Examining Centuries of Procedure in Travel Narratives
“…the very words that signify lying treachery, dissimulation, avarice, envy, belitting, pardon—unheard of.”Montaigne, Des Cannibales
“And you there support the Bay City Rollers, not the IRA, isn’t that right?” asserted a soldier to my mother in the early 1970’s as she sat still in her bed. At just nine years old, she was too bewildered by his presence to reply with anything except a giggled nod of agreement. He was motioning to the poster of the pop-rock band on her wall while making his pop-culture reference. Years of colonial rule and violent troubles in Ireland led this man to the bedroom doorway of her childhood country-home, situated for centuries in the northwestern county of Donegal. This soldier might have been celebrated for his wit and for his attention to detail in the home-searches he conducted in this county with its crucial border next to the British ruled Northern Ireland. But beyond that, this soldier was efficiently trained in an adaptation of language to target and invade his audience. Adapting his words and pop-culture knowledge in order to invade an intimate space was not an original act, but one of exploitation practiced for centuries in Ireland and all former colonies of the imperial British empire. Travel narratives with interpersonal encounters and learning of languages by the writers and record keepers provide evidence for where these contemporary invasions found their foundations.
Samuel Johnson in both his writing of a dictionary and through the privilege of a celebrity-status championed the act of intrusion, language cultivation and adaptation, just as did Mary H. Kingsley in her scientific and cultural pursuits, Karen Blixen in her writing of a self-serving song, and Andre Gide in his attempted grapple with cross-translation over the span of his travels in Afrique Equatorial Francais. The middle ground or outreach that was established between the soldier and my young mother–by his harping on teen idols of the time–demonstrates an abuse in the elicited trust to pursue an agenda, just as it did for the nations subject to the travelers the few centuries before. These advantageous adaptations when produced in language are connected to the imperial subjects who often discussed limitations and inabilities of language. From them announcing the limits of language, they then are able insert their own narrative for the spaces they see.
The foundational colonial moments in language and intrusion can be found, amongst the many, in Samuel Johnson. As a dominant figure and holder of celebrity-status in eighteenth century standards for his writing, literary and political criticisms, and intellectual standing, he acted on the art of intrusion through both his travelling and his writing. As a producer of an early version of the English dictionary, he set out to understand the English language in its use and experience – he was reaching for the totality of language. In a dictionary setting, he was able to form a cohesive framing of accepted, practiced, and proper words for his language and nation. While touring the western islands Scotland, and with James Boswell also reporting an account, he painted a picture of the land, empty in some respects with its natural provinces and layout but also cultivated in the sense that Dr. Johnson would have to claim that “We came too late…to see what we expected” (11). But this phase of Scotland’s history in the 1770’s would prove to be ideal for their seizure of the parts waning and the parts waxing in the Hebrides.
Samuel Johnson in the beginning of his encroachment remarks that, “it sometimes happens that by conquest, intermixture, or gradual refinement, the cultivated parts of a country change their language” (63). Here he associates earlier languages as the primitive uncultivated tongue–positing the need for change to provoke the civilization of these regions in Scotland. Omitting that he holds the upper hand position here for already being well-known, he comments on the areas where there is little to no record keeping, and designates the residents of that land as a people whose culture moved along with oral narratives or entertainment. Johnson posits that the genuine representation is now placed wholly in the traveler’s viewpoint. He is a part of the very movers in the conquest he cites. Although he was not a trader nor an officer, there is an imperial force moving with his presence. Prominent figures often travel in an attempt to connect with people and promote their ideas and beliefs, or their own work. Every detailed attention Johnson has made to prose and imagery in the English language was being promoted through his movement of captive descriptors of Scotland and the people they viewed, creating a narrative that would endure with superiority beyond the oral narratives and entertainment. He highlights the changes in the islands at one point in their journey:
“The clans retain little now of their original character, their ferocity of temper is softened, their military ardour is extinguished, their dignity of independence is depressed, their contempt of government subdued, and their reverence for their chiefs abated. Of what they had before the late conquest of their country, there remain only their language and their poverty. Their language is attacked on every side. Schools are erected, in which English only is taught, and there were lately some who thought it reasonable to refuse them a version of the holy scriptures, that they might have no monument of their mother-tongue.” (Johnson 73, italics mine).
