English as a Literature in Translation

Doloughan, Fiona J. (2015). English as a Literature in Translation. London: Bloomsbury.

URL: http://www.bloomsbury.com/uk/english-as-a-literatu...


This is a book about what it means to produce literature in English today at a time when an increasing number of writers with access to more than one language and culture are writing in English. For many of these writers translation, whether in a broad or a narrow sense, has become a central concern. This, in turn, poses questions for readers as they engage with writing that is the product of more than one cultural and linguistic tradition, even if it appears on the surface to be written in a language they understand. Taking as my starting point a thoughtful and provocative article by Alastair Pennycook (2008), “English as a Language Always in Translation”, in which he points to the consequences of the fact that English does not in reality operate in isolation in the world today but always in the context of other languages, I suggest that a shift has taken place in our conceptions of translation and that this shift is reflected in writing in English. By looking at a series of case studies from Eva Hoffman’s 1989 memoir Lost in Translation to Xiaolu Guo’s early twenty-first century work including her 2007 novel A Concise Chinese-English Dictionary for Lovers as well as her recently published novel I Am China (2014) via a number of other works, across a 25-year time-span, that thematize translation and reflect on what it means to move across languages and/or cultures, I suggest that the prototypical notion of language as loss and translation of self and other as a predominantly painful and traumatic experience have given way to a greater sense of what is to be gained, both at the individual and societal levels, through access to different languages and cultures.

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