Dana Bădulescu’s fruitful journey through a translated man’s gardens

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A Review

Oana Cogeanu-Haraga, Ph.D., is an associate professor at the Faculty of Letters at The University AlexandrunIoan Cuza (UAIC) in Iași, Romania. She authored An Introduction to African-American Travel Literature (2013) and Legal Translation and Beyond (2020), edited volumes on intercultural topics and published articles and book chapters on literature and translation. She took part in several research projects and is the director of the ROK Center for Korean Studies at UAIC. Her research interests span cultural and translation studies, with a focus on travel writing. See also: www.researchgate.net/profile/Oana-Cogeanu-Haraga (Fitralit).

Oana Cogeanu-Haraga – fotografie din arhiva personală

Keywords: ‘translated men’, linguistic and cultural translation, critical translation, literal and figurative translation, self-translation, translatedness

Rushdie’s Cross-Pollinations invites its readers to a fruitful journey through a translated man’s gardens. In the preface to her monograph, Dana Badulescu describes this itinerary as the updated result of a postdoctoral research project conducted over three years, which led to a first edition of the book published with Junimea press in 2013. What the new edition does is not only bring together further articles released through various outlets and contribute new sections on Salman Rushdie’s more recent work, but also, and more importantly, propose an integrative perspective that goes beyond the multitude of texts addressed and analytical tools used. Thus, while it remains sensitive to the intricacies of Rushdie’s multifaceted oeuvre, the monograph manages to offer a structurally coherent and theoretically cohesive approach that brings forth the processes of linguistic and cultural (self)translation constitutive of Rushdie’s texts.

As Petya Tsoneva highlights in the introductory preface, “one of the rewarding merits of this critical undertaking is its structural coherence – in spite of the broad gamut of perspectives on Rushdie’s comprehensive fiction, they are skillfully linked along simultaneous lines to produce a multilevel analysis of Rushdie’s spectacular position in the world of writing” (ix). At the same time, Dana Badulescu refrains from casting Salman Rushdie into a mold and has the courage and the capacity to match the author’s creative range with her own critical insightfulness. It becomes obvious that, in fact, this book is the result of a lifelong engagement with, and affinity for, Rushdie’s oeuvre and its critical translation for readers, students and scholars.

The monograph’s title encapsulates Badulescu’s approach: the concept of cross-pollinations invites to tracing the aethereal, fertile encounters between the different cultures and identities referenced throughout Salman Rushdie’s novels; it also alludes to the pains of displacement and relocation involved in such purposeful transfers. The linguistic and cultural translation thus occasioned is shown to produce hybrid and fluid spaces of being, where a sense of cultural multiplicity problematises the relationship between past and present, parents and children, collective heritage and individual self. Reflecting (on) the literary author’s self-confessed depersonalisation as the ‘Satan Rushdy’, the appelative “Rushdie” used in the title shows not only the scholar’s familiarity with her subject – resulting in a bird’s eye view perspective that allows lucidity of judgement and precision in textual dives –, but also frames Salman Rushdie as an exponent of sorts, mythologizing the author.

Born in Bombay and borne across the (English) world, Salman Rushdie is indeed a self-conscious champion of what he calls “translated men” (Badulescu, 2), striving to articulate a language of one’s own to embrace the world. Hence the author’s itinerary from a postcolonial linguistic and cultural predicament to a timeless global reach is perceptively explored in Badulescu’s monograph. In exploring Rushdie’s translatedness, the scholar focuses on his chutnification of language through palimpsestous writing in what is termed a metamorphic style. She then traces the writer’s assumed disorientation, to come out of an intertextual web onto aesthetic experimentation and pure sorcery with language. As Rushdie eventually weaves together the old and the new, i.e. the traditional tales and the modernist forms and influences, he is considered to have found a voice in “a place across space and time” (Badulescu, 18), a heterotopia achieved through successive acts of literal and figurative translation. The scholar adds further and further layers of analysis that do justice to Rushdie’s multidimensional itinerary as a translated man. The resulting eight skillfully-titled chapters cover, in thematic order: Rushdie’s Sorcery with Language; Rushdie’s Joyce; Meddling with the Muddling Rushdie Affair; Body, Sensuousness, Eros and the New Aesthetic Order from Schiller to Rushdie; Liquid Bridges in Rushdie’s Writing; and Rushdie’s Postmodernist Twist. While the monograph concludes with a globalist reading of Rushdie’s latest novel at the time, Quichotte, glocalization is not the end of this author’s road. His 2023 novel Victory City no longer forges but celebrates language as the sole maker of new worlds.         

This thematic order does not only reflect the writer’s cross-pollinations, but the scholar’s as well. Badulescu’s readings may be considered to derive, in turn, from postcolonialism, postmodernism, transculturalism and global studies, while pertaining to neither in particular; they freely refer to a range of theoretical frameworks and concepts placed under the sign of cultural translation in order to illuminate Salman Rushdie’s texts; moreover, they bring forth techniques and notions from Rushdie’s novels and essays to clarify and challenge such paradigms. Altogether, the eight sections offer a multilayered view of the texts and contexts of Salman Rushdie’s oeuvre and comprehensively address: The Satanic Verses (1988), Midnight’s Children (1981), The Ground Beneath Her Feet (2000), The Moor’s Last Sigh (1995), Step Across This Line: Collected Nonfiction 1992-2002 (2002), Fury (2002), Shalimar the Clown (2005), The Enchantress of Florence (2009), Joseph Anton. A Memoir (2012), and Quichotte (2019).

Through this monograph that is built on diversity, fluidity, and multiplicity runs a red thread. In Rushdie’s Cross-Pollinations one word features often: free. As much as this is a book about Salman Rushdie’s dynamic (self)translations and Dana Badulescu’s affectionate reading thereof, it is also a book about freedom: the freedom of speech and the freedom of thought, hence the freedom of being equally sought and occasionally found by the characters and the author(s) in their cross-pollinated worlds.


* Dana Bădulescu, Rushdie’s Cross-Pollinations, With a Foreword by Petya Tsoneva and Three Subchapters on Quichotte, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, Lady Stephenson Library, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2022, 120 p., ISBN (13): 978-1-5275-7720-6

Articolul precedentDespre clasicism și romantism*
Articolul următorPeter Sragher, Calea spre inima lotusului

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