Johnson’s purifying and publishing of the English language and words move hand-in-hand with his observations–invading both school books and coursework. When further discussing implementation or cultivation of parts of the islands he discusses the furnishing of instruction for youth, “…children are taught to read; but by the rule of their institution they teach only English, so that the natives read a language which they may never use or understand” ( Johnson 108). This cultivation, and emphasis on English as the only reigning language once again, is paired with an instrumentalized erasure. To journey through the western islands in search of what is wistfully dwindling of older cultures asks for trust of Johnson and Boswell by the natives of the Hebrides. But their romanticism of old, witty commentary, and attention to details of the lives of the natives does not exclude them from the very pushing of this dwindling disappearance. “Written learning is a fixed luminary, which, after the cloud that had hidden it has past away, is again bright in its proper station. Tradition is but a meteor, which, if once it falls, cannot be rekindled” (Johnson 113), their awareness of the languishing culture is vibrant in each word.
In Boswell’s recounting of events and speculative observations of Samuel Johnson himself, readers are fed one of the most explicit renderings of invasion in all of their journey. Upon approaching an old woman’s home on the side of Lochness, they enter her home. Dismounting from their horses with their guide, the travelling pair think only of the quality content entering her home will bring for their own amusement (and the subsequent content for Boswell’s written story). The woman’s comfort and invitation for the men is not disclosed to readers of the journal. Boswell notes that Dr. Johnson was particularly curious to know where she slept. Working with their guides, Boswell writes that the woman “answered with a tone of emotion, saying (as he [the guide] told us) she was afraid we wanted to go to bed to her” (231). Boswell continue to note that “This coquetry, or whatever it may be called, of so wretched a being, was truly ludicrous” (231). From not only invading her home, they also transpose her emotional response by framing it as coquetry – a vocabulary framing which she was not included in as she was already layered in the reliance of their guides for translation. As for the “ludicrous” descriptor, history both before this instance and after, will prove that molestation, rape, and other violent acts were to be feared from men of high position for colonial women—no matter how wretched in appearance. Cited at this instance in the footnotes is confirmation that “in this same hut an English officer had committed rape and murder not long before” (Levi 243). This fear is only framed as ludicrous banter by those who would like to rewrite this violence for their own benefit, resulting in its successful recurrence in the future.
To push the matter further, Johnson and Boswell continue the narrative to place themselves as her saviors over the other’s pursuits. By Johnson claiming he would have been “a grave old gentleman, who repressed him [Johnson]…” and Boswell responding “…had it not been for a civil decent young man who, I take it, was an angel sent from heaven to protect me” (231) they interpret themselves into the woman’s consciousness as those who would have been on a middle ground with her, eliciting a trust and optional outreach from their rescue. Where her words were left out and untranslated, they have adapted the story. Quite the contrary of a rescue would be true, as their act of intruding on her, particularly Boswell who continues on into the area where she sleeps despite her resistant discomforts, sets a precedent for colonial crimes. Although in this circumstance the invasion did not move to physical violence, the power they asserted over this woman is both a reflection and promotion of the ways British soldiers have and would continue to assert their superiority and validate any entitlement they are believed to possess.
What history and Boswell will remember is Johnson’s words and wit, but deeper in this was a masking of a much more cynical maneuver of creation due to authority, a conforming of words to suit a program. In Boswell’s recount he notes that Johnson often fabricated words as they journeyed. In describing the people of Scotland, Johnson declared they “have somewhat of a peregrinity in the dialect, which relation has augmented to a different language. I [Boswell] asked him if peregrinity was an English word: he laughed, and said, ‘No.’ I told him that this was the second time I heard him coin a word…when I challenged that word, [Johnson] laughed, and owned he had made it, and added that he had not made above three or four in his dictionary” (Boswell 229). His liberties in vocabulary eventually converge to generate an impact on the very people he describes them with. Particularly in this case, peregrinity came about in Johnson’s dismission on the notion of existing distinct Danes with their own language intact. If this were to be true, he claims, their existence would not have been something that he and the whole kingdom was unaware of.
