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ART Nicole Bass, Ruben Davis, Evan Hanlon, Alexandra Blinky Hays, Rebecca Lieberman, Amy Lien, Thalassa Raasch, John Speyer, Michael Stynes, Martabel Wasserman.
THE HARVARD ADVOCATE EDITORIAL BOARD President Publisher Art Editor Fiction Editor Poetry Editor Features Editor Design Editors
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BOARD OF TRUSTEES Chairman Chairman Emeritus Vice-Chairman President Vice-President and Treasurer Secretary
JAMES ATLAS LOUIS BEGLEY DOUGLAS MCINTYRE SUSAN MORRISON AUSTIN WILKIE CHARLES ATKINSON PETER BROOKS JOHN DESTEFANO A. WHITNEY ELLSWORTH JONATHAN GALASSI LEV GROSSMAN DAVID KUHN ANGELA MARIANI DANIEL MAX FREDERICK SEIDEL THOMAS A. STEWART JEAN STROUSE
Sanders Bernstein, Alwa Cooper, Ruben Davis, Eyal Dechter, Megan Dempsey, Liya Eijvertinya, Alexandra Gutierrez, Evan Hanlon, Alexandra Blinky Hays, Amy Heberle, Olivia Jampol, Paul Katz, Erin Miles, Garrett Morgan, Claire-Marie Murphy, Seth Myers, Geraldine Prasuhn, Logan Pritchard, Gregory Scruggs, Mike Segal, Caroline Williams, Emily Walker, Millicent Younger.
DESIGN Avis Bohlen, Ekaterina Botchkina, Alexandra Blinky Hays, Rebecca Lieberman, Lauren Packard, LeeAnn Suen, Rachel Whitaker.
FEATURES Anna Barnet, Richard Beck, Alexander Fabry, Marta Figlerowicz, Kim Gittleson, Alexandra Gutierrez, Evan Hanlon, Judith Huang, Ryder Kessler, Gregory Scruggs, Daniel Wenger.
FICTION Aliza Aufrichtig, Jesse Barron, Sanders Bernstein, Samuel Bjork, Britt Caputo, Alexis Deane, Thomas Dolinger, Marta Figlerowicz, Carolyn Gaebler, Daniel Howell, Laura Kolbe, Max Larkin, Linda Liu, Garrett Morgan, Juliet Samuel, Matthew Spellberg, Marya Spence, David Thoreson, April Wang, David Wallace, Daniel Wenger.
POETRY Nicole Bass, Courtney Bowman, John Davies, Judith Huang, Tim Hwang, Carmen James, Will Jeffrey, Olga Kamensky, Celeste Monke, Lauren Nikodemos, Joseph Quinn, Gabriel Rocha, Margaret Ross, Caroline Schopp, Gregory Scruggs, Michael Stynes, Ayten Tartici, David Wallace, Daniel Wenger, Chris Van Buren, Mike Zuckerman. Founded in 1866, The Harvard Advocate is the nationâ€™s oldest continually published college literary magazine. It publishes quarterly from the Advocate house at 21 South Street, Cambridge, MA 02138. Published pieces and advertisements represent the opinions of the authors and advertisers, not The Harvard Advocate. While primarily an undergraduate publication, The Harvard Advocate will anonymously consider all submissions of art, features, fiction, and poetry. Potential contributors should be aware that submissions policies are set year by year and are subject to change. For current submission policies, please send a query with a self-addressed stamped envelope or consult the website at www.theharvardadvocate.com. Domestic subscription rates are $25 for one year (4 issues), $45 for two years (8 issues), $60 for three years (12 issues). For institutions and foreign addresses, the rates are $30 for one year (4 issues), $55 for two years (8 issues), $75 for three years (12 issues). Payable by cash or check made out to The Harvard Advocate and mailed to the above address, Attn: Circulation Manager. Back issues are available for purchase, but price and availability varies depending on the issue. Please inquire by writing to contact@ theharvardadvocate.com. Recent issues and a history of the magazine can be found on our website. No part of this magazine may be reprinted without the permission of The Harvard Advocate. Copyright 2008 by the Editors and Trustees of The Harvard Advocate.
