Jaarboek voor Literatuurwetenschap vol:2 pages:204-218
This article explores the function of literary heteroglossia in the representation of class in multilingual contexts. It therefore analyses translation strategies in French translations of Flemish novels in French-Belgian periodicals of the interwar period. A lot of Flemish authors were appreciated at the time by source culture readers for their code switching between standard Flemish and dialects or regional variants and, sometimes, even French. This code-switching occurred mostly in dialogues, in function of the social origin of the characters speaking: dialects and regional variants for the lower classes, standard Flemish or French for the middle classes, and French for the upper classes. Especially the use of dialects was inspired by mimetic motifs: lower classes had to be given voice in a literature partially produced for them and for the minorities’ literary and cultural emancipation. Translation of Flemish regionalist novels into French signified both a linguistic and socio-cultural transfer. Therefore the fundamental characteristics of heteroglossia disappeared in French translations. Instead, translations switched between standard French and familiar, popular levels respectively for narration and dialogues. The social and regional differentiation of the Flemish dialects was reduced to the social differentiation of sociolects. The characters of the translations were no dialect speaking lower classes of the South, but Flemish lower or middle classes, using a popular and familiar vocabulary present in every standard French dictionary. This type of heteroglossia realized on a micro-structural level the cherished formula of “simplement flamand” (simply Flemish), without affecting the status of the dominant language as the prestigious national vehicular. It was thus in perfect harmony with those socio-linguistic hierarchies the dominant Francophone culture identified itself with. At the same time, source text critical references to social pressures on the lower classes to adopt French as a language of social distinction also disappear. Class distinctions and their linguistic affirmation are not questioned in translation. The signification of the category ‘Flemish’ is reduced to that of popular, ‘lower classes’.