Lee Skallerup Bessette deposited How to Make Love to a Negro: But What if I get Tired? Transculturation and its (Partial) Negation In and Through Translation in the group LLC Canadian on MLA Commons 3 years ago
Dany Laferrière’s first novel, Comment faire l’amour avec un Nègre was a literary sensation when it was first released in Quebec in the mid-80s. The author/narrator plays with reader’s expectations, presenting both a stereotypical image of the black man (sex-obsessed, white-hating) and one that contradicts and upsets their expectations. Influenced by English, American, Eastern, European and South American cultures, traditions and literature, the narrator/author plays with them all, creating an effective satire of contemporary culture.
But some of this transculturality is lost in the translation. An off-handed comment made by Laferrière to David Homel, the translator, works to negate the transcultural influences of the novel, “Don’t worry about the translation. The book’s already in English. Just the words are in French.” The translator, as a result, refuses to see the other possible influences in the novel, and refuses to translate certain non-anglo aspect. This paper will show how the translation of Comment faire amour avec un Nègre negates the idea of transculturalism and in fact acts, to a certain degree, to assimilate the text. This is not to say that the translation is a complete “failure”, but it does illustration the possible limitations of the process of translation.