Rencontre avec Mohale Mashigo

Dans le cadre d’un projet de traduction du roman The Yearning, écrit par l’auteure sud-africaine Mohale Mashigo, les étudiants des CPGE littéraires ont eu la chance de rencontrer la romancière au lycée et d’échanger sur la genèse de son ouvrage, l’occasion pour eux d’approfondir leur lecture et d’en apprendre davantage sur la littérature et la culture d’Afrique du Sud.

Discovering new South African literature

            A few weeks ago, students from Lycée Georges de La Tour were lucky enough to work on Mohale Mashigo’s novel The Yearning and to meet her.

             This event had been prepared for a long time, and students were divided into three groups which worked on the author’s life, the translation of a part from the novel, and Afrofuturism.

            It was essential for all the students to discover Mohale Mashigo’s work of art since it is not what we are used to. It deals with a totally ‘unknown universe’, another culture and way of seeing political and social issues. The writer’s South African identity is the essence of her novel, because she merges traditions and modernity, which makes her writing so specific.

             For the translation group, the most difficult aspect was to know what to do with South African terms. Did we have to translate them into English and take the risk of losing the South African features which are really important to be immersed into the novel, or to keep them and continue not to understand them? So this is a question we had to ask to the author herself.

            Then, Mohale Mashigo very nicely accepted to answer our questions in Lycée Georges de La Tour in spite of sanitary restrictions. For around one hour, students in CPGE introduced her and her work.

            She is someone that students found really involved, as she explained her political point of view about South Africa’s situation, which allowed them to discover another culture and understand that the English language is not just spoken in the UK or the US, which students tend to forget.

            But she is really kind too. Mohale Mashigo knew how to laugh with students and have fun because of some technical problems that remote participants could encounter. She accepted to sign autographs and to listen to the students’ points of view – and sometimes criticism – about her novel, and she offered them another outlook on her work and her culture, and when she left, they were starry-eyed. 

            I feel it is impossible not to say that The Yearning is a really poetic book. I remember the extract in which the main character sees her parents sleeping together. There is a kind of sensual atmosphere, really kind and soothing, triggered by the presence of many colors : “The lights started getting brighter until they became one glowing circle above my parents’ heads, a giant halo around the naked bodies on the bed. Ma’s eyes were closed, her lips curved into a beautiful smile and her hair was glowing. Silver, gold, platinum…”. Personally, It made me think of the Platonic vision of love : ‘Two bodies make one’. What a beautiful text !

                                                                                                                                                                                                     Maxime Scheiber, LS1