Table of Contents i
Retrospect: The 1982 Advocate Translation Issue
FEATURES RICHARD SIEBURTH
Druggermen at Babel SANDRA NADDAFF
Flowers: Five Attempts at a Translation MARTA FIGLEROWICZ
Translation and Modernist Transculturation: T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes ANITA PATTERSON
A Few Words for William Tyndale CHARLES PECK
Translating Roth: Recipes for Tzimmes, Monica Lewinsky in Brazil, Illegally Reading Lolita in the USSR, and Other Anecdotes from Philip Roth’s Foreign Translators GREGORY SCRUGGS
Traduttore non è traditore (French) NANCY HUSTON
Traduttore non è traditore (English) NANCY HUSTON
Fabricating Fabiola ANNA BARNET
Concert This Evening TOM CONLEY
Translation: Between the Universal and the Local LAWRENCE VENUTI
Translating the Real: Chapter V of Howards End G. TIAO
Travel, Transposition, Translation VERENA ANDERMATT CONLEY
How to Do Things with Style ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER
Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, Or the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl
(A Very Big, White Elephant) by Ts Bavuudorj TRANSLATED BY SIMON WICKHAM-SMITH
Academica, II. (Lucullus), xxvi. P. 82—83 by Marcus Tullius Cicero TRANSLATED BY WILLIAM JEFFREY AND MICHAEL STYNES
De Rerum Natura, 4.364-378 / Purgatorio XXVI.1-24 by Lucretius / Dante TRANSLATED BY CHRIS VAN BUREN
Ich finde dich in allen diesen Dingen (Resurrecting the Tree) by Rainer Maria Rilke TRANSLATED BY PAUL FRANZ
(Love Poems of the Sixth Dalai Lama) TRANSLATED BY NATHAN HILL WITH TOBY FEE
from Sarada kinenbi (Salad Anniversary) by Tawara Machi TRANSLATED BY EDWIN CRANSTON
Three Poems by Mariia Petrovykh TRANSLATED BY OLGA KAMENSKY
La forêt vierge (The Virgin Forest) by Aimé Césaire TRANSLATED BY GREGORY SCRUGGS
,» (from 'Dear Orphans,’)
by Mikhail Gronas TRANSLATED BY JOSEPH QUINN
Diary of a Madman by Leo Tolstoy TRANSLATED BY RICHARD PEVEAR AND LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY
Hansel and Gretel LAURA KOLBE
Red (Excerpt) MARYA SPENCE
The Poetics of Space, All Periods Removed EMMA BLOOMFIELD
Popcorn Journal NINA KATCHADOURIAN
Talking Popcorn NINA KATCHADOURIAN
A Day at the Beach from Sorting Shark NINA KATCHADOURIAN
Primitive Art from Akron Stacks NINA KATCHADOURIAN
WordLinks ZHANG YUE
Book from the Ground XU BING
q.e.d. (quod erat demonstrandum) (l.q.q.d.) CESAR CORNEJO
The Correspondence Project HARVARD COLLEGE, CAMBRIDGE, HOCHSCHULE FÜR KÜNSTE, BREMEN, AND THE NATIONAL COLLEGE OF ARTS, LAHORE.
