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“Words Are Signals”: Language, Translation, and Colonization in Brian Friel’s Translations

Adineh Khojastehpour & Behnam Mirzababazadeh Fomeshi

Independent Researchers

Volume 8, Number 1, 2016 I Full Text PDF

Abstract

The Irish playwright, Friel is among the most prominent contemporary writers. In his works he deals mainly with socio-cultural issues in Ireland. His 1980 play, Translations focuses on the problem of language and cultural colonization in Ireland. Hailed as a postcolonial work, the play is not limited to the depiction of the problem; it presents some suggestions and probable solutions to the problem, especially with a different look at the role and significance of “translation”. While showing a tangible picture of colonial struggles, it tries not to depict a one-sided picture of the problem. The present paper focuses on Friel’s different view toward Irish colonization and Irish cultural nationalism. The objective of the paper is to show how Friel looks differently at the function of language and the crucial role of “translation” in colonial struggles.

Keywords: Colonization; Language; Translation; Brian Friel; Cultural Identity

Colonized or Self-Colonizer: A Generational Journey Through Independence in E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India and Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things

Cassandra Galentine, Northern Arizona University, USA

Abstract

The British Raj was established in India by Queen Victoria in 1858, and Britain remained the dominant power structure until Indian Independence in 1947. Though many novels as well as works of critical scholarship attempt to capture elements of the British Empire’s presence in India and its psychological effects on the citizens of India, less attention has been paid to the comparison of E.M. Forster’s A Passage to India to Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things. When examining these two texts closely, it becomes clear that Forster’s novel exists as a narrative of a single moment of British Imperialism, whereas Roy’s novel presents a multigenerational approach to describing effects of the British Empire. These different perspectives and historical contexts affect the characters’ ability to transcend the continuous cycle of colonizer turned colonized. The juxtaposition of a colonial text composed by an English author with a postcolonial text written by an Indian author within the context of Albert Memmi’s The Colonizer and the Colonized, provides an illuminating perspective on the evolution of the intertwined colonizer/colonized relationship and displays the potential to mitigate the lingering psychological effects of imperialism.

[Key Words: Albert Memmi, colonizer, colonized, postcolonialism, British Empire]

Introduction

Both A Passage to India and The God of Small Things were written about the British Empire’s presence in India and share similar psychological themes throughout. However, the two novels develop representations of the colonizer and the colonized through strikingly different narrative backgrounds and forms. E.M. Forster’s approach to a critique of imperialism comes from a colonial, British perspective, and addresses one brief period of time in the history of Anglo-India, whereas Roy’s text approaches the subject from a postcolonial, multi-generational narrative form. This fundamental difference between the two authors creates many crucial points of variance in the expression of the colonizer/colonized relationship when placed in comparison postcolonially. This comparison exposes the psychological effects of colonialism which are illuminated by the reactions of the Indian characters in each novel—in particular, Dr. Aziz, and the Nawab Bahadur from Forster’s text, and Pappachi, Baby Kochamma, Ammu, Rahel, and Estha from Roy’s text—to their Western colonizers and their ability or lack thereof to blend British and Indian identity.

  1. Memmi: The “mythical portrait of the colonized”

To better understand the terms of comparison, it is useful to first establish the concept of the colonizer and colonized. French-Tunisian author Albert Memmi, in The Colonizer and the Colonized, briefly addresses his own relationship with the colonization of Tunisia. His deeply personal experience with colonialism lends credibility to his text, but he then applies his experience to create a description of imperialism and its effects in general terms. Broadening the scope allows Memmi’s text to be applied to all colonial legacies beyond Tunisia. Memi’s text is useful when assessing the effects of British rule in India within Forster’s and Roy’s novels. Crucial to such an examination is Memmi’s description of the “colonized” and their reaction to a long history of colonization.

