In 1889, the world’s tallest building was completed for the Paris exhibition. The Tour Eiffel, already nicknamed by Parisians the ‘tour de Babel’,1 became a controversial symbol of modernity, a testament to the grandiose ambitions of scientific advancement. To its critics, it represented the dangers of modernity. A group of prominent artists, architects, sculptors and writers wrote to Le Temps in 1887 to protest against what they saw as an industrial monstrosity:

Il suffit […] de se figurer un instant une tour vertigineusement ridicule, dominant Paris, ainsi qu’une noire et gigantesque cheminée d’usine, écrasant de sa masse barbare Notre-Dame, la Sainte-Chapelle, la tour Saint-Jacques, le Louvre, le dôme des Invalides, l’Arc de Triomphe, tous nos monuments humiliés, toutes nos architectures rapetissées, qui disparaîtront dans ce rêve stupéfiant. Et, pendant vingt ans, nous verrons s’allonger sur la ville entière, frémissante encore du genie de tant de siècles, nous verrons s’allonger comme une tache d’encre l’ombre odieuse de l’odieuse colonne de tôle boulonnée.2


Linguistic Diversity Conceptual Coherence Individual Language Modernist Writer World Language 
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  1. 4.
    As John Joseph reminds us, ‘the word genius itself is etymologically connected to genesis and genetic, all having to do with origin’. For Romantic thinkers, ‘there are within any given people certain rare individuals whom we identify as “geniuses”, the original sense of this having been that such individuals somehow embody that originary essence of their people and culture’. Language and Identity: National, Ethic, Religious (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), pp. 45–6.Google Scholar
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    Blaise Cendrars and Sonia Delaunay, La prose du transsibérien et de la petite Jehanne de France, facsimile edn. (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2010).Google Scholar
  3. 7.
    Cendrars presents the Eiffel Tower as a truly global image and writes: ‘C’est toi qui à l’époque légendaire du people hébreu / Confondis la langue des hommes / O Babel!’. Du monde entier au coeur du monde: poèmes de Blaise Cendrars (Paris: Denoël, 1987), pp. 82–3.Google Scholar
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    Michael North, Reading 1922: A Return to the Scene of the Modern (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999), p. 58.Google Scholar
  5. 9.
    John Dewey, Human Nature and Conduct: An Introduction to Social Psychology (New York: Henry Holt, 1922), pp. 82–3. Cited in North, Reading 1922, p. 58.Google Scholar
  6. 10.
    See also Rebecca Beasley’s argument that ‘the aesthetic and ideology of European modernism arises not simply from its internationalism (Kenner), nor in response to the differentiation of linguistic registers (Jameson), but in reaction against the increased experience of the diversity of national languages.’ Rebecca Beasley, ‘Modernism’s Translations’, in The Oxford Handbook of Global Modernisms, ed. Mark Wollaeger and Matt Eatough (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), pp. 551–70 (p. 555).Google Scholar
  7. 11.
    For a succinct summary of the ‘transnational turn’ in modernist studies, see Douglas Mao and Rebecca L. Walkowitz, ‘The New Modernist Studies’, PMLA: Publications of the Modern Language Association of America, 123 (2008), 737–48.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. 12.
    Steven G. Yao, Translation and the Languages of Modernism: Gender, Politics, Language (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2002), p. 6.Google Scholar
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    George Steiner, Extraterritorial (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1972), p. 10.Google Scholar
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    Daniel Katz, American Modernism’s Expatriate Scene: The Labour of Translation (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, 2007).CrossRefGoogle Scholar
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    Steven G. Kellman (ed.), Switching Languages: Translingual Writers Reflect on Their Craft (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2003), p. ix.Google Scholar
  12. 17.
    The full text of the poem, with annotations, is reproduced in Julia Briggs, ‘Hope Mirrlees and Continental Modernism’, in Gender in Modernism: New Geographies, Complex Intersections, ed. Bonnie Kime Scott (Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 2007), pp. 261–303.Google Scholar
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    Marjorie Perloff, ‘English as a “Second” Language: Mina Loy’s “Anglo-Mongrels and the Rose”’, Jacket Magazine, 5 (1998) <> [accessed 1 December 2010].