Jar with Contents EMMA BANAY, HARVARD
Video Still REBECCA SOPHIE LLANOS FARFAN, BREMEN
Vogelmann BIRTE ENDREJAT, BREMEN
Miniature painting NIZAKAT ALI, LAHORE
Inhalte entfalten (“to unfold contents”) GUIYOUNG GELAUS, BREMEN
Hair REHANA, LAHORE
Cover Art: Emma Bloomfield The Poetics of Space, All Periods Removed
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ACKNOWLEDGMENTS The Harvard Advocate would like to thank the following organizations for their financial support of this exceptional undertaking. Together with our individual donors, they helped realize a yearlong vision of the Advocateâ€™s editorial board. American Translators Association (ATA) - www.atanet.org. American Foundation for Translation and Interpretation (AFTI) - www.afti.org. University of California-Irvine International Center for Writing and Translation Harvard University Office for the Arts Harvard University Department of English and American Literature and Language Harvard University Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures Harvard University Department of Romance Languages and Literatures Harvard University Department of Literature and Comparative Literature
PERMISSIONS The translation of Leo Tolstoy’s “Diary of a Madman” is copyright ©2008 by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. It is from their forthcoming new translation of Tolstoy’s shorter fiction to be published by Alfred A. Knopf. Nancy Huston’s “Traduttore non è traditore” appeared in Pour Une Littérature Monde, edited by Michel Le Bris and Jean Rouaud. It was published by Gallimard in May 2007. (Tanka no. 315) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 342) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 266) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 371) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 248) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 7) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 6) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 20) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 213) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. (Tanka no. 268) originally appeared in SARADA KINENBI / The Salad Anniversary ©1987 by Machi Tawara, first published in Japan in 1987 by Kawade Shobo Shinsha Publishers. All other original or translated works appear with the permission of the author or translator, who did not request that such credit appear here. The French original of Aimé Césaire’s “La Forêt Vierge” appeared on page 131 of Aimé Césaire, The Collected Poems, edited by Clayton Eshleman and Annette Smith. It was published by the University of California Press in 1983. ii
EDITORSâ€™ NOTE This special issue of The Harvard Advocate is devoted to the discipline, theory, and content of translation. We have been fortunate to reach out and be reached from distances that remain, despite our evolving notions of the world, overwhelmingly vast. We hope, out of the challenging and rewarding process of putting together this issue, to have provided our readers with a handful of the polyphonies, transformations, and intertextualities that bridge this vastness, if only even for a brief moment.
The 1982 Advocate Translation Issue RICHARD SIEBURTH
he Summer 1982 issue of the Harvard Advocate stands out from the magazine’s one hundred and fourteen previous volumes not only by its specific focus on translation but by its very format: a slightly squatter proportion (8 ¾” x 10”), with considerable more heft (136 pp.) and creamier paper than the standard slim and glossy undergrad offerings of the past. Its poetry selections were composed in elegant sans serif type and it featured a print by Robert Smithson on the cover as well as reproductions of Louise Bourgeois and Philip Guston works within. It is an issue that invites appreciation as a real (and professionally designed) objet d’art. That this was a labor of love for its editor, History and Lit. major Charles Gerard, is everywhere evident: aided by Mathew Horsman (also of History and Lit.), and advised by the late Anna Cancogni (who had just finished her doctorate in Comp. Lit.), Rick Livingston (also of History and Lit.), and myself, Gerard managed to recruit the additional outside help of Stratis Haviaras, Peter Soriano, and especially of Robert Storr, who subsequently went on to curate the Gerhard Richter show at MoMA and is now Dean of the Yale School of Art and, most recently, director of the 2007 Venice Biennale. Through Storr’s good offices, the Advocate was able to secure permission—quite a coup for an undergraduate publication—to reproduce the works by Smithson, Bourgeois, and Guston, all of which address the enigma of translation in its broader intersemiotic occurences. The goals of this endeavor were succinctly laid out by editor Charles Gerard in his modest note at the outset of the issue:
It began as a compilation of local work and quickly assumed the amply plotted but finally unmappable contours of its topic. We have included translator’s notes with many of the translations in order to keep some sense of the interpretative process behind each work. We also present translation between art forms, specifically between drawing and language. The essays we include study formal, social, and aesthetic constraints the original might impose on new versions …Taken together they suggest questions about translation as an activity, as a theoretical riddle, as a form of art.
