Léopold Sédar Senghor’s Translations
and the Trajectory of a World Writer.
Romance Studies, 28 (2).
Senghor’s seldom-studied translations (grouped with his juvenilia and
published in OEuvre poétique in 1964) illustrate a process of identity formation
whereby he can variously represent France, Senegal, Africa, and poetry,
ultimately coming to occupy a position as world writer. My analysis of these
texts takes into account recent articles on translation and African writers:
what did Senghor translate, how did he translate, why did he translate,
and why did he stop translating? Strategies of universalizing, flattening,
and mystification reveal a process of acculturation rather than cultural crossfertilization.
Central to my argument is the contrast between Senghor’s
concept of métissage and the more current use of the term as Antoine
Berman applies it to translation. One optimistic narrative is that as decolonization
takes place, more and more translation, increased mutual cultural
understanding, and hybridization also occur. Senghor’s translations are part
of another process, where translation from African languages is abandoned
in favour of a world language and its tributaries. They also illustrate features
common to other world writers. Once completed, there is no further need
for translation to take place.
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