Through exploring the totality of language, Mary H. Kingsley, in ethnographic pursuits and groundbreaking expeditions, paints her own image of the native mind through the languages of west Africa. In several selected chapters from her Travels in West Africa, she remarks that the languages she encounters are not difficult to pick up, indicating easy mastery for those who are willing to conduct their own imperial pursuit. Like Johnson, she seeks knowledge and tries to maneuver her mind through the limits she poses in the languages accounted for in her journey. Following her claim of a potential mastery, Kingsley counters that “there are an awful quantity of them [west African languages] and they are at the best most imperfect mediums of communication. No one who has been on the coast can fail to recognize how inferior the native language is to the native’s mind behind it” (Kingsley 2; ch. 12). With proclaiming what she believes to be a universal perception of the languages present on the coast, Kingsley takes on the role of spokeswoman for the native mind. In the gaps of language, her narrative takes hold. Although their presence in quantity is high, their quality appears to her as low, giving her the opportunity to intrude and fill in her own reporting and perceptions knowing very well this will add to her reception not just of adventure and travel writing, but of historical and anthropological reporting.
In order to view her writing as an adaptive movement with language opting for an intrusion, readers can begin with looking at the ways Mary Kingsley holds potential as a feminist icon in resistance. Kingsley creates a narrative of resistance to the hegemony starting with resistance to the typical imperial agenda in her preface. She claims that her comforts are extended in Africa beyond England and understands that this can be complicated for her readers. She arouses a limit within her own language claiming that “it is impossible satisfactorily to apologise for my liberties with Lindley Murray and the Queen’s English” (Kingsley preface) and finds no way to express her inexistent regrets for resistance to the reporting required of her. This proposal of limitation of language, even her own, becomes a mask for her—an flexible tool to undermine expectations.
Similar to her avoidance of an apology, while in west Africa she uses a proclamation of her limits to not be used as a decoy by the duke. Although she confirms that she has the courage to do so, Kingsley insists that “…my knowledge of this charming language of yours is but small, I fear I might create a wrong impression in that town, and it might think I had kindly brought them a present of eight edible heathens — you and the remainder of my followers, you understand” (2; ch. 9). Through these maneuvers of wit and limit in Kingsley’s writing, it becomes apparent that she sees a parallel between her own expression and the adaptations she makes to understand the “best most perfect mediums of communication” amongst natives. She adapts her learning of their language to match the points of interpretation or misinterpretation in her own navigation of the hegemonic structures which she functions in, both in England and Africa.
With Mary Kingsley opting for a grander potential of the native, there may be an opportunity at last for the fulfillment of a west African expression. In her most established example of expanding on the native voice, we can look at her rendering of a private letter. The letter, meant to be addressed to Mr. Hutchinson from person with the title Crashey Jane, displays a complaint and can be understood as a private outreach from a citizen to an authority figure written in Trade English. Kingsley publishes this letter in pursuit of a larger goal of creating a bridge, establishing a liaison from culture to culture. This letter provides her evidence for both the complications and embedded meanings in which she will emerge as the designated interpreter. Trade English in particular represents a large diffusion of language as it is used “not only as a means of intercommunication between whites and blacks but between natives using two distinct languages” (Kingsley 2; ch 12).
