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Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue


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Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue: An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright is a hybrid text, innovatively combining literary criticism, experimental translation, and scholarly commentary. This work centres on a German-language prose text by Yoko Tawada entitled ‘Portrait of a Tongue’ [‘Porträt einer Zunge’, 2002]. Yoko Tawada is a native speaker of Japanese who learned German as an adult.

Portrait of a Tongue is a portrait of a German woman—referred to only as P—who has lived in the United States for many years and whose German has become inflected by English. The text is the first-person narrator’s declaration of love for P and for her language, a ‘thinking-out-loud’ about language(s), and a self-reflexive commentary.

Chantal Wright offers a critical response and a new approach to the translation process by interweaving Tawada’s text and the translator’s dialogue, creating a side-by-side reading experience that encourages the reader to move seamlessly between the two parts. Chantal Wright’s technique models what happens when translators read and responds to calls within Translation Studies for translators to claim visibility, to practice “thick translation”, and to develop their own creative voices. This experimental translation addresses a readership within the academic disciplines of Translation Studies, Germanic Studies, and related fields.



Publié par
Date de parution 26 septembre 2013
Nombre de lectures 3
EAN13 9780776620909
Langue English

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Yoko Tawada’s
Translated from the German with an introduction and commentary by CHANTAL WRIGHT University of Ottawa Press
© University of Ottawa Press, 2013
The University of Ottawa Press acknowledges with gratitude the support extended to its publishing list by Heritage Canada through the Canada Book Fund, by the Canada Council for the Arts, by the Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences through the Awards to Scholarly Publications Program, by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, and by the University of Ottawa.
“Porträt einer Zunge” was originally published by konkursbuch Verlag Claudia Gehrke in the volumeÜberseezungen(2002).
Library and Archives Canada Cataloguing in Publication
Tawada,Y¯oko,1960[Porträt einer Zunge. English] Portrait of a tongue : an experimental translation / Yoko Tawada ; translated from the German with an introduction and commentary by Chantal Wright.
(Literary translation) Translation of: Porträt einer Zunge. Includes bibliographical references. Issued in print and electronic formats. ISBN 9780776608037 (pbk.).ISBN 9780776620909 (pdf)
I. Wright, Chantal, translator, writer of added commentary II. Title. III. Title: Porträt einer Zunge. English IV. Series: Literary translation (Ottawa, Ont.)
PT2682.A87P6713 2013 895.6’35 C20139027068
Table of Contents
Acknowledgements .................................................... vii
Introduction  Yoko Tawada’s Exophonic Texts ............................. 1
 Translating “Portrait of a Tongue” ........................ 23
“Portrait of a Tongue” by Yoko Tawada ................... 35
Bibliography ............................................................ 145
would like to thank everybody who contributed to this trans I lation: friends who lent their anecdotes and who shall remain anonymous; my colleagues at the University of Wisconsin– Milwaukee who shared their linguistic knowledge and ideas; my PhD supervisors at the University of East Anglia, Jean BoaseBeier and Clive Scott; and also Valerie Henitiuk, Ken Lodge, Claire Thompson and Karen Seago; Marc Charron at the University of Ottawa; Rebecca Ross and Marie Clausén at the University of Ottawa Press; Peter Filkins for allowing me to use an extract from his translation of Ingeborg Bachmann’s poem “Erklär mir, Liebe”; my husband, Dan Vyleta; and finally Yoko Tawada for graciously consenting to have her work experi mented upon in this fashion. I would also like to acknowledge the United Kingdom’s Arts and Humanities Research Council, which funded the PhD research from which this book developed, and the Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, which supported the publication of this book through its Awards to Scholarly Publications Program.
Yoko Tawada’s Exophonic Texts
I should write down things whose importance isn’t yet obvious. The most important things often occur in isolation, they are peculiar and very small. YOKOTAWADA, “Portrait of a Tongue”
n 2003, when I began my doctoral research on Yoko Tawada, I there was little published scholarly discussion of her work. Master’s and doctoral theses were the most comprehensive sec 1 ondary sources at that time, an indication of the then emerging status of this JapaneseGerman writer as a subject of academic enquiry. An Englishlanguage anthology of Tawada’s texts, Where Europe Beginstranslated from the German and (2002a), the Japanese by Susan Bernofsky and Yumi Selden, had just been brought out by American publisher New Directions; the only other Tawada title available in English wasThe Bridegroom Was a Dog, a collection of stories translated from the Japanese 2 by Margaret Mitsutani. Since 2003 Yoko Tawada has become the focus of two edited volumes dedicated solely to her work. Germanists and Japanologists collaborated on the first of these, a book entitledVoices from Everywhere, edited by Douglas Slaymaker
