Self-Translation as Minorization Process: Nancy Huston’s Limbes/Limbo


The practice of literary self-translation, deeply rooted in the linguistic and cultural traditions and realities of the early modern period in Europe, is by definition synonymous with the bilingual and, by extension, the bicultural conditions. Although the post-Renaissance continental shift toward national languages and national literary canons forced self-translation to the margins of cultural production, the practice of self-translation attracted in the twentieth century renewed critical attention spurred both by the systematic theorization of translation as a disciplinary field of inquiry and the emergence on the literary scene of self-translating writers of Beckett’s and Nabokov’s caliber. Like Beckett and Nabokov, contemporary translingual authors adopt a new language, often following geographical displacement either due to political, religious, or social restrictions and/or persecution in their country of origin or resulting from a series of personal choices that led to deliberate exile in the long tradition of the wandering intellectual. In recent years, the editorial success of translingual authors in France  has occasioned a reexamination of francophonie as the expression of all non-Hexagonal cultural production in French, known as the “littérature-monde” manifesto. Whether such theoretical and editorial shifts are due to more frequent border crossings and the ensuing métissage/hybridization processes or simply result from an intensified centering of publishing practices around world-languages such as French and English, is beyond the scope of this article. The political implications of translingualism and, in particular, the politics of language use, however, are very much at its core.

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