This study consists of a comparative analysis of two novels (Une si longue lettre and Un chant écarlate) written by the famous female African writer Mariama Bâ and their English translations (So long a letter and Scarlet song) by Modupe Bodé-Thomas and Dorothy Blair. Mariama Bâ’s texts shed light on the different ways in which African women are oppressed by tradition and religion deeply rooted in a patriarchal and post-colonial society. The story of her own life serves as a basis for an effective analysis of both novels in order to determine the extent of her Feminist orientation in her texts, as well as to evaluate the possibilities of female emancipation based on the choices made by her female characters.
This study further examines the translation strategies present in the English rendition of Bâ’s novels. Translation involves conveying a message from a source to a target text in a manner that expresses the same message as the original. It also bridges the language and cultural barrier by facilitating understanding between different worlds. In translating Bâ’s novels, the aim is to respect and convey her message of Feminism to an international non-Francophone audience. In order to evaluate whether the translations have achieved the objective of conveying her message, this study will attempt to analyse the translational choices made by each translator as well as to ascertain the success of those choices. This analysis is guided by existing Feminist translation theory. Emphasis is placed on Feminism in general and African Feminism in particular to ascertain Bâ’s own Feminist orientation and how this impacted her writing. This is done firstly by giving a brief synopsis of the two novels. Subsequently, traces of Feminism are identified in both novels, followed by an analysis of the source texts. This is done by applying descriptive models outlined within the framework of descriptive translation studies to compare the source and target texts.
This study reveals that despite the many translation strategies that are available, literal/word for word and semantic translations are predominant in the English renditions of Bâ’s novels. The use of these strategies differed in the two translations in question. While Bodé-Thomas preferred a more traditional, literal/word for word translation in her rendition of Une si longue lettre in order to maintain the simplicity of the text and preserve the African aesthetic which is the essence and distinguishing feature of Bâ’s work, Blair opted for a semantic translation which turned out to be an important strategy in her English rendition of Un chant écarlate.
Taking the different translational strategies used by Modupe Bodé-Thomas and Dorothy Blair as a case in point, this study proposes that since for the most part, Mariama Bâ’s writing in a European language (French) captures the African content and form and portrays her Feminist beliefs in both her novels, the job of both translators is simply to carry over the same African content and form from the source language to the target language in a similar manner that expresses Bâ’s Feminist beliefs.
Key words: Mariama Bâ, Feminism, African Feminism, Feminist translation, descriptive translation studies, post-colonialism, translation studies, autobiography, Dorothy Blair, Modupe Bodé-Thomas, source text, target text, Une si longue lettre, Un chant écarlate, Scarlet song, So long a letter
Mini Dissertation (MA)--University of Pretoria, 2015.