23 March 2009
Practice vs. theory
That writers are producing literary texts in languages other than their own is obvious. The practice of multilingual literature has been going on for centuries. What has not been going on, except in bits and pieces here and there, is the theory of multilingual literature. The situation is similar to the disjunction between the theory and the practice of translation. In translation theory, translators should translate from a foreign language (source language) into their mother tongue (target language), but translators continue to translate into languages other than their own. Translators are also supposed to translate from the original language, but translators do excellent translations based on translations (source language to first target language to second target language). Btw, this is not the same thing as the old story that physics proves that bumblebees cannot fly; that is an urban legend (read the amusing essay by physicist Ken Zetie entitled "The strange case of the bumble-bee that flew"). The inability of literary critics to come to terms with multilingual literature is not an urban legend: it's a challenge to critics to wake up to a globalized literary culture.