assigning to each character the language he or she uses the most. In this regard, it is often carried out between English/vernacular/Pidgin among characters in the English novels and between French/vernacular/‘broken French’ in the French novels. It is also used when certain ideas are difficult to express in the European language without loss of meaning or loss of a statement’s oral narrative quality. In such instances, the author makes the character speak either in his or her vernacular (in which case the author provides a kind of translation of the statement) or in an African ‘language’ that has wider currency across ethnic boundaries, such as Pidgin English, ‘broken French’ or some other lingua franca. There are of course instances when, in a creative piece of work, code-switching is used mainly for aesthetic and stylistic effect and to enhance local appeal. For instance, the author can make a character code-switch from language to language as a parody of those individuals in postcolonial society, with a colonial mentality, who code-switch for reasons of prestige or to show off their knowledge of languages, particularly imported colonial tongues. Code-switching, as a writing technique, is therefore not the result of a bilingual person having only partial knowledge in each of the two languages he or she speaks; rather, it is proof of their knowledge and ability to use language creatively, a phenomenon which should be accounted for by linguistic theory and explored in translation research for its impact on matters of fluency and transparency and on such binarisms as source versus target language or original versus translation. This study has attempted to throw light on this phenomenon by illustrating how in the African novel the character’s knowledge of his or her native language and culture can enhance their creative and aesthetic use of the European language. Code-switching can be said to occur at this level when African speakers of the European language attempt to assign aspects of their language and culture to the European language, through what might be termed translation as negotiation. Far from being a case of mere linguistic interference or a facile substituting of linguistic and cultural equivalents, this is a process of negotiation between two meaning potentials that belong

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to two different societies expressed in one and the same language. It is a negotiating process in the sense that two divergent sociocultural systems that are in contact attempt to arrive at a happy solution in expressing the African world view in the European language. It involves the transfer of the forms and meanings and social markers and attributes, as well as the sociocultural setting of the African ‘life-world’ onto the adopted colonial languages. Such transfer has quite often been confused with interference. Generally speaking, transfer is the (often deliberate) assigning of features of one’s language to a second language. Interference, however, is a psychological process by which the features of a given language influence the way a learner or speaker uses a foreign language (Ferguson 1978; Kachru 1982b). It is clear in this study that the process involved here is one of transfer and not interference. In other words, it is not the African writer’s ability in his European language of writing that is in question, but rather his ability to ‘master’ and manipulate the European language to reflect his sociocultural world view that is being celebrated. This literary and cultural transfer process has been instrumental in the Africanization of colonial languages. It is of interest, therefore, to elucidate in what ways first-language cultural knowledge influences the second language of a bilingual individual, and how this might in turn influence the kind of literary and cultural productions that are often dealt with in intercultural writing and translation. The polemics, discussed earlier, surrounding the issue of African writers using European languages, rather than African languages, as their artistic medium seem based on strict or narrow interpretations of the relationship between language, culture and nation. Although one may concede that indigenous language writing can serve to promote and stabilize African languages, it is futile to claim that only African languages can truly carry the weight of African culture. If culture was that narrowly bound to language, then today we would know very little about other great civilizations and their cultures, which have come to us mainly through translation.2 This kind of nativism, though understandable in a context of colonialist oppression and cultural imperialism, shows a disregard for language universals and the kind of cultural rapprochement, hybridity and syncretism characteristic of the globalization of our times. This is not to say that we live in a world where cultures have enmeshed and have lost their respective identities, or that if that were the case it would necessarily be a good thing for humanity. Rather, there is a tendency today towards a form of cosmopolitanism whereby cultures interact and borrow from each other for the greater good of society, while retaining those 2

Think of the Greco-Roman Antiquities, the Bible, the Maya and Inka civilizations, etc.

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inherent qualities which make them unique (cf. Appiah 2006). Linguistic or cultural attrition becomes a threat when hybridity is understood as a concept according to which ‘everything is nothing, and nothing is everything’; in other words, where everything goes, a kind of no-man’s land. Yet, hybridity can be viewed positively when, in the context of cosmopolitanism, it allows cultures to interact and communicate without diminishing their essence. For many African writers, the European language is quite often their second language, acquired after they have achieved a reasonable command of their native vernacular. For many others, the distinction is not that clear-cut as each language seems to have a special function within distinct communicative situations, with the colonial language being the only language of literacy and writing. Some of these writers defend their use of a second language as the medium for their creation by arguing for their right to appropriate languages that, though imported, have become the main tools for official communication in their countries and their only access to a literate and alphabetized language. The spread of colonial languages across the globe meant that these languages were bound to undergo change as their functions and users changed over time. The result has been innovations and deviations from the standard European variety. Today, in some areas, pidgins and creoles have evolved from the contact of these European languages and African languages and, although some of these pidgins and creoles are relatively unstable, they show signs of a gradual progression towards refinement and development into major languages fit for literary and scientific communication.3 The African writer’s use of European languages is an example of what Kachru (1983) has referred to as the contextualization and nativization of a second language. Contextualization takes place when a foreign language becomes part of the sociocultural system of its new user, thus acquiring new meanings and functions. Nativization occurs when the form and function of items of a foreign language are modified to meet the local needs of the new users of the language. By extension, one might posit that contextualization occurs in translation when source-text linguistic and cultural items are highlighted in the translation for the benefit of the receiving audience. This may take the form of nativization when the form and function of items in the receiving culture are modified in translation to reflect culture-specific items from the transported language culture. The kind of translation involved in this process fits Antoine Berman’s (1985) definition of translation as “the findingand-seeking of the break in the rule [the unruly, le non-normé] in the maternal language, so as to insert there the foreign language and its pattern of speech 3

See Ken Sara Wiwa’s novel Sozaboy. A Novel in Rotten English. Longman African Writers Series (1995), written entirely in a variety of Nigerian Pidgin English.

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[son dire]” (cited in Warren 1989:5). By its very definition, translation generally takes place in a ‘second’ or ‘other’ language in relation to the language of origin of the text. That is to say that from the point of view of the source language culture, translation is only a reflection, a reincarnation, a virtual mirror-image in a foreign context, of what is authentic, foregrounded and legitimized in the source culture. This inherent attribute of secondarity (“secondarité”; Berman 1995) draws translation closer to those acts of writing that express concepts and world views that are alien to the chosen language of communication. African European language use has enriched colonial languages. As seen in the analyses offered here, native European words have been assigned new or extended meanings in an attempt to convey an African world view and to capture African reality. New words and expressions have been forged; examples in French include “débrousser” for “débroussailler” (to clear the underbrush) and “coupe-coupe” for “machette” (machete; cutlass). In English, words have been coined or given extended meaning; for example “bushman” has come to mean a person considered to have primitive and uncivilized ways, “beef” has been extended to refer to the meat of any animal, “stool” has been extended to mean “throne” (from which the words “enstool” and “destool” have been coined to mean “enthrone” and “overthrow” (from power) respectively), “been-to” is said of an African who has been to Europe, but has returned home without much to show for it, and “tight-friend” is the equivalent of “close/intimate friend”.4 These words and expressions – and many more, including locally-derived idiomatic expressions – are now part and parcel of the French and English languages in West Africa. The English language, for instance, is today borrowing from the African languages and cultures just as it had once borrowed from Latin, Greek, French and other languages. The same can be said of the French language in Africa. The main difference here though is that these European languages are borrowing from non-related cultures and languages. The borrowing has, of course, taken place in both directions, as today there are many European words or calqued expressions in African languages, including locally-derived hybrid languages and some lingua francas. In other words, what this study has shown is how African authors, writing in a second language, have created a ‘hybrid’ variety through contact between their native languages and European ones. Apart from creating new varieties of the European languages, such hybrid formations may also enrich the parent European language. What are today referred to as Africanisms may eventually become entries in dictionaries conceived for international use. In establishing 4

For more examples, see Bokamba (1982) and Chishimba (1984).

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such an international lexicon, language typologies should be set up not just in terms of forms that tend to deviate syntactically, morphologically and phonologically from the norms of the standard native variety, but also in terms of the sociocultural factors that shape meaning and thus also form the basis for defining new varieties of language.

2. Postcoloniality and translation At the centre of this project is the significance of culture in the act of communication, or the transmission of culture as a function of the translation process. In exploring the role of culture in translation, particularly in the case of translation between two non-related or divergent languages and cultures, this study contributes to shifting the focus of research in translation from a predominantly Eurocentric to a more inclusive one, having as a case in point, one might say, the study of communication between the language cultures of pre-industrialized and industrialized societies. The coming together of these two ‘worlds’ during colonization brought about the imposition of the language and culture of the one group on the other, resulting in some linguistic phenomena that today provide fertile ground for research in the area of power relations, ideology and identity (see Spivak 1993). This is not just about the encounter of two non-related language cultures; it is also about the linguistic attitudes of the ‘colonized’ towards the language of the ‘colonizer’. It is about how colonialism and the ensuing spread of Christianity brought about a rupture in the continuity of the oral tradition of a people, and the subsequent endeavour by these people to re-establish a link with their oral past (Warren 1989). From an Afrocentric standpoint, it is about writing and translation as reparation, that is, undermining the effects of slavery and colonialism and restituting African pride and heritage for the benefit of people of African descent on the continent and in the diaspora. The issue becomes even more salient as these people are often compelled by global political and economic circumstances to cope with the difficulty (and for some, a humiliating experience) of expressing their cultural and national identity in an alien language. “Culture” thus becomes an important factor in translation as the writers try to put across what Brewer (1988:21) describes as the elusive qualities of an ‘alien’ culture in their works . . . . The problem arises in part because authors themselves have become apologists, one could say translators, of hitherto unknown cultural values: they write because the world has ignored their peoples and their cultures.

Postcolonial translation is mainly preoccupied with the epistemology of

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the transmission of historically dominated cultures via the adopted colonial languages. Language is a major component of literary capital for any nation, and from a translation standpoint linguistically dominated writers cope with their minority status within a global language by searching for ways to escape assimilation and dependence. These “deprived writers” (Casanova 2004:255) employ a range of strategies to assert their literary and linguistic differences through the creation of a vernacular tongue which may exploit the literary forms and themes of the dominant culture but which hopes to displace the dominant language as the literary vehicle of expression. As Casanova points out, “it is most often by appeal to a linguistic criterion that emerging political spaces are able to proclaim and legitimize their entry into both the political world and the literary world” (2004:255). All dominated writers, irrespective of their linguistic and literary distance from the centre, face the question of linguistic difference and generally seek to distance themselves from the dominant language by devising a distinctive use of the language or by inventing a national literary language. For these writers, the strategies of distancing from the dominated language may not always be conscious or calculated, and may depend on the degree of literariness of their indigenous language and its position in the global literary space. Many African languages, for instance, are lacking in literary capital and are unknown or absent in the global market, as they are oral in nature and have no written form, and thus do not benefit from any direct translation in the global literary space. Dominated writers working from or in minority languages are thus faced with the inevitable question of translation. In some ways, “they are caught in a dramatic structural contradiction that forces them to choose between translation into a literary language that cuts them off from their compatriots, but that gives them literary existence, and retreat into a small language that condemns them to invisibility or else to a purely national literary existence” (Casanova 2004:257). This dilemma therefore forces minority language writers to resort to aesthetic and linguistic solutions that are likely to enable them to reconcile literary imperatives and national conscience. These solutions are understood as translation strategies of distancing and decentring; they involve adopting the dominant language and developing a new form of writing through the symbiotic merger of two language cultures, i.e. African and European. For these dominated writers whose countries have been subject to colonization for a long time, the use of an imported and imposed language is a matter of necessity and not a sign of assimilation. Often lacking in literary fluency in the native language, and in the absence of a native tradition of modernity, the colonial language becomes their medium of expression or self-translation in order to gain access into the global marketplace. The result is what Alain Ricard has called a “diagraphic”

