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The Effect of Translating “Big Words”: Anglophone Translation and Reception of Ahmadou Kourouma's Novel Allah n'est pas oblige

Vivan Steemers
Research in African Literatures
Vol. 43, No. 3 (Fall 2012), pp. 36-53
Published by: Indiana University Press
DOI: 10.2979/reseafrilite.43.3.36
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/10.2979/reseafrilite.43.3.36
Page Count: 18
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The Effect of Translating “Big Words”: Anglophone Translation and Reception of Ahmadou Kourouma's Novel Allah n'est pas oblige
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Abstract

ABSTRACT The inter-European language translator of post-independence African novels often faces considerably more challenges than the average literary translator. Many anglophone and francophone African novelists attempt to “decolonize” the colonial discourse, by resorting to a “subverted” version of the Europhone language: they tailor it to African reality and base it on the syntax, the lexicon, and the rhythm of their indigenous language. The translator of these texts tends to “normalize” the linguistic innovations of the source text, thus creating a smoother reading experience for the target audience. This paper examines Frank Wynne's translation into English of Allah n'est pas obligé, and in particular his handling of the most salient feature of the novel, the inclusion of some 350 “definitions” of “big words” that the narrator Birahima chooses from the four dictionaries bequeathed to him. A comparison of French and anglophone press reviews reveals that Wynne's translational choices have increased the “loudness” of the Ivorian author's voice among his anglophone readership.

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