Translation and the Renegotiation of Albanian-Austrian Migrant Identity: Ilir Ferra’s “Halber Atem” as a Critique of Migrantenliteratur

  • Chloe FaganEmail author
Part of the New Frontiers in Translation Studies book series (NFTS)


Issues with language and translation tropes in texts by authors with a migration background impact on how both the migrant subject is portrayed and how the author and their work is received. In “Halber Atem” [Half-Breath] the Albanian-Austrian author Ilir Ferra criticises such tropes for how they fail to communicate the migrant experience, limiting our understanding of migrant identity. Ferra’s text criticises migrant subject and narrative stereotypes, which portray the migrant figure as struggling to speak the language of the receiving country, and as being a temporary or an illegal presence; Ferra applies such tropes but only to later subvert them. The text follows an unnamed Albanian migrant as he attempts, and fails, to integrate into Vienna. The story culminates in the narrator entering an area which can be interpreted as the Third Space, confronting and renegotiating his Albanian-Austrian identity. Instead of attempting to erase his unassimilable difference, the narrator begins to accept his hybrid identity although the text ultimately remains ambivalent, suggesting that those around the narrator will likely continue to struggle to accept him as a fellow Austrian citizen. Applying Homi K. Bhabha’s concept of the Third Space, Ferra’s text can be read as seeking to offer an alternative migrant identity which, rather than rejecting difference, takes it as the base, and in doing so, expands our understanding of what migrant identity can be.


Police Officer Migration Background Migrant Experience Hybrid Identity Austrian Citizen 
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© Springer Nature Singapore Pte Ltd. 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Germanic StudiesTrinity CollegeDublinIreland

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