by Alexandra Risko
Theorists Deleuze and Guattari took the study of translation and language and spinned it around. What if it’s not a translator who translates the work? What if the author translated their work in their head before their words hit papers? This is the idea of a “minor literature” a piece of literature that was originally written in a language that is not the author’s native tongue. It’s a pretty small category, but here are some examples of minor literature:
Franz Kafka, “The Metamorphosis”
Native Language: Czech
Written In: German
Vladimir Nabokov, “Lolita”
Native Language: Russian
Written In: English
Joseph Conrad, “Heart of Darkness”
Native Language: Polish
Written In: English
Sholem Aleichem was the author of the book “Tevye and His Daughters”
Native Language: Yiddish and Russian
Writes in: English
“A minor literature is not the literature of a minor language, but the literature a minority makes in a major language” (Deleuze).
Andre Brink, “Kennis van die aand”
Native Language: Afrikaans
Writes In: both English and Afrikaans
Is an English Professor in Cape Town
Elif Shafak, “Honor”
Native Language: Turkish
Writes In: Turkish and English
Agota Kristof, “Le Grand Cahier”
Native Language: Hungarian
Writes in: French
Samuel Beckett, “En Attendant Godot”
Native Language: Irish
Writes in: French because “it was easier to write without style”
A minor literature promotes deterritorialization; the act of crossing boundaries.
“On The Road” By Jack Keruouac
Native Language: French
Writes In: English
Anna Kazumi Stahl
Native Language: English and Japanese
Writes In: Spanish
Currently a Professor of Comparative Literature at NYU Buenos Aires
Rolindo Hinojosa, “We Happy Few”
Native language: Spanish
Writes In: both English and Spanish
“The problem with minorities is we all suffer from interpretation” (Deleuze)
Some scholars argue that The Color Purple by Alice Walker counts as a minor literature due to the fact that the author is writing from within a minority and has their own language. However the author lives and has social encounters within the larger society (Hwang). The storyline itself teeters between the minority language and the “proper” language, writing between Alice’s own language and a language that didn’t belong to her.
All in all I was able to find a total of 12 examples of minor literatures. That is… so far! As it were, this would be the first actual list of minor literature’s- as during my research I had found none.
But the real question is: What is the significance of writing literature in a non-native language? Does the piece of literature lose its meaning or intent?
According to Jean Baudrillard, “there is always a desire not to be interpreted” (Brinkley).