- Norman Cheadle (Editor) and Lucien Pelletier (Editor)
Canadian Cultural Exchange / Échanges culturels au Canada: Translation and Transculturation / traduction et transculturation. Wilfrid Laurier University Press (purchase at Amazon.ca)
Reviewed by Natasha Dagenais
The Argentine-Canadian writer Alberto Manguel associates translating with “reading for the meaning… as the ultimate act of comprehending.” Similarly, David Homel and Sherry Simon describe translation as a practice of reading and writing, as a vehicle through which cultures travel. In Norman Cheadle and Lucien Pelletier’s Canadian Cultural Exchange, published recently in Wilfrid Laurier’s Cultural Studies series, there is a dialogue between reading, writing, and translating. In fact, the presentation and content of this anthology subsume the overall theme of opening up the dialogue between languages and cultures: four of the articles (out of a total of 17 seventeen, plus appendix) are in French, as well as Pelletier’s Postface. Canadian Cultural Exchange presents a variety of articles on the multifaceted word/world of trans/cultural translation. Specifically, its interdisciplinary articles discuss to varying degrees the negotiating and creating forces involved in the process of translation and transculturation, as indicated by the subtitle, in bilingual, if not multilingual, and, increasingly, multicultural Canada. The growing number of immigrants, exiles, and refugees from various linguistic and cultural backgrounds fit under what Smaro Kamboureli labels Canadian multicultural literature. Correspondingly, their works contribute to the cultural and literary expansion of Canada.
This collection differs from many studies on literary translation partly because of its corpus, which, while by no means exhaustive, as Cheadle explains in his introduction, gives a voice to Others who do not always have a literary space to be heard, except in translation. What is particularly interesting is that it opens up the definition of translation to explore, challenge, and reconfigure traditional notions of “the cultural interactions and transactions among ethnicities.” The anthology is divided into five sections that reveal this cultural hybridization, reflected in turn in the diversity of subjects and subjecthoods at play. In “Transitive Canada (1): From where to here?,” the authors examine “that cultural space constitutionally mediating between the descendants of the two imperial European powers that successively colonized Canada.” Alexandra Kinge and Alan MacDonell position the space given to the voice of the Other, here read Aboriginal, in the travel narratives of Quebec explorer La Vérendrye in his quest for the Western Sea. Albert Braz continues this exploration of how the Other’s voice is “translated” into textual space by addressing Maurice Constantin-Weyer’s creative license in the historical novel La Bourrasque (1925), loosely based on Métis leader Louis Riel, and the anonymous translator’s creative license in the Canadian translation, A Martyr’s Folly (1930). While Braz discusses what is added to and omitted from the English translation(s), Susan Knutson, in “ ‘I am become Aaron’: George Elliott Clarke’s Execution Poems and William Shakespeare’s Titus Andronicus” (one of two articles on Clarke), examines in particular how intertextuality is per/formed through Africadian cultural identity.
In the second section, “Cultural Appropriation Revisited,” the translation of culture and the process of transculturation are appropriated to capture “the very condition of possibility of culture.” Here translation and transculturation are adopted and adapted by Latin-American identities in Canada, as suggested by José Antonio Giménez Micó in his analysis of Chilean-Canadian poet Luis Torres’ El exilio y las ruinas (2002) and Bolivian-Canadian novelist Alejandro Saravia’s Habitante (2000) and Rojo, amarillo y verde (2003). Their “active incorporation,” to borrow Giménez Micó’s expression, in the Latin-Americanization of Canada, while not without difficulty as they write (for the most part) in a major language that is considered “minor,” shows how the broadening of the Canadian literary landscape is made possible through its appropriation by these multicultural writers. In “Repatriating Arthur Nortje,” George Elliott Clarke makes a strong case for “appropriating” the biracial South African poet as an African-Canadian poet, thus arguing for broadening the canon’s “Canadianité.” Carol Stos’ article “I Write My Self” in the third rubric, “The Transcultural Body,” maintains this examination of new cultural identities in Canada trans/forming “Canadian” realities. Indeed, Stos opens up the “hyphenated existence” of Chilean-Canadian writer Carmen Rodríguez through her discussion of the Spanish and English versions of the short stories De Cuerpo Entero and and a body to remember with, both published in 1997. Rodríguez self-translated, or “transcreated,” the Spanish stories “within the context of transculturation.” Through this process, the Chilean-Canadian writer, as writer-as-translator, transcreated for her targeted audiences bodily narrative memories of the female experience.
Unlike Stos, Stephen Henighan, in the fourth section, “Reconfiguring the Solitudes: Two plus other(s),” posits that Canadian writers, such as the Romanian Eugen Giurgiu, “who work in languages other than English or French experience a curtailed form of cultural exchange” are relegated to being “a reduced solitude.” Yet, it must be noted that the contribution of translators and presses has helped many of these writers resist reduction to literary solitude: for example, poet and translator Hugh Hazelton’s English translation of Nela Rio’s Túnel de proa verde (1998) and Cuerpo amado (2002), published in bilingual format by Broken Jaw Press, adds to the forming of a Latin-American literature in Canada. In fact, Hazelton, in “Polylingual Identities,” also in this section, argues that a number of writers work in sometimes two, sometimes more, languages because of their transcultural existence in multilingual Canada as they attempt “to bridge the divergence and isolation created by different languages.” In the last rubric, “Transitive Canada (2): From here to where?,” Neil Besner negotiates his role as translator, namely as the translator of Carmen Oliveira’s Portuguese biography of Elizabeth Bishop. Even though Judith Woodsworth also problematizes the cultural politics of translation, she introduces the translator as emerging “out of the shadows,” and the emergence of protagonists-as-translators of two novels, Carol Shields’ Unless (2003) and Kate Taylor’s Mme Proust (2003). Just as the characters of novels can be translated for the page, the characters of plays can be translated and trans/formed for the stage, as Beverley Curran makes clear in her study of the “translation” of Tomson Highway’s Dry Lips (1989) for the Japanese stage with Japanese actors. This article affirms, as the others in this critical anthology, the potential of cultural translation here and now in transcreating cultural exchanges in Canada and elsewhere.
- Body Count by J. L. Wisenthal
Books reviewed: Bodily Charm: Living Opera by Michael Hutcheon and Linda Hutcheon
- Mirrors, Mimics, Myths by Alison Calder
Books reviewed: Mirror Writing: (Re-)Constructions of Native American Identity by Thomas Claviez and Maria Moss, Contemporary American Indian Writing: Unsettling Identity by Dee Horne, and The Mythology of Native North America by David Leeming and Jake Page
- Rethinking Literary Historiography by Chelva Kanaganayakam
Books reviewed: Literary Cultures in History: Reconstructions from South Asia by Sheldon Pollack
- Shopping, Winning, Owning by Latham Hunter
Books reviewed: Built to Win: The Female Athlete as Cultural Icon by Shari L. Dworkin and Leslie Heywood, Owning Culture: Authorship, Ownership & Intellectual Property Law by Kewbrew McLeod, and Spree: A Cultural History of Shopping by Pamela Klaffke
- Culturally Bound Illness by Anna Cooper
Books reviewed: Gout: The Patrician Malady by Roy Porter and G.S. Rousseau, Illness and Culture in the Postmodern Age by David B. Morris, and Wishbone Dance by Glen Downie
MLA: Cheadle, Norman, Dagenais, Natasha, and Pelletier, Lucian. Transforming Literature. canlit.ca. Canadian Literature, 8 Dec. 2011. Web. 19 May 2013.
This review originally appeared in Canadian Literature #198 (Autumn 2008), Canada and Its Discontents. (pg. 111 - 112)
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