Thursday, 12 June 2014 09:01

Panel 09: Tracing Self-Translation: discursive perspectives in context

Tracing Self-Translation : discursive perspectives in context
Maud Gonne, University of Leuven, Belgium
Klaartje Merrigan, University of Leuven, Belgium
Reine Meylaerts, University of Leuven, Belgium 
Katarzyna Szymanska, University of Oxford, UK

Once known as a marginal field of study, self-translation has recently attracted a considerable amount of scholarly interest. Current theories vacillate between opposing understandings of self-translation, depending on whether the focal point consists of the self-translator as a unique, 'privileged agent of transfer' (Tanqueiro 1999), or of the self-translated text as the result of an act of re-writing, and thus essentially no different from any other text that is reshaped or 'fragmented' in view of a new readership (Lefevere 1992, Bassnett 2013). The focus on the agency of the self-translator has led to passionate pleas to 'move beyond Beckett' in order to place reflections on self-translation in a broader sociological framework of a competing world system of languages (Grutman 2013). Theoretical reflections on the self-translated text have, in turn, defined the latter as a complex cultural artifact which constantly questions binary oppositions underlying key-concepts of translation studies (Cordingley 2013).

Nevertheless, current approaches tend to neglect the specificity of the self-translation process, which implies a cross-fertilization between writing, translating, reading and often re-writing between languages as well as an act of world-construction across languages. While self-translators are often exceptional 'cultural brokers', they are also the creators of complex literary scenographies, which necessarily bear the traces of the multilingual enunciative conditions out of which they emerge. By focusing on literary scenographies, this panel aims to extend current research on bilingualism within linguistic theories of discourse by reflecting on the ramifications of the 'bilingual condition' on the literary discourse of self-translating authors. The term scenography, as introduced by Maingueneau (2004) refers here to the narrative scene constructed in a fictional text, which reflects and legitimate the genre in which it partakes and in turn influences the 'image' of the author perceived as the creator of that particular scenography. In the case of literary self-translation, we believe these scenographies need to be linked to (i) the specific language(s) in which they are written and (ii) the complex author-translator status of the writer who created them.

The purpose of this panel is therefore to study self-translation as both a translational and literary activity, with highly complex modes of interaction which can be traced discursively. Concretely, we aim to (1)open up new methodological questions on how translation strategies between versions can be linked to narrative and/or discursive structures which concur across versions (2)study the continuities (and not only the dissimilarities) between versions and analyze how these deepen or problematize the relationship between a given literary scenography and its double context of reception.

Possible research questions are:

- Are there recurring topoi, stereotypes, discursive strategies within the self-translated text/discourse? What kind of discursive 'traces' (narration, voice, time, space, ...) emerge out of the conditions from which self-translators write?

- Is it possible to speak of a self-translating 'ethos', at once inscribing itself in authorial and translational discourses?

- To what extend does self-translation constitute a meta-literary or meta-translational practice? Can it be analyzed as the (self-)translator's comment on either the original or translation process?

For informal enquiries: [maudDOTgonneATartsDOTkuleuvenDOTbe]

picture MaudGonne

Maud Gonne isa PhD student in Translation Studies at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Her current research interest concerns the role of intercultural mediators in the process of cultural nation building. She is preparing a doctoral dissertation on the forms and functions of intercultural and interlingual transfer activities by the writer-translator Georges Eekhoud (1854-1927) within Belgium and between Belgium and France (

pasfoto klaartje


Klaartje Merrigan is a research fellow of the Flemish Fund for Scientific Research (FWO) at the University of Leuven, Belgium. Her current research interest concerns the practice of literary self-translation in twentieth-century Canadian and French literature. She is preparing a doctoral dessertation on the literary works of Nancy Huston between 1948-2002. She is also a member of the research group 'Multilingualism, Translation, Creation', of the Institut des Textes et Manuscrits modernes (UMR CNRS/ENS) (




picture ReineMeylaerts

Reine Meylaerts (KU Leuven) is Professor of Comparative Literature and director of CETRA (Centre for Translation Studies; at KU Leuven. Her current research interests concern the theory, methodology and historiography of intercultural relationships in multilingual societies. She is the author of numerous articles and chapters on these topics ( She is review editor of Target. International Journal of Translation Studies and coordinator of 2011-2014: FP7-PEOPLE-2010-ITN: TIME: Translation Research Training: An integrated and intersectoral model for Europe. She is former Secretary General (2004-2007) of the European Society for Translation Studies (EST) and Chair of the Doctoral Studies Committee of EST.