At the origins of this collective project, then, lay the desire simply to explore and articulate what lay more or less immediately at hand: to assess what, in that year of 1982, was going on in translation at Harvard, in Cambridge, or within the larger New England area—with these networks in turn branching outward to include such under-the-radar eccentrics as Reno Odlin, a friend of Guy Davenport’s and virtual hermit in SedroWoolley (Washington State), who submitted an utterly sui generis version of “Spell XVII” from the Egyptian Book of the Dead, dedicated to “my late master Ezra Pound,” with a reproduction of the handwritten manuscript of the Papyrus Sallier II en face. Translation at Harvard, twenty-five years ago, tended to be relegated to a kind of benign invisibility. One of course knew there were eminent translators among the faculty—most notably, the recently retired Robert Fitzgerald who was then in the process of finishing up his translation of the Aeneid, an autumnal successor to his previous versions of the Odyssey and the Iliad. But for T H E 1 9 8 2 T R A N S L AT I O N I S S U E
the most part translation was seen as a kind of minor extracurricular activity or gentleman’s hobby, an occupation, in any event, hardly worthy of tenure at a major research university. The only notable exceptions to this were Profs. Hightower in Chinese, Cranston in Japanese, and Ingalls in Sanskrit— who had combined distinguished careers as scholars with an active commitment to translation (why is it only in departments of “exotic” languages and literatures that translation is considered by the university to be a vital contribution to knowledge?). Harvard’s Department of Comparative Literature, which would have been the most logical place on campus for the discussion of translation, especially in all its historical and theoretical dimensions, remained impervious to the entire topic. René Wellek’s The Theory of Literature, still the required Bible for all Harvard students in the field during the early 70s, made virtually no mention of the subject. Although the Harvard Studies in Comparative Literature series had published Reuben Brower’s pioneering edited volume On Translation in 1959 (largely based on a 1954 conference of the English Institute held in Cambridge and including seminal essays by the likes of Roman Jakobson, Vladimir Nabokov and the philosopher W. V. Quine), by the 70s and 80s (especially after the untimely of death of Renato Poggioli), translation had become something of a dead letter for Comp. Lit. at Harvard. Even the publication of George Steiner’s magisterial After Babel in 1975 caused little more than a ripple. Given Harvard humanities’ Olympian indifference to literary theory (particularly of the Continental variety) during this period—theory was something one did at Yale or Cornell or Hopkins—there were only a few of us who were aware that at roughly the same time we were working on this issue of the Advocate in 1981-82, Jacques Derrida was giving his legendary seminar on Walter Benjamin’s “Task of the Translator” at the École Normale Supérieure—which led to his essay, “Des tours de Babel,” first published in English in Joseph Graham’s 1985 2
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Difference in Translation, and which in turn inspired one of Paul de Man’s 1983 Messenger Lectures at Cornell (subsequently published in his The Resistance to Theory in 1986). Even though the publication of the Advocate translation issue roughly coincided with the emergence of the new field called Translation Studies—Susan Bassnett’s volume of that title first appeared in 1980 and Antoine Berman’s and Henri Meschonnic’s French writings on traductologie fall within the same years—most of its contributors remained (blissfully) pre-theoretical in their approaches, more oriented toward the “art” or “craft” of translation or toward its more traditionally philological contexts. It is therefore almost with nostalgia that one returns to the innocent assumption behind most of the poetry in this issue—namely, that when one translates, this is an event that occurs not only between languages but, more importantly, between poems. Here, then, are a few highlights from the issue—starting out with the most notable local celebrities we managed to corral for our project: Robert Fitzgerald, class of 1933, was, as mentioned, the most revered personification of the Translator on campus (and his course on prosody a must for any serious aspiring poet). Rummaging among his files, he dug up one of his undergrad efforts from 1931, inspired by Irving Babbitt’s course in the history of French criticism. Given Babbitt’s notorious animus against Romanticism (which he had passed on to his earlier Harvard student, T. S. Eliot), it is perhaps no accident that Fitzgerald should have chosen to translate Voltaire’s pastiche of the celebrated line in Horace’s Ars Poetica about the great mountain that labors mightily to give birth, only in the end to produce a measly mouse. Somewhat uncannily, undergraduate Fitzgerald’s version of Voltaire’s “La Montagne qui accouche” expresses the future translator’s suspicion of the romantic cult of originality as he wittily deflates its attendant afflatus: Think of the poet who begins his piece, “I sing the lords of night and the day’s
release,” From which impressive pangs what issue do we find? A little wind.
