Translating National Trauma When History Disappears: Igiaba Scego's Beyond Babylon

Aaron Robertson, Oxford University
Monday, November 18, 2019 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm
144 Louis A. Simpson International Building
Monday, November 18, 2019 -
12:00pm to 1:30pm

I'll be talking about the ways in which Igiaba Scego "translates" experiences of trauma in Italy - the author's country of origin - and two other countries in which the events of her novel Beyond Babylon (Oltre Babilonia) are set: Somalia and Argentina. Italy has played a significant role in collective Somali and Argentine experiences of trauma. The Italian government's attempts to shore up Fascist power in all three of these countries, as well as subsequent attempts to promote democratic models of governance in Italy and Somalia, had lasting effects that make it impossible to read any of these national histories in isolation. By showing how various Italian, Somali, and Argentine subjects live in conflict with the idea and ideals of individual nation-states, Scego contributes to a pluralistic understanding of shared trauma and its recurrence, as well as transnational healing processes. 

Aaron Robertson ('17) is an editor at Literary Hub. His translation of Igiaba Scego’s Beyond Babylon (Two Lines Press, 2019) received a PEN/Heim Translation Fund Grant. Robertson's work has appeared in The New York Times, The Nation, n+1, Foreign Policy, and more.

Sponsored by
Program in Translation and Intercultural Communication