picture KatarzynaSzymanzka

Katarzyna Szymańska (Universiry of Oxford) is a PhD student in Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, UK. Funded by Rawnsley Graduate Scholarship (St Hugh's College), her project focuses on the concept of meta-translation in contemporary translations of poetry across English, German and Polish. She is also a postgraduate representative of British Comparative Literature Association (





Each paper is allocated with a 20 minutes time slot + 10 minutes discussion.

Discussion time at the end of each session


Title: Tracing Self-Translation: discursive perspectives in context

Speakers: Klaartje Merrigan, University of Leuven, Belgium and Katarzyna Szymanska, University of Oxford, UK.



Title: Israel Zangwill: translator and (self-)translator from Hebrew and Yiddish into English

Speaker: Denise Merkle, Université de Moncton, Canada


This paper will contribute to research on self-translation by studying the case of Israel Zangwill, the son of East End London immigrants. Zangwill earned a B.A. in English and French in the 1880s, in addition to learning the two traditional languages of the Jewish community: Yiddish and Hebrew. His mastery of Hebrew enabled him to translate competently Hebrew poetry into English; however, Zangwill was not primarily a translator. Rather, he was a successful author, well integrated into English cultural and literary circles. Yet, some of his writings were more controversial, in particular his self-translations that incorporated linguistic hybridity to varying degrees.

To understand the power dynamics that influenced Zangwill's (self-)translation decisions and strategies, the paper will refer to polysystem theory as well as to Bourdieu-inspired sociological approaches to translation that consider issues of (authorized) language and power. This theoretical framework will underpin the analysis of, in particular, Zangwill's Children of the Ghetto: A Study of a Peculiar People, as an example of self-translation. It was written as a realistic socio-linguistic portrait of the linguistic hybridity that marked the East End Jewish community, and it became the first Anglo-Jewish best-seller to present the spiritual crisis that London's assimilated Jewish community was facing. Zangwill wished that his Jewish roots be known and was keenly aware of "'asymmetric' linguistic configurations" (Grutman 2013) between English and poor immigrant languages (e.g. Polish, Russian and Yiddish), that did not enjoy the same symbolic capital English did. At the beginning of the 1890s,the Jewish Publication Society of America (JPSA) was looking for a Jewish Robert Elsmere and asked Zangwill to produce an English version based on London's East End for Jewish Americans, in addition to British Jews. However, to reproduce the linguistic diversity of the community he was forced to choose between writing a linguistically hybrid text or

(self-)translating immigrant languages, in particular Yiddish and Hebrew.

Israel Zangwill belonged to a traditional linguistic minority (Grutman 2013: 188), was multilingual and "well read in more than one literary tradition" (ibid.: 193). The paper will examine examples of (self-)translation strategies in Children of the Ghetto, and compare them to strategies retained by Zangwill in earlier works as well as to examples of self-translation between conventional British and Jewish cultures in his daily life in order to come to a clearer understanding of his status as a (self-)translator. By cultural self-translation, we refer to Zangwill's negotiations between British (dominant) and Jewish (minority) cultures in London.

Like Oscar Wilde's French original Salome, Children of the Ghetto has no source text, Zangwill self-translating between Hebrew/Yiddish and English while putting pen to paper. While Wilde, Kafka and Huston, among other translator/writers have been abundantly studied, Zangwill's works have not yet attracted the attention of Translation Studies scholars. As such, analyzing this case study will add new research to the literature on self-translation.


Denise Merkle teaches translation at the Université de Moncton, Canada. She publishes on the translating subject, censorship and translation, and official translation/translators. Her articles have been published in various journals (e.g. Babel, TransCanadiana , TTR) and collected volumes (e.g. Agents of Translation, ed. J. Milton and P. Bandia; Translation Effects, ed. K. Mezei, S. Simon, L. von Flotow; Traduction et censure, ed. M. Ballard). She has edited or co-edited journal issues (TTR, Alternative francophone, the latter with A. Klimkiewicz) and collected volumes (e.g. The Power of the Pen with C. O'Sullivan, L. van Doorslaer and M. Wolf).


