L2: Volume 07 Issue 1

New Homes for Translinguals: Re-examining Cultural and Linguistic Belonging in Contemporary Literature

The article discusses the most recent books on multilingualism and transculturalism. It focuses on two edited volumes: Languages of Exile: Migration and Multilingualism in Twentieth-Century Literature, edited by Englund and Olsson (2013) and Transcultural Identities in Contemporary Literature, edited by Gilsenan Nordin, Hansen, and Zamorano Llena (2013).

Writing the Translingual Life: Recent Memoirs and Auto-Fiction by Russian-American and Russian-German Novelists

One of the more remarkable developments in translingual literature over the past decade has been the rise of a new wave of Soviet-born authors writing in languages other than their native Russian. Autobiographical elements have always figured prominently in their fiction, and some of these authors have recently crossed the boundary into non-fiction by writing memoirs. The process of writing in a second language about becoming a writer in a second language gives these books a particular self-referential quality. This essay surveys the latest memoirs and auto-fiction (published 2012-14) of five Soviet-born immigrant novelists in the U.S. and Germany—Gary Shteyngart, Lena Gorelik, Lara Vapnyar, Olga Grjasnowa, and Maxim Shrayer.  It argues that constructing a narrative of the self for a foreign audience serves as a crucial step in the gestation of a translingual novelist. This narrative urge often predates the actual mastery of the new language. Rather than as the result of an already-achieved acquisition of a new linguistic medium, telling one’s story in a non-native language emerges as a means toward language learning and integration.

Selective Bibliography of Translingual Literature

Note from the guest editors:

Translingual Literature is literature written in a language not native to the author, in two languages, or in a mix of languages. This bibliography is the very first attempt to create and publish such an academic tool for researchers of multilingualism, second-language acquisition, comparative literature, and other fields. Given the scope of languages and literatures involved, certain limitations had to be set. This bibliography, which cannot presume to be exhaustive, contains only books written and published IN ENGLISH; documentation of the vast body of translingual writing in Arabic, Chinese, French, German, Hebrew, Latin, Persian, Urdu, and other languages awaits another day. The bibliography is comprised of three categories: 1) Fiction; 2) Non-fiction (memoirs and essays); 3) Interdisciplinary Scholarship Related to Translingual Literature.

It is a testimony to the vitality of the field, to the prolific ongoing contributions of fiction, nonfiction, and scholarship in translingual literature, that the bibliography is destined to be incomplete even before it is published. As a true 21st-century effort, this bibliography was “crowd-sourced,” i.e. gathered thanks to the contributions of the community of translingual literature scholars and edited by L2 Journal guest editors, Natasha Lvovich and Steven G. Kellman.

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