Self-Translation and Linguistic Reappropriation: Juan Gelman’s Dibaxu

  • Brandon Rigby
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Translating and Interpreting book series (PTTI)


As a Jewish poet of non-Sephardic heritage, Juan Gelman appropriates Ladino—the language of the Sephardic Jews, which he encountered while exiled in Europe—as a diasporic language in dibaxu to represent linguistically his deterritorialisation during the Argentine Dirty War. Writing in Ladino is an act of self-minorisation that displaces the identity created by others, permitting him to create a new identity as he actively adopts a marginalised language instead of falling back to his native language, a language controlled by the oppressors. In this chapter I discuss how this new linguistic identity allows him to reassert his cultural and national identity on his own terms by shifting common tropes of his poetry—such as neologisms, feminisation of the language and Argentine characteristics of Spanish—into Ladino and away from the Spanish of the military regime. In other words, by publishing dibaxu in a Ladino-Spanish, bilingual format, Gelman uses Ladino to highlight a nondescript version of Spanish in an act of resistance. The use of Ladino and the newly formed identity allow him to dialogue with his land and loved ones that he longs for, but from a space within his control and out of reach of the dictatorship that displaced him.


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2017

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brandon Rigby
    • 1
  1. 1.University of OregonEugeneUSA

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