Title: Self-translation, textual role-shiftingness and cross-fertilisation in the works by Marco Micone

Speaker: Cecilia Foglia, University of Montreal, Canada


In the article entitled "History and the Self-translator" (2013), Jan Hokenson maintains that a large amount of translative activity has been prompted by four main historical drives. These are the foundation of political states, post-colonialism, religious reform movements and diasporas (such as exile and migration). Such immense translative activity, as she claims, includes an important subgroup, that of self-translation and self-translators, which needs to be investigated more deeply. In line with Hokenson's call, our presentation will focus on the case study represented by Marco Micone and his peculiar activity as a migrant self-translator.

Born in Italy in 1945, he migrates to Quebec (Canada) to escape poverty. Micone is a polyvalent individual. Not only has he extensively written, translated, adapted and self-translated for the stage, he has also played a politically pivotal role within the Italian migrant community of Quebec by supporting the adoption of a multicultural and plurilingual politics. Despite being an Italian native speaker, Micone has always written his plays in French, and translated/adapted for the stage from English or Italian into French. His name has thus seldom crossed the ocean to reach his homeland. Nevertheless, the chance to be published in Italian arrives when he agrees to self-translate his theatrical trilogy for Cosmo Iannone Editore, a small publishing house interested in translating into Italian the works of Italian migrant writers living abroad.

To investigate Micone's self-translations, we have adopted the socio-graphical approach, which is a theoretical model stemming from Bourdieu's (1993) concept of "genetic sociology". This approach aims at uncovering Micone's personal writing and translatorial dispositions within a national and social system. In other words, this model does not prioritise sociological subjects over the context or vice versa. It rather investigates them as interdependent forces that mutually influence and affect the cultural product. The application of such a model to Micone's self-translations has brought about some preliminary results. While self-translating from French into Italian, and after having self-translated literally the first four scenes of his first play, Micone decides to rewrite the rest of the trilogy. Fascinated by the way the Italian language reshapes and revitalises his plays, Micone drastically decides to put the source texts of his trilogy originally written in French in the '80s aside. Thus, the self-translations into Italian become the "new source texts" of the trilogy he will then self-translate into French, too. We refer here to an exceptional textual role-shiftingness triggered by a linguistic and cultural change.

Micone's unique experience as self-translator has inspired the following research questions: since his textual role-shiftingness appears to be an attempt to blur the frontiers between original creation and translation, is self-translation not a final result but a "meta-writing-practice" capable of cross-fertilising various cultural fields, leaving a mark on them and eventually generating some features of its own? Can self-translation help us understand how multilingual migrant agents perceive interculturality? How can TS benefit from studying self-translation (and self-translators) especially in its variant of migration?


Cecilia Foglia received her BA in Foreign Languages, Literature and Culture, and her MA in Modern Euro-American Languages and Literature from the University of Macerata (Italy). She is currently writing a Ph.D thesis at the University of Montreal (Canada), where she also works as research assistant and teaching assistant of Italian. Her interests include the sociology of translation, cultural translation and migration literature in translation. Her doctoral research focuses on the literary production and trajectory of Marco Micone, an Italian writer, adapter, translator and self-translator who migrated to Québec after World War II.


Title: Ethnographies and Autoethnographies as Self-Translations: The Case of 19th Century Writings in Spanish and Mapudungun

Speaker: Gertrudis Payas, Universidad Católica de Temuco, Chile


The late 20th century saw the realization in the disciplines of anthropology and ethnography that most narratives of so-called "primitive" cultures based on oral accounts gathered by Western scholars to help understand such cultures had to be viewed as representations created by the practitioners themselves and hence reflected their biases and prejudices. This acknowledgement characterized the ensuing "crisis of representation" that affected historical and anthropological studies (Marcus and Fisher 1986). In general terms, postcolonial translation studies can be described as a consequence of this turning point (Carbonell 1997; Bassnett &Trivedi 1999).