John Updike, class of 1954, similarly unearthed from his personal papers a translation from the Anglo-Saxon of The Wanderer and The Seafarer, undertaken during his senior year while enrolled in Frank Magoun’s course in Old English (whose assistant, William Alfred, was another legendary presence at Harvard back then, reputed to be a close friend Faye Dunaway’s (!) and himself a noted translator of Beowulf). Though his version can hardly vie with Pound’s alliterative 1911 account of The Seafarer, Updike’s accompanying note to his undergrad foray into translation provides one of his rare public statements on the craft: “In translating the poetry of a foreign language one should retain shadows of the original metrics even to the point of some unidiomatic usage but not to the point of twisting the English into awkward and mind-boggling strict parallel. Verbally, the more literal word should often be preferred, as freshening the host language, with little sharp points of the slightly askew.” In 1982, Robert Lowell had been dead only five years and was thus still a very vivid memory for a number of us—a figure glimpsed shuffling across the Yard or eating in solitude at the old Hays Bickford cafeteria on Harvard Square. His literary executor, Frank Bidart, allowed us to explore his papers at the Houghton Library—although Lowell had transferred from Harvard to Kenyon college as an undergraduate, his family and personal ties to Cambridge had always identified him as a Harvard Poet. There, among the archival folders, we discovered two very interesting outtakes from his 1962 volume Imitations (winner of that year’s Bollingen Translation Prize for Poetry), both of them free renderings of the sonnets of Nerval’s Les Chimères. One of these echoes the song-like cadences of “Delphica” (“Daphne, do you know the old romance . . . The song of love that starts again from chance”), while the other, a version of “El Desdichado” (quoted
at the end of Eliot’s Waste Land), allows Lowell to recognize his own paranoid disarray in Nerval’s dramatic monologue of his mental breakdown in 1853: I am the widower, the unconsoled, the shadow Prince of Aquitaine whose tower is down. My star is death. My starry lute carries my melancholia’s black sun.
If “imitation” provided Lowell with a performative mode that allowed him to pursue his confessional Life Studies by other means, for Robert Bly (’50), by contrast, translation transported him into the minds and bodies of such poets as Lorca, Neruda, Vallejo or Tranströmer in search of the (semi-Jungian) “deep images” that lay buried in their shared unconscious. Among the poems he submitted to the Advocate was “Winning or Losing,” which grew out of his collaboration with Coleman Barks on the Rumi versions included in Night and Sleep the previous year: You are notes, and we are the flute. We are the mountain, you are the sounds coming down. We are the pawns and kings and rooks you set out on a board: they win or they lose. We are lions rolling and unrolling on flags. Your invisible wind carries us through the world.
Little did we know back then in 1982 that Barks, who knew not a word of Persian, would go on to publish some twenty volumes of Rumi in English with total sales of a half a million copies, thus making him the most widely read foreign poet in American translation (alongside the various New Age Rilkes). Rumi-nation, indeed. Guy Davenport had earned his doctoral degree in Harvard’s English department with his 1961 dissertation on Ezra Pound’s early Cantos—he had first met “the man that lay in the house of Bedlam” (as Elizabeth Bishop called him) at St. Elizabeths Federal Hospital for the Insane in 1952 and, with Hugh Kenner, was to become one of the most inventive exponents of the Poundian paideuma. Its legacy is evident in Davenport’s translations from the Archaic Greek (Archilochos, Sappho, Alkman, etc.), for T H E 1 9 8 2 T R A N S L AT I O N I S S U E
which he would receive the Landon Translation Award in 1996. The piece he submitted to us was drawn from his “Mimes of Herondas,” featuring a courthouse case in which Battaros, a whorehouse manager, accuses a certain Thales of having molested one of his girls: (Actor leads forward an imaginary girl.) Let the court see you. Don’t be bashful now. All these people, look, are trying your case. Think of them as your fathers and brothers. (Indignantly, to the court.) Would you look, gentlemen, at her torn dress. (Lifts her dress.) Look her all over, see how she is bruised And manhandled by this ape of a man. He has pulled every hair out her thing! Plucked her clean as a chicken! Were I young— He can be thankful for my age—he would Have breathed his own blood, I can promise you. . .
