Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Self-Translator as Cultural Mediator: In Memory of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

Academic journal article Asian Social Science

The Self-Translator as Cultural Mediator: In Memory of Jabra Ibrahim Jabra

Article excerpt


The present paper investigates the self-translation action as practiced by a bilingual writer: Jabra Ibrahim Jabra who has rendered a chapter of his novel Hunters in a narrow Street, written originally in English, back into Arabic. It is based on the assumption that the shifts or changes made in the Arabic text can hardly be attributed to the poetic licence or the creative potential of the self-translator. They should be seen in the light of bicultural competence of the self-translator as cultural mediator. This competence unfolds in his knowledge of the disparities between the readerships, socio-political structures and censorship rules of both the source and target languages and cultures. Consequently, the self-translator is also expected to designate and maintain the skopos of the target language text. Unlike the translator per se, the self-translator has the privilege of access to the intention of the source language text prior to its production . All these prerequisites contribute to the self-translator's decisions of introducing shifts and changes in the target language text through cultural mediation. Being written in English, the source language text is seen to have undergone cultural mediation too: a fact that leads to a conviction that Jabra was a 'double mediator '.

Keywords: self-translation, mediation, skopos

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1. Introduction

1.1 The Problem and Value of the Study

In any self-translation practice, there seems to be a tendency to make drastic changes in the Target Language Text (TT). The motivation behind such changes is assumed to be the poetic licence or the creative potential of the self-translator. Being the original author of the Source Language Text (ST), the self-translator is seen a "dictator" who practices the utmost freedom with his text. The translator proper is usually denied such right and expected to be faithful to the original text. Nevertheless, when the present writer has acquainted herself with few examples of self-translation, she finds that the motivations for such presupposed freedom should be seen from a perspective other than the equivalence-oriented paradigm. Few studies have tackled this problem. For instance, Jung (2004) emphasizes that the changes in the TT are mainly due to the bicultural status of the self-translator who is supposed to account for the differences in knowledge base between the readers of ST and TT, English and German, respectively.

To the best knowledge of the present writer , no study about bilingual writers of Arabic and English, like Jabra Ibrahim Jabra, has dealt with this problem yet ; specifically, from the viewpoint and theoretical approach advocated here. However, the writer and the texts under study have been discussed according to the above-mentioned equivalence-oriented paradigm. Asfour (2009a:322) is primarily concerned with comparing the amount of freedom Jabra has practiced with that of his own, should he have translated that chapter. Accordingly, the motivations for such freedom are mentioned sporadically in his discussion.

1.2 Hypotheses and Plan of the Study

It is hypothesized that there are many motivations behind the changes undertaken by the self-translator in the TT, other than merely the poetic licence. The self-translator's competence in the languages and cultures of the ST and TT should assist him to mediate between the two texts. Therefore, it is also hypothesized that investigating self-translation in terms of the equivalence-based paradigm alone will not be fruitful. The application of the skopos theory rules may provide more tangible results in this respect. Moreover, it is hypothesized that the ST under study may have undergone mediation too since it is written in English but meant to depict the Arab culture for the English-reading audience.

It is the task of the present paper to prove the (in)validity of these hypotheses. This is undertaken by investigating the concept of self-translation in so far as its motivations and status are concerned by citing examples of self-translators. …

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