Applying these concepts to the analysis of translated ethnographic texts, Kate Sturge (2005) observed that ethnographers are often unaware of translation as a method for understanding and representing cultures, and argues that most ethnographic narratives obtained by eliciting information from informants and textualizing it in their language can be considered as originals, created and formatted by the ethnographer himself, before subsequent translation The ethnographer can thus be regarded as both the author of the original, creating the text in the indigenous language and preparing it for translation, and of the subsequent translation, meaning that such authors can arguably be regarded as self-translators, as well as target readers.

However, on other occasions it is the native informant who textualizes oral accounts in his own language using the ethnographer's method, and translates them into the ethnographer's language. Pratt terms these texts autoethnographic (1991), and in this case it is even clearer that the process is one of self-translation.

The language of Chile's native Mapuche, Mapudungun, was first described by the Spanish Jesuit missionaries during Spanish colonial rule in the 16th and 17th centuries, although it was not until the late 19th century, after Chile had declared independence, that the first modern descriptions and systematizations of Mapudungun were undertaken. Rudolf Lenz, a German philologist residing in Chile, published a series of studies in which he presented and commented on a collection of oral narratives and lists of phrases compiled during his field trips with the help of informants who also collaborated in the translation. One of these indigenous collaborators, Manuel Manquilef, took it upon himself to publish similar material, using the same method and translation strategies as the philologist but introducing literary features that enhanced the text in Spanish. Manquilef's literary embellishments attracted severe criticism from Lenz.

This presentation will examine the relevance of parody and other literary tropes when considering the translation strategies used in these self-translations and discuss the discourse on translation and the indigenous language that is explicitly or implicitly proposed by both Lenz and Manquilef's texts, together with the role of translation at the intersection of poetics and ideology.


Gertrudis Payàs is lecturer in Translation and Interpreting at the Languages and Translation Department of the Universidad Católica de Temuco. She is a member of a research group on intercultural studies (Núcleo de Estudios Interétnicos e Interculturales) and of the Alfaqueque Research Group at the Universidad de Salamanca. Her research focuses on the history of translation and interpretation in Hispanic America, with an emphasis on their cultural functions. This presentation is part of the Fondecyt Research Project: "Translation and interpretation during the period 1814–1930 in the Araucanian frontier as a means of revealing the dynamics of recognition" (Chile, 2011-2014).




Title: Traces of memory and metaphor in the self-translated text

Speaker: Frances Antoinette Vosloo, Stellenbosch University, South Africa


Skinned (2013), South African bilingual author and poet Antjie Krog's most recent poetry volume in English translation, includes a section entitled 'becomings'. The section comprises of eight poems originating from a poetry caravan across Senegal and Mali which Krog attended together with African poets and griots. In her narrative fictional book(s) A change of tongue (2003) and its translation into Afrikaans, 'n Ander tongval (2005), Krog recreates the landscape of poetry with which she engaged as Afrikaans mother tongue speaker during the travels to Timbuktu. Her narrative account is interspersed with translated poems of her own and of the African writers. The eight poems in Skinned represent a process of re-vision, opening up a space (through the text) where culture and language come to signify a multiplicity and diversity of creative origin.

Using Lionnet's (1989) interpretation of the term métissage, the poems in Skinned and A change of tongue are read as textual spaces characterized by stratifications of diverse language and cultural systems. These texts, specifically Skinned, represents a site or a space of métissage on more than one level: In her recollection of the words and poems of some of the African poets, Krog shapes these words into Afrikaans, her mother tongue, as part of a process of translation as comprehension (read understanding and knowledge); the comprehended poetry is represented in 'n Ander tongval, only to be translated later into English in the book A change of tongue (which was published before the Afrikaans version), and 'retranslated' as 'complete' poems in Skinned. Interweaved in these poems are Krog's own poetry – fragments of existing as well as new poems that originated during the poetry caravan. In the process of retranslation and the creation of different or differing versions, Krog adopts a rhizomatic translational identity, reflecting her socioideological horizons.

This paper explores the interlocking traces of memory, metaphor and identity by following the modes of interaction and conditions underlying the creation of these poems. Following Nouss's (2007) take on métissage within the frame of translation, Skinned is interpreted as a meaningful vector and index of the historicity of not only Krog's process of translation, but also the African origin of her texts. The poems stand as both textual and oral traces of the past – as spaces of memory constructed through the interreferential nature of the texts themselves.