Pound’s Make it New: the 3rd century B.C.E., here readable as the present. The last on this list of luminaries is Seamus Heaney, who at that point was a Visiting Professor at Harvard, before being named Robert Fitzgerald’s successor as Boylston Professor of Rhetoric and Oratory in 1984 (and Nobel laureate in 1995). His contribution, “Sweeney’s Praise of Farannan,” translated from the Middle Irish, would later be collected in his Sweeney Astray (1984), which in turn led to his further reworkings of the legend of the mad king in Sweeney’s Flight (1992): I am Sweeney, Colman’s son, chilled, numbed, benighted, feeble— Ronan of Drumgesh’s victim, under a tree near the waterfall.
Heaney’s contributions to the Advocate issue capture a major poet just beginning to molt into the work of translation. In addition to his Sweeney poems, he would later co-translate Laments, a cycle of Polish Renaissance elegies by Jan Kochanowski, with his Harvard colleague, the dissident poet Stanislaw Baranczak (a translation of one of whose poems we also published). In 1999, Heaney’s 4
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version of Beowulf became an unexpected translation bestseller (apparently on the order of 100,000 copies) when acquired and astutely marketed (for an audience of exEnglish majors, guilty that they had never really read the work as undergrads?) by Jonathan Galassi (’71) of Farrar, Straus, and Giroux. In addition to this array of literary heavyweights with university affiliations past or present, we also sought out contributions from faculty and grad students in our attempt to take the current pulse of translation at Harvard. Edwin Cranston, Professor of Japanese Literature and a world specialist in waka (classical Japanese poetry), offered versions of the late Meiji-era woman poet, Yosano Akiko—poems very frank in their celebration of desire yet still moving within the ambit of classical conventions. Prof. Cranston’s grad students also contributed a number of further translations from the Japanese, ranging from traditional haiku and Buddhist tracts to 16th-century Okinawan songs. John Solt, who had been a student of Kenneth Rexroth in the 60s before coming to Harvard to study Japanese, provided versions (with accompanying calligraphy) of the contemporary poet Tsunao Aida. Solt later went on to write a path-breaking study of the Japanese avant-garde writer (and Ezra Pound pen pal) Kitasono Katue. James Robert Hightower, the Victor S. Thomas Professor of Chinese Literature, provided us with an exemplary model of the career of a scholar-translator. Having discovered Pound’s Cathay as an undergrad chemistry major at the University of Colorado, Hightower set off for Europe in 1936 to study Chinese at Heidelberg and the Sorbonne. His studies interrupted by the war (which he spent in Beijing and then working as a codebreaker in the Army’s Military Intelligence Division under Edwin O. Reischauer, future U.S. Ambassador to Japan), he returned to Harvard for a degree in Comparative Literature in 1946. Best known for his monographs on The Poetry of T’ao Ch’ien and his Studies in Chinese Poetry, Hightower offered us his versions of two eleventh-century Chinese
popular songs. In the following, assuming the persona of Wang Kuan, he muses on his recent retirement from the university: A lifespan is a hundred years— Few live to be seventy. Take away the ten years you are a child And the ten you are senile And you are left with fifty— Half of it the sleep demon’s share. In that twenty-five years I don’t suppose you have any troubles?
An exact contemporary of Hightower, Daniel Ingalls, the Wales Professor of Sanskrit at Harvard, best known for his work on the court poetry of classical India, offered us an essay in comparative poetics that focused on the Sanskrit literary critics Ananda and Abhinava, both of whom elaborated the notion that the ultimate aim of literature is the production of aesthetic relish (rasa), a form of delight that can only be achieved through the power of indirect suggestion (dhvani). Ingalls illustrates the intense allusiveness of classical Sanskrit poetry (each phrase, as it were, potentially a quotation) with the following translation—which would not have displeased Marianne Moore: “Farewell,” “to parrots.” “Goodbye,” “to wild geese.” “Take my blessing,” “full moon nights.” “God be with you,” “waterlilies.” Thus the lady’s companion capped each tearful word to hold her lover who had made arrangements for departure.
