Rainier Grutman


“The Stance of the Self-translator: Looking into Lakhous”

This paper would like to address, and hopefully answer, one of the questions raised in the conference’s CFP, namely: “Is it possible to compare ‘traditional’ self-translation from vernacular into a national language to more recent examples of self-translation between Italian and global languages?” I will argue that such a comparison can indeed be made, providing we take into account the specific characteristics of each configuration. Self-translators working from minorized languages can hardly ignore the diglossic power differential that reduces their mother tongue to a “local” idiom, regardless of whether the latter actually is a dialect of the national code (like Pirandello’s Sicilian or Zanzotto’s Veneto) or an altogether different language (like Carlo Sgorlon’s Friulian). Immigrant writers in Italy face a similar, but not identical, uphill battle when trying to translate themselves into the “national fabric” (e.g. Amara Lakhous). Expatriate Italian writers, by contrast, tend to translate from (rather than into) Italian into a language perceived to have a more global reach: in this role, French (still favoured as a target language by Marinetti, Ungaretti and even Calvino) has been superseded by English, the super-central “sun” of today’s “language galaxy” (to use Abram De Swaan’s metaphors). While fraught with difficulties, each of these configurations, I will argue, also opens up new possibilities for bilingual writers who refuse to choose between their languages.


A Professor of French and Translation Studies at the University of Ottawa (Canada), Rainier Grutman was trained in Romance philology at Namur, Leuven and Madrid universities before going to Montreal to obtain his Ph.D. in French Studies. The book that grew out of his doctoral dissertation on multilingualism in Quebec literature, Des langues qui résonnent (Montréal, 1997), was awarded the Gabrielle-Roy prize for Canadian literary criticism. His work on translation and self-translation has appeared in journals such as Target, TTR, Orbis litterarum, Quaderns, Le français préclassique, Ellipse, Texte, Atelier de traduction, and Linguistica Antverpiensia LANS-TTS (of which he co-edited an issue with D. Delabastita), as well as in several works of reference, most notably the Routledge Encyclopedia of Translation Studies (ed. M. Baker, 1998, 2nd ed. 2009), the recent IATIS-Yearbook on Self-translation: Brokering Originality in Hybrid Culture, (ed. A. Cordingley, Bloomsbury, 2013), and The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Translation Studies (ed. C. Porter and S. Bermann, 2014).