Dr. Franci Vosloo is a postdoctoral fellow in Translation Studies at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. The title of her PhD was "Om te skryf deur te vertaal en te vertaal deur te skryf: Antjie Krog as skrywer/vertaler" (Writing through translating and translating through writing: Antjie Krog as writer/translator". With degrees in Archaeology and Translation Studies, her research interests include the sociology of translation, self-translation and translation as abjection.


Title: Self-translation and Narration in Rolando Hinojosa's Klail City Death Trip Series

Speaker: Marlene Hansen Esplin, Brigham Young University, USA


I examine the question of narration and how it both shapes and develops in the Spanish and English novels that constitute Mexican-American author and self-translator Rolando Hinojosa's Klail City Death Trip series. Through the course of this series of fifteen interconnected novels, Hinojosa frequently recurs to the device of an active, self-referential, and sardonic narrator who both colludes with and playfully jeers at the other narrative voices. I argue that the narrator's interpolations reflect Hinojosa's own internal negotiations as an author and translator who displays and interrogates Anglo, Mexican, and Mexican-American identities in the linguistically ambivalent space or scenography of South Texas, Hinojosa's Klail City or the larger Belken County. This recurring narrative voice enables Hinojosa to foreground or make "visible" the translation processes that are otherwise understated in his multilingual oeuvre and to lend authorial credence and coherence to the stories and many voices that make up his extensive narrative project.

I ask if the narrator's constant interpolations and humorous asides can be considered part of a larger "ethos" of self-translation and if, through the similar but disparate Spanish and English versions of a number of the novels in the series, Hinojosa creates an inter-textual reading project that is decidedly bilingual and transnational. The spaces between the versions of his novels reiterate his role as translator and self-translator and evidence ways in which Hinojosa, like his meddlesome narrator, both mediates among and causes trouble for the other characters and/or narrative voices who animate his series.

The meta-narrative of the Klail City series engages both the problems and possibilities of self-translation in the context of the borderlands between Texas and Mexico. This paper is part of a future chapter of a current book project entitled Spanish, English, and In-Between: Self-Translation in the U.S. and Latin America, in which I examine incidences of several U.S. Latino/a and/or Latin American authors who write Spanish and English versions of their texts.


Marlene is an Assistant Professor of Humanities at Brigham Young University with a PhD in Hispanic Cultural Studies from Michigan State University. Her research focuses mainly on how problems of translation or rewriting create intersections between U.S. and Latin American literatures. Her current book project concerns U.S. and Latin American "self-translators" who write Spanish and English versions of their texts. Other projects include a book chapter on how shifts in translating by bilingual authors such as Rosario Ferré, Margarita Cota-Cárdenas, and María Luisa Bombal reflect ambivalences surrounding a feminist identity and an article discussing heteroglossia in Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Americanah.


Title: A Poet Who Can Be Only Read in Translation...: Czesław Miłosz as self-translator in the context of his practice of cultural mediation

Speaker: Magda Heydel, Jagiellonian University, Poland


Czesław Miłosz is a pivotal figure in the Polish-American cultural mediation. He combined the roles of writer, anthologizer, journalist, commentator, translator and self-translator. His original writing shows traces of interaction with the literary environment he inhabited after the war. He opened channels of communication between the two cultures; what is now known as "the Polish School of Poetry" stemmed from his translations of Polish poetry; he also became a self-translator, carefully managing his bilingual output.

Although defining himself decidedly as a Polish poet, Miłosz was aware of the role the English versions of his work played in creating the image of himself as a writer and of the canon of contemporary Polish poetry. The aim of my paper is to look at Miłosz's self-translations as a case in designing the cross-cultural mediation (Pym 1998; Milton, Bandia 2009, Cordingley 2013). I want to look at Miłosz's complex status as a writer displaced from his native environment, to study the web of interconnections between his writing in Polish and the shape it took in English, as well as the inspirations he found in English-language literature. The status of his self-translated work is ambivalent in perspective of both his self definition as a writer and the practice of cultural mediation he was engaged in. The case of Miłosz as self-translator will let me answer questions regarding the relationships established in the course of the cross-cultural mediation not only on the extra-textual level but also on a deeper level of text construction and poetics. Both differences and equivalences between the bilingual versions display the construction of the inter-space which emerges through (self-)translation between the two world-views and world-images of the two languages. By problematizing the complex position of the author-translator I intend to describe dimensions of the space "in-between" (Pym 1998, Koster 2002) which is practically non-divisible into the original and the translated.

