Sudanese literature in English translation: an analytical study of the translation with a historical introduction to the literature

Soghayroon, T. 2010. Sudanese literature in English translation: an analytical study of the translation with a historical introduction to the literature. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Social Sciences, Humanities and Languages

TitleSudanese literature in English translation: an analytical study of the translation with a historical introduction to the literature
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsSoghayroon, T.

This thesis sets out to record, analyze, and assess modern Sudanese literature within its historical, cultural, and political context. It highlights the diversity and distinctiveness of that literature, the wide range of its themes, and the resilience and complex background of its major practitioners. A principal preoccupation of the study, however, is to point out the various challenges this literature, its universality and appeal notwithstanding, poses to translators. The close and intimate connection between its bold and vibrant colloquial expressions and the cultural and geographical environment in which these expressions are entrenched makes the task of the translator, especially one translating into a somewhat “remote” language like English, fraught with difficulty, at times unachievable. The near impossibility of rendering such expressions, proverbs, allusions to religious texts, and metaphors into English is illustrated in many examples. Paradoxically, such inadequacies and challenges, analysed from a semantic and syntactical perspective and investing in translation theory, point to a remarkable resilience and inventiveness of the translators involved as well as to the importance of translation in acting as a bridge between cultures.

This thesis is structured in three parts. Part One examines the historical, cultural, social, political, religious, and linguistic factors that went into the making of modern Sudanese literature. Using postcolonial theory, it explores in some depth Sudanese cultural identity and self-identification as expressed in and partly shaped by the evolving literature. That body of written, and, in part, oral expression, was traditionally nourished by the two main streams of Arab and African cultures, but was steadily enriched under British occupation by exposure to Western, and principally English, literature and literary criteria as well as by a modern system of education. The study highlights what it claims to be highly distinctive and indeed unique features of Sudanese literature, reflecting the many-sidedness and complexity of its country, itself being a huge melting pot, whose very existence has been severely tested in more recent times.

Part Two of the study offers a critical survey of Sudanese literature, examining its two main genres, poetry and fiction, and its evolution over three major literary periods, the Neoclassical, the Romantic and the Social Realist. The contributions made by literary movements or groups established and led by some prominent cultural and national figures and in which belles-lettres and patriotism were interwoven are also highlighted and assessed. This part elaborates on the dynamic which saw modern Sudanese writers interacting with influences from Western literature and investing in new literary genres while maintaining links with and creatively building on traditional and modern Arabic literature, itself evolving under various influences and requirements from without each country and within.

Part Three focuses on Sudanese literature in English translation through a close analysis of representative texts with a view to illustrating and addressing specific problems and challenges associated with the task of translation. The samples are drawn from the literary genres and texts discussed in Part Two and are reflective of the themes tackled in the first two parts, thus emphasising the coherence and unity of the study. The methodology used involves applying theories of translation but also invests in insights gained from interviews conducted with some of the writers and translators discussed in the study as well as from feedback provided by ten native speaker informants. Taking into consideration the hybrid nature of modern Sudanese Literature and the cultural and linguistic diversity of its context, many difficulties are highlighted along with the range of strategies used by translators to address them.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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