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Translating Orients

Translating Orients: Between Ideology and Utopia

Timothy Weiss
Copyright Date: 2004
Pages: 270
  • Book Info
    Translating Orients
    Book Description:

    Drawing on Buddhist thought and offering, in part, a response to Edward Said's classic work in the same field,Translating Orientsre-interprets Orientalism and shows the vital presence of the Orient in twentieth century and contemporary world literatures. Defining Orients as neither subjects nor objects but realities that emerge through translational acts, Timothy Weiss argues that all interpretation can be viewed as translations that contain utopian as well as ideological aspects. The translational approach to literary and cultural interpretations adds depth to Weiss's analysis of works by Jorge Luis Borges, Paul Bowles, V.S. Naipaul, Salman Rushdie, and Kazua Ishiguro, among others.

    Weiss examines texts that reference Asian, North African, or Middle Eastern societies and their imaginaries, and, equally important, engage questions of individual and communal identity that issue from transformative encounters. Interpretation is thus viewed as an act that orients, mapping the world not in the sense of delineating a pre-given form, location, or order, but rather as a charting of its emergence and possibilities. In addressing the principal challenges of contemporary critical thinking, fundamentalism, and groundlessness, Weiss puts forward new concepts of identity and citizenship in the reinterpretation of Orientalism.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-8275-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Preface
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-18)

    As its title suggests, this book will be about a process as well as a subject matter. Of the four terms or concepts embedded in the title, the first term, ‘translating,’ indicates thehowof the study, which treats interpretation as a transformative process in which new meaning emerges by way of a shift from one medium or register to another. This transformative process may apply to experiences or texts, to the author’s shaping of materials and translation of it across media (e.g., Rimsky-Korsakov’s adaptation ofThe Thousand and One Nightsto a musical medium inShéhérazade), or the reader’s...

  5. 1. Borges’s Search, or the Bibliophilic Orient
    (pp. 19-42)

    In Manoel de Oliveira’s filmPalavra e Utopia(2000), a fictional dramatization based on letters, sermons, and other historical documents, the seventeenth-century Jesuit priest Father Antonio Vieira dedicates his life to fighting slavery and the mistreatment of Africans and Amerindians in the New World. As a missionary, Father Vieira is also a traveller, voyaging between Portugal and Brazil as well as to European capitals such as Rome, where he seeks support from the pope, among other powerful church figures, in his struggle against Inquisitional authorities who seek to silence him and block the transmission of his ideas. The film is...

  6. 2. ‘Without Stopping’: The Orient as Liminal Space in Paul Bowles
    (pp. 43-78)

    For Jorge Luis Borges, the Orient is a text; for Paul Bowles, it is an experience – an experience against the grain, an experience of transformation. Bowles is unique among North American authors, and perhaps among twentieth-century Western artists, for he distinguished himself not only as a writer of fiction but also as a composer of piano concertos, sonatas, opera, ballets, film scores, and incidental music for the theatre. During the course of these artistic pursuits Bowles also became the United States’ pre-eminent expatriate, travelling and sojourning in Europe, Africa, Asia, and Central America, and living in Tangier, Morocco, for...

  7. 3. The Living Labyrinth: Hong Kong and David T.K. Wong’s Hong Kong Stories
    (pp. 79-108)

    Perhaps it is Dante who tells us the most, allegorically, about contemporary urban places: every city has its cultural imaginary – its Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory – because every city is not only a material locale but also a network of lives, and all the events of those lives, in interaction narratively with one another. These stories, like the subways, auto routes, and skyscrapers of the city, reach upward and downward, and finger out along the distances of a plane in all directions; no story is simple, each has a present (and past) linked with other stories, and each has...

  8. 4. Where is Place? Locale and Identity in Kazua Ishiguro’s When We Were Orphans and Ricardo Piglia’s La ciudad ausente
    (pp. 109-144)

    The Presocratic thinker Zeno, who in the words of philosopher of science Karl Popper constructed some of the ‘most searching and ingenious defensive attacks in the history of Western philosophy,’ had this to say about the concept of locale: ‘If place exists, where is it? For everything that exists is in a place. Therefore, place is in a place. This goes on to infinity. Therefore, place does not exist’ (quoted in McKirahan and Card,A Presocratic Reader77). The argument is sophistic, but the question is more difficult to answer than it first may seem. Place and identity might be...

  9. 5. At the End of East/West: Myth in Salman Rushdie’s The Moor’s Last Sigh
    (pp. 145-175)

    Toward the end of Part I ofThe Moor’s Last Sigh, Flory Zogoiby, the wife of Solomon Castile and mother of Abraham Zogoiby, sits in a ‘sunset’s vermilion afterglow,’ rapt in a mixture of reverie and contemplation. She is admiring a magnificent collection of Cantonese tiles that decorate the walls, floor, and ceiling of a synagogue in Cochin, site of the first European (Portuguese) settlement in India in 1500. How strange to find these Chinese tiles there, she muses, which sometime during the eleventh century made their way from southern China to India. In her service to the synagogue Florys...

  10. 6. Identity and Citizenship in a World of Shame
    (pp. 176-202)

    The end of the twentieth century also marked the two hundredth anniversary of the birth of Honoré de Balzac, author of, among other books,La Comédie humaine(1834–7), a monumental work itself encompassing more than ninety novellas and novels. It goes almost without saying that Balzac was not a minimalist; inLa Comédie humainealone, the total number of named characters is estimated at 2472, to which can be added a further 566 unnamed characters. I begin this chapter with a quotation from Balzac because, as old-fashioned as these words might have sounded just a few years ago, today...

  11. Neither Subjects nor Objects: In the Middle Way
    (pp. 203-216)

    Critical thinking today faces two conceptual challenges: on the one hand, the challenge of fundamentalisms, whether political or religious, with their frozen pictures of identity and society; on the other hand, the challenge of groundlessness, or the growing awareness of the lack of foundations for cherished notions such as self, culture, and world. We see the damage of fundamentalisms – ‘murderous identities,’ to recall Amin Maalouf’s phrase – in the various confrontations, declared or otherwise, between East and West, North and South, and rival ethnic groups in one geographic region or another. Although the second development concerns something much less...

  12. Notes
    (pp. 217-226)
  13. Bibliography
    (pp. 227-242)
  14. Index
    (pp. 243-249)