I have written on Miłosz as translator (Heydel 2013; Heydel 2007) and edited a volume of his translations into Polish (Miłosz 2005). I was also granted a fellowship at Beinecke Library (Sept-Oct2014) to study Miłosz's manuscripts there. Reading his notebooks and letters from the American years, let me look deeper into the mediation processes he initiated and to understand the causative mechanisms behind the making of his (self)translations.


Magda Heydel PhD hab., teaches translation and comparative literature at the Department of Polish Studies, Jagiellonian University, Kraków, Poland. She is the head of the Postgraduate Programme in Literary Translation at the Jagiellonian and editor-in-chief of a translation studies journal Przekładaniec. Her publications include T.S. Eliot in Polish Literature (2003) and Role of Translation in Czesław Miłosz's Oeuvre (2013). She co-edited anthologies of contemporary translation studies (2009) and Polish concepts in translation studies (2012). She is an award winning translator of English language literature, e.g. Joseph Conrad, T.S. Eliot, Ted Hughes, Seamus Heaney and Virginia Woolf.



Title: Self-translator as Chameleon

Speaker: Tomoko Takahashi, Soka University of America, USA


In this study, I examine the process of self-translation that I have experienced translating my autobiography from Japanese to English, focusing on the fundamental link between the acts of translation and narration. The main question asked here is: What is the self-translation process like when the translator is also the author, narrator, and protagonist, as in the case of my autobiographical translation, Samurai and Cotton? This study is unique in that the process of self-translation is examined by the author-translator herself (i.e., myself). Moreover, the story, being autobiographical in nature and narrated by the translingual writer and protagonist, serves as metanarrative providing clues about the author-translator's psyche as she transitions through geographical, cultural, and linguistic changes.

Translation is a communicative act, in which the translator tries to achieve purposes, one of which is to communicate across languages with the intended addressees—the target audience. Narration, too, is a communicative act, in which a narrator produces a narrative discourse or text intended for her/his target audience. In works of fiction, the narrator and the author are not necessarily coterminous, but in the case of self-translated autobiographical narratives, such as mine, the author, who is the protagonist by definition, serves as the first-person narrator as well as the translator. As in the case of Samurai and Cotton, when the roles of the author, first-person narrator, protagonist, and translator are coterminous (thus used interchangeably in this study), the translation of the narrative needs to be examined from multiple communicative perspectives, which involve, for instance, the narrator-translator's perceptions of the new target audience, the events and participants described in the story, etc. Although the narrator remains constant throughout the story, her/his role and tone may change as the story develops, events occur, stages shift, and different participants come and go, which in turn influence the narrator-translator as well.

Self-translation is a complex process, and it becomes even more so when the author-narrator serves as a historian, family biographer, autobiographer, and nostalgic storyteller. The geographical and temporal stages in Samurai and Cotton shift dramatically from the world of the samurai and the collapse of feudalism, to postwar and modern Japan, and to the US, covering the time span of more than 150 years, with two different cultures being juxtaposed. The narrator-translator's psyche surfs through different phases and events as the translation work progresses through different stages of the story told in the book. In this study, therefore, I examine the process of self-translation in light of the narrator's roles and persona—or "colors"—that change according to the time, events, and participants as well as the audience and the language, focusing on the chameleon-like style-shifting by the narrator-translator in self-translation.


Tomoko Takahashi is the Dean of the Graduate School and Professor of Linguistics and Education at Soka University of America in Southern California. She holds a doctorate in applied linguistics from Columbia University. Her research interests include second language acquisition, particularly lexico-semantic transfer and pragmatic transfer, cross-cultural communication, and translation theory. Takahashi's research has been widely published and cited in scholarly journals and books in the field of applied linguistics. She is also a well-respected translator of Japanese and English.




Title: A traceable hybrid process : simultaneous self-translation in a popular serial novel

Speaker: Maud Gonne, University of Leuven, Belgium


Literary self-translation is currently seen as a (post-)modern expression of a globalized world. Inter-lingual rewriting and intertwining between translation and writing seem to constitute a new literary phenomenon attributed to hybrid and bilingual writers "having been born across the world" : the "translated men" (Rushdie, 1991:16).

