Forked Tongues: Translation and (De)colonisation in Two Global Novels by Contemporary Women Writers

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


This chapter analyses R. F. Kuang’s Babel (2022) and Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi’s The Centre (2023), arguing that these novels offer decolonising interpretations of language, translation, and power. Both texts prompt reflection on the dominance of certain languages, challenging preconceived notions about linguistic colonialism, translation practices, and privilege. Through her Babel Institute, Kuang exposes how translation becomes a route to territorial expansion and cultural hegemony. Texts are extracted from conquered territories for the colonial centre’s benefit, mirroring historical trade in spices or fossil fuels. Siddiqi’s The Centre raises questions about regional language disparities, the exploitative underbelly of rapid language acquisition, and the impact on linguistic diversity of fast-track language schools. Both authors deploy bilingualism, wordplay, metafiction, and intertextuality to complicate their narratives. I contend that Babel and The Centre serve as contemporary critiques of the relationship between translation and the (neo)colonial project. This chapter’s contribution to the field lies in exploring how translation can be both a tool for exploitation and a path to decolonisation. By closely reading these texts, the chapter not only emphasises translation’s asymmetric exploitation but also its transformative power. The pursuit of a decolonised translation can be a means to navigate the challenges of linguistic hierarchies and structural racism. The chapter enhances understandings of the tangled relationship between translation and colonialism and reveals how the forked tongue or double bind of translation can be used both for oppression and liberation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationTranslation and Decolonisation
Subtitle of host publicationInterdisciplinary Approaches
EditorsClaire Chambers, Ipek Demir
Place of PublicationAbingdon
Number of pages24
ISBN (Electronic)1032399198, 9781003351986
ISBN (Print)9781032382715, 9781032399195
Publication statusPublished - 31 May 2024


  • translation
  • decolonisation
  • literature
  • R. F. Kuang
  • Ayesha Manazir Siddiqi

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