Yoko Tawada's Portrait of a Tongue: An Experimental Translation by Chantal Wright is a hybrid text, innovatively combining literary criticism, experimental translation, and scholarly commentary. This work centres on a German-language prose text by Yoko Tawada entitled ‘Portrait of a Tongue’ [‘Porträt einer Zunge’, 2002]. Yoko Tawada is a native speaker of Japanese who learned German as an adult.
Portrait of a Tongue is a portrait of a German woman—referred to only as P—who has lived in the United States for many years and whose German has become inflected by English. The text is the first-person narrator’s declaration of love for P and for her language, a ‘thinking-out-loud’ about language(s), and a self-reflexive commentary.
Chantal Wright offers a critical response and a new approach to the translation process by interweaving Tawada’s text and the translator’s dialogue, creating a side-by-side reading experience that encourages the reader to move seamlessly between the two parts. Chantal Wright’s technique models what happens when translators read and responds to calls within Translation Studies for translators to claim visibility, to practice “thick translation”, and to develop their own creative voices. This experimental translation addresses a readership within the academic disciplines of Translation Studies, Germanic Studies, and related fields.
About the authors
Yoko Tawada (b. 1960) is an exophonic writer: a non-native speaker of German who writes prose, poetry and dramatic texts in her adopted language. She also writes in her mother tongue, Japanese. Tawada has been living in Germany since 1982 and learned the German language as an adult. Her signature short prose texts are part essay, part short story, and blur the boundaries between autobiography and fiction.
Chantal Wright is Honorary Fellow of the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at Durham University and Visiting Fellow of the School of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Ottawa. She studied at the University of Cambridge and the University of East Anglia in the UK, and previously taught at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, the University of Alberta, and Mount Allison University. Her research interests focus on the theory and practice of literary translation, stylistics, and exophony. In 2012, her translation of Tzveta Sofronieva’s poetry collection, A Hand Full of Water, won the inaugural Cliff Becker Book Prize in Translation. Chantal Wright has translated some of Germany’s best-known children’s authors including Milena Baisch, Zoran Drvenkar, and Cornelia Funke. In 2011, her translation of Andreas Steinhöfel’s The Pasta Detectives was shortlisted for the Marsh Award for Children’s Literature in the UK. From 2005 to 2008, Chantal Wright was the editor of Transcript, a European Union funded, online review of international writing published by Literature Across Frontiers at the University of Aberystwyth in Wales.