Code-switching in Monénembo’s ‘Pelourinho’

Following on from a wonderful guest lecture by Dr Diana Cullell in York last week as part of our Seminar Series, where she outlined some of the intricacies of negotiating linguistic identities when translating Catalan poetry, I wanted to continue the theme of sociolinguistics in literary contexts. As such, in this post I will outline some of the arguments I presented last year for a Masters essay on Tierno Monénembo’s (1995) novel Pelourinho.

The novel is set in the Pelourinho district of Salvador, in the Bahia region of Brazil, and it follows the identity quest of an African visitor named Escritore (also known as Africano) from the point of view of two narrators, Innocencio and Leda. These two characters narrate the novel in a mixture of standard and non-standard French, Portuguese, Yoruba, and occasionally English. The substantial use of colonial languages French and Portuguese situate this novel clearly in the category of Europhone literature, which ‘has no language or cultural universe of its own’ and the only way it gains cultural meaning is through the African heritage (wa Thiong’o 2000: 7), by maintaining a dialogue between colonial (Portuguese, French) and heritage (Yoruba) languages. Continue reading