Volume 6, No. 4 
October 2002

  Dr. Haruna Jacob




Five Continents

Index 1997-2002

  Translator Profiles
Translator, Teacher, Businesswoman, Mentor
Courtney Searles-Ridge interviewed by Ann Macfarlane

  The Profession
The Bottom Line
by Fire Ant & Worker Bee
Translation and Project Management
by Celia Rico Pérez, Ph.D.
What the Guys Said, the Way They Said It, As Best We Can
by Danilo Nogueira
Translators and Computers
The Emerging Role of Translation Experts in the Coming MT Era
by Zhuang Xinglai
  Legal Translation
Difficulties Encountered in the Translation of Legal Texts: The Case of Turkey
by Dr. Ayfer Altay

  Literary Translation
Cultural Implications for Translation
by Kate James
African Writers as Practising Translators—The Case of Ahmadou Kourouma
by Haruna Jiyah Jacob, Ph.D.
  Arts & Entertainment
Performability versus Readability: A Historical Overview of a Theoretical Polarization in Theatre Translation
by Dr. Ekaterini Nikolarea
Translation in a Confined Space—Film Sub-titling
by Barbara Schwarz

  Caught in the Web
Web Surfing for Fun and Profit
by Cathy Flick, Ph.D.
Translators’ On-Line Resources
by Gabe Bokor

  Translators’ Tools
Translators’ Emporium
Trados—Is It a Must?
by Andrei Gerasimov
Translators’ Job Market

Letters to the Editor

Translators’ Events

Call for Papers and Editorial Policies
Translation Journal
Literary Translation

African Writers as Practising Translators:

The Case of Ahmadou Kourouma

by Haruna Jiyah Jacob, Ph.D.


frican literature describes mainly the realities of African societies and narrates the experiences of people many of whom understand and speak only their own native languages. Paradoxically, however, it is produced almost wholly in languages that are foreign to the continent, particularly English and French. Here, then, is a literature which the writers depend heavily on the translation activity to produce. Indeed, it should be obvious that if Camara Laye did not translate, the words spoken by an illiterate character in any of his novels would have had to be written in a Guinean language. Similarly, Chinua Achebe's illiterate Igbo characters speak polished English only because their creator succeeded in translating into English what should have been written in Igbo.

So widespread is this practice that S. Ade Ojo has not hesitated to assert, with some exaggeration, we contend, that:

On the whole, one may safely say that the dual culture of the African writer [the native culture he is writing about and the European culture he has imbibed] makes him first and foremost a translator before being a creative artist.1

one may safely say that the dual culture of the African writer makes him first and foremost a translator before being a creative artist
Given, therefore, that African literature is hinged to a considerable extent on the translation activity and is largely the end result of the translational competence of the authors, the work of these writers could provide a lot of insight into the practice, if not the theory, of translation. Unfortunately for students of translation, most of them reveal nothing about that aspect of their work, leaving us to guess the problems they come across, what they do in their attempt to overcome such obstacles, and the lessons there may be to learn from their experience. Writers from the French-speaking countries in particular have proved to be a big disappointment in this regard. Indeed, while writers such as Chinua Achebe and Gabriel Okara have made pronouncements on what they do in order to render African realities and experiences in a European language, their Francophone counterparts have remained largely silent over the issue, the only exception to our knowledge being the Ivorian writer Ahmadou Kourouma.

Kourouma has actually distinguished himself from his Francophone colleagues in two major ways. Firstly, he has expressed his views on the translation activity as practised by African writers, based on the experience he acquired while writing Les Soleils des Indépendances.2 Secondly, he has written a novel, Monnè, outrages et défis,3 in which he highlights problems that may arise during the translation process and the extent to which they can be overcome. He has thus not stopped at telling us what he did but has also vividly illustrated what he considers as problems that may constitute obstacles to successful intercultural communication, the attempts that can be made to overcome such problems, and the extent to which the translator, as the "man or woman in the middle,"4 can actually be counted upon to ensure effective communication. Kourouma is thus not only an accomplished translator (the success of his first novel would easily attest to this) but can also be considered to be a translatologist.

