Exophony and literary translation: What it means for the translator when a writer adopts a new language

Chantal Wright

Abstract

When writers of literary prose adopt a new language—a phenomenon known as exophony—this often leads them to mould the new language until it becomes suitable for their purposes, in a manner analogous to the strategies of appropriation observed in post-colonial literatures (Ashcroft, Griffiths and Tiffin 1989). This process often results in a defamiliarisation of the new language through stylistic innovation, which, in turn, has implications for the translation of these texts. This article, influenced by Berman’s ‘analytique négative’ (1985), proposes a series of guidelines for the translation of exophonic texts and illustrates these with examples taken from German exophonic prose texts by Franco Biondi, Emine Sevgi Özdamar and Yoko Tawada.

Keywords
Table of contents

When deliberating on the title of this essay, I initially considered calling it ‘On writing in a language which is not one’s own and what this means for the translator’. But to do so would be to uphold two stubborn myths: one, that a language belongs to a certain territory and body of people, which in fact no language does—German does not belong to the Germans (the Austrians would enthusiastically agree), French does not belong to France (nor is Québec the only Francophone community in Canada), and English, with its current status as both the standardbearer and bugbear of globalization, most certainly does not belong to the former seat of the British Empire.

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