Threats and fans have followed Ilan Stavans ever since he announced on Barcelona radio in 2002 his intention to translate Cervantes into Spanglish. This time, it’s for real.
In the old days of language usage, speakers took their commands from lexicographers who wrote the rules of what words meant. Thanks to the Internet, that chain of command has been called into deep question.
Jackie Robinson’s famous 1944 court martial revealed not just the hierarchy of power in language, but also the tension between the U.S. Army’s efforts of integration and the ongoing struggle of black soldiers in their fight against Jim Crow.
As global audiences deepened their involvement with hip-hop culture and created local rap scenes of their own, the language of rap came to play an important role as they developed their own hybrid vernaculars.
If the translation is tantalizing enough—and even if it isn’t—language can transcend its boundaries beyond signifiers to land straight on the tongue. Novelist Qiu Xiaolong has the experience, and literary character, to prove it.
Sholem Aleichem indisputably contributed to the golden age of modern Yiddish literature in a major way. But what does it mean for a writer to have contributed to a literature no longer flourishing?