Another essay blending philological acumen with hermeneutic ingenuity was elicited from Gregory Nagy, then still the Wunderkind of Harvard’s Department of Classics. In his bravura exegesis of the phrase “hó ti kalòn phílon aeí” that occurs in a chorus of Euripides’s Bacchae and is usually translated as “whatever beautiful is dear for all time,” Nagy carefully interrogates the various shades of meaning that color the term “phílos” in order to conclude that the phrase signifies that the song articulates the deep rythmos of “beauty” and that the role of such beauty is to inaugurate and maintain community. This relation of song to community
(and, more specifically, to erotic union) in turn underscores some of the poems of Philodemos submitted by George Economou, editor of Paul Blackburn’s versions from the Provençal (Proensa) and (most recently) translator of Acts of Love: Ancient Greek Poetry from Aphrodite’s Garden. Although the teaching of German literature achieved one of its cyclical lows at Harvard during the late 70s and early 80s, its modern poetry was nonetheless well served by the translators of this Advocate issue. I submitted a version of one of Heidegger’s favorite texts, “In Lieblicher Bläue,” from my then-forthcoming edition of Hölderlin’s late Hymns and Fragments. Two Comp. Lit. PhD’s, Annapaola Cancogni and Christopher Benfey (the former later to become a professional translator, the latter now the widely-published Mellon Professor at Mount Holyoke), submitted translations of Georg Trakl’s poems—largely out of their dissatisfaction with the existing versions by Michael Hamburger and Christopher Middleton (how much of the history of translation is shaped by arguments with previous translators?). A similar revisionary impulse is evident in Peter Laurie’s version of four of Rilke’s Sonnets to Orpheus—homages to his late master, John Berryman. Undergrad Rick Livingston (now of Ohio State) in turn tore apart Bly’s Rilke in a gutsy essay. The eight poems of Celan that we included (translated by Gayle Roby, and by Magret Guillemin and Katharine Washburn), by contrast, were more pioneering: late Celan, in 1982, was just beginning to emerge into focus in American English, the only previously available versions being those included in Joachim Neugroschel’s 1971 Speech-Grille and Michael Hamburger’s selections of 1972 and 1980. Among the translations from the French (which also included Livingston’s version of a surrealist text by Leiris), we were quite lucky to be able to feature Rosmarie Waldrop’s excerpt from Edmond Jabès’s Aely, volume 6 of his Book of Questions. From her base in Providence, RI, between 1976 and 2002 Waldrop would render some thirteen T H E 1 9 8 2 T R A N S L AT I O N I S S U E
volumes of Jabès into English. The fascinating account of her encounter with this Egyptian Francophone poet, Lavish Absence: Recalling and Rereading Edmond Jabès (2002), should be required reading for all young translators. Looking back at the Advocate Translation Issue twenty-five years later, one is struck by its (rather Harvardian) investment in “blue chip” literary stocks—in short, its emphasis on classics ancient and modern. Given recent developments in literary and cultural studies, such an issue today might possibly decide to allot more space to the voices of postcolonial, transnational, or “minor” (in the Deleuzian sense) literatures—even though we did try to include some avantgarde Italian poetry as well as contemporary writings from Puerto Rico, Chile, Bengal, Russia, Poland, (former) Serbo-Croatia, and Greece, not to mention Cola Franzen’s pioneering translations of a version of the thirteenth-century Anthology of Ben Said (a gesture toward that achieved multicultural parenthesis known as Al-Andalus). The most forward-reaching aspect of this issue of the Advocate, however, remains its editor Charles Gerard’s brilliant decision to include image-and-text works by the artists Louise Bourgeois, Philip Guston and Robert Smithson. Although primarily known as a sculptor, Bourgeois shows herself in her contribution, He Disappeared into Complete Silence (first published in a limited edition in 1947), to be a very droll heir to the tradition of the surrealist livres d’artiste (particularly those of Max Ernst). Her plaquette plays off laconic blocks of minimalist narrative prose against nine lithographed plates: at times the encounter between image and text is purely fortuitous (i.e. hilariously “untranslatable”), at others we almost seem to be moving into the more familiar domain of the illustrated book, although even here we “translate” at our own peril—as in this parable, which constitutes the entirety of “Plate 3” of the book: “Once a man was telling a story, it was a very good story too, and it made him very happy, but he told it so fast that nobody understood it.” 6
