How do today's global crises shape world literature, and is world literature itself a crisis mode of cultural production? This article addresses these questions through a close engagement with two novels by Abbas Khider, a German-language novelist born in Iraq, where he was a political prisoner. Featuring a migrant who often travels illegally and under invented names, and a travelling letter written by a former political prisoner to someone who meanwhile has become a refugee herself, Der falsche Inder (The Village Indian) and Brief in die Auberginenrepublik (Letter to the Eggplant Republic) dramatize migration as one of the global crises we face today. By situating these novels in a “translation zone,” I argue that Khider incorporates movement in their very form, engaging with the complex dimensions of linguistic and cultural translation that accompany movement. They are thus “born-translated novels,” belaboring a temporality of precedence characteristic of the refugee experience. By reclaiming agency in the process of translation, however, Khider's novels alter their readers' sense of a world—a worlding (in the sense given this term by Martin Heidegger, and borrowed by Pheng Cheah) that becomes part of an ethics of the migrant, who engages in intentional gestures of mistranslation.
Novels in the Translation Zone: Abbas Khider, Weltliteratur, and the Ethics of the Passerby
corina stan is an assistant professor of English and Comparative Literature in the English Department at Duke University. She is the author of The Art of Distances: Ethical Thinking in Twentieth-Century Literature (Northwestern University Press, 2018), and of articles published in MLN, Arcadia, English Studies, Contemporary Women's Writing, The European Journal of English Studies, Empedocles, and in collective volumes. She is currently at work on two book projects: the first examines the oblique history of the twentieth century intimated in historical novels and plays set during the English Civil Wars, the Restoration, and the Glorious Revolution (1630s–1688) and the ways such texts engage in a lucid and honest re-examination of modernity. The second historicizes the anxiety of the “end of culture” in the West, particularly in connection with migration and the refugee crisis.
Corina Stan; Novels in the Translation Zone: Abbas Khider, Weltliteratur, and the Ethics of the Passerby. Comparative Literature Studies 15 May 2018; 55 (2): 285–302. doi: https://doi.org/10.5325/complitstudies.55.2.0285
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