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text (cited in Casanova 2004:265), written simultaneously in the author’s mother tongue and the language of colonization, following a complex trajectory of translations, transliterations, transcriptions and cultural representation. It is a kind of double writing which is subject to the tension of translation and involves a constant back and forth movement between the cultures of two distinct worlds. Postcolonial studies, with its emphasis on transnationalism, hybridity and the translating state of culture (Bhabha 1994), has become a venue for understanding the aesthetics of polylingualism in literary production. As a corollary of colonization, the displacement and migration of peoples brought about changes that would challenge the notion of a national language and a homogenous culture, paving the way for understanding language and culture from the point of view of a transnational experience. According to Bhabha, hybridity, a main characteristic of the postcolonial condition, disrupts the relation between national language and culture and points to a culture of difference, of displacement of signification, of translation. Postcolonial productions have the subversive capacity to transform a dominant discourse into a terrain for intervention, thus creating new realities and identities in an always mutating cultural construction (1994:112). The authors of The Empire Writes Back (Ashcroft et al. 1989) heralded these new possibilities when they confidently proclaimed the emerging diversity in English literature with the advent of postcolonial literatures written in a wide variety of Englishes. Yet, as much as postcolonial notions of hybridity, cultural syncretism and linguistic creolization point to the significance of cultural translation they nonetheless raise the issue of cultural untranslatability, as they evoke the vast power differentials between the centre and the periphery. These notions complicate matters for traditional conceptions of translation, which presuppose the existence of stable differences between cultures and languages for the enactment of translation. Postcolonial hybridity thus poses a challenge for translation, although the mixing of cultures and languages also implies a constant necessity for translation, since the characteristic presence of polylingualism and heteroglossia in postcolonial cultures makes translation a crucial and undeniable fact of life. Bhabha reaches beyond the mere quest for plurality and likens the ambivalent posture of postcolonial hybridity, which imposes and at the same time denies translation, to today’s migrant or border cultures. In his view, “[t]o revise the problem of global space from the postcolonial perspective is to move the location of cultural difference away from the space of democratic plurality to the borderline negotiations of cultural translation” (1994:223). Accounting for the postcolonial condition in literature has indeed disrupted monolingual writing conventions by emphasizing a multilingual writing practice with far-reaching

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implications for understanding the issues of ideology, identity and power relations in the context of literary and cultural translation.

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3. Writing, translation and an ethics of difference The vast power differentials involved in colonial and postcolonial contexts account for the current marginality of so-called minority cultures within the global literary marketplace. While in hegemonic cultures translation is often denigrated and relegated to a position inferior to that of original writing, for reasons that have to do with authorial authority and cultural authenticity, translation is seen in dominated cultures as a means of accruing cultural as well as economic capital and enhancing visibility. This is a fundamental distinction in the perception of translation between colonized and colonizing cultures, which greatly influences ethical considerations for translation in either community. For the colonizing cultures, translation is based on hegemonic practices which involve domesticating strategies of choosing and translating particular foreign texts, and excluding foreignizing strategies in favour of a narcissistic preservation of dominant and familiar domestic values. For the colonized cultures, “[t]ranslation is seen as a significant intervention into the polylingualism and cultural hybridity that characterize colonial and postcolonial situations, a source of linguistic innovation useful in building national literatures and in resisting the dominance of hegemonic languages and cultures” (Venuti 1998:187). These opposing views between dominant and minority cultures add another dimension to questions of ethics in translation by highlighting the significance of cultural difference. The postcolonial context is characterized by a hybrid mixture of local and global trends and, as a result of this hybridity, postcolonial subjects deal with cultural difference on a daily basis and have to constantly negotiate the tension between cultural sameness and difference. A postcolonial ethics of translation is therefore grounded in a culture of difference, likely to offer the means to assert identity by highlighting the foreignness of local cultures in the writing and translating of minority literatures in alien colonial languages. A postcolonial ethics of difference promotes cultural innovation and change and counters the effects of a translation ethics of sameness that caters to dominant domestic values and practices by assimilating and sanitizing minority cultures. Postcolonial theory has contributed significantly to moving translation ethics and practice from a quest for sameness characteristic of traditional approaches to a recognition of cultural difference. Drawing from postmodern philosophy, postcolonial translation theory has revealed the complexity of discussions on translation ethics, particularly with respect to translating non-western discourses

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and minority language cultures. Postmodernist abandonment of canonical practices has triggered similar trends in translation studies, and has led to the questioning of some basic tenets of traditional or normative translation practice such as the ethics of sameness, which is now being confronted with an ethics of difference (cf. Derrida 1985, 1996). The various discursive strategies created by African writers to escape the stranglehold of colonialism, and especially the “tyranny” of the colonial language, may be termed “postmodern” (Zabus 1997:464), as they can be accounted for in terms of the rejection of canonical practices in translation and in literature in general. The writing and translating of African literature in European languages is guided by an ethics of difference which is determined by the refusal to cater to a Western taste for exoticism as well as an attempt at “decolonizing literature” (Chinweizu et al. 1980) or “decolonizing the mind” (Ngugi 1986). This calls for a poetics of translation which recognizes difference and registers the foreignness of minority cultures in translation. As a text which claims to be decolonizing in its intent, African European language literature calls for translation strategies that are likely to carry across the subversion implied in the innovative linguistic and cultural practices used by the author. The subversive nature of the African author’s writing in the dominant colonial language is therefore translated with respect to its decolonizing intent, its struggle for the rights of political and discursive self-representation. African European language writing is thus an act of representation, which is in essence an act of translation. Given the imperialist nature of language and its underlying structures of dominance, the desire to decolonize through translation does not only contend with the colonial desire to dominate, but also with the inherent characteristic of language to ‘mean’ according to its own signifying structures. Postcolonial writing and translating therefore has to resist an assimilative quest for sameness by emphasizing the cultural differences it brings to the global literary space. As we have seen in the empirical analyses and discussions in previous chapters, when languages come in contact – as is the case in translation or the non-native use of a language – pragmatic adjustments (Weizman and BlumKulka 1987) have to be made between the two sociolinguistic systems. Lack of such adjustments results in pragmatic shifts in translation (Blum-Kulka 1986) and, in a native/non-native encounter, can result in serious miscommunication problems. For instance, if a translator fails to grasp the significance of the pragmatic import of an indirect speech act, the translation might fail to carry the illocutionary force present in the original. This can also happen in a native/non-native communicative situation where participants may fail to convey their real intentions due to a lack of pragmatic equivalence between expressions in two languages (Weizman and Blum-Kulka 1987). Language, it

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has been said, is a culture-bound phenomenon, and different cultural groups have preference for specific discourse strategies. This preference for a particular set of discourse strategies forms part of a culture’s distinctive way of speaking (Hymes 1962, 1964, 1972). The perception of social reality varies widely from one sociocultural group to another, and different modes of communication carry different social meanings for each group. Each speech community seeks to create and affirm its cultural identity through culture-specific intercultural styles and detectable patterns of speech (Weizman and Blum-Kulka 1987), as this study has shown with respect to writing traditional African discourse in European languages. Overcoming these obstacles in the event of intercultural communication, or translation for that matter, would depend on a process of mediation, or conversion, between the two languages and cultures. This is the process by which the African writer succeeds in putting across the African world view in European languages. From an ethical standpoint, while it is important for the writer-translator to attempt to bridge the gap between the disparate languages and cultures, it is equally necessary for the reader to understand and recognize the cultural specificity or foreignness of the literature, by avoiding a domesticating or narcissistic reading which seeks to recognize one’s culture in a cultural other. In other words, it becomes an ethical requirement that if a reader is interested in African literature and culture, he or she should make the effort to perceive or understand African thought in its closest ‘natural’ form and not through a ‘sifted’ or watered-down version hewed to dominant domestic values or expectations. The writing of African oral narrative in Europhone literature is to a degree a ‘vulgarized’ rendition of traditional discourse, highly dependent upon the writer’s idiolect or idiosyncratic input, and any further ‘sifting’ or popularizing of this discourse under the guise of translating for a non-African readership is likely to transform Europhone literature into a ‘discourse about Africa’, anthropological in nature, rather than ‘African literature’. Therefore, observing an ethics of difference both in the writing and reading of minority language translations will enhance their localization within their source cultures and preserve their identity in the receiving language culture.

3.1 Translation equivalence or sameness in difference A postcolonial ethics of difference challenges some fundamental views about the concept of equivalence in translation which, since the Greco-Roman Antiquities, has vacillated depending on the political or ideological practice of the times. Roman philosophers such as Cicero, Horace and Quintillian abhorred the concept of linguistic equivalence (except for medical or technical

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translation, which they considered a lesser translation practice) in matters of rhetoric, preferring faithfulness not to the author or the text but to the spirit or cogency of the text, which in essence cleared the way for them to engage in an extreme practice of free translation which they called creative imitatio, a method they believed necessary in the affairs of nation building. This, in effect, meant that Roman rhetorical translations showed complete disregard for their Greek sources, which they appropriated with the authority of victors over the vanquished. In the prevailing political climate, a search for translation equivalence meant finding and adopting those resources in the source culture that would enrich and enhance Roman culture, in a quest for superiority, rather than representing or promoting Greek culture in the Roman Empire. Then there were the Church Fathers, such as St. Augustine, St. Jerome and others for whom translation equivalence was a matter of reproducing the word of God based on a Patristic theory of the transcendence of the divine logos or signification. Throughout human history, translation equivalence has been understood in various ways following the changing political trends, which have determined choices of faithfulness, literality, overtness or covertness, sameness or difference. It is generally agreed today that the straightjacket definition of translation equivalence, which was based on a mainly linguistic understanding of fidelity or semantic exactitude, has run its course, at least with respect to the current contexts of multilingualism and multiculturalism. As Snell-Hornby (1988:22) points out, Equivalence is unsuitable as a basic concept in translation theory: the term equivalence, apart from being imprecise and ill-defined (even after a heated debate of over twenty-years), presents an illusion of symmetry between languages which hardly exists beyond the level of vague approximations and which distorts the basic problems of translation.

The imprecise nature of equivalence in translation is also alluded to when, in discussing the importance of sense for the relationship between translation and original, Walter Benjamin (1969:80) elaborates his now famous simile of the tangent: Just as a tangent touches a circle lightly and at but one point, with this touch rather than with the point setting the law according to which it is to continue on its straight path to infinity, a translation touches the original lightly and only at the infinitely small point of sense, thereupon pursuing its own course according to the laws of fidelity in the freedom of linguistic flux.

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Equivalence in translation, then, is a somewhat elusive concept. The general tendency in normative practices of translation has been for the translator to strive to protect the genius of his or her language, cleansing it from any linguistic ‘impurities’ from the source language and any possible cultural contamination that may go against the grain of target cultural norms. In other words, given the specificity of cultures or their irreconcilable differences, as Robinson argues (1997:28), translation simply becomes a technical problem of finding equivalents in one culture/language for words and phrases and registers in the other – or, in the (poly)systems approach developed by Itamar Even-Zohar, Gideon Toury, André Lefevere and other scholars, it becomes a problem of negotiating the norms of one culture in terms of the norms of another. The source and target cultures are conceived as substantially different but equal cultural systems that nevertheless have more or less the same power to shape and control the translator’s work to suit target-cultural needs.

