Self-Translating Between Minor and Major Languages: A Hospitable Approach in Bernardo Atxaga’s Obabakoak

  • Harriet Hulme
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Translating and Interpreting book series (PTTI)


This chapter engages with the ways in which self-translation problematises traditional binary hierarchies between minor and major languages through a close reading of Basque author Bernardo Atxaga’s 1988 text Obabakoak. Atxaga’s writing process with regards to this text reflects the diglossia between a minor and a major language which exists in the Basque Country. He originally wrote Obabakoak in the Basque language Euskera, a language spoken by fewer than one million people worldwide. A year later, he translated the text into Castilian, making significant changes to the structure and the content of his book in the process. Responding to Lawrence Venuti’s theory of translation as an inherently violent process, captured within a power binary of foreignisation and domestication, I suggest Atxaga’s text is caught within a similar tension: between the demands of the “domestic,” revealed by his desire to support and revitalise the Basque literary scene by writing in Euskera; and the demands of the “foreign,” as demonstrated by his decision to exceed the linguistic bounds of Euskera through both his translation into Castilian and his creative use of intertextuality and plagiarism within Obabakoak itself. Ultimately, I argue, Atxaga exploits this tension within Obabakoak, creating a text within which the domestic and the foreign interact “hospitably” and translation and self-translation become powerfully creative sites of cultural and linguistic transformation.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Harriet Hulme
    • 1
  1. 1.University College LondonLondonUK

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