To support this claim, we shall be examining some of the views Kourouma has expressed since the publication of Les Soleils des Indépendances. We shall then turn our attention to Monnè, outrages et défis with the intention to highlight the points raised by our author in connection with the translation activity.

The views expressed by Kourouma after the publication of Les Soleils des Indépendances have been mainly in response to the question as to how he was able to produce a work of such distinct quality. We will remember that this novel created a great sensation on the African literary scene and beyond, sensation that is yet to die down more than thirty years after it was first published.5 The novel's success has been such that critics have not hesitated to greet it with accolades such as "undoubtedly one of the finest novels ever written by an African"6 and "one of the best novels ever to come out of Black Africa."7 One critic has even referred to it as "le chef-d'oeuvre du roman africain d'expression française depuis les indépendances"8 (the masterpiece of post-independence African novel in French). Not surprisingly, therefore, Ahmadou Kourouma has been asked on numerous occasions to comment on his work, and it is the responses he has given over the years that interest us here.

Our first quotation comes from an interview Ahmadou Kourouma granted Moncef Badday. On that occasion, our author said, among other things:

J'adapte la langue au rythme narratif africain [...] Ce livre s'adresse à l'Africain. Je l'ai pensé en malinké et écrit en français prenant une liberté que j'estime naturelle avec la langue classique [...] Qu'avais-je donc fait? Simplement donné libre cours à mon tempérament en distordant une langue classique trop rigide pour que ma pensée s'y meuve. J'ai donc traduit le malinké en français, en cassant le français pour retrouver et restituer le rythme africain.9

(I adapt my language to the African narrative style [...] This book addresses the African. I thought it out in Malinke and wrote in French, taking some liberty I consider natural with the classical language [...]. So what did I do? I simply let go my temperament by distorting a classical language otherwise too rigid to enable my thought flow freely. I thus translated Malinke into French, breaking the French to find and restore the African rhythm.) The translation of this and other quotations below is mine.

In another interview, Kourouma stated as follows:

Je me suis aperçu que, vraiment, écrire le livre dans le style classique, Fama ne ressortait pas [...] C'est alors que j'ai essayé le style malinké. Ce n'est pas la traduction malinkée [...] je refléchissais en malinké et essayais de présenter comment un Malinké percevait l'événement, comment la chose venait à son esprit. Ce n'est pas la traduction malinkée.10

(It occurred to me that, really, if I had written the book in the classical style, Fama would not have come off well [...]. That was when I decided to try the Malinke style. It is not translation from Malinke [...] I thought in Malinke and then tried to present things the way a Malinke would them, the way they would come to his mind. It is not translation from Malinke.)

In a more recent interview, he declared:

A cause de mon exil, j'ai un peu perdu mon malinké. Je pense moins en malinké. Pour Les Soleils des Indépendances, je pensais en malinké et le problème était de retraduire, de transmettre la démarche intellectuelle qui était faite en malinké.

Chaque mot a des connotations dans une langue. Comment traduire sans ou avec ces connotations? C'est chaque fois un problème. J'aime beaucoup les archaïsmes. Je retrouve parfois dans l'ancien français la traduction pleine d'un mot qui existe encore en malinké et qui a disparu dans le français d'aujourd'hui.11

(My long period of exile has cost me some of my Malinke. I think less in Malinke nowadays. To write Les Soleils des indépendances, I thought in Malinke and the problem was became how to re-translate or re-transmit the intellectual process that had taken place in Malinke.

Each word has particular connotations in a language. How does one translate, with or without such connotations? That always constitutes a problem. I love archaic expressions. I sometimes find in the old French language the full translation of a word which still in use in Malinike but which has gone out of existence in the French language.)

Asked if he always thinks in Malinke before writing in French, and if he actually translates, Kourouma replied:

Traduction serait un terme trop fort car il arrive que je conçoive certaines choses en français mais dans ce cas je place un Malinké dans cette situation et j'essaye d'imaginer sa façon de percevoir. Je souhaite qu'en toutes circonstances un Malinké se retrouve dans mes romans. Toute langue, toute société, c'est d'abord un certain nombre de mythes ou de réalités. Traduire, c'est trouver les mythes ou réalités correspondants.12

(Translation would be too strong a term here, for I sometimes conceive of certain things directly in French. But, in such cases, I place a Malinke in the context and I try to imagine how he would perceive things . My goal is that a Malinke would recognise himself in my novels. Each language, each society is first and foremost a number of myths and realities. To translate would be to find the corresponding myths and realities.)  