But the fact is that in today’s global and geopolitical economy some languages and cultures are more equal than others and, given this inequality, it is not always possible to find parallel norms between cultures, particularly in the colonial or postcolonial contexts where distant or alien cultures share the same space in an unequal power structure. The ethnocentricity of target-oriented or domesticating translation is best summed up by the following comment by Rudolf Pannwitz (cited in Benjamin 1969:80-81) regarding German translations, which is worth quoting in its entirety: Our translations, even the best ones, proceed from a wrong premise. They want to turn Hindi, Greek, English into German instead of turning German into Hindi, Greek, English. Our translators have a far greater reverence for the usage of their own language than for the spirit of the foreign works. . . . The basic error of the translator is that he preserves the state in which his own language happens to be instead of allowing his language to be powerfully affected by the foreign tongue. Particularly when translating from a language very remote from his own he must go back to the primal elements of language itself and penetrate to the point where work, image, and tone converge. He must expand and deepen his language by means of the foreign language. It is not generally realized to what extent this is possible, to what extent any language can be transformed, how language differs from language almost the way dialect differs from dialect; however, this last is true only if one takes language seriously enough, not if one takes it lightly.

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Thus, given the ethnocentric bias of most translations, it is somewhat unrealistic to think that translations are always a true equivalent of the original. Ethnocentric practices due to reverence for one’s own language and culture encourages an elusive search for sameness, which in the case of colonial or postcolonial language cultures is highly unlikely and can only be achieved through a translation process tantamount to ethnic cleansing or obliterating of minority language cultures. For the most part, translators in search of equivalence or sameness often attempt to convey meaning based on target audience expectations, and not necessarily from the point of view of the foreign language and culture. As Bassnett-McGuire (1980:29-30) sees it, Equivalence in translation... should not be approached as a search for sameness, since sameness cannot even exist between two TL versions of the same text, let alone between the SL and the TL version. . . . Once the principle is accepted that sameness cannot exist between two languages, it becomes possible to approach the question of loss and gain in the translation process.

This is even more so in the postcolonial context: here, in the absence of dialogue or ‘sameness’ between local languages and the imposed colonial language, hybrid languages have evolved, thus introducing realities that are neither wholly graspable in the native or colonial language experience. Far from being a quest for equivalence or sameness, translation here is a constant negotiation of the fine line between loss and gain as the subaltern culture attempts to redress the power imbalance by resisting the dominance of colonial language. This implies a process of recreation or innovation such as we have seen in the examples discussed, in which the goal is to capture as much as possible the sociocultural reality of the source language, rather than providing the reader of the receptor language with culture-dependent information with which he or she can identify. In other words, rather than search for colonial language equivalents, the writer-translator emphasizes the traditional African way of speaking (Hymes 1964, 1972) in the European languages. This kind of literary expression which seeks an African expression in the colonial language should present no significant problem for any translator or reader with even average proficiency in the language of writing. Yet, only someone with a good knowledge of the specific cultural background concerned is able to identify the complexities of perspectives that have to be dealt with (Snell-Hornby 1988). Postcolonial translations can therefore be likened to Roman Jakobson’s (1959) concept of equivalence in difference, which I describe as sameness in difference, and which basically implies that the translation conveys the source

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language meaning through familiar expressions in the target language while highlighting the linguistic and cultural differences of the source text – “Only these differences offer the means of registering the foreigness of foreign cultures in translation” (Venuti 1998:189). In order to be faithful to the component of the African oral narrative in African European language writing, the receptor audience should endeavour to understand the message in terms of the original African context, paying particular attention to what Charles Martindale refers to as the unfamiliar details of setting and concepts (1984:47). Obviously, the reader’s comprehension of this kind of intercultural translation will depend on the availability of the context and on his or her knowledge of the source culture. Martindale suggests that a reader should be able to make sense of foreign time-space elements of the source text in much the same way as he or she is often capable of making sense of references such as figures of speech, allusions, analogies, images and metaphors that belong to another diachronically distant period of time in a familiar literature. Thus, citing as an example the “ability of great literature to communicate across cultures”, he remarks that “a reader with a flexible response will be able to do his own culture-bridging as he reads: . . . he will grasp for himself, that eighteenth-century and Homeric manners are in certain respects different, and quickly learn to adjust to that fact in his reading” (ibid.). The keyword here is “flexibility”, which, of course, reminds one of Quine’s Principle of Charity (1969) and Grice’s Cooperative Principle (1975). I have often wondered why it was possible for me as a postcolonial subject to read, at a very young age, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in Medieval English, while some Western speakers of English would find it difficult to read some versions of African Europhone literature, which some claim to be a kind of opaque neo-literalist translations of African languages and cultures.5 Yet, it may also happen that, in spite of all the good intentions the receptor audience might have in trying to decipher and comprehend the specificities of the local source culture, its efforts might be hampered by certain factors beyond its control. In Nida’s (1964, 1977) view, such instances of incomprehension can be overcome by providing notes and commentaries in the receptor language text. Appiah’s (1993) concept of thick translation outlines a similar approach. However, as stated earlier, paratextual materials such as notes and commentaries can indeed become cumbersome and distract from the main storyline. According to Nida, although the translator is not the author of the 5

A French colleague once wondered aloud how Patrick Chamoiseau’s Texaco could have won the 1992 Goncourt prize for literature when, according to the colleague, the Martinican writer had written in incomprehensible French, a kind of translationese based on reproducing the Creole language in French.

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original text, he or she nonetheless has an obligation towards the readers. His or her translation should therefore have a similar effect on the reader as the original. However, in the translation of African European language writing, it is somewhat unrealistic to expect such sameness or equivalent effect, since there is a vast difference between the cultural and historical background of the African reality being expressed and the receptor European language culture. Equivalent effect is only likely between partially similar language cultures (Basnett-McGuire 1980; Snell-Hornby 1988). The idea is to bring the nonAfrican reader to read and appreciate the aesthetics of African oral culture in creative writing. Hence, the translator’s main preoccupation here is not necessarily to achieve a ‘similar effect’ on the receptor audience, but rather to find those resources of the receptor language that can be used to adequately reproduce certain linguistic and cultural traits of the source language culture. Venuti exrpesses this view when he says that “[c]olonial and postcolonial situations show that translating is best done with a critical resourcefulness attuned to the linguistic and cultural differences that comprise the local scene” (1998:189). In the absence of such resources in the receptor language, the source text is reproduced without any significant adjustments to its sociocultural background, providing, where necessary, some notes and commentaries to ensure its full comprehensibility. Many African writers resort to this technique in order to preserve the traditional content of their work. As illustrated earlier, Achebe, for instance, prefers to use indigenous words and expressions and then make their meanings available to non-Ibo readers through various forms of in-text translation, such as paraphrase, definition, explanation, explicitation or repetition. Notes and commentaries may also take the form of glossaries, prologues, ethnographic epilogues or introductions, but these are often relegated to the outer recesses of the book to avoid impinging on the main story. Through these techniques the writer-translator can provide the reader with relevant information about the local culture and the general context of the source text without too much digression. In some instances, African authors and their translators have tried to reduce the burden on the foreign reader who has to find his or her way through the huge “semantic load” that often accompanies the thick translation process involved in postcolonial writing, by using predictable receptor language syntactic and grammatical cues with the aim of “balancing out the communication load” (Nida 1964:142). It has been shown how Achebe, for example, resorted to semantic and collocational shifts, word-formation strategies and some grammatical innovation strategies in an attempt to reflect the Ibo world view in his novel, without necessarily altering the English language in a significant way. Indeed, to paraphrase Nida, what Achebe and these African authors are doing is reducing the “communicative

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load” by increasing predictability without effecting significant changes to the oral aesthetics and semantic content. These linguistic innovations are used to convey the African world view without “dislocating” the grammar and syntax of the European languages in ways that might hamper readability. It is indeed an ethical manoeuvre to ensure some measure of “sameness in difference” for the mutual benefit of the local and the foreign reader. From an ideological standpoint, it might be considered an exaggeration to claim that African literature is decolonized by such ‘tinkering’ or ‘timid’ transformations of the colonial languages whose dominance is confirmed by the very act of choosing to write in them. European language writers, however, generally believe their works to be decolonizing in that they appropriate the colonial language and subject it to the aesthetic imperatives of the colonized culture. Given the subject about which they write and the fact that the bulk of their readership is African, these authors seek to redress the unequal power relations between the colonized and the colonizer by resisting and reversing, as it were, the cultural imperialism enacted through the imposition of colonial languages. This counter-hegemonic discourse can be appraised in terms of a translation ethics of reparation, in conformity with the general demand for some kind of reparation for Africa given the trauma of slavery and colonialism. A translation ethics of difference is based on a degree of respect for the alterity of the local source culture, which does not imply a servile attachment to source language, but rather the avoidance of receptor language manipulation or assimilation of source language culture. This calls for a translation approach that is neither entirely source-text nor target-text oriented, or neither entirely domesticating nor foreignizing, guided by an ethics of translation that safeguards the specificity of the local language culture without hampering the readability of the translation. It is a translation that finds its place within the literary space of the receiving culture, while retaining its identity as the result of a particular poetics of translation. This conception of an ethics of difference in translation recalls Antoine Berman’s discussions on the “Trials of the Foreign” (in Venuti 2000) and Venuti’s ethics of location and ethics of difference (1995, 1998), both heavily inspired by the work of the eighteenth-century German philosopher Schleiermacher and his Romantic views on translating foreign literature. It also evokes, to a certain extent, Philip E. Lewis’ concept of “abusive translation”, outlined in an article whose title, “Towards an Abusive Translation”, was inspired by a comment by Jacques Derrida (in “Le retrait de la métaphore”), namely that “[a] good translation must always be abusive” (“Une bonne traduction doit toujours abuser”, in Venuti 2000). According to Lewis, abusive translation is not concerned with the function of the source or target language, but rather with the measured modulation of source-text

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and target-text elements to effect a reasonable modification in the translation with respect to the expectations of the receiving public in terms of the meaning, tonality and materiality of the text. In this regard, the act of translation emphasizes those segments of the text which in effect carry its “energy”. This kind of translation allows a measure of linguistic experimentation and innovation and highlights the polyvalencies and plurivocities of the source text. The translator’s creativity is thus reinforced as the act of translation bypasses the classic dualism of source versus target. Lewis’s theory of abusive translation and its emphasis on segments of the text that contain its energy reflect Jean-Jacques Lecercle’s (1990) concept of “the remainder”, which Venuti uses to refer to the multiplicity of meanings likely to transcend or even obstruct the transparent use of language (Venuti 1995:216). The remainder is often elusive, unpredictable and uncontrollable, but it must be grasped and represented in the translation. It is this remainder in the postcolonial text that will resist all attempts at translation or assimilation into the fluency of the receptor language. The remainder is that which highlights the specificity of the local source language culture, either in terms of language, orality or discourse practices. However, it is rather paradoxical that even an ethics of difference which seeks to highlight the specificities of the local postcolonial culture can only do so by mobilizing the resources of the target colonial language in terms of its style, dialects, various language registers, and so on. This in effect implies that the cultural and linguistic specificities of the local scene can only be signalled indirectly, through a kind of displacement in translation, by inserting the local postcolonial reality within the values and institutions of the dominant receiving culture. This therefore confirms the fact that translation is by its very nature assimilative and can mask the heterogeneity and hybridity of certain texts. A postcolonial translation ethics of difference minimizes the classic binarisms in translation by charting a middle passage of ‘textual middles’, an in-between approach, characterized by varying degrees of domesticating and foreignizing practices. It is the blending of two opposing strategies which, in any case, are present in any act of translation, irrespective of the translation project or the designs of the translator. There is always therefore some foreignizing in domesticating translation and some domesticating in foreignizing translation. In fact, a translation that is neither entirely foreignizing nor entirely domesticating can better meet the expectations of the target audience without necessarily obliterating those linguistic and cultural features that constitute the “energy” of the local source culture. This middle passage, or in-between approach, allows for a translation that accounts for the characteristics of the source language culture, while integrating the literary space of the receiving culture.