In addition to the overall diagnosis of the letter, she infringes on Crashey Jane and those who torture her with noise. In particular, Kingsley highlights one phrase, “berrah well” (3; ch. 12). Repeating a few times in the example to Mr. Hutchinson, Kingsley explains “berrah well” as something that natives say to affirm the effectiveness of their speech and reflect in a frame of recognition. Wouldn’t a phrase which confirms an effective end of dialogue and diction prove that there is nothing limited here for a native? Therefore the issues of limitation should instead be examined on the observer—those who bring in the knowledge only of a western language’s ability to convey and conduct narratives. Mary Kingsley, in her warnings of a eurocentrism which makes it difficult to “bag your game” (4; ch. 12), is seemingly aware of the reality of where the limit actually prevails. With her wit and rhetorical skill, she launches these limitations for her audience to cope with as she maneuvers her own narrative to emerge as revolutionary force beyond all constraints, a negotiation of her own experiences and successes. A revolutionary work that both she and anthropological history will look back on and proclaim “berrah well”. And just like the soldier standing in the bedroom doorway, her keen attention to these details and evoking them to assemble a common ground is famed as an accomplishment.
For authorship both in English and her native Danish, writer Karen Blixen remains today as a remnant of the skill-set for intruding in both language, history and, colonial endeavors. In present day, her name still marks a suburban neighborhood of Nairobi and a museum frames the spaces where she invaded both natives’ lives and Kenyan history for the function of a coffee farm in England’s colonial control. Her aspirations to reach a celebrity-status during her time spent on the farm in the autobiographical novel Out of Africa, in her overall writing career, and in the violent trace of her name, she illustrates an action of capitalizing on projected views of limits and spaces in the native languages and in the capabilities of recording history.
From the start of her time in Africa, cited in her written work under the pseudonym Isak Dinesen, she poses a danger as a matriarchal and feminine figure playing both the medic and the keeper of peace. Her presence on the farm is similar to that of Johnson’s in various parts of his Western islands journey because although she is not a celebrity figure at the beginning of her time there, she moves with the interest of forcing that idea and with authoring a recognizable name and story. By reaching a celebrity-status, her presence would be marked with more acceptance and she would move with entitlement as it did for Johnson a century or so before her. Dinesen’s end goal could also align herself with the blending of disciplines acted out by Mary Kingsley, as she has hopes to have “a sort of historical interest” (Dinesen 20) by accurately recording experiences on the farm and details about the inhabitants of the plains and the woods in the area.
An additional alignment to Mary Kingsley’s interdisciplinary work is perhaps present in Dinesen’s anthropological (or in general speculative and cultural) lens, as our narrator Dinesen takes note of the inaccessibility of language as well as the emotional boundaries experienced amongst the natives on the farm. The boundary or inaccessibility is named when she says “I reconciled myself to the fact that while I should never quite know or understand them, they knew me through and through, and were conscious of the decisions that I was going to take, before I was certain about them myself” (Dinesen 19). This early excerpt gives the reader insight of the growing insecurity that she is feeling; her need to reconcile alludes to coping with feeling distressed and uneasy about a distance between herself and the other. While providing this information on her inability to understand the natives she still makes it an essential point to simultaneously paint the insight and deeper connection that is possessed of her. This knowledge, she indicates, is more than she even knows of herself. She implies that there is a mystery in the natives that is beyond their initial limit of expression. The limitation is rewritten as an act of filling in the spaces to show that penetration of her inner mind is an overarching goal in their interaction.
The insecurity of her limited understanding of them only grows as the novel moves through the approaching fall of her inhabited farm. Added to this, is an anxiety of being misrepresented during her time in Africa as a whole. For readers, it is not clear whether this issue will clear itself up on its own due to the way that Dinesen describes the language amongst the natives’ interaction. Dinesen proclaims the quintessence of this problem with a passage which contemplates:
“If I know a song of Africa, –I thought, –of the Giraffe, and the African new moon lying on her back, of the ploughs in the fields, and the sweaty faces of the coffee-pickers, does Africa know a song of me? Would the air over the plain quiver with a colour that I had had on, or the children invent a game in which my name was, or the full moon throw a shadow over the gravel of the drive that was like me, or would the eagles of Ngong look out for me?” (75).
