To a dubious critical salvation: Etienne Leroux and the canons of South African English criticism
This article presents a case study in cross-cultural literary reception following the act of literary translation—in this instance, of author Etienne Leroux—from Afrikaans into English. It describes the literary reception of Leroux in general terms, in Afrikaans and Dutch in the first place and subsequently in English (South Africanist) criticism. Our focus falls on the translation and subsequent reception of Leroux’s major novel, Sewe dae by die Silbersteins, first published in Afrikaans in 1962, and crowned with the Hertzog Prize in 1964. The novel’s rendering into English by poet Charles Eglington (Seven Days at the Silbersteins) in 1964 provides the centrepoint of our study. We argue that this translation, along with the several forms of what André Lefevere calls “rewriting” (in literary-critical registers) that it engendered, created disjunctive moments of cross-lingual critical reception in which dubious conclusions hardened into routine paraphrase or accepted “wisdom” in English criticism. By “rewriting” in this case, following Lefevere, we mean inter-lingual re-descriptions of literary works within literary-critical histories or reviews that are often based on translations, and on readings of them in relative isolation from their fuller context in the original language (here, Afrikaans).
Keywords: Afrikaans literature, cross-cultural reception, Etienne Leroux, literary patronage systems, rewriting, Seven Days at the Silbersteins. South African English criticism, translation.