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As mentioned earlier, postmodern philosophy has engineered a transformation in translation theory towards an accounting for difference rather than the constant search for sameness. This transformation paves the way for a translation analysis that bypasses the rigid binarisms that had seemed inevitable for translation criticism, by highlighting the fact that there are elements of sameness and difference in any translation, as there is always sameness in difference and difference in sameness. This new approach, which steers translation analysis and criticism towards a third way, a middle passage, is particularly enlightening for the study of postcolonial writing as translation. There is a parallel between the definition of ‘textual middles’ as they occur in the middle passage and the linguistic hybridity, métissage or radical bilingualism practised by African writers. Far from practising an abusive neo-literalism, these writers blend domesticating and foreignizing techniques to ensure the readability and expressivity of African oral artistry in the colonial language. The Euro-African literary text is grounded in intertextuality, consisting of a blend of the linguistic materiality of African oral culture and the colonial language experience. This hybrid literature is the result of what Jean-Jacques Lecercle has referred to as “The Violence of Language” (1990), of which the “remainder” is irreducible and beyond any normative linguistic analysis. It is located in an intercultural space, an in-between space (Bhabha 1994), and retains its foreignness while integrating the literary space of the receiving colonial language. As a result of its hybridity and interculturality, the Euro-African text is not amenable to assimilationist or literalist translation, and calls for an approach that is not entirely source- or entirely target-oriented, but rather a reasoned strategy which meets the requirements of the translation project within the larger context of a global cultural exchange. The literary heteroglossia and interculturality of African literature and its diglossic relation to the metropolitan literary world are at the basis of the problematics of identity, ideology and unequal power relations between the métropole and the postcolony. This is indeed the direct consequence of history and its impact on literary production. The writing and translating of African European language literature is as much about carrying cultural matter across as it is about resisting the structures of dominance embedded in the colonial language. The process is best informed by an ethics of difference (Venuti 1998) or in my view an ethics of sameness in difference, given its mélange of foreignizing and domesticating practices, reconciling African and European sensibilities in a hybrid literature. African Europhone literature is thus a translated literature, taken in a metaphorical sense, written in a “third code” (Bhabha 1994) and located in an intercultural space, the space in-between, or in a middle passage. The study of this hybrid text created through linguistic innovative practices and

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multilayered textual strategies has the potential to enhance research in translation theory by widening the basis for inquiry beyond the classic dualisms and binary oppositions. The success of this kind of translation as cultural transmission depends in part on a rationalist-idealistic view which holds that the universal preset mental and linguistic structures common to all language cultures override any divergences that may exist between different sociocultural systems. Steiner (1975) attributes this success in intercultural communication to our capacity to modulate to a mutual understanding across various language cultures. Quine (1960, 1969), whose theory of the under-determination of semantics and the resulting thesis of the indeterminacy of translation point to the impossibility of translation, believes that although knowledge is contextual, with a little effort based on what he refers to as the Principle of Charity, we can all understand one another in spite of our divergent cultures. Sociocultural obstacles can indeed be overcome if the translation is approached through studies in ethnography and philology (Mounin 1963). Today, the existence of pidgins and creoles in linguistic communities where colonial languages are spoken non-natively is a clear indication of the enormous potential that multilingualism, transnationalism and interculturality have for research in literary and translation theory. Translation studies must therefore expand its horizon beyond the prescriptive, or normative, approach to language to include these so-called hybrid or nonnative varieties of language.

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Fraser, Robert (2000) Lifting the Sentence: A Poetics of Postcolonial Fiction, Manchester & New York: Manchester University Press. Gadamer, Hans-Georg (1975) Truth and Method, trans. and edited by G. Barden and J. Cumming, New York: Seabury Press. ------ (1976) Philosophical Hermeneutics, trans. and edited by E. Linge, Berkeley: University of California Press. Gal, Susan (1988) ‘The Political Economy of Code Choice’, in Monica Heller (ed.) Code-Switching: Anthropological and Sociolinguistic Perspectives, Berlin, New York & Amsterdam: Mouton de Gruyter, 245-64. Gbadamosi, Bakare and Ulli Beier (1959) Yoruba Poetry, Ibadan: Heinemann. Gérard, Albert S. (ed.) (1986) European-Language Writing in Sub-Saharan Africa, Volumes I and II, Budapest: Akadémiai Kiado. Gilman, Charles (1979) ‘Cameroonian Pidgin English; a Neo-African Language’, in Ian Hancock (ed.) Readings in Creole Studies, Ghent: E-Story-Scientia, 269-80. ------ (1985) Pidgin Languages: Form Selection or Simplification?, Reprinted by the Indiana University Linguistics Club. Glissant, Édouard (1996) Introduction à une poétique du divers, Paris: Gallimard. Goffman, Erving (1959) The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life, New York: Doubleday. Gordon, David and George Lakoff (1975) ‘Conversational Postulates’, in Peter Cole and John L. Morgan (eds) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press, 107-142. Gordon, Elizabeth and Mark Williams (1998) ‘Raids on the Articulate: Code-Switching, Style-Shifting and Post-Colonial Writing’, Journal of Commonwealth Literature 33(2):75-96. Green, Georgia (1975) ‘Nonsense and Reference; or the Conversational Use of Proverbs’, Chicago Linguistic Society 11: 226-40. Greenberg, Joseph H. (1955) Studies in African Linguistic Classification, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ------ (1963) The Languages of Africa, Bloomington: Indiana University Press. ------ (1972) Essays in Linguistics, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. Grice, Paul H. (1968) ‘Utterer’s Meaning, Sentence Meaning and Word Meaning’, Foundations of Language 4: 225-242. ------ (1975) ‘Logic and Conversation’, in Peter Cole and John L. Morgan (eds) Syntax and Semantics 3: Speech Acts, New York: Academic Press, 41-59. ------ (1989) Studies in the Way of Words, Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. Gumperz, John. J. (1977) ‘Sociocultural Knowledge in Conversational Inference’, in Muriel Saville-Troike (ed.) 28th Annual Round Table Monograph Series

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Index Abani , Chris 4 abusive translation 165, 238-239 Académie française 20, 151, 189 accented translation 170 acculturation 25, 28, 99, 164 Achebe 4, 15-17, 20, 22, 28, 42, 44-49, 56, 61, 67, 69-71, 73, 79-83, 85, 87-88, 90, 94-96, 101-103, 105-107, 110, 115, 117-118, 120121, 124-127, 130-131, 135, 151, 153-155, 172, 177, 180-181, 183, 187-190, 194-195, 197-198, 200-201, 204-206, 210-211, 237 acrolect 127, 129-130, 214 act of communication 176, 227 adaptation 5, 19, 27, 30, 132, 175, 177 Adejare, Oluwole 124 Adejunmobi, Moredewun143, 144, 167 aesthetics 2-3, 12, 26, 28, 30, 32, 48, 53, 63, 78, 90, 99, 113, 116, 139, 144, 163, 165, 193, 200, 218, 229, 237, 238 - of contestation 139 - of vulgarity 91, 94 - postcolonial 53 African English 123, 162 African European language writers 1, 136, 166, 180 African European language writing 12-13, 24, 37, 100, 136, 164, 167, 231, 236-237 African Europhone fiction 12 African Europhone literature 1, 2, 11-13, 21-22, 99, 122, 140, 149, 151-152, 158-162, 164, 175, 185, 187, 217, 219, 236, 240 African folktale 116, 136 African French 123, 157 African humanism 21, 185 Africanisms 226 Africanist 3, 118, 161 africanity 156, 159, 162 Africanizing 105, 176 Africanization 99, 218, 224 African logos 87, 114, 143-144, 179, 185, 202 Africanness 5, 41, 51, 114, 142, 162, 166, 174, 176, 212 African oral artistry 4-5, 240 African oral cultures 2, 11-12, 53, 99, 159, 180, 177-178, 194, 198, 219, 237, 240 African oral narrative 2, 3, 22, 24, 94, 115-117, 119, 130, 163, 166-167, 171, 198, 200-211, 218, 232, 236 African oral poetics 28 African oral tradition 11, 24-26, 32, 52, 73, 86, 120-121, 124, 163, 165, 171-172, 175-176,

179, 184, 211, 218 African orature 3, 7, 38, 53, 172, 177-178, 183 African postcolonial fiction 7, 11 African sociocultural reality 3-5, 21, 25, 143, 161-162, 164, 174, 177, 180 African thought 13, 21, 25, 74, 99, 101, 161, 163, 175, 181, 183, 205, 216-217, 221, 232 African time 86, 90 Afrocentrist 21 Afrocentric 16, 227 Akan 45, 62 ancient 17 Albert, Ethel 38, 62 Alexandre, Pierre 133 alien culture 19, 38, 147, 164, 173, 175, 182, 227, 234 language 1, 3, 16, 25, 29-30, 38, 53, 78, 86, 99100, 105, 107-108, 112, 124, 134, 143-144, 150, 156, 159, 161, 165, 172, 180, 182-183, 185-187, 193, 204, 217, 219, 227, 230 text 147 d’Almeida, Irène 181-183, 187-189, 194-195, 198, 200-201, 204-206, 210, 212-213, 215 alterity 47, 53, 137, 238 ambiguity 220 Amharic 17 Andrezejewski, Bogumil 185-187 Anglo-American culture 148 society 158 Anglo-Irish literature 29 Anglo-Saxon 35, 222 Angogo, Rachel 51, 101 Anozie, Sunday 35-36, 38, 56 anthropological reference 21, 109 Antiquity (Greco-Roman) 8, 61, 168 aphorisms 53, 73, 77, 92, 93, 94, 119, 165, 204, 209 Appiah, Kwame Anthony 12, 165, 225, 236 appropriation 122, 132, 134, 164, 177 Arabic 120, 159 script 17 Arteaga, Alfred 146 art of oratory 61, 63 Asad Talal 8, 168 Ashanti 62, 75-76 Ashcroft, Bill 113, 137, 139, 229 assertion 68 assimilationist translation 240 assimilative 6, 7, 71, 149, 162, 231, 239

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258 assimilation 8, 19, 27, 40, 74, 86, 90, 114, 119, 149, 157, 167, 173, 228, 238-239, 240 assimilé 19-20 attrition cultural 225 linguistic 225 augmentation parallel 115 semantic 115, 198 Austin, John L. 33-34, 39 Baker, Mona 60 backtranslation 185 Bakhtin, Mikhaïl 138-139, 142, 209 Bamoun (Sultan of) 17 Bandia, Paul 17, 38, 143 Bantu 51-52, 61, 75, 104 semi-Bantu 51-52 104 basilect 127-130 Bassnett-McGuire, Susan 235 Bassnett, Susan and Trivedi, Harish 7-8, 167168, 235 Beale, Paul 52 belles lettres 20 belief system 40, 91 Benin 42 Benjamin, Walter 233-234 Berman, Antoine 149, 161, 166, 184, 193, 202203, 206-209, 225-226, 238 Bernabé, Jean 141 Bernstein, Basil 38 Beti, Mongo 4, 51, 63, 102, 120, 157-158,188 Beyala, Calixthe 4, 27 Bhabha , Homi K..5-6, 8, 10, 31, 100, 139, 141, 168-169, 220, 229, 240 Bickerton, Derek 127, 129 bilingual 2, 3, 5, 6, 11-18, 31, 36, 99, 120, 142, 147, 154, 158, 160, 164, 175, 186, 217, 221, 223-224, 240 literary tradition 17 bilingualism 3, 5, 36, 142, 154, 160, 175, 221, 240 bi-linguality 175 bicultural 2, 11, 31, 36, 175, 186 biculturalism 175 bi-culturality 175 binary opposition 5, 9, 168, 241 Black diaspora 156 Bloommaert, Jan 146 Blum-Kulka, Shoshana 11, 36, 39, 231-232 Bokamba, Eyamba 103, 226 border culture 10, 169, 229 borrowing 142, 213, 226 Bourdieu, Pierre 145