Promoting the notion that her song would be encrypted or attached to the deeper insight the natives have of her decisions, or even that the animals have for that matter, would perhaps be the only way to console, or again reconcile, this insecure mind. The next step in Dinesen’s process of intrusion in history and culture would be to adapt to the very same features that are concealed and embedded in the native’s rendering and language in order to construct the narrative she desires for herself.
The next part of the procedure would be to involve herself in an examination of written letters. Similar to the way Kingsley finds clues towards her questions of limits in Crashey Jane’s letter, Dinesen penetrates the messages that are sent between loved ones and even the messages she’s received after her departure from the farm. The epistolary form typically asks for a contemplation and mindful recording, which originally might be camouflaged in the limit or lack that Dinesen initially posits in her connections. In letters there is a “vital communication which has been heavy on the heart of the sender…wrapped up in darkness. The cheap and dirty little sheet of paper that, when it comes to you, has travelled many thousand miles, seems to speak and speak, even to scream to you, but it tells you nothing at all” (Dinesen 76). She insinuates that there is a grander meaning than initially suspected in each letter, but also notes that they are produced with too much adornment or decorative elements making them highly difficult to understand, an untranslatability of mystery.
Kamante, a character whom Dinesen takes under her wing, poses as a complication in his communicative efforts with Isak Dinesen and persists even after her departure particularly in her description of his layered letters. The information that is withheld of the connection and impression she had on Kamante appears to readers as one of the most detrimental elements to Dinesen’s issue of representational insecurity. He would have been an easy target to portray her as a savior since he was a peculiar character mounted with a high importance in her life. So, in each letter she resorts to performing a procedure of dissection to discover the deeper impression he wants to make of her. By containing “…the same things, repeated over and over” (76) in the multiple letters he sends, Dinesen implies that there was something he particularly wanted to have her understand and remember. By invading his consciousness to pry the nuances out of his emotional underdevelopments she follows a violent colonial pursuit of filling in spaces for her own enchanting song to be sung.
While stuck on this written word, and notably before she adapts any further to learning Swaheli, Dinesen investigates the natives’ letter writing even more. It is after the shooting incident on the farm, where she records accounts such as Jogona Kanyagga, that readers would be unable to believe that her desire for proper representation will clear-up without her involving some colonial meddling. In her investigation of the native people’s limitation in expression she advances with an unspoken alliance between intelligence pursuit and its instrumentalization. She finds issues in comprehension of the language—while reading out loud there’s nothing that she understands in it. But as an orator, those around her were able to follow the effect of her reading even without knowing anything about the subject or the content. When viewing the vast emotions of laughter and joy around her when reading aloud she discovers that “the effect of a piece of news was many times magnified when it was imparted in writing” (Dinesen 117). By creating a written story, it would be taken as the gospel truth, an act of god. With the observed analysis she sees that written word becomes history, “with it there was now no variableness neither shadow of turning” (Dinesen 119). With this observation combined with the interest that Kamante takes in Dinesen’s act of writing her own book she understands the great impact she can create just by binding her story in the spaces of the unspoken expression and asserted limitations. Upon hearing Kamante explain to the others that “in Europe the book which I was writing could even be made as hard as the Odyssey” (Dinesen 47) the hunt for her song through and in her book is validated as the attainable goal beyond spoken limits, even despite Kamante himself believing in this. And just like the soldier who conjured a giggle from a child who did not know better, Dinesen aroused a concern of Kamante’s, who then decided to spread the word of promised book.
Any persisting limits from her written word at the end of her book were perhaps cleared up beyond her bindings and later realized in the movie adaptation of her life on the farm. The translation from book to screen of Out of Africa can be read as an offering for Isak Dinesen to be Karen Blixen and to become a character associated with someone of her sought after celebrity-status on the film screen. The notion of translation here could offer an opening instead of hindering or limiting.