Nevertheless, bilingualism is far from being a new element in literature and the desire – or necessity – to direct a text to two readerships has been a secular practice (cfr. Hokenson & Munson) especially in heterogeneous and multilingual cultural spaces.

As such, in early twentieth century Belgium, in spite of the growing tensions between the two historical linguistic communities, self-translation into Dutch (Flemish) and French was a common activity, particularly for less literary genres (popular novels, chronicles, art critics). For example, under the pseudonym of Gabriël d'Estrange(s), the consecrated Flemish writer Georges Eekhoud (1854-1927) wrote four serial novels, existing in two linguistic versions, which circulated more or less simultaneously in weekly deliveries between 1897 and 1904.Constrained by time, by the editing house guidelines and by the necessity to write fast and in quantity, rather than in quality, the self-translator conveniently changed the directionality of the self-translation process various times, effectively blurring the borders between original and translation.

As a result, in this process of (nearly) simultaneous self-translation, interaction between writing and translating, as well as both adapting (from theater) and plagiarizing become sources of creativity. Both versions cross-fertilize each to create an hybrid scenography that reflects and negotiates a complex and conflictual enunciation context via a.o. (1) a multilingual scenography and the use of heterolingualisms (Grutman, 1997), (2) a dialogue between the writing and translating agencies (3) characters as translator or interpret who mediate within a manichean story (4) a paratopical narrator voice (Maingueneau 2004).

Taking as an illustration one of the four bilingual novels of Gabriel d'Estrange(s), i.e., The Brussels street singer [De Brusselsche straatzanger/Le chanteur de rues bruxellois] (1897-1898), the aim of this paper is (1) to analyze the discursive traces, or textual inscriptions, left in the production process of this bilingual text (2) to discuss a few features for a poetic of self-translation.


Maud Gonne is a Ph.D. student in Translation Studies at the University of Leuven. She is working on the relation between intercultural transfer activities, including self-translation and multilingual writing, and cultural nation building. Her research project focuses on the hybrid actors that embody those transfers and the way they simultaneously assume different (literary) roles. She is the author of various articles on that topic: Her research interests are literary (self-)translations and cultural transfers in border regions, intercultural relationships, discourse analysis, Descriptive translation studies and Actor Network Theories.


Title: Cross-fertilization between self-translation and other writing practices in interwar bilingual Belgium

Speakers: Reine Meylaerts, University of Leuven, Belgium

Tessa Lobbes, Utrecht University, Netherlands


In this paper, we want to study the complex cross-fertilization between self-translation, translation, multilingual writing and collaborative writing developed by two important bilingual (Flemish-French) cultural mediators in early twentieth century Belgium, Paul-Gustave Van Hecke (1887-1967) and André De Ridder (1888-1961). Van Hecke and De Ridder need to be studied together. First of all because of their joint activities as founders and editors in chief of the Flemish periodicals De Boomgaard (1909), Het Roode Zeil (1920) and of the Francophone periodical Sélection (1920), secondly because of their common writing practices and finally because of their concerted efforts in favor of Flemish art and literature in both Flemish and Francophone publications. Our corpus will consist of published novels, essays, chronicles and critiques, but also of unpublished letters and manuscripts which gives us insight into the concrete practices of self-translation.

In the context of a linguistically conflicted Belgium, it is fascinating to scrutinize how Van Hecke and De Ridder practiced and used self-translation and to examine when, why and how they switched between languages and how they connected these practices to other literary and artistic mediating activities. Since the origin of Belgium in 1830, a national culture was never self-evident. In the aftermath of World War I, Van Hecke and De Ridder witnessed a number of seemingly opposite developments within Belgium. Rising patriotism in the immediate postwar years went together with an intensification of regionalism. Especially Flemish groups were lobbying for Flemish cultural and linguistic emancipation which increased tensions between the two language groups. At the same time, a firm internationalism was politically visible in the creation of the League of Nations and culturally in the international humanism as defended by Romain Rolland in his Déclaration d'Indépendance de l'esprit [Declaration of the Independence of the Spirit] (1919), uniting some thousand writers worldwide. Both Van Hecke's and De Ridder's multilingual and collaborative writing practices had a regional, a national and an international dimension, in dialectically interacting and evolving combinations.

