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!
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View a transcript of the episode here.
Mentioned in this Episode
- Amiable with Big Teeth, Claude McKay (1941)
- Les Brebis Noirs de Dieu, Claude McKay, Translated by Jean-Baptiste Naudy (2021)
- Practice of Diaspora: Literature, Translation, and the Rise of Black Internationalism, Brent Hayes Edwards (2003)
- A Long Way from Home, Claude McKay (1937)
- The Price of the Ticket: Collected Nonfiction: 1948-1985, James Baldwin (1985)
- Banjo, Claude McKay (1929)
- Home to Harlem, Claude McKay (1928)
- Romance in Marseille, Claude McKay (1929)
- The Souls of Black Folk, W. E. B. Du Bois (1903)
- Their Eyes Were Watching God, Zora Neale Hurston (1937)
- Mais leurs yeux dardaient sur Dieu, Zora Neale Hurston, Translated by Sika Fakambi
- Passing, Nella Larsen (1929)
- Quicksand, Nella Larsen (1928)
- Cane, Jean Toomer (1923)
- Quartier Noir, Claude McKay, Translated by Louis Guilloux (1932)
- Dictionary of Untranslatables, Edited by Barbara Cassin et al. (2014)
- Phantom Africa, Michel Leiris, Translated by Brent Hayes Edwards (2017)
- The Wretched of the Earth, Frantz Fanon (1961)