I came across the concept of a ‘translated man’ recently, that is, someone who is ‘translated’ across cultures. It is based on Salman Rushdie’s work in Imaginary Homelands where he writes:

Having been borne across the world,

we are translated men.

The quote led me to an Edwin Gentzler piece where he advocates for “rethinking translation, not as a product—a translated text—nor a process—a carrying/ferrying a text across a divide—and instead considering translation as the very definition of the foundation upon which cultures and languages emerge.” Or more clearly put, “translators are not taking something from one culture and carefully bringing it across intact, but instead are transforming, reformulating, incorporating, devouring a text, making it one’s own, and reproducing it in their own language and on their own terms.”

It’s the best definition I can find for my relationship to myself (bucura – which means ‘youngest’, or ‘one who pooped in their mother’s stomach’ in Kinyarwanda and is what my mother calls me) and to the world. I change between cultures, not as a result of different languages, contexts or sets of expectations, but because different cultures prompt me to transform, reformulate, and reproduce myself – on my own terms. I hope to write this blog in three languages (English, Bahasa Indonesia and French) as an exercise of (Gentzler) translation on topics related to gaps between humans.


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