This essay argues for the bodily, material, and performative dimensions of translation in Turkish-German author Emine Sevgi Özdamar’s 2003 novel Strange Stars Stare to Earth, a semi-autobiographical work about a young Turkish actress who comes to Germany in 1976 in order to work at the People’s Theater in East Berlin. Özdamar’s text continually renegotiates the spatial, monetary, linguistic, and scriptorial contours of divided Berlin in playful engagement with the concepts of exchange, equivalence, and translation. In this literary project, translation emerges not only as a semantic phenomenon, but as inseparable from the materiality, corporeality, and performativity of language as realized in writing. In addition, translation does not operate on a structure of equivalence but on unexpected transformations and transpositions of written material. Using Leslie A. Adelson’s concepts of Turkish-German “literature of migration” and “touching tales,” Venkat Mani’s and Azade Seyhan’s analyses of memory work in Özdamar, as well as Yasemin Yildiz’s consideration of literal translation and trauma, this study draws critical attention to the productive dimensions of textual elements on the move rather than the recuperation of lost histories. Additionally, it places at its core a shift from translation as the reproduction of something familiar to the creation of something new.


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pp. 191-209
Launched on MUSE
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