Translated People, Translated Texts examines contemporary migration narratives by four African writers who live in the diaspora and write in English: Leila Aboulela and Jamal Mahjoub from the Sudan, now living in Scotland and Spain respectively, and Abdulrazak Gurnah and Moyez G. Vassanji from Tanzania, now residing in the UK and Canada.
Focusing on how language operates in relation to both culture and identity, Steiner foregrounds the complexities of migration as cultural translation. Cultural translation is a concept which locates itself in postcolonial literary theory as well as translation studies. The manipulation of English in such a way as to signify translated experience is crucial in this regard. The study focuses on a particular angle on cultural translation for each writer under discussion: translation of Islam and the strategic use of nostalgia in Leila Aboulela's texts; translation and the production of scholarly knowledge in Jamal Mahjoub's novels; translation and storytelling in Abdulrazak Gurnah's fiction; and translation between the individual and old and new communities in Vassanji's work.
Translated People, Translated Texts makes a significant contribution to our understanding of migration as a common condition of the postcolonial world and offers a welcome insight into particular travellers and their unique translations.
Cultural Translation in Contemporary African Migrant Literature
1. Mapping the Terrain
Defining Cultural Translation
The manipulation of language
Contact zones, homes and destinations
Contexts of departure
2. Strategic Nostalgia, Islam and Cultural Translation in Leila Aboulela's The Translator (1999) and Coloured Lights (2001)
Orientalism, Islamism and supplementary spaces
Politics of language and nostalgic memories
3. Translation, Knowledge and the Reader in Jamal Mahjoub's Wings of Dust (1994) and The Carrier (1998)
Translation's threat to authority: "All knowledge in these dark times is dangerous"
Exile and madness: a portrait of two translators: Sharif and Shibshib
Copernicus, carriers and the translation of scientific knowledge
4. Mimicry or Translation: Storytelling and Migrant Identity in Abdulrazak Gurnah's Admiring Silence (1996) and By the Sea (2001)
Migrant storytelling and cultural translation
Mimicry or the refusal to translate in Admiring Silence: "Beware of the stories you read or tell"
Cultural translation in By the Sea: "Stories can transform enemies into friends"
"Stories can infect a system, or illuminate a world": Conclusion
5. Ambivalent Translation between Individual and Community
Moyez Vassanji's No New Land (1991) and Amriika (1999)
Cultural translation and the threat of community
Migration and difficult translations in No New Land
Migration, a translation into other galaxies? Amriika
Neither traps nor galaxies: Conclusion
Cultural Translation and the Troubling of Locations of Identity
Storytelling and the Reader