Translational Eschatology, Death, and the Absence of God in Rajiv Joseph’s Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo

Stefano Muneroni


This essay considers Rajiv Joseph’s play Bengal Tiger at the Baghdad Zoo and investigates how it features the complex processes of translation by portraying a translator working in war-torn Iraq during the American occupation of the country. Through an analysis of Jacques Derrida’s theories of mourning and translation, it illustrates how the playwright connects translation both to eschatological thinking and to the capacity to speak to/for the dead; the play emphasizes death and translation as in-between states where characters explore aspects of their lives they could not access when alive, and develop skills that allow them to ‘translate’ themselves in different linguistic and cultural contexts. Through an analysis of the translator as cultural hero and ‘stand-in’ for God, this essay equates translation with post-secular theological inquiry, and looks at linguistic and cultural translations as acts of faith in which the emergence of the new text is both always in the process of manifesting itself and always predicated on the ashes of the original.

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International Journal of Comparative Literature and Translation Studies

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