Recoding Paulina Chiziane's Vernacular Poetics

This essay explores the gendered, geopolitical and material conditions of Mozambican literary migration into the contemporary Portuguese-speaking circuit, by paying special attention to the treatment of the internationally known writer Paulina Chiziane. More specifically, the essay addresses how vernacular features in Chiziane’s literary expression (e.g. a locally situated female perspective, oral narrative tradition, African cultural memory of myths and traditions, and use of national languages) are conceptualized and highlighted in the materiality of literary marketing and circulation processes. The analysis is theoretically informed by Venkat B. Mani’s thoughts on bibliomigrancy (whereby the circulation and translation of literary works performs a switch from one code to another, on travelling into new geographical contexts), and Ana Margarida Martins and Hilary Owen’s gender and postcolonial close readings of Chiziane’s early circulation paths. Furthermore, the analysis will consider how gender difference manifests itself in, and influences, the circulation processes. The study thereby traces how Chiziane’s vernacular poetics become recoded in circulation into other (niche) markets, from representing a counterhegemonic social critique in the local literary discourse, into an anthropological “authentic” (exotified) literature, written by a Lusophone African (black) woman in Portugal. In the Afro-Brazilian diaspora, Chiziane’s writing is recoded as African collective memory and epistemology underpinning social and cultural empowerment, while in translation her work is recoded as a more universally relatable narrative of women’s conditions under patriarchy in the cosmopolitan circulation.

author Chatarina Edfeldt

Interventions 22.3: 364-381.

published 2020