The multiple possibilities of interpretation in products of bilingual writing: André Brink’s "Praying Mantis" and "Bidsprinkaan" as a total text

Lelanie De Roubaix


This paper explores the concept of ‘bilingual writing’ by examining two products of André Brink’s bilingual writing process, namely Praying Mantis (2005) and Bidsprinkaan (2005). After a brief overview of Brink’s oeuvre, a theoretical perspective on bilingual writing is provided, along with a discussion of related concepts such as ‘translation’ and ‘self-translation’. Following the theoretical perspective, a stereoscopic reading of the two versions of the novel aims to show how multiple possibilities of interpretation are opened up by the use of two languages of production, and how the two versions, when read together, form a total text that travels beyond traditional conceptions of both writing and translating. In Praying Mantis and Bidsprinkaan, Brink employs magical realism to challenge various traditional boundaries, such as between reality and fiction, history and myth, etc. Situating both versions of the novel in a sphere of magical realism, where boundaries are constantly transgressed and where the even the ordinary is given “a sense of the extraordinary” (Brink 1998:31), Brink confronts his readers with different perspectives and provides them with an almost endless range of possibilities of interpretation that leads to various possible readings of the text. Not only is the magical as well as the real world opened up in the text, but also the magical and the real world as conceptualised in two different languages and cultural environments.


André Brink; Bidsprinkaan; bilingual writing; Praying Mantis; total text

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