Volume 19, Issue 3
  • ISSN: 1388-3186
  • E-ISSN: 2352-2437



Unpublished and undistributed, Truus van Bruinessen’s collection of life-writings in Dutch (journal, letters, and travel writing) and English (memoir) only exists in a box in Canada’s National Archives. It documents its author’s migration to Canada and her domestic travails as a housewife of the 1950s, which include her lack of access to English. The archive provides a unique opportunity for the study of gender and language shift in adult migrants’ life-writing. Comparative analysis of van Bruinessen’s skilful and highly gendered use of the epistolary form in Dutch on one hand, and of her memoir in imperfect and belatedly acquired English on the other, reveals interesting differences in style, tone, and content. Such analysis shows how a woman’s migrant subjectivity, originally constituted in Dutch, could not adequately be represented in English, as a talented writer’s mother tongue was twisted in (self-) translation.


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