In describing the colonized, Memmi argues that much of the colonized identity is generated by the colonizer. This is what he describes as the “mythical portrait of the colonized,” to which he devotes an entire chapter (Memmi 80-89)[1] The identity that the colonizer imposes upon the colonized is the most crucial part of colonization because the threatof the colonizer and their imposed identity on the colonized results in “a certain adherence of the colonized to colonization” (88). Though this is an integral part of successful colonization, Memmi does not believe it to be the final step in the process. He states that

It is not enough for the colonized to be a slave, he must also accept this role. The bond between colonizer and colonized is thus destructive and creative. It destroys and re-creates the two partners of colonization into colonizer and colonized … Just as the colonizer is tempted to accept his part, the colonized is forced to accept being colonized (89).

Thus, Memmi suggests that the colonized must identify with the colonizer at some point. This stage is what he considers to be the final act of the colonized preceding revolt. The colonized’s acceptance of colonization is reflected through several characters in A Passage to India and The God of Small Things.Memmi’s philosophy, when applied to these characters, allows for a historical, critical approach to exploring the overarching legacy of colonialism, and whether the Indian characters from either text successfully reconcile both British and Indian facets of culture into their own personal identities, or if, in the process, the colonized characters inevitably identify with the colonizer as Memmi predicts.

  1. Forster, Roy and Mirror Civilizations

Both Forster and Roy’s Indian characters represent facets of Memmi’s critical text. However, Memmi’s description of the colonized’s affinity for the colonizer, is more easily identifiable in Roy’s text because the novel was written postcollonially and includes three generations of characters that bridge the gap of Indian independence. A Passage to India still resonates strongly with Memmi’s text, but was published in 1924, twenty-three years before India’s independence from the British Empire. This difference in historical context as well as the “moment in time” nature of Forster’s book vs. the “generational” nature of Roy’s, shows individuals within the nation of India in two different stages of colonial identity. The God of Small Things demonstrates a nation that consists of a blended conglomeration of colonizer and colonized. Roy accomplishes this by incorporating voices of a pre-independence generation, an independence generation, and a post-independence generation within her text. Contrastingly, Forster’s novel captures the British Empire and the Indian people through the European gaze and sets up a starker dichotomy of colonizer and colonized.

A Passage to India, though focused on an acute moment in history, maintains a critique of the British Empire throughout. The most prominent character and protagonist of the novel, Dr. Aziz exists as a colonized subject. His close friendship with Cyril Fielding and his eagerness to please his supposed friends Mrs. Moore and Adela is what first forms his relationship as the colonized with the colonizer. Dr. Aziz ingratiates himself with Mrs. Moore and Adela in his constant attempts to fulfil their wish to see “the real India.” Throughout the entire beginning of the novel, Aziz’s goal is to “unlock his country for her” (Forster 73). Though he is still proud of his country, Aziz attempts close friendship with Fielding, Mrs. Moore, and Adela. Though Aziz becomes less of an Anglophile as the novel progresses, particularly after Adela’s rape accusation, he can be seen desiring that which is English throughout the first half of the novel…Access Full Text of the Article

Nationalism and the Rationalization of Violence in Joyce’s Ulysses, the “Cyclops” Episode

Camelia Raghinaru, Concordia University, Irvine

Abstract

In distancing himself from Western brutality in its religious and nationalistic forms, Joyce also registered his exasperation with Irish nationalism. Resentful nationalistic impotence structures the narrative core of the “Cyclops” episode in Joyce’s Ulysses. The impotence underlying the resentment stems from the inability to create an independent subject through any other terms than those of the master, given that postcolonial revivalist movements emulate the imperial subject. This essay dwells on the connection between impotent, resentful nationalism and its manifest violence. On one hand, I consider the stereotype of the “fighting Irish” as emblematic of instinctual, yet rationalized, violence. On the other hand, I emphasize the ultimate impotence of the realization of this instinct in its primitive, despotic form, as well as its sublimation in nationalist movements. The second essay from Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality provides the theoretical tool with which I examine the parallels between the emerging narratives of rationalization and nationalism. Assuming that nationalism sublimates instinctual aggression, it also succeeds in perpetuating its aim—that of exercising the primal aggression upon which it is premised. Moreover, assuming that nationalism purports to advance the aims of the social contract between community and individual—viz., protecting the individual from aggression—it fails by the very mechanism by which it is supposed to function.