Paul F. Bandia brevity 60, 79, 82, 125, 202 Brewer, John 227 British 18-19, 27, 132, 162 colonial administration 18 economic interests 18 education 135 empire 18 English 197 literature 150 rule 17 West Africa 19 broken English 130, 210, 214-215 broken French 133-134, 151-152, 156-157, 209210, 212-215, 223 Brown, Penolope and Levinson, Stephen 39 Burundi 38, 62-63 cacophony 107 Calame-Griaule, Geneviève 172 calque 41, 86, 109, 175, 177-178, 195, 196, 203, 226 Calvet, Louis-Jean 19, 141, 163 camfranglais 152 Canu, Gaston 171 capital 2 cultural 179 literary 21, 99, 228-230 symbolic 145 Cary, James 124 Casanova, Pascale 2, 5, 166-167, 185, 228-229 Catford, John 177, 208 centre 7, 10, 157, 169, 219, 229 Césaire, Aimé 20 Chakrabarty, Dipesh 10, 169 Chellapan, Kumar 216 Cheyfitz, Eric 6, 7, 8, 40, 168 Chinweizu 7, 13, 16, 21-22, 24-25, 38, 98, 115, 118-119, 121, 218, 231 Chishimba, Maurice 27, 40-42, 53, 56, 63, 68, 71, 83-84, 101, 103, 110, 115, 118-119, 121, 178, 219, 226 Chomsky, Noam 33-36, 100 Christian church 69 doctrine 28, 134, 157 faith 157 missionary 120 morality 28 Christianity 8, 82, 92, 119, 168, 227 Christians 18, 120 Classical Arabic 120 Cicero 232 circularity 68, 220 Cockney 208

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Index code-mixing 41, 142, 221-223 Code Napoléon 19 code-switching 41, 110, 121, 133, 142-147, 149152, 154-158, 221-223 coherence 53, 68-69, 71-73, 219 cohesion 68 collocational rule 100, 178 colonial administration 18, 23, 58-59, 118, 121, 125, 155 colonial administrator 46-47, 49, 62, 84, 87-88, 93, 97, 126, 214 colonial domination 5, 185 colonial idiom 134 colonialism 16, 126-127, 139, 167-168, 170, 177, 227, 231, 238 colonial language 1-5, 7, 11-12, 14-19, 21, 25, 27, 32, 47, 53, 61, 63, 71, 74, 86, 99, 100, 107-108, 113-114, 118-119, 123, 131, 134137, 141-141, 143-144, 148, 150, 152-153, 155-156, 158- 166, 170-171, 172-181, 183-187, 189-190, 193, 198, 200-201, 206207, 218-220, 224-226, 228, 230-231, 235, 238-241 fiction 11, 12 translation 174, 183 colonial mentality 223 colonial metropolis 160, 184 colonial power 7, 16-18, 148, 155 colonial rule 19, 62 colonial subject 8, 19, 59, 115, 143, 149, 168, 177, 230, 236 colonization 6, 8, 20, 122-123, 132, 134, 139, 146, 168, 179, 184, 216, 227-229 colonizer 7-10, 98, 138, 148, 163, 168-170, 185, 227, 238 colonized 3, 4, 6-8, 19, 47, 91, 98, 119, 140, 148, 153, 163-164, 168, 227, 230, 238 commercial scriptorium 160 communicative competence 35-37 event 34 load 237 rules 37 competence 23, 33, 35, 183, 222 compositional translation 167, 177 compounding 114, 178 compound formation 187-188 compound word 114, 178 connectivity 219 conquest 6, 8, 40, 168 contact language 122, 124, 132, 206, 217 contextualization 99-100, 110, 113, 144, 164, 225 continuum 127, 129-130 contrastive linguistics 33

259 convention 9-10, 21, 62-63, 142, 145-146. 150, 200, 229 conversion 8, 82, 108, 168, 178-180, 183-184, 187-190, 192-193, 196-197, 199, 204, 206, 213, 215, 232 co-occurrence 101, 114, 178 co-operative principle 54, 60, 216, 236 cosmopolitan(ism) 9, 29, 38, 107-108, 159, 222, 224-225 cosmopolitical 16 counter-hegemonic 7, 9, 140, 142, 238 discourse 142 Coussy, Denise 14, 19-20, 23-24, 44, 116-119 covertness 233 creative adaptation 5, 177 creative writing 2, 4, 22, 28, 36, 74, 99, 122, 125, 149, 161, 163, 166, 215, 217, 222-223, 237 creoles 14-15, 29, 30, 113, 118, 122-124, 128129, 132-133, 141, 152, 209, 217, 225, 236, 241 creolist 129 creolization 10, 11, 141, 169, 229 creolized literature 159 creolized translation 159 Cribb, Tim 29 Cronin, Michael 141, 147-149 crosscultural : communication 1, 7, 33, 37, 216 interpretation 173 pragmatics 33 studies 33 translation 216 cultural : agent 175 authenticity 230 capital 179 commodity 179, 185 conversion 196, 199, 204 difference 181-182, 229-231, 236-237 ethos 35 expression 161 heritage 26, 217 heterogeneity 11-12, 31 history 138 imperialism 224, 238 markers 74 norm 35, 234 paradigms 40, 91, 98 rapprochement 224 representation 53, 86, 90, 194, 229 specificity 71, 206, 232 syncretism 224, 229 translation 8, 12, 37, 41, 142, 159, 229-230 transmission 241

260

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turn 6, 11, 176 untranslatability 177, 229 cultural studies 1, 10-11, 33, 48, 138, 170 culture specific features 11, 36 culture-specificity 34-35, 40, 47, 177, 213, 215 cushioning covert 46, 109, 111 overt 46, 109 Danquah, Joseph 45, 62 Dathorne, Oscar 30 de-grammatized structure 211-212 decentring 143, 163, 228 decolonization 134 decolonizing strategy 8, 168 deconstruct 7, 163 deep structure 34, 140, 143, 161, 167 Deleuze, Gilles 11, 170 Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Félix 138-139 derision 47, 94, 120 Derive, Jean 171 Derrida, Jacques 222, 238 deterritorializing 138, 143 deterritorialization 143, 164 deviation 5, 21, 100, 225 diagraphic text 228 dialect 16, 17, 124, 127-128, 153, 207-209, 215, 234, 239 dialogism 138 diaspora 156, 227 diasporic literature 27 difference 12, 40, 60-61, 71, 91, 139, 142, 148, 229-233, 235-240 diglossia 137-138, 158, 217 diglossic 9, 129, 240 direct translation 3, 12, 96, 110-111, 113, 152, 163, 180, 206, 228 discoursal indirectness 11, 53-60, 68, 80 discourse analysis 20, 32, 39, 68, 171 discursive self-representation 231 distancing 41, 50, 226, 228 displacement 2, 3, 10, 12, 74, 139, 151, 164, 169, 171, 222, 229, 239 dispossession 151, 157 distortion 22, 124, 173, 175 diversity 8, 10, 17, 107, 138,-139, 142, 144, 149, 168-169, 202, 209, 229 Doke, Clement 63 domesticate 147, 162, 173 domesticating 5, 9, 60, 71, 147, 162-164, 168, 230, 232, 234, 238-240 domestication 61, 86 dominant idiom 143, 145, 149 dominant language 10, 36, 137-140, 143-144,

Paul F. Bandia 149, 157, 169, 228 dominant colonizing language 3, 164 dominated writers 2, 185, 228 dualism 5, 230, 232 dual translation 163 Dundes, Alan and Arewa, Erastus 75 Durix, Jean-Pierre 30 ecology external 122 internal 122 Efik 17 Egejuru, Peter 15 Ekwensi, Cyprain 28 elegiac poetry 45, 114 elegy 3, 45, 63, 163 emancipation 9, 134 Emecheta, Buchi 108, 150 Emerson, Caryl 138 empire 6-8, 16-18, 113, 139, 157, 229, 233 Enahoro, Peter 53, 55-56, 73, 118-119, 219 English-based pidgin 124, 209-211, 213, 215 equivalence 6, 9, 53, 112, 169, 184, 199, 203, 204, 208, 209, 231-5 in difference 235 equivalency linguistic 178, 180-181, 184 Ervin-Tripp, Susan 39 esoteric 79, 86, 120, 206 ethics (of difference) 12, 230-232, 238-240 ethics (of translation) 12, 217, 230, 238 ethics (of location) 12, 238 ethnic cleansing 235 ethnicity 185 ethnic membership 38 ethnocentric 35, 235 ethnocentricity 234 ethnocentrism 206, 209 ethnocultural community 216 ethnocultural specificity 53 ethnographic 7, 39, 122, 163 epilogue 237 ethnography 8, 12, 168, 241 ethnolinguist 34 Euro-African fiction 26, 32, 60, 74, 91, 121, 173 literature 1-3, 26, 28-29, 100, 110, 150-151. 167, 170 text 32, 74, 109, 112, 162, 240 writing 30, 52-53, 100, 150 Eurocentric 60, 227 critic 21, 24-25 Euro-modernist 24-25 European colonization 122

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Index European language fiction 3, 7, 11, 38, 53, 74, 118, 121-122, 172, 174, 182, 187 European language writing 17, 23-24, 26, 30, 32, 40, 92, 114-115, 121, 159 European languages 4, 14, 21, 22, 25, 28-29, 3334, 37-40, 60, 68-69, 78, 87, 91, 100, 106, 122-125, 159-161, 163-164, 176-178, 180, 186, 197, 203-204, 207, 216-217, 219, 221, 223-226, 231-232, 235, 238 European language lexifier 124 Europhone literature 1, 2, 11, 12, 13, 21, 22, 86, 99, 109, 112, 122, 140, 149, 151, 152, 158162, 164, 166, 174-5, 185, 187, 217, 219, 232, 236, 240 Europhone writer 9, 99, 110, 123, 144 Europhone writing 3, 74, 143 Evans-Pritchard, Edward 77 Even-Zohar, Itamar 234 exoticism 137-138, 231 exoticization 208 exoticized 163 expanded pidgin 123, 127 explanatory footnote 46, 171 explicitation 206, 237 explicit language 92, 94-95 exploitation 94, 107, 122-123, 218 extra-linguistic difference 181 extra-linguistic strategy 32, 72, 181 extra-sentential clues 72 Ewané, Michel 132 Ewe 75 Fanon, Frantz 6 Fante 77 Ferguson, Charles 129, 221-222, 224 Ferrara, Alessandro 54-55 fictionalizing 3, 53 Finnegan, Ruth 17, 38, 42, 45, 61-63, 74-77, 80, 116, 119 Fishman, Joshua 22, 221 flanking 109 fluency 6, 135, 223, 228, 239 fluent translation 60, 71 folklore 28, 38, 47, 177 folktale 3, 61, 95, 107, 116, 136, 163, 198 foregrounding 41, 50, 109, 210 foreignism 9, 168 foreignizing 5, 9, 41, 136-137, 162, 168, 230, 238-240 foreign language 3-4, 15, 18, 60, 120, 161, 180, 208-209, 216, 224-225, 234-235 foreignness 12, 61, 203, 228, 231-232, 240 formal education 23, 62, 118, 124, 135, 166 formal experimentation 11, 99, 170

