In recent years, the material circumstances governing the production of African literature have been analyzed from a variety of angles. This study goes one step further by charting the trajectories of a corpus of francophone African (sub-Saharan) narratives subsequently translated into English. It examines the role of various institutional agents and agencies—publishers, preface writers, critics, translators, and literary award committees—involved in the value-making process that accrues visibility to these texts that eventually reach the Anglo-American book market. The author evinces that over time different types of publishers dominated, both within the original publishing space as in the foreign literary field, contingent on their specific mission—be it commercial, ideological or educational—as well as on socioeconomic and political circumstances. The study addresses the influence of the editorial paratextual framing—pandering to specific Western readerships—the potential interventionist function of the translator, and the consecrating mechanisms of literary and translation awards affecting both gender and minority representation. Drawing on the work by key sociologists and translation theorists, the author uses an innovative interdisciplinary methodology to analyze the corpus narratives.
Vivan I. Steemers is associate professor of French at Western Michigan University.
Chapter 1: Francophone African Narratives in a French and Global Publishing Landscape
Chapter 2: Entering the Anglo-American Book Market
Chapter 4: Early Female Writing and its Reception on the Anglo-American Book Market
Chapter 5: Transnational Reception and Appropriation of René Maran’s Batouala
Appendix 2: Mainstream Publishers of French Corpus Narratives
Appendix 3: Specialized Publishers of French Corpus Narratives
Appendix 4: Table A - French to English Translation Awards
Appendix 5: Table B - Any-Language-to-English Translation Awards/Grants and Foreign Fiction Awards
Appendix 6: Table C – Literary Translation Prizes/Awards: Gender and Minority Representation
Covering almost one hundred years of publishing history, this is a rich and nuanced study of the ways in which African literature has been marginalised, stereotyped, consecrated, and globalised. It offers a thought-provoking engagement with sociological theories of literary circulation and cultural capital, drawing on diverse methodologies to deepen our understanding of the World Republic of Letters.
Meticulously researched, Francophone African Narratives and the Anglo-American Book Market:Ferment on the Fringes proposes an ambitious and inspiring demonstration of the crucial role played by translators, publishers and journalists in the transnational value-making process of African literature. Based on a corpus of translated narratives and archival work, this superb research generated at the crossroads of translation and postcolonial studies, sociology, and literary analysis is also attentive to minor transversal articulations that have shaped the meaning of African literary production in the 20th and 21st century.
This is the fascinating story of the multiple forces that wrought the contours of sub-Saharan francophone literature as it entered the Anglo-American marketplace. With her freshly-tuned diachronic and transnational approach, Vivan Steemers unravels the amazing interconnections between the act of translation and the socio-political environment in which this occurred. Elegantly navigating between past and present, Steemers shows how the perception of key figures of African literature like René Maran and Mariama Bâ has been shaped by the paratextual frame in which they were introduced to an often non-French speaking readership. Francophone African Narratives and the Anglo-American Book Market will find avid readers among colleagues in search of new postcolonial challenges in comparative literature, world literature, and translation studies.
This is a very insightful materialist analysis of the translation of francophone African fiction into English. It draws on a corpus of 118 translated texts and fresh archival material. Focusing primarily on the circulation of this literature between francophone and anglophone spaces, there are also some fascinating new comparisons via colonial dimensions of the Dutch literary field. Vivan Steemers adds substantial empirical material and theoretical reflections to ongoing debates concerning gender, world literature, and material contexts of translatability.