Nation and translation: The character as translator in Leila Aboulela's the Translator and Ahdaf Soueif's the Map of Love
The concept of cultural translation (the non-textual and non-linguistic function of translation) has found an echo in contemporary writing, both critical and creative. While Salman Rushdie once suggested that to understand a culture, one should focus on its untranslatable words, Lahiri maintains that in all literature that involves traveling, all the characters are translators in so far as they must make sense of the foreignness to survive. It is against the backdrop of such insights into the concept of cultural translation that a reading of Ahdaf Soueif's The Map of Love and Laila Aboulela's The Translator will be presented in this paper. The hybrid position of both writers suggests that they are constantly engaged in "translating" foreignness into discourse. Their task as writers is viewed here as an attempt to search for the appropriate narrative strategies to "translate" their history, culture and nation within their fictions. In a sense, cross-cultural difference is represented in the texts as one of the many names for "the Other" and constitutes "the original" or "source" text that gets translated into those "meta-translational" narratives.