This essay briefly describes the process of working with the author Édouard Glissant in translating his works, with a particular focus on the novel Mahagony. It explores the extent to which a personal relationship with the author provides both special insights and frustration for the translator. It treats the part played by the requirement that a translator “write” the work again after the author’s first writing and how this relates to the expected readers of both the “original” and the translation. A solution is found in how words within a text can function to guide a translator to a satisfying transition of that work from one language to another.
A Tree as a Record: On Translating Mahagony by Édouard Glissant
Betsy Wing is a freelance writer, translator, and visual artist. Her translations of works by Édouard Glissant include Black Salt, Poetics of Relation, The Overseer’s Cabin, The Fourth Century, and Mahagony, which is forthcoming from University of Nebraska Press. Now History (2014), a novel, is her most recent work of fiction.