(2007a). A Germanlanguage volume entitledYoko Tawada: Poetik der Transformation, edited by Christine Ivanovic, became available in 2010. New Directions followed up its 2002 anthology with a collection of Japaneselanguage stories,Facing the Bridge(2007), translated by Margaret Mitsutani, and the Germanlanguage 3 novellaThe Naked Eye(2009), translated by Susan Bernofsky. Yoko Tawada is an example of a type of writer I will label “exo 4 phonic.” Exophony describes the phenomenon where a writer adopts a literary language other than his or her mother tongue, entirely replacing or complementing his or her native language as a vehicle of literary expression. The adopted language is typically acquired as an adult; exophonic writers are not bilingual in the sense that they grew up speaking two languages, and indeed do not neces sarily achieve the type of spoken fluency associated with the term “bilingualism.” Exophony in postwar Germany has generational nuances: its emergence as a phenomenon goes hand in hand with the Wirtschaftswunderor economic miracle of the 1950s and 1960s that brought thousands of foreign guest workers to the Federal Republic. From among the ranks of theseGastarbeiteremerged a number of writers, some of whom organized themselves into a collective known asPoLiKunst, which adopted German as its official language of liter ary expression. Franco Biondi, Carmine (Gino) Chiellino and Rafik Schami were among the writers who belonged to this collective. This first generation of postwar exophonic writers typically came from Italy, Turkey and a variety of countries in the Middle East and North Africa. Their preoccupations were sociopolitical: guest workers in Germany were disenfranchised; Germany’s de facto status as an immigrant country had not yet been acknowledged. Yoko Tawada belongs to a second, entirely distinct genera tion of exophonic writers whose migrational histories are more
Introduction: Yoko Tawada’s Exophonic Texts
individual and who do not bear the “burdens of representation” (Cheesman 2006: 471) with which GermanTurkish writers, for 5 example, are confronted. Tawada, who was born in Japan in 1960, studied literature at Waseda University in Tokyo and made her first trip to Europe with the TransSiberian Railway at the age of nineteen. In 1982 she moved to Hamburg and now lives in Berlin. Her PhD thesis, written in Germany, was published under the titleSpielzeug und Sprachmagie in der europäischen Literatur[Toys and Linguistic Magic in European Literature] (2000). A glance at Tawada’s website (yokotawada.de), confirms her as an inveterate traveller who has completed over eight hundred readings across the globe since 1987. She is frequently invited to the United States and has held writerinresidence positions at MIT, Washington University in St. Louis, Stanford and Cornell. Tawada writes in both Japanese and German, but does not self 6 translate into German. Her Germanlanguage publications cover the spectrum of literary genres from the novella to the poem, but the essay that populates her collectionsTalismanand (1996a) Überseezungen(2002b) is perhaps her most characteristic mode of literary expression. Tawada has been awarded numerous liter ary prizes in both Japan and Germany, including, in 1996, the AdelbertvonChamissoPreis. The Chamisso prizes are given annually to writers whose mother tongues or cultural backgrounds are not 3 German; the existence of these prizes reflects the development of exophony in the Germanspeaking world in the postwar period.
“Fictitious Ethnology”
“Portrait of a Tongue” has to be understood within the con text of the stylistic and thematic preoccupations of Tawada’s
German oeuvre. Much of Tawada’s Germanlanguage prose writing is narrated from the perspective of an outsider, usually a Japanese woman, living in a foreign culture, typically but not always Germany. Tawada’s prose texts, like the novels of Emine Sevgi Özdamar, another prominent German exophonic writer, are “auto/fictional,” displaying a “generic mix of fact/fiction or invention/history” and featuring “the twoheaded monster of the narrator/protagonist peculiar to firstperson narration” (Boa 2006: 526). Stylistically, Tawada’s prose is often described as minimalist. Gelzer (1998: 25) argues that this is a deliberate strategy employed to support “the fiction of the firstperson nar 7 rator moving with wonder through a new language,” and should not by any means be read as indicative of Tawada’s personal 8 command of German (ibid: 24). Contemporary stylisticians understand style as much more than the presence or absence of linguistic fireworks, however; style extends beyond the purely linguistic to take into account “voice, otherness, foreignization, contextualization, and culturallybound and universal ways of conceptualizing and expressing meaning” (BoaseBeier 2006a: 2). Central features of Tawada’s style in this broader sense are the 9 defamiliarizing techniques that the reader encounters in her texts and the texts’ tendency to foreground structures and properties of language itself, achieved via metalinguistic reflection. To appreciate the effects of these central stylistic features of Tawada’s prose, one has to consider how her texts operate within the receiving culture. As Kraenzle (2004: 10) argues, German readers of migrant writing have come to expect not literary texts but “ethnographies, which can be mined for information about minority groups.” Tawada resists this expectation by “turn[ing] the ethnographic gaze on the space of German culture, considering