Transmitting Authenticity – Kader Abdolah and Hafid Bouazza as Cultural Mediators
Keywords:Kader Abdolah, Hafid Bouazza, Orientalism, Life Writing, Cultural transmitters, Cultural mediators, Translation studies, Transmission of culture
Around the turn of the millennium, two public intellectuals became central figures in the nationwide debate on Islam in the Netherlands: Kader Abdolah, a refugee from Iran and Moroccan-born Hafid Bouazza. Both authors have consciously assumed the role of cultural transmitter, using a wide variety of media and genres: opinion pieces, columns, literary work, poetry translations, prose and religious texts… In this paper, I will compare the autobiography element in their cultural mediation. Kader Abdolah presents his Oriental background as a guarantee of authenticity. He always frames his texts within his life story, which is suggested to be a pars pro toto for the Orient and to aim to convince the reader that his work offers a genuine insight into the Muslim world. Hafid Bouazza, on the other hand, uses autobiography as a guarantee of authenticity as yet another mask in his continuous obstruction and deconstruction of orientalist and occidentalist prejudices. On one level, the author presents himself as the exotic Other, while on another, he constantly reminds his readers that his exoticness is nothing but a mimicry of their own exoticist prejudices. There is an interesting paradox between Abdolah’s claims to authenticity and Bouazza’s ridiculing of genuineness on the one hand, and the fact that Abdolah’s cultural mediation seems much more geared to a Dutch target culture, while Bouazza’s seems to strive for an exact representation of the source text on the other.