Léopold Sédar Senghor’s Translations and the Trajectory of a World Writer
Shields, Kathleen (2010) Léopold Sédar Senghor’s Translations and the Trajectory of a World Writer. Romance Studies, 28 (2). pp. 106-117. ISSN 0263-9904
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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