[Key words: James Joyce, Ulysses, “Cyclops,” Irish nationalism, ideology, morality, coercion, cruelty, reason, violence, Nietzsche, On the Genealogy of Morality, resentment, rationalization, impotence, resistance, racial purity, modernity]

Biographical accounts records James Joyce’s concern with religion and politics as sources of violence in the West. In his review of H. Fielding-Hall’s The Soul of a People, titled “A Suave Philosophy” and published in the Daily Express on February 6, 1903, Joyce claims that the relationship between religion, politics and violence is indigenous to the West (Davison, 1996, p. 89):

Our civilization, bequeathed to us by fierce adventurers, eaters of meat and hunters, is so full of hurry and combat, so busy about many things which perhaps are of no importance, that it cannot but see something feeble in a civilization which smiles as it refuses to make the battlefield the test of excellence (Joyce quoted in Davison, 1996, p. 89).

In distancing himself from Western brutality in its religious and nationalistic forms, Joyce also registered his “apparent exasperation with nationalist laments, [stating] that he cannot understand ‘the purpose of bitter invective against the English despoiler, the disdain for the vast Anglo-Saxon civilisation, even though it is almost entirely a materialistic civilisation’” (Joyce quoted in Davison, 1996, p. 89). In a similar context, Joyce referred to Ireland as “a country destined by God to be the everlasting caricature of the serious world” and claimed “that it is rather naive to heap insults on England for her misdeeds in Ireland” (Joyce quoted in Nolan, 1995, p. 129). As Andrew Gibson (2006) documents,

Political schism and stagnation, decline and despair in the wake of Parnell, the rise of Irish cultural nationalism as exemplified in the Gaelic Revival, the cultural ‘last stand’ of the Anglo-Irish: these were the three most important features of the culture in which Joyce grew into adolescence. (p. 30-31)

Indirectly, Joyce seemed to indicate that the resentful side of nationalism stems from its impotence to measure up to its postcolonial ideal.

Resentful impotence structures the narrative core of the “Cyclops” episode in Joyce’s Ulysses. Diana Perez Garcia (2002) emphasizes the violence in the Citizen’s threat to anihilate Bloom in order to underscore the ultimate deflation and impotence of the speaker’s words. Overly inflated verbal violence is followed by the deflation resulting from its impossibility of ever being matched by the act itself. Edna Duffy (1994) has pointed out that postcolonial nationalistic violence reinvents the “primitive” and the “despotic” (p. 35) dimension of the previous colonial order while betraying, in the process, a “stifled ressentiment . . . in its attempt to delineate a folk tradition that will outdo the elite art of the colonist culture” (p. 101). The impotence underlying the resentment operates on several levels. First, it stems from the inability to create an independent subject through any other terms than those of the master, given that postcolonial revivalist movements “emulated imperial glorifications of the subject” (p. 101). Second, it lingers in the doubt that nationalism’s work in the colony can indeed successfully recapture the “romantic and atavistic view of Irish history” (Watson, 1987, p. 46). This atavism relies on its dark and violent cults of redeeming blood-sacrifices and the dynamic power of myth and legend to lift the patriotic heart into “that world of selfless passion in which heroic deeds are possible” (p. 45). Third, it questions whether the colonial administration can indeed “protect the natives from their own proclivity to violence” (Duffy, 1994, p. 35).

This essay dwells on the connection between impotent, resentful nationalism and its manifest violence. On one hand, I consider the stereotype of the “fighting Irish” (embodied in the “Cyclops” by the Citizen’s throwing the biscuit box at Jewish Bloom) as emblematic of instinctual, yet rationalized, violence —particularly as premised on the necessity for a “periodic blood-sacrifice to keep alive the National Spirit” (Watson, 1987, p. 46). On the other hand, I emphasize the ultimate impotence of the realization of this instinct in its primitive, despotic form, as well as its sublimation in nationalist movements. The second essay from Nietzsche’s On the Genealogy of Morality provides the theoretical tool with which I examine the parallels between the emerging narratives of rationalization and nationalism. I claim that the “Cyclops’s” failure as a nationalistic discourse is predicated upon its success in the same vein. Assuming that nationalism sublimates instinctual aggression, it also succeeds in perpetuating its aim—that of exercising the primal aggression upon which it is premised. On the other hand, assuming that nationalism purports to advance the aims of the social contract between community and individual—viz., protecting the individual from aggression—it fails by the very mechanism by which it is supposed to function. Duffy (1994) posits the failure as postcolonial interpellation of the subject. In her view, nationalism works in the colony to imaginatively reinvent the “primitive” or “despotic” modes of production that are            likely to have long been torn apart and marginalized by the colonial administration, but  merely to offer them as so much spectacle through which the masses can be interpellated            to the cause of the newly invented nation. (p. 35)