To start our discussion, we cannot but the note the similarity between Kourouma's pronouncements in the above quotations and some of the opinions that have been expressed by Chinua Achebe. For instance, while arguing the case of African writers who use English, the Nigerian writer once said that:

For an African, writing in English is not without its serious setbacks. He often finds himself describing situations or modes of thought which have no direct equivalent in the English way of life. Caught in that situation he can do one of two things. He can try and contain what he wants to say within the limits of conventional English or he can try to push back the limits to accommodate his ideas.13

Achebe would encourage African writers to extend the frontiers of a European language whenever necessary. In his own particular case, he would use English to write about his experience, but it would have to be "a new English, still in full communion with its ancestral home but altered to suit its new surroundings."14 Hence the warning: "And let no one be fooled by the fact that we may write in English for we intend to do unheard of things with it."15

This, as can be seen from the first quotation above, is an opinion and attitude Kourouma shares with Chinua Achebe. Indeed, both writers agree that the African writer should use a European language in a different way from his European counterpart so as to be able to give adequate expression to the particularity of the experience he is describing.

Of even greater interest to our discussion here, though, is the following statement by Achebe:

You read quite often nowadays of the problems of the African writer having first to think in his mother tongue and then to translate what he has thought into English. If it were such a simple, mechanical process I would agree that it was pointless—the kind of eccentric pursuit you might expect to see in a modern Academy of Lagado; and such a process could not possibly produce some of the exciting poetry and prose which is already appearing.16

Here, Achebe is no doubt reacting to the confusion that often surrounds the word "translation," particularly in discussions on the work of African writers. Obviously displeased with the simplistic statements by people who do not take the trouble to try to understand the nature of the translation activity and what it really involves, Achebe hammers home the often ignored point that when he translates, the African writer does not act only in a technical capacity, as a text processor, so to speak, who is engaged mainly if not solely in the simple conversion of words and sentences of one language into "equivalent" words and sentences of another. The writer, Achebe seems to be at pains to point out, does not simply take words in his mother tongue for which he looks for so-called equivalents in a European language. He is involved in a more fundamental act of creation, that being the only reason why some of the works are of such outstanding quality.

Ahmadou Kourouma is perfectly in agreement with Achebe. Indeed, he too makes it abundantly clear in his statements that what was involved was not a mechanical process of replacing Malinke words with their French "equivalents." "Ce n'est pas la traduction malinkée," he tells us in the second quotation, a statement he repeats as if to underscore the point. What he did, and this point is repeated in all the interviews, was to think in Malinke and then to imagine how best to render his thoughts in French. The "equivalence" he sought to achieve was thus not at the level of words, sentences, expressions or any other thing of the sort, but at the level of thought. What he did, in other words, was to translate, in the full sense of the term.

That, we believe, puts to rest the often repeated argument according to which African writers simply transliterate their native languages into European idioms. They certainly do not transliterate, contrary to the claim by Ade Ojo, for instance, that:

though by his educational exposure and intellectual experience, the African writer has acquired a metropolitan literary inheritance and has mastered the rudiments of a European language, his head and ears have been tuned to the rhythm and experiences of his indigenous language which he (like Okara, Tutuola, Ousmane, Kourouma and even Soyinka) transliterates.17

The reader will recall that in the passage quoted earlier, Ade Ojo defends the idea that the African writer is "first and foremost a TRANSLATOR before being a CREATIVE ARTIST" (our emphasis). That, as we pointed out then, is quite debatable. To make matters worse, however, Ade Ojo creates even greater confusion here by telling us that the activity practised by the translators in question (African writers) is in actual fact TRANSLITERATION, thereby equating transliteration with translation proper. In one breath we are told that these writers are better at translating than at producing creative works of art, and in the next we are told that they actually transliterate. Is it any wonder, then, that they hardly qualify to be called creative writers? Can transliteration be a creative exercise? Is it not rather the mechanical process Achebe and Kourouma condemn in no uncertain terms?

