Écossais, héros de Wallace

What does translating between French and Scots tell us about the two languages? “French and Scots seem an odd linguistic pair. On the one hand, French literature has been — and remains — infatuated with its own prestige as a pristine world language, a classical lingua franca, and a proudly imperial standard. Yet on the other, Modern Scots writing has long been defined by its indigenous anxiety and minority statelessness”. This imbalance in linguistic status proved problematic”… the more I translated, the more I began to query my own practice. Whilst pretending to assert the credibility of Scots poetry, my translation activity (like that of my distinguished predecessors) ran the risk of enshrining the inferiority of Scots”.  Malgrati sees a bridge, however, in Scots and French parallel struggles with decolonisation, with the fascinating observation,

Decolonisation implies the deconstruction of imperial norms whereby colonising standards are overthrown. But deconstruction does not equate annihilation, and old colonial standards, once debunked, may still serve to build a post-colonial future. In other words, as long as the colonial, normative value system is eradicated, I see no contradiction between the preservation of a poetic standard (be it Standard French alexandrines or Synthetic Scots Standard Habbie) and the unravelling of it. The deconstruction of a code is only understandable — and enjoyable — for readers who know this code in the first place. Likewise, the partnership of Standard French and Synthetic Scots (expurgated from Scottish self-pity and French self-aggrandisement) can be compatible with post-colonial solidarity between decolonial Scots and Francophone verse. Linguistic standards unite readers, who in turn broaden the reception of poetic deconstruction.

Scroll to Top