Supplementary questions of translation can be examined just beyond the realm of the British empire. Alongside British rule, throughout the centuries of colonialism encountered in each of these works of travel, remained the invaded lands of Africa sectioned out by French colonialism. A product of this colonial power is an author, André Gide. Through his early twentieth century travels of Afrique Equatorial Francais he grapples with diverse languages he encounters and in general experiences similar representation issues to that of Dinesen beyond the binds of his initial journaling. Gide’s personal journal account in Voyage au Congo allows readers to see a more recent rendering of intrusion in travel that follows similar steps and motions of more dated writers and journalists. Additionally, his journal entries also elicit an understanding of how circumstances of assertive entitlement endure in contemporary war and imperial settings of the present but also how incapable some travelers can be in terms of carrying-out an effective conquering of portrayal. Translation can be framed as a factor more critical here than in some other selections, as this work is not being reviewed in its original language of French.
A contemporary portrayal of invasion as well as old are often greatly associated with a value or capital worth both in the lands and in the people who are invaded and pillaged. Andre Gide finds himself conforming his understandings to cope with areas where he describes native people as having no understanding of cost. A few months into the journey the lack reveals itself: “The absence of any priced goods, the impossibility of knowing whether one is paying the services one receives well, or too well, or not well enough, is one of the greatest discomforts in travelling in this country, where nothing ahs an established value, where the language has no words for thank, where, etc…” (Gide 110). By making notice of this absence or limit in measurement of the nation’s ability to place value on services and goods alleges its inefficiency as an independently functioning region. The imperial powers are able to fill-in its own economic system and wealth exploitation to carry out it’s colonial control via attention to these assertions of limit. The individual traveler’s ability is not measured in as much of an impact but still adds to this account of exploitation.
Gide and his travel companion Marc Allegrèt momentarily adapt to the great discomfort of limit in gratitude by sending two five-franc notes in an envelope to the latest village chief at that point of their journey in Bosoum. This payment will now signify an acknowledgement that can be made by travelers and it will signify the subsequent worth of the time spent with each village. The problem of lacking a word for displaying thanks and praise persists as their year abroad continues. Gide comments that they still manage to show great trust and resignation, but “never a word or sign of thanks. I have often asked how one said ‘thank you’ in such or such native dialect. ‘There is no such word,’ is the answer” (Gide 213). On his journey Gide experiences a terrible struggle to make sense of the prominent lack he sees again and again. After his journey, he finds reconciliation in the writings of Levi-Bruhl who he believes makes sense of the complications in the natives’ mind, most prominent in their speech.
Gide appears conflicted with what conclusion he should draw from the limits that he supposes are present in the natives’ language and communicatory skills. Early on in his journey he is confident enough to insist that “the less intelligent the white man is, the more stupid he thinks the black” (10) and in saying this, he frames an exposure to diversity and interpersonal connections as the key to diffuse stereotypes; the white man who does not know them remains ignorant. But as he moves along, the narrative in his journey still functions within the colonial criterion of asserting strong constraints in the intelligence of the people he encounters. “I do not want to make the black out more intelligent than he is” André Gide reminds his readers as he functions within the parameters given in colonial discourse. In expanding on this, he posits that “…his stupidity, if it exists, is only natural—like an animal’s” (240). This framing is not exactly pushing any limits for greater representation of the native people from the regions he is travelling through. Perhaps for Gide this is more acknowledgement of where the limits are placed. It’s produced as a reflection of the inability he possesses to capture and express the nature of the people and the places he is journaling about. At one point he appears to be aware of his limits in painting a true portrait of those he is witnessing and considers that “it is almost impossible for a person to penetrate very deeply into the psychology of a people whose language he does not speak and through whose country he is merely passing” (225). Although he has begun to invade the space of the native people he encounters by recording their personal details as well as by filming them with Allegret, he chooses to comment on “their friendliness and openness—their welcoming attitude, I mean” (225). But following this reflection, he is just as quickly struck with projectiles again and again at a tam-tam where he was not invited, his invasion here was noticed and undesired before he filled himself in completely as someone who belongs.