261 formal linguistic rules 37 foundational translation 165 Français petit-nègre 133-134, 157, 213 France d’outre mer 19 Francophone 19, 133, 152, 158 Africa 20, 131-133 code-switching 151 fiction 134, 215 literature 19, 26-27, 131, 141, 156, 184 musician 133 novel 133, 157, 210 reader 212 society 132 writer 20, 27, 32, 152, 158, 160, 189, 210, 215 writing 27, 131 Francophone North African text 9, 140-141, 158 franglais 152 Fraser, Bruce 7, 16-19, 34, 167 Fraser, Robert 7, 16-19, 34, 167 French assimilation policy 27, 157 imperialism 158 literary tradition 20 rule 19, 26 frontloading 110 Fulani 75-76 Gadamer, Hans Georg 175, 182 Gal, Susan 143, 145-146 Gbadamosi, Bakare and Beier, Ulli 42, 75 Gérard, Albert 4, 13-14, 17-20, 27-28, 121 Gilman, Charles 123, 127, 129 globalization 1, 11, 32, 159, 170, 172, 185, 216-217, 224 globalized 10, 170, 185 global language 53, 99, 107, 221-222, 228 global literary culture 41 global literary space 3-4, 134, 163, 228, 231 gloss translation 111 glottopolitical assimilation 114 Ghana 62, 76, 156, 211 Glissant, Édouard 29, 137, 140-141 Goffman, Erving 37 Gordon, David and Lakoff, George 35, 147 Gordon, Elizabeth and Williams, Mark 147 governmentality 163 grammatical rule 113 Greco-Latin mythology 120 Greco-Roman Antiquity 8, 61, 168, 224 Green, Georgia 39, 53, 84 Green, Peter 51, 65, 102, 108 Greenberg, Joseph 3, 4, 33 Grice, Paul (Gricean) 33, 35, 54, 60-61, 165, 190,

262

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216, 219-220, 236 griot 172 grotesque 91-93, 96, 112 Gumperz, John J. 33, 37, 39, 142 Habermas, Jürgen 216 Halliday, Michael A. K. 34, 37, 68 Hancock, Ian 51, 101, 221 Hausa 17, 42, 45, 75 hegemonic 7, 9, 38, 48, 71, 86, 99, 114, 140, 142, 145, 148-149, 153, 168, 181, 230, 238 hegemony 3, 61, 113, 137, 139, 141-142, 144145, 149, 155, 157-158 Heinemann 160 Heller, Monica 144-145 Hermans, Theo 162 hermeneutics colonialist 165 Herzog, George 75, 77 heterogeneity 130, 144, 170, 239 cultural 11-12, 31 intralingual 142 heterogeneous (culturally) 6, 41 heteroglossia 2, 10, 11, 100, 122, 138, 142, 147, 149, 159, 209, 217, 222, 229, 240 literary 2, 11, 109, 122, 139, 142, 149, 159, 217, 222, 240 heteroglossic 131, 138-139, 141, 146, 149, 151, 156, 221 heterology 209 heteronomy 107, 151, 158 heterophony 209 Hexagone 19 hierarchy 9, 10, 62, 109, 125, 132, 138, 143, 145-146, 148, 169, 196 hieroglyphic script 159 high flown style 118-119 Hispanophone 1, 180, 185 Holm, John 127-128 Holquist, Michael 138 homogenized translation 209 homogenous linguistic entity 5, 147 Hopkinson, Tom 24 Horace 232 humanism 21, 185 humanitarian egalitarianism 19 Humboldt von, Wilhelm 34 humour 47, 75, 91-94, 96, 98, 112, 120, 126, 136, 156, 188, 190, 197, 212 hybrid aesthetics 30 hybrid formation 15, 47, 114, 152, 158, 226 hybrid formations 15, 47, 114, 152, 158, 226 hybrid language 17, 99, 122, 124, 133, 150-152, 154-156, 206, 209, 214, 217, 226, 235

Paul F. Bandia hybrid identity 10, 166, 169 hybridity 2, 5, 8-11, 27, 131, 139, 144, 147, 162, 168-169, 173, 175, 185, 222, 224-225, 229-230, 237, 240 cultural hybridity 5, 222, 230 linguistic hybridity 9, 131, 162, 169, 185, 240 postcolonial 229 Hymes, Dell 35-37, 70, 232, 235 Ibo 61, 69-70, 79, 88, 90, 108, 111, 126, 130, 150, 154-155, 183, 206 belief 95 cosmology 111, 190 culture 94 discourse 70 expression 47, 96, 103, 111, 153, 191, 206 folktale 95 language 50, 103-104, 190, 206 mythology 95 names 48, 188 narrative 96 orature 172 proverb 84, 96 speech 69, 71 world view 69, 96, 150, 183, 191, 196, 206, 237 identity 1, 4, 5, 7, 10, 18, 21, 25, 37, 40-41, 5051, 53, 86, 110, 141-143, 149, 165-166, 169, 177, 211, 218, 227, 230, 232, 238, 240 African 4, 110, 165 idiolect 151, 208, 221, 232 idiomaticity 213 idiomatic translation 194, 196 idiosyncratic Ijaw 28, 30, 44, 51, 105-106, 108, 116-117, 189, 191-193, 196-197, 199 illiteracy 14 illocution 68 illocutionary 33, 36, 68 force 231 innovation 11, 22, 26-27, 100-101, 114-115, 128, 131, 150, 170, 225, 230, 235, 237-239 imperialist 7, 8, 40, 140, 154, 163, 168, 177, 231 imperialism 17, 158, 168, 217, 224, 238 imperial language 25, 113, 137, 140-141, 144 imperial power 17, 18 implicitness 219 implication 68, 71, 220 implicature 60-61, 68, 71, 81, 84, 86, 152, 190, 219-220 in-between 6, 9-10, 36, 114, 169-170, 239-240 incommensurability of language 166, 213 independence 3-4, 13, 15, 19, 131, 133-134, 160

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Index pre-independence 3-4, 135, 163, 189 post-independence 4, 163, 185 indigenization 12, 99-100 indigenous culture 75 indigenous discourse 3, 63, 69, 163 indigenous language 1, 3-4, 7, 12, 15-18, 46, 90, 99, 112, 114, 123-124, 136-138, 140-141, 143-144, 150, 157-159, 161, 164, 166, 178, 185, 223-224, 228 indigenous language writing 1, 99, 224 indigenous narrative 173, 218 indirectness (discoursal) 11, 53-54, 57, 60-61, 68, 70, 79-80, 86, 219, 220 indirect rule 18 indirect speech acts 219, 231 industrialized 227 pre-industrialized 41, 48, 89, 172, 195, 227 inference 68, 71, 110, 113, 219-220 ingroupness 73 initial translation 165, 174-175, 184, 189, 206 innovation 2, 11, 22, 26-27, 100-101, 114-115, 128, 131, 150, 170, 225, 230, 235, 237-9 grammatical 237 lexical 100, 114 linguistic 2, 27, 131, 170, 230, 238 sociolectal 100 innovative formalism 28, 100 innovative formations 26-27, 99, 115 interactional style 37, 39 interactive communication 33 intercalation 109 intercultural communication 132, 217, 232, 241 intercultural discourse 11, 170 interculturality 1, 4, 10, 11, 53, 159, 167-170, 240-241 intercultural narratives 73, 86 intercultural translation 4, 32, 47, 161, 163, 165, 167, 194, 217, 236 intercultural translation theory 4, 32 intercultural writing 2-3, 11-12, 31, 33, 38, 41, 46, 52, 60, 74, 85, 99, 121-122, 131, 136, 149, 159, 162-164, 166-167, 175, 216, 221, 224 as translation 3, 31, 38, 149, 159, 164, 166, 167 interethnic communication 39 interethnic marriage 122, 222 inter-European language translation 159, 162, 166-167, 173-174, 180 interface 32, 175 interference 100, 142, 224 cultural 36 linguistic 4, 36, 223 interlanguage 36

263 interlinear paraphrasing 47 interlinear translation 37, 109-111 interlinguality 184 interlingual translation 3, 12, 31, 52, 159, 164, 173 interlinguistic 129 intermedial translation 32 intermediality 32, 171, 173 international idiom 150 internationalization 219 interplay of language 108 interpolations 62, 109, 112-113, 152 interpretation 173-175, 180, 182-183, 224 interpreter 62, 182 intersemiotic translation 180 intersentential 72-73, 150, 155 surface - level 72-73 switching 150, 155 intertextuality 2, 10, 27, 170, 240 interventionist practices 143 role 173 writing 142 in-text contextualization 110 in-text translation 11, 46, 110-113, 152-153, 237 intralingual heterogeneity 142 intralingual translation 180 intralinguistic 129 intrasentential 143, 150 Irele, Abiola 13 Irish culture 48 Islamic funeral songs 45 Jacquemond, Richard 8, 148, 168 Jakobson, Roman 180, 235 Jameson, Frederic 10, 170 Kachru, Braj 41, 100, 113, 219, 222, 224 Kachru, Yamuna, 219 Kafka, Frantz 10, 138, 170 Kaplan, Robert 53, 54, 68 Katriel, Tamar 37 King, Bruce 29 kinship 38, 40-41, 50-51, 66-67, 101-102, 188189, 219 Kirkup, James 51, 189 Kiswahili 17 Koine 209 Kourouma, Ahmadou 20, 27, 157, 164 Labou Tansi, Sony 20 Labov, William 33, 38-39, 41, 221 Lambert, José 7

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264 langue 33, 35 language plurality 138 language universal 224 Laye, Camara 20, 51, 180, 189 language contact 217, 221 Lecercle, Jean-Jacques 61, 143, 165, 239-240 Leech, Geoffrey 39 Lefevere, André 162, 234 Leith, Dick 28 Lewis, Philip E. 165, 238-239 lexical compounding 114 lexical innovation 11, 100, 114 lexicographer 29, 74 life-world 3, 31, 164, 175-176, 182, 224 Ligny, Michel 188, 195, 197, 200, 204-205 Limba 63 linearity 68-69, 220 lingua franca 16, 122-124, 127-129, 132, 135136, 152, 156, 159, 161, 186, 206, 209-210, 213, 217, 223, 226 linguistic appropriation 132, 177 behaviour 37, 39, 57, 145 cohabitation 134 community 26, 36-38, 40, 60-61, 132-133, 143, 146, 178, 215, 219 creolization 10, 169, 229 discontinuity 133 diversity 107, 144, 149 experimentation 21, 26, 99, 115, 150, 239 genus 174, 181, 190 hegemony 144-145, 157 hybridity 9, 131, 162, 169, 185, 240 hybridization 141, 143 innovation 11, 27, 131, 150, 170, 230, 238 policy 5, 20 polyphony 151 polyvalency 132 relativism 144 transformation 177 literalism 202, 240 radical 9, 168 literalist translation 240 literality 203, 233 literal translation 27, 41, 44, 50, 53, 102, 114, 135, 167, 177, 190-191, 194, 197, 201, 203 literal transposition 90 literariness 228 literary aesthetics 2 capital 2, 21, 99, 228 creativity 4, 20, 140, 180 stylistics 133, 142 transfer 161

Paul F. Bandia violence 200 literary criticism 1, 9, 12, 138, 151, 207, 222 African 1 literary heteroglossia 2, 11, 109, 122-123, 125, 127, 129, 131-130, 139, 142, 149, 159, 217, 222, 240 literary translation 159-161, 164, 177, 182-183, 186 literature British 150 ethnic13 national 2, 22, 230 vernacular 13, 14, 20-21, 165 world 13, 25, 164, 220 loquacity 220 Lord Lugard 18 Lusophone 1, 180, 185 Macebuh, Stanley 24 majoritarian colonial language 74 culture 38, 162 hegemonic language 114 Malinke 27, 157, 167 Malinowski, Branislaw 125 mallam 45 Manessy, Gabriel 4 manipulation 145, 162, 174, 176, 238 marginalized 6, 31, 36, 38, 137, 148 language cultures 31, 38 marginality 230 marketability 173 Martindale, Charles 236 materiality 140, 143, 149, 154, 156, 177, 239, 240 maxim 54, 60-61, 74, 165, 220 Mazrui, Ali 14, 28, 118-120, 218 mediated translation 179 mediation 179, 193, 232 mediating language 179 Meeuwis, Michael 146 Mehrez, Samia 6, 8-10, 31, 140-141, 143, 168169 mesolect 127, 129 meta-culture 175 metaphorical 3, 8, 12, 31, 42, 73, 79, 94, 102, 104, 107, 156, 164, 168, 194, 197, 240 metatext 31-32, 219 of culture 8, 31-32, 41, 173-174, 219 métissage 5, 240 métissé 10, 169 métropole 19, 22, 149, 151, 162, 166, 177, 240 metropolitan culture 29

