Translation and transformation: travel and intra-national encounter in the Yoruba novel

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This article explores how Yoruba-language novels have used the figure of the traveller to interrogate the idea of the Nigerian nation. My concern is not so much with representations of the nation itself, nor with how Yoruba novels can ‘narrate the nation’, but with the ways Yoruba novels depict intra-national encounters, as characters come face-to-face with difference within the nation.

In Yoruba print culture, travel has often been associated with formation and transformation. The novels of D.O. Fagunwa, for example, established a highly influential quest motif in which travellers gain wisdom and experience from their journey, and this conception of travel as transformative has been shared by non-fiction Yoruba travel writers. However, this article argues that we can also read Yoruba novels of national travel through the paradigm of translation. I discuss the differing strategies of literal and metaphorical translation employed by two Yoruba novels in their depictions of encounters with non-Yoruba speaking Nigerians: J. Akin Ọmọ́yájowó's Adégbẹ̀san (1961), a thriller centred on the chase after a murderer fleeing to central and northern Nigeria, published just after Nigerian independence, and Débọ̀ Awẹ́'s Kọ́pà (1990), a story of youths serving the nation as part of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)98-113
Number of pages16
JournalJournal of African Cultural Studies
Issue number1
Early online date10 Dec 2014
Publication statusPublished - 14 Jan 2015


  • Yoruba
  • novel
  • travel
  • nation
  • NYSC
  • Nigeria


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