Transliteration can certainly not explain it all. There must be more to it than that. Indeed, looking at it closely, not even Amos Tutuola can really be said to have transliterated. A more satisfactory explanation of the method adopted by this writer who stands in a class all by himself is given by Adetugbo who says that he (Tutuola) tried to "translate his experience from Yoruba to English little realising that there is no one-to-one correspondence between the two languages,"18 thereby confirming the point known to every translator that literal translation almost never works. Neither does transliteration, we may add, at least as far as literary works are concerned. In any case, to come back to Kourouma, we can see from the quotations above that he is clearly opposed to transliteration as a method of translation.

Indeed, Ahmadou Kourouma would not see the work of a translator as consisting of mechanically replacing a unit in one language with a corresponding unit in another (and this, in effect, is what transliteration is all about, no matter the definition we may choose to give to the term). He suggests a more satisfactory method of work which, when adopted by a translator, turns his attention away from individual words and makes him concentrate instead on at least what the Paris school refers to as "unités de sens."19 More specifically, Kourouma's method is very similar to the one Sigmund Freud is reported to have used. According to E. Jones as quoted by D. Seleskovitch,20 Freud would read a passage at a time from the source text, put the text aside, and then try to determine the manner in which a person writing directly in German would most likely have expressed the ideas contained in the text. Working in this way, Freud could not be influenced by individual words contained in the original text and could use what came to him more or less spontaneously as the most adequate and appropriate equivalent.

The lesson we can learn from Kourouma's manner of working is thus that translation should consist in giving linguistic expression in one language to a thought process that took place in another, looking for and using what is judged to be the most appropriate way of reverbalising that thought, thereby making the translated text a natural equivalent to the original and an act of creation. From the point of view of translatology, this has the merit of according proper recognition to the role played by the translator who has to analyse and grasp the thought that lies behind words before attempting to clothe that thought in a different language, using what he considers to be the most appropriate form of language (language that is adapted to the subject of discourse and to the target audience).

That Kourouma wants to emphasise the extent to which the translator's sense of judgement comes into play is evident from the third quotation above where he says that each word has particular connotations in a language and that the translator has to decide whether or not to translate such connotations. This choice cannot be made by the mechanical devices that are used to "translate." They can only be made by human beings, based on their knowledge of both the subject matter dealt with in the source text and the target audience. To write Les Soleils des Indépendances, Kourouma tells us, he did not hesitate to use words that have become archaic in modern French but which give what he calls a "full translation" of Malinke words. The translator's main concern, Kourouma seems to be saying, should be to find what is the most appropriate in any given situation.

Little wonder, then, that he defines translation (in the last quotation) as an attempt to find myths and realities (not words and other linguistic elements) that correspond to those found in the source text. Being an African writer using the French language, however, he did not attempt to use French myths and realities, especially since he was writing for an African audience. Using one of the best known notions in translation, therefore, he resorted to adaptation, the process through which one tries to make the target audience identify fully with what one has to say.

On the whole, therefore, Kourouma has provided what can conveniently be used to introduce students to the fundamentals of translatology. Translation should not consist in an attempt to mechanically replace one word with another in a different language (i.e. the word-for-word/word-to-word and replace-every-unit approach to translation should be avoided). The translator should go beyond the words he finds on paper and make every attempt to understand the thought that gave rise to the words. In other words, he should try to understand the realities evoked by and found behind the words. In order to carry out his mission adequately, the translator also has to adapt the message to the target audience and use only what he considers to be the most appropriate solution in any given situation, the ultimate aim being to communicate as effectively as possible.

But, as every translator knows, that is easier said than done. Indeed, the translator often comes across problems which may render his work quite difficult. It is to the nature of such problems that Kourouma draws our attention in his second novel.

Monnè, outrages et défis brings into focus the activites of a colonial interpreter who tries to mediate interlingually between the French colonial officials and the Malinke people. That, of course, is not an easy task. To complicate matters, the interpreter does not address the Malinke people directly. His words are repeated by a griot, especially when he is interpreting for the king. It is this situation that Kourouma exploits to raise issues related to translation.