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Index French 26, 92, 131-132, 189 idiom 142, 143, 148, 150, 152, 154 language 17, 134, 141, 149-150 lexicon 123 writing 151 middle ground 9-10, 168-169 middle passage 5-6, 163, 179, 239-240 migration 10, 15, 139, 151, 164, 169, 185, 222, 229 mimicry 119, 157, 211, 220 monolingual writing 142, 229 monolithic 6, 10, 147, 162, 169, 222 minority 3, 6, 10-11, 138, 170 cultures 12, 99, 230, 231, 235 language 137, 140, 148-149, 228, 231-232, 235 literature 12, 138, 148, 166, 170, 230 peoples 91, 146 writing practices 12 monoritized community 162 minoritizing 61, 71 minor language 137, 143-144, 150, 155, 158 minor literature 11, 139, 170 miscommunication 54, 57, 220, 231 missionary 17-18, 62, 120, 163, 214-215 mission civilisatrice 19 Mister Johnson 124 modes of address 11, 40-41, 50, 52, 187 modes of speech 39, 62-63 modernism 18 modernity 159, 228 mono-cultural 159 monoculture 41 monolingual 94, 136-137, 139-142, 146, 154155, 217, 221, 229 monolingualism 151, 154, 157 monolithic entity 6, 10, 147, 162, 169, 222 Monye, Ambrose 79 mother tongue 16, 18, 108, 110, 122, 161, 176, 183, 184, 221-222, 229 Mounin, Georges 241 Mphahlele, Es’Kia E. 20 Mufwene, Salikoko 122-124, 128 multiculturalism 233 multilayered language 108 multilingualism 3, 31, 107, 109, 136-8, 147, 151, 153, 158, 221, 233, 241 multilingual writing 138, 142, 149, 151-152, 229 mythopoetics 24 names 11, 28, 31, 40-52, 58, 72, 74, 90, 106, 110, 114, 120, 130, 155-156, 187-188, 192, 210 bynames 46, 48-49

265 nicknames 46-47, 49 proper names 40, 48 proverb names 49, 74 naming 40-41, 47-50, 112 national culture 183 nationality 185 national language 132, 139, 142, 229 nation-state 16 native competence 36, 222 native functionaries 125 native intuition 113 native language 4-5, 15, 34, 36, 52, 99, 100, 101, 105, 109, 114, 118, 151, 178, 183, 193, 217, 224, 226, 228 native speaker 22, 101, 176, 214-215, 221-222 non-native speaker 214, 220 translator 161, 183-184 nativism 99, 224 nativization 225 natural language 34 negotiation 10, 62, 103, 169, 177, 190, 223, 229, 235 negotiating process 177, 224 Négritude 20-21, 27 neo-literalist translation 236 neo-Tarzanism 29 neutralization 41-42, 50, 79 Newmark, Peter 182 Nida, Eugene 203, 208, 236-237 Nigeria 17-18, 20, 22-23, 28, 30, 42, 55, 61, 88, 118-119, 123, 150, 160, 180, 183, 196, 211, 225 Niranjana, Tejaswini 6-8, 148, 163, 168 Nketia, Joseph 45 nomad 10, 31, 169 nomadic 10, 169 non-native 37, 103, 106, 114, 154, 217, 219-220, 231, 241 non-nativeness 37, 106, 114 non-Western culture 6, 54, 216 norm 9,26, 28, 35, 37-38, 52, 54, 58-60, 107, 138-139, 141, 152, 169, 176, 220, 227, 234, 240 Nwoga, Donatus 18 Nyembezi, Sibusiso 78 Obiechina, Emmanuel 13, 38, 40, 53, 56, 63, 78, 87, 90, 115-116, 118, 124, 135, 197, 218 obscene 91, 93, 96, 112 obscurity 24-25, 220 officialese 23, 29, 121 official language 17, 22, 132, 158 Ogden, Charles K. and Richards, Ivor A. 125 Okara, Gabriel 14, 20, 22, 28, 30, 43-44, 51,

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266 85, 104-108, 114, 116-117, 121, 164, 189, 190-194, 199, 205 Okpewho, Isidore 62 Okri, Ben 4 Omole, James 147 Onana, Daniel 85 Onitsha Market Writers 18, 28 chapbooks 18, 28 onomastic practices 40 onomatopoeia 131 Opubor, Alfred 59 oral aesthetics 94, 238 oral art 175, 185-187 oral artistry 4-5, 11, 53, 174, 188-189, 240 oral culture 2, 11, 12, 25, 53, 96, 98-99, 159, 163, 171-172, 177, 180, 186-187, 193-194, 198, 219, 237, 240 oral discourse 31-32, 63, 96, 118, 217 orality 3, 10-12, 24-25, 28-29, 32, 69, 92, 95, 159, 163, 171, 173, 174-175, 179, 188, 190, 207, 218-220, 239 writing of 10, 159, 163, 173 orality/writing interface 175 orally-based language culture 31 oral narrative 2-3, 22, 24, 26, 27, 32-33, 53, 94, 98-99, 105-106, 114-117, 119, 130, 136, 159, 163, 165-167, 171-173, 175, 187-189, 196, 198, 200, 211, 218, 220, 223, 232, 236 African 2-3, 22, 24, 94, 115-117, 119, 130, 163, 166-167, 171, 198, 200, 211, 218, 232, 236 oral medium 175 oral tradition 2-3, 11, 21, 23-26, 28-29, 32, 38, 52, 73, 83, 86, 91-92, 119-121, 124, 135, 157, 161, 163-164, 171-173, 175-176, 179, 183-184, 187, 189, 190, 193, 200, 207, 211, 218, 220, 227 oratorical ability 61-63, 79 oratory 11, 53, 61, 63, 78, 119-120 orature 3, 7, 9, 29, 53, 159, 162, 170, 172-174, 177-178, 183, 230 orderliness 219 orientalist 165, 186 original 9, 12, 31, 114, 147, 160-162, 164, 167, 169, 171, 177, 179, 188, 191, 193, 196, 202, 206, 208, 211, 222, 223, 230-231, 233, 235-237 ornamental discourse 118, 119 orthography 17 othering 99-100 otherness 53, 100, 173-174 overtness 233 over-translation 190 Oyono, Ferdinand 46-47, 80-81, 84, 92-94, 111, 114-115, 131, 134, 153, 157, 200, 204, 214

Paul F. Bandia panegyric 3, 42-43, 45, 114 Pannwitz, Rudolph 234 para-literature 28 parallelism 68 paraphrase 46, 69-70, 80-82, 86, 107, 110, 137, 144, 152, 237 paratext 152, 163, 165, 172, 236 paratextual commentary 172 material 163, 165, 236 Parkman, Brenda 181 parole 33, 35 paroemiologist 74 performance 30, 35, 39, 45, 78, 171, 173, 187 Chomskyan 33, 35, 39 periphery 7, 10, 137, 163, 169, 229 phatic communion 125 phraseology 45, 62-23, 73 pictogram 159 pidgins 4, 15, 29, 30, 118, 122-135, 151-152, 154-157, 191, 194, 196-197, 206-215, 223, 225, 241 pidgin French 122, 132 WAPE 122, 135, 206-207, 209-210, 213 philosophy 1, 21, 23, 29, 77 African 28, 74, 78 postmodern 230, 240 pluralism 149 plurality 9, 11, 138, 149, 168, 170, 207, 223, 229 pluralized language 10, 169 plurivocity 151, 153, 239 poetic licence 173, 190 poetics 8, 11, 24, 28, 99, 150, 170, 212, 220, 231, 238 policy 5, 17-20, 27, 132, 157, 162 politeness 34-35, 39 political self-representation 231 politics of translation 7 polyglossia 138 polylingual discourse 108 literature 140 practice 131, 138, 140, 146, 149, 151 writing 136-138, 140, 142, 149, 151-152 polylingualism 2, 11, 136-137, 139, 147, 149, 158, 207, 222, 229-230 polyphonous 151 polysemic 85 polysystems theory 176 Portuguese 14, 18, 123, 141, 180 polyvalency 132, 239 popularization 208 popularizing 232

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Index positionality 184, 193 postcolonial context 3, 7, 9, 29, 48, 136-137, 143144, 149, 169, 180-181, 217, 230, 234-235 postcolonial condition 8-9, 139, 142, 159, 168, 229 postcolonial discourse 7, 9, 108, 113, 175 postcolonial ethics 230, 232 postcolonial fiction 11, 32, 52-53, 107. 135, 137, 170, 173 postcolonial hybridity 229 postcolonial intercultural writing 2, 3, 12, 131, 163-164 postcolonial literature 3, 7, 12, 15, 27, 29, 46, 49, 122, 139-140, 147, 162, 167, 174, 217, 229 postcolonialism 139, 167, 170 postcoloniality 31, 174-5, 178-9, 227 postcolonial studies 1, 6, 8, 139, 147-148, 229 postcolonial subject 143, 149, 177, 230, 236 postcolonial theory 1, 230 postcolonial translation theory 1, 5-9, 99, 154, 167-169, 230 postcolonial translator 174-175, 179, 182 postcolonial writer 6, 15, 31, 61, 108-109, 113114, 136, 138, 152, 165-166, 169 postcolonial writer-translator 6, 176 postcolonial writing 5, 8, 10-11, 31-33, 36, 46, 108, 112, 115, 137-138, 142, 168, 170, 173, 176, 231, 237, 240 postcolony 122, 131, 134, 136, 150-151, 156, 158, 166, 171, 177, 240 postmodern 1, 10-12, 151, 185, 230-231, 240 postmodernism 170 postmodernist 10-12, 151, 231 power asymmetry 148 power differential 3, 8, 168, 229, 230 power inequality 3, 5, 149 power imbalance 7, 235 power relations 7, 31, 98, 122, 140-146, 148, 158, 177, 216-217, 227, 230, 238, 240 pragmalinguistics 11, 32, 36, 50-51 pragmatic adjustment 231 pragmatic function 41, 50, 51 pragmatics 11, 32-33, 39, 41, 50-51, 53, 99, 147, 161-162, 204, 219-220, 231 ethnopragmatics 53 sociopragmatics 39 pragmatic shift 231 praise names 40, 42-44, 47, 114, 121, 178, 187188, 218 praise poetry 42 praise singer 63 pre-industrialized 41, 48, 89, 172, 195, 227 presupposition 68, 92, 98 primary level of translation 38, 165-166

