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Translations in the yard of Africa

Wicomb, Zoe (2002) Translations in the yard of Africa. Journal of Literary Studies, 18 (3-4). pp. 209-223. ISSN 0256-4718

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Abstract

In his account of the style in which Pauline Smith represents Afrikaners, her 'faux-naief' translation or transfer from Afrikaans to English, J.M Coetzee identifies the grammatical error of aspect as evidence that there is no actual Afrikaans original behind the archaic-sounding, ethnicised English: 'no-one speaking his own language makes errors of aspect: the time-system of the verb is too fundamental to language, and therefore to conceptualisation for that to happen'. Two issues in this position relate to my argument about Disgrace as a text that struggles with translation as concept-metaphor for the postapartheid condition: firstly, the question of an original language Coetzee expects to find behind the English 'translation' that claims to retain its trace; and secondly, the grammatical aspect of the perfective that not only preoccupies Lurie, the novel's central character, but also in terms of cultural translation marks the arrival at the target language/culture. In the following examination of the ways in which cultural translation is figured in the text, I also consider the relationship between translation and what has been called the period of transition in South Africa.