Kourouma's intention to highlight such issues is evident from the very first page of Monnè, outrages et défis where we read:

Un jour le Centenaire demanda au Blanc comment s'entendait en français le mot monnè.

"Outrages, défis, mépris, injures, humiliations, colère rageuse, tous ces mots à la fois sans qu'aucun le traduise véritablement," répondit le Toubab qui ajouta: "En vérité, il n'y a pas chez nous, Européens, une parole rendant totalement le monnè malinké."

Parce que leur langue ne possédait pas le mot, le Centenaire en conclut que les Français ne connaissaient pas les monnew. Et l'existence d'un peuple, nazaréen de surcroît, qui n'avait pas vécu et ne connaissait pas tous les outrages, défis et mépris dont lui et son peuple pâtissaient tant, resta pour lui, toute la vie, un émerveillement, les sources et les motifs de graves méditations.

(One day, the old man asked the white man what the word monné meant in French.

"Outrage, defiance, contempt, insults, humiliations, raging anger; all of these words at the same time, yet none of them fully translating it," replied the toubab who added "To say the truth, we Europeans do not possess an expression which totally translates the Malinké monné."

As their language did not possess the word, the old man concluded that the French did not know monnew. And that a people, more so Christian, existed without having experience all the outrage, defiance and contempt from which his people suffered so much, remained for him, all his life, a marvel and a source and motive for serious meditation.)

The old king wants to know the French word for monnew (plural of monnè) and is told that the term, which captures all the sufferings and humiliations imposed on his people by colonialism, cannot be adequately and fully translated into French for the simple reason that no corresponding word exists in that language.

That, of course, immediately raises questions as to the possibility of full intercultural communication. If indeed the French language lacks a word that corresponds exactly to the Malinke monnew, is it really possible to make the French people understand the full import of that word for the Malinke people? Can the absence of certain terms in a language render translation impossible? Are we therefore doomed to be perpetually ignorant of some aspects of the lives of people who speak languages that are different from our own? Is it a problem of translation or a problem to be placed at the doorstep of translators?

Monnè, outrages et défis is full of numerous situations where translation would appear to be impossible, due to the absence of Malinke "equivalents." Here is a good example:

Le Blanc parla, se perdit dans de longs développements politico-historiques. Il parla, trop et vite, avec des néologismes: fascisme, pétainisme, gaullisme, marxisme, capitalisme, le monde libre ... Des mots intraduisibles que l'interprète a introduits en malinké, que le griot a répétés et commentés sans connaître le sens. Pour le Centenaire et ses suivants, c'étaient des paroles de tons d'oiseaux que les mauvaises prononciations du traducteur et du commentateur rendaient étranges (pp.217-218).

(The white man spoke at great length on political and historical developments. He talked too much and too fast, with some neologisms: fascism, petainism, guallism, marxism, capitalism, the free world .... Some untranslatable words which the interpreter had introduced into the Malinke language, which the griot repeated and commented upon without knowing their meanings. For the old man and his followers, they were bird-tone words which the translator's and commentator's bad pronunciation made strange.)

The narrator tells us that capitalisme, marxisme, etc cannot be translated into Malinke. In any case, the interpreter does not make any attempt to translate them. To make matters worse, he pronounces them badly, the result being that by the time the griot pronounces them in his turn, the words sound strange, even to the ears of the Malinke people. This, by the way, often gives rise to hilarious situations where French words are not only pronounced in a strange way but also take on undesired meanings. Liberté, for example, becomes gbibaité in the mouth of the interpreter and is later pronounced as nabata by the griot, a word which means "come and take mother" in Malinke. Similarly, progressiste becomes progrissi and then sissi, which means "smoke" in Malinke.

We can cite many other examples in the novel. But is this an indication that Kourouma shares the point of view of his narrators who announce that certain words and expressions cannot be translated into Malinke? We do not think so. The best evidence for this would be the fact that on several other occasions, the interpreter actually succeeds in rendering "untranslatable" words in Malinke. There is the term civilisation, for instance, which,

faute de mot correspondant, [l'interprète] traduisit par "devenir toubab." Les mots firent sursauter Djigui. L'interprète rassura tout le monde en expliquant que civiliser ne signifie pas christianiser. La civilisation, c'est gagner de l'argent des Blancs (p.57).