267 principle of charity 216, 236, 241 professional translation 183 prologue 237 proverb 11, 29, 49, 53, 61-62, 67, 70-71, 73-89, 92-94, 118-120, 165, 178, 201-206, 209, 218-219 African 74-76, 78-79, 85-86, 131, 165, 178, 202205, 211 fable 74 name 74 riddle 74 proverbial expression 74 saying 74, 76, 177 provincializing 10, 169 public service translator 160 Quine, Willard 215-216, 236, 241 Quintillian 232 radical bilingualism 240 radical translation 215 Rafael, Vicente 6-8, 148, 163, 168, 179 readability 109, 156, 173, 238, 240 reader 46-47, 53, 60, 71-72, 74, 84, 88, 91-92, 96, 109-115, 126, 131, 136-137, 140, 152-153, 157, 167, 171, 190, 197, 200, 206, 210. 212, 232, 235-237 monolingual 137, 141, 154-155 European 30, 113 non-Ibo 46, 111, 153, 237 English language 60 non-African 87, 109, 113, 191, 237 African 92 international 108, 112, 150-151 Ibo 151 vernacular 151 metropolitan 157 French 94, 212, 232 foreign 238 readership 4, 159-160, 201, 216 African 238 cosmopolitan 29 international 46, 111-112, 136, 150, 215 local 151 non-African 232 Western 14 reciprocal translation 163 re-creation 193, 204 recreation 235 reduplication 76, 115, 117, 198-200 redundancy 111, 220 Reed, John 46, 200, 204, 214-215 references 20, 40-42, 50-52, 185, 188

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268 referentiality 87 relatedness 219 relexification 12, 100, 109-110, 153, 164, 167 relocation 10, 12, 31, 169 remainder 61, 71, 86, 143, 165, 239, 240 remote language 161 reparation 89, 227, 238 repetition 115, 117-118, 130, 131, 198-200, 211, 237 lexical 115, 118 representation 7, 12, 19, 27, 62, 60, 74, 75, 86-87, 90-92, 99, 103, 108, 1138, 140, 144, 159, 162, 164, 173-175, 178-181, 184, 186, 190, 194, 204, 215, 229, 231 resistance 3, 7, 26, 40, 98, 114, 136-139, 143, 145, 147-149, 153-154, 164, 218 resistant translation 47, 90 reterritorialization 164 retranslation 8, 168 re-translation 193 rewriting 41, 60, 162 rhetorical question 52, 71-73, 76, 219 Ricard, Alain 228 Robinson, Douglas 8, 10, 169, 234 Rodriguez, Emilio 29 Romaine, Suzanne 128 Romanized script 17 retranslation 8, 168 Rodriguez, Emilio 29 Roscoe, Adrian 21-22 Rundi (Burundi) 38, 62-63 salutation 30, 42, 51-52, 58, 121 sameness 230-233, 235, 237-238, 240 in difference 232, 235, 238, 240 Sapir, Edward and Whorf, Benjamin 34 Sartre, Jean-Paul 21 Saussure, Ferdinand de 33, 35 Scheub, Harold 171 Schleiermacher,Friedrich 238 Schneider, Gilbert 123 Searle, John 33, 35, 39, 53, 219 secondarity 226 secondary level of translation 165-167 second language 4, 25, 36-37, 54, 100-101, 108, 161, 164, 166, 176, 184, 217, 224-226 self-translation 163, 228 Selinker, Larry 36 semantic load 232, 237 semantic shift 100-104, 177-178 semantic truncation 79, 84 Sembene, Ousmane 20 semi-literate 17, 28-30, 120, 124, 127, 129-130, 135, 164, 210

Paul F. Bandia semiotic significance 40, 41 semiotic system 180 Senghor, Léopold S. 4, 13-15, 17, 19-20, 26-27 sentence grammar 33, 36 sentential constituents 223 sequencing 54 settlement colonization 122-123 settlement colonies 123 Seuil, Éditions du 27, 160 Sevry, Jean 189-190, 192-194, 196, 199, 205 Shaka 42 Shakespeare, William 119 Shakespearean 24, 131 Shaw, Harry 45, 74 shift 142 collocational 100-101, 114-115, 178, 189, 235 pragmatic 231 semantic100-104, 115, 178, 189, 235 syntactic 100 translation 175, 177 silence 171 Simon, Sherry and St-Pierre, Paul 168 Simpson, Ekundayo 180, 183-184 simultaneous translating 107 simultaneous translation 108 Skopos theory 176 slavery 40, 227, 238 Smith, Philip 38 Snell-Hornby, Mary 176, 184, 202, 233, 235, 237 social interaction 33, 35, 38 social marker 224 social segregation 123 sociocultural history 196 influence 176 difficulties 25 African - reality 3-5, 21, 25, 30, 143, 161-162, 164-165, 174, 177, 179-180, 209, 235 reality 3-5, 21, 25, 143, 161-162, 164-165, 174, 177, 179-180, 235 relations 40, 91 setting 78, 224 knowledge 85, 190 experience 115, 176 background 122, 176, 216, 237 material 166 aspects 176 meaning 189-190 expression 190 relevance 201 context 202 factor 204-227

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Index elements 209 distance 216 processes 217 significance 218 system 224-225, 241 world-view 224 obstacle 241 sociolectal innovation 100 sociolects 100, 122 sociolinguist 33, 142-143, 145, 155 sociolinguistics 11, 147 sociology 1, 12 sociopragmatics 39 source-language 101, 129, 176, 184, 215, 234235, 238 culture 165, 168, 174-175, 177, 184, 206, 226, 237-239 Soyinka, Wole 4, 20, 21, 23-24, 28-29, 104, 112, 130, 155-156, 183, 186 Spanish 8, 14, 141, 146, 168, 180, 222 speech act 33-36, 39, 53, 219, 231 Spencer, John 14 Spivak, Gayatri 227 Standard English 24, 29, 30, 69, 104, 106, 125127, 129, 133, 136, 157, 194, 210-212 standard variety 11, 29-30, 37, 41, 61, 69-70, 99, 104, 106, 122-123, 125-127, 129-130, 132134, 136, 152, 15157, 170, 177-178, 189, 194, 196, 197, 207, 210-212, 215, 225, 227 Steiner, George 147-148, 241 style of address 121 stylization 53, 190, 237 subaltern culture 5, 31, 141, 149, 235 subaltern language 141 subjectivity 149, 184 substrate 127 subtext 7, 11-12, 26, 38, 46, 53, 106, 118, 121, 155, 163 subversion 9, 21, 141, 178, 231 subversive 139-141, 229, 231 subvert 10, 170, 178 subverting 2, 5, 9, 100, 134, 169 superimposition of languages 209 superstrate 127, 210, 214 surrealist movement 27 symbolic domination 145, 148 symmetrical powers 148 symmetrical reciprocity 147-148 syncretism 224, 227 syntactic truncation 84 Syrotinski, Michael 38 tag-switching 150 Taiaro, Oladele 177

269 Talib, Ismail 29 Tallon, Brigitte 132 Tannen, Deborah 39 target culture 175-176, 234 target language 5, 6, 9, 147, 161, 169, 174, 176177, 180, 215, 223, 236, 238 Taylor, Archer 74 tertiary hybridization 127 text grammar 33, 36 textual coherence 53, 68, 71-73 textual middle 239-240 Tiffin, Chris and Lawson, Alan 7 thick translation 12, 165, 236-237 third code 6, 99-100, 240 third way 240 third world 7, 11, 148, 170 Thomas, Dylan 23 Todd, Loreto 18, 123, 127, 211, 215 Todorov, Tzvetan 138 tonality 239 trace 114, 121, 140, 144, 152, 159, 164-165, 171, 173, 212 trade 14, 123-124, 156, 161, 217 traditional authority 125, 127 traditional lore 75, 79 traditional society 125-126 transcoding 164, 176 transcription 38, 171, 229 transculturality 1, 3, 32, 138, 159, 161-162, 171, 173, 184, 194, 217 transcultural posturing 166 transformative practice 8, 168 transgressing translatability 216 fluent 114 transparent 114 translated discourse 74, 162 translational position 166 translation as reparation 227 translation as conversion 178-179, 184, 187-190, 193, 213 translation as metaphor 8, 12, 31, 107, 164, 168, 240 translation as negotiation 177, 223 translation as writing 31, 108 translation criticism 2, 164, 181, 240 translation ethics of difference 238-239 translation ethics of sameness 230 translation ethics of reparation 238 translation horizon 161 translation project 160-161, 184, 239, 241 translation shift 175, 177-178 translation strategy 5-6, 53, 157, 178, 201, 228, 231

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270 translation theory 1, 4-12, 32, 40, 48, 61, 99, 147, 149, 152, 159, 163, 164, 167-170, 216-217, 222, 230, 232, 240-24136-37, 54, 100-101, 108, 161, 164, 166, 176, 184, 217, 224-226 transculturality 1, 3, 32, 138, 159, 161-162, 171, 173, 184, 194, 217 transcultural practices 11, 32, 170 transcultural representation 90 transfer 6, 31, 37, 100, 134, 142, 149, 162, 165, 174-175, 179, 224 cultural 4, 149, 161, 217, 224 linguistic 37, 176 literary 161 translingualism 1, 217 transliteration 30, 44, 86, 105-106, 175, 201, 220 transnationalism 1, 3-4, 10-11, 32, 138-139, 159, 161, 170, 184, 220, 241 transmutation 5, 10 transparency 144, 223 transportation 3, 31, 144, 164, 187 transposition 32, 36, 63, 69, 78, 90, 119, 162, 166, 170, 173, 175, 194 tripartite (approach) / three-tiered 173, 174, 178 Trivedi 7-8, 167-168 (see Bassnett) Tutuola, Amos 20, 23-24, 26, 28, 30, 164, 177 Tymoczko, Maria 7, 31, 40-41, 48, 91, 110, 114, 167-168, 173 unequal power relations 31, 98, 140-144, 158, 177, 216, 238, 240 universal communicability 216 universal grammar 34 universalism 6, 99, 144, 157 universalist 6, 34-35, 53 universalistic 5, 53 universality 34-35, 141, 186 universal translatability 216 untranslatability 108-109 cultural 177, 229 linguistic 177 uptake 34 urbanization 185, 222 utterance 33-34, 41, 62, 84, 107, 165, 178, 222 Van Dijk, Teun A. 33, 36, 68 Venuti, Lawrence 6, 9, 12, 60, 143, 148-149, 165, 168, 208-209, 230, 227, 237-240 verbatim translation 105, 192 vernacular expressions 28, 178 interpolation 112 language 14-20, 93-94, 106-114, 122-123, 125126, 133, 135, 144, 150-154, 164-167, 169, 171, 176, 178, 193, 196-197, 207-209, 223, 225, 228

Paul F. Bandia literary practices 17 literature 20, 21, 167 oral narrative 99 tradition 20, 26 translation 18, 178 writing 18, 19, 144, 159, 167 vernacularism 11 vernacularization 100 visibility 6, 134, 149, 165-166, 185, 187, 228, 230 vulgar 91-96, 98, 200-201 vulgarity 11, 91, 93-94, 98, 200 Vulgar Latin 123 Wald, Paul 129, 132-133 Wali, Obi 13 Warren, Rosanna 226-227 wa Thing’o, Ngugi 1, 4, 10, 16, 18, 118, 150, 159, 169, 231 Weizman, Elda and Blum-Kulka, Shoshana 231-232 Wellerism 76, 80 West African Pidgin English 122-124, 128, 136, 151, 156-157, 191, 194, 209, 211-212, 214-215 West, Anthony 23 Western education 136 Whiteley, William 14, 18 Wierzbicka, Anna 34, 39, 53 Wieschoff, Hans 49 Wilkinson, Jane 124 Williams, Angela 108 Woolard, Kathryn 145-146 word formation 114, 237 word-for-word 108, 178, 203 world language 6, 16, 18, 34 world literature 13, 25, 164, 220 writer-translator 6, 12, 175-176, 232, 235, 237 writing as translation 3, 31, 33, 38, 99, 106, 108, 149, 159, 164-167, 176, 240 writing code 14 writing system 4, 172 written script 2, 17 Yoruba 17, 23-24, 42, 75, 77, 104, 177, 183 oral tradition 23 Young, Peter 46, 109-110, 153 Zabus, Chantal 12, 99, 109-110, 114, 140-141, 143-144, 153, 164, 167, 231