Marc Allegrèt at this time also grapples with a narrative of limit and his viewers may experience difficulty in placing it. At the time of creating his documentary the cinematic field was sparse in spectators and in support. Although fulfillment could later be a desire for translation like that of Dinesen’s novel, in the late 1920’s he often showed frustration while attempting to capture and fill in an effective rendering of his place in the Congo. A literal invasion and physical dismantling was necessary in order for him to contend with the lighting limits while filming the interior of native homes (Allegrèt). His entitlement in doing so is portrayed in the existing footage.
Amongst frustration with his circumstances, heat being one and translation being more compelling, Gide clashes with his inability to adapt to any local language. His reliance on a guide’s interpretation both limits and agitates him. He protests that “matters are too greatly complicated by the double translation of every slightest order. And one is rarely sure that the original order has properly been understood by the first translator…” (230) in this case Adoum, who traveled with Gide and Allegrèt for a large portion of their year. Unlike Kingsley in her understanding and outlining of a ‘dictionary’ for Trade English, and Dinesen’s eventual acclimatization to Swahili Gide seems frozen in his interpretations, he is missing a few steps of the procedure to fill in the gaps he asserts in the native language and way of life. It is Adoum’s task to repeat orders, or comments in any conversation in Arabic to Zigla, who then repeats it again in Massa. Gide is critical of the entire process although he is unable to contribute positively.
“The order reaches its destination completely mangled. Adoum always translates with great rapidity—but very often absolutely at random—for he sometimes entirely misunderstands what has been said, though he never hesitates for a moment. And sometimes one is petrified…at hearing a brief order turn into a very long sentence—into a whole speech” (Gide 230).
The speech, or long phrasing to make sense of one languages difference in structure to move to the next, could actually be more receptive and mindful of the limits that some languages have when they are confronted with new framings or representations. Without that extensive of knowledge for language and for cultural relation to phrasings these issues remain as gaps or voids in communication. Through this understanding, a misstep makes an appearance in Gide’s colonial agenda. With this misstep, a state of fear or a reliance of second-hand accounts for translation remains the reality. How much else has changed between each journal version translated from French to English or French to another language, only speculations and comparisons between versions are left to disclose. His own limits for capture and expression are embedded in this crossing of translatability.
Whether the procedure or process used to accomplish a superiority in the spaces of asserted limit is thoroughly successful in each attempt, its endurance is undeniable. Travel narratives whether in the eighteenth century or twentieth century have used tools of colonial example to portray the other in their encounters. These narratives, with adaptability and dexterity in the authorship, remain as forces of entitlement. Whether sanctioned legislations, legal regulations or overall global societal and economic changes have removed the intruders from the victim’s bedroom doorways, from their farmlands, or from their economic control, some members of the intruding groups are still vastly represented and continue to penetrate daily life in history lessons, language learning, media portrayal, and beyond. The remnants of representation reemerge in disguise and adapt once again to a new set of rules, desiring for eternity a song, a poem, a novel, a recognition in giggles from those who were given no other option.
[Note: I alternate between using “intrusions” and “invasions” or “intrude” and “invade” to indicate both and an encroachment and an interruption of natural discourse and history by travelers and colonizers. My choice for either word within the structures of my sentences depends of the severity of the circumstance and overall syntactical flow.]
Allegrèt, Marc, director. Voyage Au Congo. 1927.
Dinesen, Isak. Out of Africa and Shadows on the Grass. Vintage International, 1989.
Gide, Andre. Travels in the Congo. Translated by Dorothy Bussy, Modern Age Books, 1937.
Johnson, Samuel, and James Boswell. A Journey to the Western Islands of Scotland and the Journal of a Tour to the Hebrides. Edited by Peter Levi, Penguin Books, 1984.Kingsley, Mary Henrietta. Travels in West Africa. ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/k/kingsley/mary/west/index.html.