The spectacle of impotent violence is best showcased in the Citizen’s performative threat against Bloom. His recourse to open violence, following a series of verbal assaults and racial insinuations, conveys the colonial import of his violent nationalism. The double-jointed politics prevents the formation of a homogenous community integrating multiple postcolonial identities into a collective dynamic. It also insists on imagining an elusive and illusionary conformity, “supposedly generated as if by magic in the glorious moment of independence” (Duffy, 1994, p. 128).

The failure to integrate differences stems not only from an inability to comprehend the perverse inner-workings of nationalism in postcolonial cultures but also from an ostensible unwillingness to subvert these mechanisms. Nietzsche argues that modernity emerges from the sublimation of violence through reason and rationalization. Consequently, in its postcolonial form, the nationalism of the “Cyclops” (represented not only through the Citizen’s open recourse to aggression, but also through the nameless narrator’s hate-speech against Bloom and the many overt and covert hints of violence interspersed through the narrative) must perforce perpetuate its own existence out of a more primal claim than the national-identitarian one—that of the primeval instinct of cruelty founding the ab-original community:

“The Cyclopean giant who threatens the Dublin Ulysses is not something real in the situation of the country or its inhabitants: the danger comes from the swollen dreams and illusions which are the compensation for pointless and trivial lives, and from the giant hatreds and prejudices which originate in such dreams and give rise to blind nationalism, religious intolerance, anti-Semitism and all the other symptoms of spiritual poverty and frustration.” (Peake, 1977, p. 235)

In the second essay of On the Genealogy of Morality Nietzsche constructs a narrative of resentment in which cruelty (i.e., the practice of the prohibited) is rationalized as a social contract between the individual and the community. “Bad consciousness” initiates the development of reason and rationality as tools, masks, or excuses that veil the great historical performance of the instinct of aggression and cruelty (powerful drives recognized by Nietzsche and Freud) that, in their rationalized form, become fundamental to the development of modernity (and, I would argue, to that of modern nationalism). Rationalization develops as a sly move: that of indulging in cruelty, a violation of the moral code, while exercising the otherwise prohibited, yet subversively encouraged instinct. The master race, paradoxically, prohibits violence, while also prescribing it as a virtue. According to Nietzsche (1887/1989), the rationalization of cruelty precedes guilt and resentment because it is connected to the individual’s awareness of his cruelty as “proud consciousness” (p. 59)—a driving instinct synonymous with the life-force. The institutionalization of promise forms the basis of this contract, accomplished through the blood and gore, torture and penances accompanying the enforcement of the penal code…Access Full Text of the Article

War on Terror: On Re-reading Dracula and Waiting for the Barbarians

Abstract

Framed by the emerging emphasis in postcolonialism on terror and narratives of terror, this paper argues that Waiting for Barbarians (1980; hereafter Barbarians) can be read as a counter-discourse of resistance to Dracula’s (1898) representation of “war on terror” which revolves around the relationship between empire and its embattled subjects. To demonstrate this the paper examines how Barbarians deconstructs Dracula’s trope of barbarian invasion, resists the techniques of liquidating Dracula, and reimagines Dracula’s the notion of the end of history and the last man. The paper concludes that Dracula and Barbarians offer us radically different conceptualisations of the war on terror and contending visions of the future that cunningly reflect contemporary attitudes since the 9/11 attacks.  