By examining Van Hecke and De Ridder, we aim to show how self-translation should be studied first of all in relation to other writing and mediating practices, secondly in terms of continuities between versions and finally in relation to the production and reception contexts. In other words, we aim to analyze if and how the cross-fertilization between translating, self-translating, multilingual writing and collaborative writing as well as the evolution of the relationships between them is instrumental to understand Van Hecke's and De Ridder's textual universes and their contribution to the construction of a changing (sub-)national and international culture in early twentieth century Belgium.


Dr. Tessa Lobbes works as a postdoctoral researcher at Utrecht University within a HERA-project on cultural exchanges during the First World War. She is writing a book on the confrontation between 'neutral' Dutch writers and foreign cultural propaganda services. Prof. dr. Reine Meylaerts works at the Translation Studies research unit of the University of Leuven. She is an expert in the field of intercultural relationships and translation strategies in past and present multilingual societies.


Title: Tracing self-translation and bilingual writing: the case of André Brink

Speaker: Lelanie de Roubaix, Stellenbosch University, South-Africa


The proposed paper will focus on André Brink, acclaimed South African author who has been creating Afrikaans and English versions of his novels since he first self-translated one of his own novels in 1974. Brink's creative practice has evolved over time – starting from only writing in Afrikaans, to self-translating his Afrikaans novels into English, to creating simultaneously the Afrikaans and English versions of each work. In interviews, Brink has qualified this latter process, saying that he goes back and forth between the two versions while he writes them, letting one version influence the other and making changes to both as he continues. This process of writing two linguistic versions of his novels simultaneously is not only a unique creative practice, but a practice that results in texts that are interesting and challenging to study.

In Brink's case, simultaneously writing two versions of a novel in two languages has become part of his creative process. Whether one chooses to situate this practice within the framework of self-translation, or places it in a broader category of rewriting (cf. Bassnett 2013), the texts resulting from this creative act provide valuable insight into the phenomenon of simultaneous bilingual writing itself, as well as into the creative literary practices of their creator.

The proposed paper will trace the evolution of Brink's creative literary practices, namely from self-translation to simultaneous bilingual writing, by studying examples from texts created by these different practices. By comparing the two linguistic versions of novels that were self-translated with linguistic versions of novels that were written bilingually, I aim to trace the voice of the author in different versions of the text by focusing not only similarities and differences between two versions of a single novel, but also similarities and differences between "self-translations" and "bilingual creations". Focusing on the texts themselves and linking the discussion of examples back to the practices that were used to create them, I aim to consider not only the translational or literary activity that gave rise to the texts, but also the linguistic, cultural, ideological and political spaces from which they were created and that ultimately constitute the voice of the author.

Cordingley (2013:3) emphasises that the self-translator's stereolinguistic optics puts any one of her or his languages/cultures into relief with respect to the other. Consequently, translators share with many writers from the margins the tendency to subvert the possibility that their writing affirms a singular national culture or literature. Hybridity characterizes not only many self-translators' external and textual environments, but the internal bilingual and bicultural space out of which their creativity emerges.

In Brink's case, a multilingual author living in a multilingual environment, his use of languages and his creative literary practices are inevitably closely linked. By studying different linguistic versions of his novels and attempting to find traces of the voice of the author in the different versions, I aim to contribute to the increasing interest in and research on self-translation that Cordingley (2013:9) has symbolically termed "a renewed interest in the author".

Bionote: Lelanie de Roubaix is a PhD student at Stellenbosch University, South Africa. She holds a master's degree in Translation Studies as well as a BA degree in Language and Culture from Stellenbosch University. Her PhD project deals with well-known South African author André Brink as translator, focusing on his creative processes of self-translation and bilingual writing. Other research interests include ideology in translation and translation in the South African context.


Title: Tracing Self-Translation: discursive perspectives in context: conclusions.

Speakers: Maud Gonne,University of Leuven, Belgium,

Klaartje Merrigan, University of Leuven, Belgium,

Reine Meylaerts, University of Leuven, Belgium,

Katarzyna Szymanska, University of Oxford, UK.

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