Edited By Irene Gilsenan Nordin, Chatarina Edfeldt, Lung-Lung Hu, Herbert Jonsson and André Leblanc
Not Crossing the Boundary: The Untranslatable in Japanese-English Bilingual Literature
The discussion of (un)translatability is long established in the field of translation studies (see, for example, Munday 28). The general consensus today seems to be that there is no such thing as absolute untranslatability (De Pedro 556). However, this might not hold when we turn to the field of literature, where some authors challenge the idea of translatability by stating what they think is untranslatable – something which can be expressed in one language but not in another, or something that can be expressed only by using several languages at the same time. What is regarded as untranslatable are not mere cultural terms or linguistic differences between two languages, but something broader. This not only concerns language but also includes all that language can imply, such as culture, history, power relations, or national/personal identity. There are many possible ways to express such themes using language in literary works. For example, when the author has more than two languages, the act of choosing one language, or choosing one and then later translating his/her own text into another, or not choosing any one language, could all be a very conscious decision related to such themes.
In the present essay, I will focus on the last of the above cases – when an author decides not to use one language to construct his/her literary world, but rather to maintain two languages within one text. The essay will discuss what might have been regarded as untranslatable by the...
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