Untangling the Lines: Inuit Literature and Translation Studies - Valerie Henitiuk
Inuit narratives have been known around the world for some 100 years, especially as told by explorers, anthropologists, or missionaries such as Knud Rasmussen, Franz Boas, or Maurice Métayer. Of course, the versions that circulated were translations, with their Inuktitut originals elided from the record, at least as far as non-Inuit were concerned. In Canada, contemporary Inuit stories—see notable work by such authors as Tanya Tagaq or Norma Dunning—tend to be written in English. The first long-form Inuit fiction to be published by an Inuk was, however, published in Inuktitut (specifically a dialect of nunavimmiutitut, with marked influences from North Baffin) some 50 years ago. Uumajursiutik unaatuinnamut, Maakusiup unikkaatuangit [hunter with harpoon, long stories by Markoosie] made its initial serial appearance in syllabics, before being self-translated by the author as Harpoon of the Hunter. Markoosie’s novel has been loved by readers young and old for half a century, made available to date in countries as far afield as Canada, Ukraine, and India, but oddly, there has been little attention to date paid to the original text. Forthcoming from MQUP is a volume that, for the first time, pays real attention to what Markoosie Patsauq actually wrote in his mother tongue. In their critical framing, editors Henitiuk and Marc-Antoine Mahieu apply both linguistic analysis and translation theory in a bid to understand the complex journey and significance of this ground-breaking text. This paper will argue that a translation studies approach is long overdue, not only in relation to Markoosie’s work, but to other Inuktitut stories and song in general, to create space for a renewed relationship with Inuit literature overall.