Smudge on an Illuminated Manuscript: a Postcolonial Reading of Shalimar the Clown

Javaid Bhat, University of Kashmir

Abstract:

This Paper begins with Timothy Brennan’s riposte to Amir Mehmud and Sara Suleri, underlining, simultaneously, the problem of Post colonialism as described by Brennan. His rather hasty definition is used to underscore the different postcolonial propensity in Pachigam, a fictional village created by Salman Rusdie in the novel Shalimar the Clown (henceforth SC). This village is posited as hybrid, fluid, and a space marked by difference. It is a typical but not an unproblematic post colonial space, one which Brennan ignores in his categorical definition of post colonialism. Finally, the essay highlights the essentially ambiguous relationship of Pachigam, a microcosm of Kashmir, with the larger ‘postcolonial’, ‘post-imperial’ entities of India and Pakistan.

Memory: The ‘Spiral’ in the Poetry of Joy Harjo

Susmita Paul, Independent Scholar

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Abstract

Memory as a narrative is a vindicated thesis in academia. In the article, the author focuses on the nature and the function of ‘memory’ in the poetry of Joy Harjo, an indigenous American poet with tribal affiliations. Instead of using only Eurocentric discourses of performance studies and theoretical studies on memory, the author attempts to assess the distillation of Harjo’s independent ideas on memory in her creative oeuvre – written and performed poetry. Further, the author probes how Harjo’s ‘theory’ of memory connects the past, the present and the future.

Towards a Postmodern Poetics: Reading Elizabeth Bishop’s Reccy of Realities

Amit Bhattacharya, University of Gour Banga

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Abstract

In this paper, I have tried to analyze a few poems by Elizabeth Bishop to show how she takes up or takes in shifting identities and subject-positions in a clear dialogue with cultural norms and expectations. I have also sought to chart her poetic trajectory from alienation to alterity to show how she started by refusing to accept the ‘otherness’ about her and her various poetic personae based on such determinants as gender, sexuality, class or age, and ultimately accepted those self-same counts of ‘otherness’ in a never-ending melee with the ‘so-called’ metareality of conundrum and contingency that is provisionally called ‘life’.

Revolutionary Roads: Violence versus Non-violence: A comparative study of The Battle of Algiers (1966) and Gandhi (1982)

Vikash Kumar

Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi India

Considered one of the finest realist films ever which reconstitutes perfectly the revolution by the people of Algeria, The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo Gillo, La Bataille d’Alger, Igor Film/ Casbah Films, Italy, 1966) presents us an image of a world of anger and agony. The making of The Battle of Algiers possibly heralded the birth of Algerian cinema as it was the first film made just after their independence. In fact, this cinematographic masterpiece reveals to its viewers a plethora of images depicting the Algerian people in their quest for independence. Made in the year 1966, by Gillo Pontecorvo and based on the personal experiences of Yacef Saddi, Military Head of the FLN (Front de liberation National/ National Liberation Front) who also collaborated on the script of the film, The Battle of Algiers, interestingly, was directed with the aim to highlight the invisible aspects and unheard voices of this violent revolution by the people of Algeria as well as the counter measures taken by the colonial power to suppress the movement.

Mary Magdalene or Virgin Mary: Nationalism and the Concept of Woman in Bessie Head’s A Question of Power

Sayyed Rahim Moosavinia, Seyyede Maryam Hosseini & Shahid Chamran

University of Ahvaz, Iran

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Abstract

Foucault believes that people live in systems of power different from one era to another. He applies the term “power archives” to demonstrate that those inside an institute cannot be aware of the subtle ways of power imposed on them. Likewise, it would be oversimplification to think that with the apparent end of colonialism, the colonized subjects will be free from subjugating contexts. In the case of women, the situation is even worse since they are repressed by both the colonialist and the post-colonial nationalist. “Under the anxiety of the influence” of the former colonial father, the once-belittled colonial men turn to support their females in terms of their body and soul, and in this way define them inside a strictly demarcated roles of good wives, mothers, and households or vicious prostitutes. Bessie Head in her semi-autobiographical masterpiece subtly examines this idea and through her coloured protagonist, Elizabeth, attempts to re-deconstruct this notion.

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