(for want of an equivalent expression [the interpreter] rendered as "to become a whiteman." The words made Djigui jump with a start. The interpreter reassured everyone by explaining that to civilise does not mean to christianise. Civilisation is to earn the whiteman's money.)

We may express reservations about the correctness of this definition ("become a toubab" or "earn the whiteman's money"). That, however, is not the issue. The point, rather, is that the interpreter finds a solution to the problem. The solution may be unacceptable to us but it certainly was good enough for the occasion, there having been no further complaints from the audience. With this example, among others, Kourouma is thus able to demonstrate the point that although the effort required may be great, a suitable and adequate solution may not be too far away. In this particular case, the interpreter adopts the explanatory approach, a technique he resorts to quite often and which is widely agreed to be acceptable whenever the need arises. On many other occasions, he resorts to long commentaries in an attempt to make his audience understand what is being said. He justifies the choice of this technique thus:

De même que le mil ne se sert jamais sans assaisonnement, il ne faut jamais traduire les paroles sans commentaires (p.66).

(Just as millet is never served without seasoning, so should words never be translated without commentaries.)

We also see that, on many occasions, the interpreter succeeds in doing a relatively good job by having recourse to adaptation. Evangélisateur (evangelist), for example, becomes marabout while église is given as mosquée nazarenne (the christian mosque). Another good example is that of the story of the second World War and how Hitler came to be defeated. The Allied nations, the interpreter tells the king, consulted a divinity after which General de Gaulle gathered soldiers and followed the route leading to Mecca from Brazzaville, pretending to be going on a pilgrimage, thereby succeeding in suprising Hitler's forces not far from Arabia. Even Hitler's bunker is rendered as an underground tunnel dug by an animal for its safety! When the story is put in this way, the old king understands it very easily. Similarly, in an attempt to make the king understand that he now has equal rights with the French people, he is told that he is now free to marry a white woman!

We contend, therefore, that, as far as Kourouma is concerned, the problem is not with the translation activity itself since, ultimately, what is said in one language can be said in another. The problem is rather with the translator who, for one reason or the other, is incapable of carrying out his mission effectively and satisfactorily.

Kourouma actually draws our attention to some of the problems that may hinder the work of the translator. But before getting to that, we also note the attempt he makes to put everything in clear perspective. He would not want us to lose sight of the importance of the translator whose role is to bridge the communication gap between people from different linguistic and/or cultural backgrounds and promote greater understanding between them. Kourouma goes to great lengths to illustrate problems that may arise from inadequate knowledge of other people and which may have more or less grave consequences. We have already seen the result of Djigui's lack of knowledge of the French people which leads him to think that they may never have suffered humiliations, helplessness and so on. Another example is the belief among the Malinke that, since the Africans sold into slavery and sent to the land of the white people never came back, they must have been slaughtered as "sacrificial lambs," so to speak, and eaten by the whites, this being the reason why the whites have been blessed with the "witchcraft" which enables them to produce technological wonders. Kourouma thus seems to be saying that fear and suspicion of the other can end only when the peoples of the world get to know each other better, when, as a result of improved communication, they understand each other better.

By virtue of the nature of the role he is called upon to play, therefore, the translator should not distort facts, tell lies, deceive people, say the opposite of what is meant, as the interpreter in the novel does on some occasions. He should relay messages as accurately and as completely as possible. But this he can do only when he has the qualities required.

First among these is, of course, adequate knowledge of the source language. In Monnè, outrages et défis, we are shown an interpreter whose mastery of the French language is often in doubt. As we saw above, even the way he pronounces simple words such as liberté and progressiste reveals the little education he has received in that language. More serious, though, is the fact that he lacks adequate understanding of many of the concepts he is expected to render in his language. There may be no better evidence for this than the fact that, whenever he has sufficient knowledge of what is referred to, he finds a way of translating it, albeit by often resorting to the explanatory approach. Equally serious is the interpreter's lack of training. It is certainly for this reason that he often adopts the replace-every-unit philosophy, working as if the aim were to match each word in French with a word in Malinke.

