AWEJ for Translation & Literary Studies, Volume 6, Number3. August 2022                     Pp.152-167

Translating Isabelle Eberhardt: A Historiographic Adventure

Department of English, Faculty of Foreign Languages
University of Mostaganem,  Mostaganem, Algeria


The wanderlust spirit of the Russo-Swiss Muslim convert Isabelle Eberhardt (1877-1904), who lived a nomadic lifestyle in Algeria, has always disclosed a metaphysical vision that is persistently echoed in her literary works. She opted for a linguistic immersion that left many prints on her diaries. She was systematically accused by the French colonial regime of being a turncoat, and this is precisely why publishers of that time refused to disseminate (via publications or translations) what they considered to be ‘unorthodox’ and ‘threatening’ thoughts. Fortunately, things have changed for the better since then, as many scholars/translators are now trying to decipher Eberhardt’s moral fiber. A case in point would be Steele’s (2011) English translation of Eberhardt’s “Silhouettes d’Afrique” (1898). Steele set herself the task –after a blatant shortage of scholarly contributions valuing Eberhardt’s literary creations– to play the role of an advocate who would restore the biased positions taken against the author’s motives/works on account of her pro-Arabo-Islamic and anti-colonial views. This paper argues for a better appreciation of otherness through Steele’s ‘historiographic’ rendering, which reflects Eberhardt’s position vis-à-vis some orientalists’ vision which she was not to follow; even if there appear to be parallels between both. Finally, I come to conclude that the translator’s confessions as regards her deliberate choice to confront English-speaking readers with local Arabic terms (Burnous, tolba, Haik, mueddine, etc.) highlight the existence of a more affable audit.

Cite as:

Hamerlain, S. (2022). Translating Isabelle Eberhardt: A Historiographic Adventure. Arab World English Journal for Translation & Literary Studies 6 (3) 152-167.
DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.24093/awejtls/vol6no3.11


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Souâd Hamerlain is a full Professor at the Department of English (University of Mostaganem-Algeria) interested in Linguistics, Translation, and Didactics. She participated in a number of inter/national conferences, organized some, and published a number of articles and book chapters. Her last contribution in Translation is a book review published by Meta (The Canadian Translators’ Journal) in 2016. ORCID ID: https://orcid.org/0000-0003-3814-7991