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Translingual Identities

Translingual Identities: Language and the Self in Stefan Heym and Jakov Lind

Tamar Steinitz
Volume: 135
Copyright Date: 2013
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 224
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  • Book Info
    Translingual Identities
    Book Description:

    The works of translingual writers-those who write in a language other than their native tongue-present a rich field for study, but literary translingualism remains under-researched and under-theorized. In this work Tamar Steinitz explores the psychological effects of translingualism in the works of two authors: the German Stefan Heym (1913-2001) and the Austrian Jakov Lind (1927-2007). Both were forced into exile by the rise of Nazism; both chose English as a language of artistic expression. Steinitz argues that translingualism, which ruptures the perceived link between language and world as the writer chooses between systems of representation, leads to a psychic split that can be expressed in the writer's work as a schizophrenic existence or as a productive doubling of perspective. Movement between languages can thus reflect both the freedom associated with geographical mobility and the emotional price it entails. Reading Lind's and Heym's works within their postwar context, Steinitz proposes these authors as representative models, respectively, of translingualism as loss and fragmentation and translingualism as opportunity and mediation. Tamar Steinitz teaches English literature at Queen Mary and Goldsmiths colleges, University of London. She has also worked as a literary translator.

    eISBN: 978-1-57113-863-7
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-ix)
  4. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. x-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-19)

    The decision to abandon one’s mother tongue for another language is one of the most profound aspects of exile experience, often fraught with feelings of loss and alienation: Vladimir Nabokov, for example, described his break with his native Russian as “exceedingly painful—like learning anew to handle things after losing seven or eight fingers in an explosion.”³ It is no coincidence, perhaps, that the native tongue is described in various languages as the mother tongue, as Steven G. Kellman has pointed out in The Translingual Imagination : “Muttersprache, langue maternelle, mama loshen, sfat em, lengua materna, modersml, lingua maternsa, matesk...

  6. 1: In Other Words: Jakov Lind’s Translingual Autobiography
    (pp. 20-62)

    When Jakov Lind’s American editor suggested in 1969 that he write an autobiography, Lind had reservations. He was, he explained to his editor, a writer of fiction, and “[what] a writer of fiction has to say about himself, his text makes clear” (Cr, 43). His collection of stories Eine Seele aus Holz (1962) and the novels Landschaft in Beton (1963) and Eine bessere Welt (1966) had created a certain stir in literary circles: while his works were, as he put it, “crushed . . . with a thud” by German and Austrian critics (Cr, 165), their English translations were received...

  7. 2: Fighting Words: Propaganda and Ideology in Stefan Heym’s The Crusaders
    (pp. 63-95)

    “The art of prose,” wrote Jean-Paul Sartre shortly after the Second World War, “is bound up with the only régime in which prose has meaning, democracy. When one is threatened, the other is too. And it is not enough to defend them with the pen. A day comes when the pen is forced to stop, and the writer must take up arms.”¹ For Stefan Heym, pen and sword had always been one and the same: not least when he enlisted in the American army in 1943 as a soldier in the Psychological Warfare Unit. The German-born writer would engage in...

  8. 3: The Writer and His Languages
    (pp. 96-135)

    The move from one language—and from one culture—to another features distinctly in the works discussed in the previous chapters. Lind represents translingualism in his autobiography optimistically, as a possible solution to a crisis of identity, whereas Heym reveals in The Crusaders the tensions of identification that consume and ultimately destroy his translingual character, Walter Bing. Although translingualism itself is not a theme of the authors’ later works, I will contend that it nevertheless underlies and shapes these works and the figure of the writer that emerges from them—both in the text and as the identity constructed by...

  9. 4: The Wandering Jew
    (pp. 136-181)

    Condemned to an eternal life of wandering for an offence against Jesus, the Wandering Jew has featured in European folk tales, visual art, and literary works since the Middle Ages. As Regine Rosenthal maintains, the Christian legend constructs the Jew as the Other, “as an element alien to hegemonic Christian Culture, who is therefore to be shunned and excluded from participation in the discourse of power.”¹ The popular legend developed over centuries, and although the wanderer remained, for the most part, a negative figure, by the nineteenth century this figure was reworked and transformed. References to Jesus “[seem] to be...

  10. Conclusion
    (pp. 182-188)

    The two Wandering Jew figures that emerge from The Inventor and The Wandering Jew articulate Lind’s and Heym’s respective diasporic identities, but are also extreme manifestations of their translingual process. Exile, language, and identity are intertwined in each of the translingual arcs I have charted in this study. In both cases, translingualism is a response to exile, and the course it takes as a strategy for literary creation reflects each author’s way of perceiving his identity as a writer and his place in the world. Consequently, the effects of translingualism are manifested differently in each author’s work.

    Lind’s linguistic switch...

  11. Bibliography
    (pp. 189-204)
  12. Index
    (pp. 205-214)
  13. Back Matter
    (pp. 215-215)