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Romanian Joyce

From Hostility to Hospitality

Arleen Ionescu

This study makes Romania’s largely unknown Joycean heritage visible to an international readership. Reviewing Joyce’s critical reception and translations, as well as the writer’s influence on Romanian prose, it brings Derrida’s notion of «hostipitality» to comparative literary and translation studies in order to theorize the impact of politics and ideology on fiction. After an original survey of the links between Romanian modernism/postmodernism and Western literature, it focuses on alternate trends of hostility and hospitality towards Joyce, especially his techniques and style. It examines how translations dealt with themes prone to communist censorship (politics, sexuality, religion, food), before discussing Joyce’s impact on Romanian writers such as Eliade, Biberi, Bălăiţă and Oţoiu.
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Hos(ti)pitality in Translation: Joyce into Romanian


When young Stephen Dedalus thinks of God in A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, he is overwhelmed by His power of understanding and ‘thinking big’. The almighty God knows all names and speaks all the languages of the world, since he created it. He is the perfect host to any guest:

God was God’s name just as his name was Stephen. Dieu was the French for God and that was God’s name too; and when anyone prayed to God and said Dieu then God knew at once that it was a French person that was praying. But, though there were different names for God in all the different languages in the world and God understood what all the people who prayed said in their different languages, still God remained always the same God and God’s real name was God. (P 15)

Irrespective of the number of ‘doors’ or linguistic thresholds to His home – and here we should recall that ‘Babel’ also means bab El: the gate of God the Father – He is the perfect master of the house, waiting for and listening to each guest in their respective languages.

Hosts and Guests in Translation

Language was for Derrida precisely the place where hospitality starts with the question

must we ask the foreigner to understand us, to speak our language, in all the senses of this term, in all its possible extensions, before being able and...

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