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Open Access Publications from the University of California

Translating Communities: Rethinking the Collective in Feridun Zaimoglu’s Koppstoff

  • Author(s): Dickinson, Kristin
  • Ellis, Robin
  • Layne, Priscilla D
  • et al.

Feridun Zaimoglu’s second major book, Koppstoff: Kanaka Sprak vom Rande der Gesellschaft (1998), resists common conceptions of belonging and challenges readers to rethink conventions of religion, nationalism and femininity. As a group of three translators working within an academic setting, we seek both to unpack what it means to be an agent and to exercise our own individual and collective agency as translating subjects in the “mainstream.” This involves providing greater access to Koppstoff through the English language, while respecting the complexity of Zaimoglu’s original texts and their subversive power to both build and obscure notions of community. In this introduction to our collaborative translations of two exemplary texts, “Sistem versus Soopcoolture” (Sistem gegen Süppkültür) and “Everything in this World is Fleeting” (Alles in dieser Welt ist vergänglich), we will discuss our translation process in reference to existing theories of translation and current criticism on Zaimoglu’s work, underscoring the ways in which Zaimoglu complicates prominent models of community formation and the relevance of these models to current German society. In accordance with the nature of Zaimoglu’s work, which constantly undermines the possibility of finite interpretation, this discussion will highlight the act of translation as an exercise in subjectivity. Rather than objectifying the “translatable” or “untranslatable” qualities of Koppstoff, we hope to demonstrate that our translations represent one of multiple ways Zaimoglu’s texts could be effectively rendered into English.

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