Stadt: Leuven, Belgien

Frist: 2015-10-15


Beatrijs Vanacker (KU Leuven) and Tom Toremans (KU Leuven), eds.

Throughout literary history authors have presented their texts as translations of an imaginary original rather than as original texts of their own making. Examples of such pseudotranslations include works as diverse as Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia Regum Britanniae (12th cent.), Cervantes’ Don Quichote (1605-1615), Montesquieu’s Les Lettres Persanes (1721), Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus (1831), Akutagawa Ryūnosuke’s Hokōnin no Shi (1918) and Andreï Makine’s more recent La Fille d’un héros de l’Union Soviétique (1990). As a phenomenon that has taken on a wide variety of forms, pseudotranslation has persistently occupied a marginal position in both literary scholarship and translation studies, and still today begs more systematic study. With the exception of occasional studies (such as Anton Popovič’s 1976 essay on the typology of translation), critical interest in pseudotranslation has emerged only recently, for example in the work of Susan Bassnett (1999), Emily Apter (2006), Ronald Jenn (2013), David Martens and Beatrijs Vanacker (2013), and Brigitte Rath (2014). These studies mainly present specific case studies focused on questions of originality and authenticity, the (re)invention of genres or the relation between source and target text. With this special issue, we aim to critically address the relation between pseudotranslation and metafictionality.

Theoretical and historical studies (e.g. Gideon Toury’s Descriptive Translation Studies and Beyond (1995)) have mainly situated the practice of pseudotranslation in specific literary contexts. Several case studies have insisted on the emancipatory value of these texts. This emancipatory function can be seen at work in those cases in which a pseudotranslation allows a particular author to solicit recognition in a receiving culture by relying on an exogenous source (as in Andreï Makine), or in which it facilitates the introduction of aesthetic innovations in the guise of translation (as in Papa Hamlet), or, inversely, as it consolidates ‘official’ literary and editorial practices (as in totalitarian regimes). To the extent that pseudotranslations are driven by different motivations in different periods and literary contexts, they often prove symptomatic (and thus revealing) of the literary field in question and the position occupied by translation in this field. As simulacrums they provide a unique mode of representing and/or criticizing prevailing literary practices, and it is this metafictional dimension of pseudotranslations that we aim to address in this special issue.

Based in an aesthetic of imitation, pseudotranslations presuppose a critical function towards the (original or translated) literary production of a certain period. In the first place, the imposture mostly implies an extensive paratextual discourse that foregrounds the coded (and thus imitable and falsifiable) character of the prevailing translation practice and invites a critique of the presuppositions and expectations that underlie that practice and its reliability. Moreover, this paratextual discourse often takes the form of a fiction in its own right, which not only presents the history of the text’s genesis and transmission, but also furnishes it with a metafictional commentary on issues of authorship, originality, genre, and the relation between fact and fiction. A final autoreferential gesture concerns the occasional explicit commentaries (in the form of parody, satire or critique) on the practice of pseudotranslation or the intertextual references to previous pseudotranslations.
If the metafictional dimension of pseudotranslation thus primarily seems to be played out on a paratextual level, we should not lose sight of specifically diegetic processes through which these texts interrogate the practices of fiction and/or (pseudo)translation. Take, for example, the appearance of translators as characters in the story, or the presence of bilingual characters who reflect the bicultural premise of the text, or, on a more abstract level, the occurrence of different forms of imposture and play with identity. Another interesting object of analysis would be the mutual interference between pseudotranslation and other types of literary hoaxes in different periods. Finally, one could also investigate more closely the development of metafictional gestures in the different translations of pseudotranslations and determine to what extent the former comment on the ‘orignal’ pseudotranslation and if (and how) they continue gestures of mystification and imposture.
Since pseudotranslation is an essentially transcultural phenomenon that presupposes a (imaginary) cultural transfer, the editors wish to include case studies from a wide variety of cultural and historical backgrounds.

We invite articles of 5000-7000 words in French, English, German or Dutch. Please send an abstract of max. 300 words and a short bio before 15 December 2015 to Beatrijs Vanacker ( and Tom Toremans ( Proposals will be selected before 1 January 2016 and deadline for submission of articles is 1 April 2016. All articles will be subjected to double peer review. Publication of the special issue is scheduled for November 2016.

Beitrag von: Beatrijs Vanacker

Redaktion: Christof Schöch