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    M. M. Bakhtin, The Dialogic Imagination: Four Essays, ed. Michael Holquist, trans. Michael Holquist and Caryl Emerson (Austin: University of Texas Press, 1981), p. 68. It is important to maintain the distinction between intra- and interlingual diversity in Bakhtin which, as Rainier Grutman has argued, is obscured in the translation of ‘raznorečie’ as ‘heteroglossia’ in English and, even more misleadingly, ‘plurilinguisme’ in French. As he points out, Bakhtin’s term is in fact ‘an archaism [turned] into a neologism by giving it an entirely new meaning, which can more readily be subsumed under the heading of “internal (regional, social etc.) variation” than under that of “external variation” (bi- or multilingualism). The usual translations are thus misleading since they are constructed on the etymons glossa and lingua, which both mean “language” in its plainest sense, as in polyglot or bilingual.’ ‘Mono Versus Stereo: Bilingualism’s Double Face’, Visible Language, 27 (1993), 206–27 (p. 212).Google Scholar
  15. 20.
    The narrator, at the outset of the novel, emphasises the narrative’s basis in ‘documentary evidence’, and presents himself as purely the translator of already-recorded events: the narrative is ‘based on a document; all I have brought to it is my knowledge of the Russian language’. Joseph Conrad, Under Western Eyes (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1957), p. 11.Google Scholar
  16. 21.
    Ford Madox Ford, The Good Soldier, ed. Martin Stannard, Norton Critical Edition (New York: W. W. Norton, 1995), p. 5.Google Scholar
  17. 22.
    Ford Madox Ford, Joseph Conrad: A Personal Remembrance (London: Duckworth, 1924). Rhys recalls Ford’s advice that ‘if you weren’t sure of a paragraph or statement, translate it into another language’. Pierrette M. Frickey (ed.), Critical Perspectives on Jean Rhys (Washington, DC: Three Continents Press, 1990), p. 24.Google Scholar
  18. 23.
    Daniel Karlin, Proust’s English (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005), p. 7.Google Scholar
  19. 24.
    Victor Llona, ‘Foreigners Writing in French’, transition, 2 (1927), 169–74 (p. 169).Google Scholar
  20. 25.
    W. T. Elwert, ‘L’emploi de langues étrangères comme procédé stylistique’, Revue de littérature comparée, 34 (1960), 409–37 (pp. 409–10). Leonard Forster, The Poet’s Tongues: Multilingualism in Literature (London: Cambridge University Press, 1970), pp. 6–7. William Mackey, ‘Literary Diglossia, Biculturalism and Cosmopolitanism in Literature’, Visible Language, 27 (1993), 41–66 (p. 48). Steven G. Kellman, The Translingual Imagination (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 2000), p. 8. Kenneth Haynes, English Literature and Ancient Languages (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003), p. 1.Google Scholar
  21. 26.
    John R. Edwards, Multilingualism (London: Routledge, 1994), p. 1.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. 27.
    See, for example, Lawrence Alan Rosenwald, Multilingual America: Language and the Making of American Literature (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008); Werner Sollors (ed.), Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature (New York: New York University Press, 1998); Joshua L. Miller, Accented America: The Cultural Politics of Multilingual Modernism (New York: Oxford University Press, 2011). Another recent study, Brian Lennon’s In Babel’s Shadow: Multilingual Literatures, Monolingual States (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010), although not only about American literature, uses multilingual literature to scrutinise and challenge the monolingualism of the US publishing industry.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. 28.
    George Steiner, After Babel: Aspects of Language and Translation, 3rd edn. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1998), pp. 1–50.Google Scholar
  24. 29.
    Jacques Derrida, Le monolinguisme de l’autre (Paris: Galilée, 1996).Google Scholar
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    Édouard Glissant, Introduction à une poétique du divers (Paris: Gallimard, 1996), p. 112.Google Scholar
  26. 32.
    Dirk Delabastita and Rainier Grutman, for example, in their introduction to a collection of essays on fictional representations of translation and multilingualism, write that they, as editors, have favoured ‘a very open and flexible concept which acknowledges not only the “official” taxonomy of languages but also the incredible range of subtypes and varieties existing within the various officially recognised languages, and indeed sometimes cutting across and challenging our neat linguistic typologies’. ‘Introduction: Fictional Representations of Multilingualism and Translation’, Linguistica Antverpiensa, New Series, 4 (2005), 11–34 (p. 15). Ton Hoenselaars and Marius Buning (eds.), English Literature and the Other Languages (Amsterdam: Rodopi, 1999) presents a similar approach, and includes an ‘Afterword’ by N. F. Blake (pp. 323–41) that directly discusses inter- and intralingual diversity.Google Scholar
  27. 35.
    Kellman, The Translingual Imagination, p. 31. Jean Weisgerber (ed.), Les avant-gardes et la tour de Babel: interactions des arts et des langues (Lausanne: L’Age d’homme, 2000), p. 9.Google Scholar
  28. 36.
    Samuel Beckett, ‘Dante … Bruno. Vico .. Joyce’, in Our Exagmination Round his Factification for Incamination of Work in Progress (London: Faber, 1929), p. 14.Google Scholar

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© Juliette Taylor-Batty 2013

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