Posts filed under 'Post-colonial France'

“Old Seams of the Ancient World”: Reading Patrick Chamoiseau’s Manifesto Against Borders

“The dream and the political vision must arise, and that is when the poetic word is as fundamental as that of experts or economists.”

In our Spring Issue this year, we ran a special feature covering literature from countries affected by President Trump’s infamous “Muslim Ban.” This was in recognition that literature is reflective of political conditions and that it is a powerful form of protest against oppression. In today’s piece, Fiona Le Brun looks at the manifesto against the Muslim Ban penned by Patrick Chamoiseau, a Prix Goncourt recipient and notable figure in Créolité literature. As France emerges from a divisive election against the backdrop of the unprecedented European refugee crisis, reading Chamoiseau reminds us that literature enables us to conceptualize cultural openness. 

This February, Martiniquais author Patrick Chamoiseau, whose previous works include the Goncourt-winning novel Texaco (1992. Translated into English by Rose-Myriam Réjouis and Val Vinokurov in 1997),  launched a call for solidarity with migrants of the world. Not only was this call a reaction to President Trump’s executive order blocking citizens of six predominantly Muslim countries from entering the United States, but also a reaction against Europe’s palpable fear revealed by Brexit and the several manifestations of the rejection of migrants.

A couple of months later in May 2017—between the two rounds of the closely watched French presidential election—his essay Frères migrants: Contre la barbarie (Migrant Brothers: Against Barbarism) was released. This invitation to resist intolerance, racism, and indifference is concluded by his manifesto, Les Poètes déclarent (Declaration of Poets).

Today Chamoiseau’s manifesto is more relevant than ever, for both the United States and France. While the French are rejoicing in the victory of the youthful, moderate and well-read Emmanuel Macron over the far-right candidate, Marine Le Pen, the latter still gathered over 10 million votes, mostly motivated by immigration topics. This temporary relief must not have us overlook the fact that France, whose leaders never miss an opportunity to cast the country as the nation of human rights, has welcomed only a little over 25,000 refugees last year, far less than Germany or Sweden over the same period of time. The results of this election sure bring a glimmer of hope, as the winning candidate seems interested in real change and wants to work hand in hand with fellow EU countries. He also appears to be ready to wipe the dust off our old colonial shelves: back in February, while on a trip to Algeria, Macron called France’s colonial past a “crime against humanity,” and stood firm in the face of attacks by right-wingers. But his task remains difficult. He still has to convince millions of French citizens to support his agenda. The upcoming parliamentary elections will be decisive for Macron’s mandate in a very divided country, as well as for the uncertain future of the EU.


What’s at Stake in Translating Slang? Postcolonial Plurilingualism in Rachid Djaïdani’s Boumkoeur

"...verlan lacks both context and an equivalent in the English language."

In 1999, French author Rachid Djaïdani published his first novel, Boumkoeur. In it, a young French Arab named Yaz writes the story of his daily life as an adolescent in the projects outside of Paris, known as the banlieue. His narrative describes growing up in public housing, dropping out of the education system, living off the streets after his “foreign” name excluded him from the workforce, and the tenuous relationship between troubled youths like himself and the national police. Today, seventeen years after the publication of Djaïdani’s novel, this story is familiar: it is the cornerstone of the French postcolonial literary genre, including the roman beur, as well as the setting for a number of recent, political and historical events in France, such as the 2005 Paris Riots. Boumkoeur called to me as a translator not merely because of its engaging, heart-wrenching story, but also because of its unique relationship to translation. In the novel, language is not merely the medium used to tell the story, but also a literary device that delivers an astounding postcolonial critique of 20th century French society. In the following essay, I investigate the challenges posed to translation by Yaz’s language, as well as the solutions I offer in my own translated excerpt of Djaïdani’s novel. In this way, I attempt to answer a question that is much more complex than it may initially seem: what’s at stake in translating slang?