For various reasons (lack of adequate mastery of their mother tongues, the fact that they have an eye on a wider audience, etc.), African writers produce most of their works in foreign languages. To do this, they obviously often think directly in the languages they use. But it is certain that they also often think first in their mother tongues before proceeding to give form to their imagination in a foreign language. That they are able to do so, very successfully more often than not, is enough evidence, in our view, that they are accomplished translators. There would thus be a lot to learn from them. Unfortunately, most of them keep their secrets to themselves, leaving us to guess what they do in order to render African realities and experiences in European languages.

Kourouma, in his own case, is not vague about what he does. He has told us how he works and the problems he encounters. He has also used his second novel to illustrate problems one may come across when translating.

It would certainly be wrong to say that Kourouma underplays problems of translation. It is obvious, however, that, in his view, most of the problems which are usually said to be traceable to the translation activity itself are actually problems of translators, i.e. problems translators come across while trying to grasp the meaning of the source text or when trying to recompose it in another language. Kourouma seems to be saying that whenever a translator has thorough understanding of what is said in the source text, whenever he also masters his language and is very familiar with the culture of his people, he should be able to restitute the message in an appropriate and adequate manner, thereby producing a text that fulfils the required function. But the translator should also know that his hands are not tied, so to speak, and that he is free to put his translation in the manner he judges to be the most appropriate, his main concern being to make his audience understand what is in the source text.


1 S. Ade Ojo, "The Role of the Translator of African Literature in Inter-Cultural Consciousness and Relationships", Meta vol.31 no.3, p.295.

2 Ahmadou Kourouma, Les Soleils des Indépendances (Paris: Seuil, 1970).

3 Ahmadou Kourouma, Monnè, outrages et défis (Paris: Seuil, 1990). Other novels by Kourouma are En attendant le vote des bêtes sauvages (1998) and Allah n'est pas obligé (2000) but these are not of much interest to us from the point of view of the topic of our discussion.

4 J.C. Condon and F. Yusuf, An Introduction to Intercultural Communication (Indianapolis: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, Inc., 1975), p.198.

5 Les Soleils des Indépendances was first published in 1968 by the Presses de l'Université de Montréal.

6 K. Britwum, "Tradition and Social Criticism in Ahmadou Kourouma's Les Soleils des Indépendances" in K. Ogungbesan (ed.), New West African Literature (London: Heinemann, 1979), p.80.

7 D.C. Cooper, "Mali: Ahmadou Kourouma's Les Soleils des Indépendances", Books Abroad vol.44 no.4, 1970, p.714.

8 G.-D. Lezou, "Panorama du roman ivoirien" in J. M'Lanhoro (ed.), Essai sur Les Soleils des Indépendances (Abidjan: Les Nouvelles Editions Africaines, 1977), p.42.

9 M.S. Badday as quoted by A. Huannou, "La Technique du récit et le style dans Les Soleils des Indépendances Afrique littéraire et artistique no.38, p.38.

10 Interview released on a long-playing record by Editions CLE.

11 B. Magnier, interview published in Notre Librairie no. 87, p.12.

12 ibid.

13 G.D. Killam (ed.), African Writers on African Writing (London: Heinemann, 1975), p.12.

14 C. Achebe, "The African Writer and the English Language", Morning Yet on Creation Day (London: Heinemann, 1975), p.61.

15 ibid, p.7.

16 ibid, p.61.

17 Ade Ojo, op cit, p.295.

18 A. Adetugbo, "Form and Style" in B. King (ed.), Introduction to Nigerian Literature (Evans Brothers, 1971).

19 In her "Glossaire de la théorie interprétative de la traduction et de l'interprétation", Monique Cormier defines "unités de sens" as follows: "Elément de sens qui subsiste après qu'un énoncé a été lu ou entendu et que s'est produite une réaction cognitive". Meta vol.30 no.4, p.358. "Unité de sens", in other words, is the meaning of a part of a text that remains in one's memory after one hears or reads it and after a cognitive reaction has taken place.

20 D. Seleskovitch, "De l'expérience aux concepts" in D. Seleskovitch and M. Lederer, Intepréter pour traduire (Paris: Didier Erudition, 1984), pp.84-85.