Brent Hayes Edwards and Jean-Baptiste Naudy on Claude McKay

What can a French translator do with a novelist who writes brilliantly about the “confrontation between Englishes?” How can such a confrontation be made legible across the boundaries of language, nation, and history? Renowned scholar and translator Brent Hayes Edwards sits down with publisher and translator Jean-Baptiste Naudy to consider these questions in a wide-ranging discussion about translating the Jamaican American writer Claude McKay.

They focus especially on the recent translation into French of McKay’s 1941 Amiable with Big Teeth, which paints a satirical portrait of efforts by 1930s Harlem intelligentsia to organize support for the liberation of fascist-controlled Ethiopia. Brent and Jean-Baptiste consider McKay’s lasting legacy and ongoing revival in the U.S. and France. Translating McKay into French, they note, is a matter of reckoning with France’s own imperial history. That history, along with McKay’s complex understanding of race both in the U.S. and abroad, is illuminated in this conversation about one of the Harlem Renaissance’s most celebrated writers. Be sure to check out this episode’s special bonus material for a dramatic, bilingual reading from Amiable with Big Teeth by Jean-Baptiste!



Subscribe to Novel Dialogue on Apple, Spotify, or Stitcher to listen and to be notified when new episodes are released.


View a transcript of the episode here.


Mentioned in this Episode

Featured image photograph of Jean-Baptiste Naudy by Alecia McKenzie