Dominated by the polarized strategies of domestication and foreignization, conventional literary translation approaches tend to operate on the assumption that source and target cultures, and, by extension, their literary works, are fundamentally irreconcilable on the basis of linguistic, stylistic and ideological differences. Dislocated by the traumatic force of the event, only to be further uprooted by the translation process itself, the identities at stake in American works of 9/11 fiction cannot be so clearly differentiated and securely defined. Moreover, any attempt to fictionalize and translate this real-world trauma inevitably encounters the event as a visual singularity, whereby the image supersedes any notion of cultural disparity.

Dominick LaCapra's work offers a potential break from this restrictive dichotomy, and in this article I foreground “empathic unsettlement” as a framework for the relocation of 9/11 novels and their translations in proximity to the totalizing “image-event” to which both are aesthetically bound. With reference to Don DeLillo’s Falling Man, and Marianne Véron’s French translation,L’homme qui tombe, I illustrate how a translation-oriented reading of linguistic deixis offers an insight into how the “nature of consciousness” might be located in spatial, temporal and psychological terms, and how these proximal concepts of identity are negotiated across the translation divide. It is with this retroactive form of analysis, from target to source novel, that I will proceed, with the aim of emphasizing the hermeneutic value of translated literature, both as a tool for literary analysis and as a terrain for further empathic encounters and the resettlement of fictional identities.