Translated People,Translated Texts: 1st Edition (Paperback) book cover

Translated People,Translated Texts

1st Edition

By Tina Steiner


176 pages

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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.

Table of Contents


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)

Strategic nostalgia

Orientalism, Islamism and supplementary spaces

Politics of language and nostalgic memories

Translating back

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

Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
LANGUAGE ARTS & DISCIPLINES / Linguistics / General