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Philip Guston (who died only two years before the issue appeared) is in turn represented by seven drawings featuring texts composed and lettered by his wife, the poet Musa McKim. Although Guston first achieved fame as a first-generation Abstract Expressionist, he made a much-maligned move (back?) into figurative painting in the 60s. The poem-drawings reproduced in this issue are fairly typical of his late, cartoonish style—celebrations of small-town marital domesticities in upstate New York (sandwiches, coffee mugs, cubes of sugar, open books, barking dogs, garbage cans, falling leaves). The husband-and-wife collaboration between Guston’s drawings and McKims’ hand-lettered poems provides a moving emblem of marriage as the most prosaic (and perhaps the most difficult) form of “translation”—a (Derridean) economy of mutual endebtedness, with its daily gifts and counter-gifts here enacted in the easy, jokey commerce between the visual and the verbal. The five drawings of Robert Smithson (already something of an artworld legend at his untimely death in 1973)—“Tailings Project Terraces,” “Tailings Terraces with 4 Ponds,” “Vacant Vacation,” “Spirals,” “Spiral with Concrete Rundown”—also engage their viewer/reader in various acts of translation. Halfway between Conceptual Art and his actual sculptural earthworks (such as the giant Spiral Jetty in Utah), these works on paper ask us to “translate” preliminary sketches into eventual built forms whose dispositions in space inevitably involve their deconstruction by time. Smithson’s “Vacant Vacation” is very close to Mallarmé’s notes toward the performances of his Virtual Book (Le Livre). Smithson’s project involves eight (Berlitz?) Language Records (English, Russian, Spanish, French, Japanese, German, Italian, Chinese) played on eight separate portable record players (we’re still back in late 60s/early 70s here), with a sound camera slowly panning from record player to record player—the entire Happening to be filmed in a vacant lot, on location (the perfect “non-site”!) “somewhere in Staten Island,
perhaps.” The front and back covers of the Translation Issue feature (in a wrap-around-thespine reproduction) what is now considered one of Smithson’s most notable works. Entitled “A Heap of Language” and dated 1966, this poem (or is it an art object?) formally resembles the truncated cones or pyramids, often rising in spirals, of Smithson’s earthworks. And like a number of them, it is made of up “tailings” or other material that has been dumped onto the site (or “non-site”)— this particular mound of textual garbage is made up of paratactic strings of words piled (or composted) on top of each other and occupying a 5 x 21 graph-paper grid of squares.
Both formally (i.e. as a graphic or architectonic structure) and semantically (i.e. as a verbal construct), “A Heap of Language” may be Smithson’s deepest meditation on (or enactment of) the myth of the Tower of Babel—that foundational myth of all translation in the West. And yet, if we read/hear the trash-talk of this work as an experiment in (verbal/visual) glossolalia, perhaps Smithson is also providing an Utopian intimation of the kind of translation that might move beyond the disaster of Babel—not unlike that moment of universal communicability said to have occurred when the “cloven tongues like as of fire” descended upon the gathered disciples at Pentecost.
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Druggermen at Babel SANDRA NADAFF
Pity, you was not Druggerman at Babel! A. Pope
mong the thousands of photographs taken under the auspices of the Bonfils studio during the latter half of the nineteenth century and the early decades of the twentieth are three studio portraits bearing some version of the title, “Drogman, guide de voyageurs.”1 Produced by that photographic enterprise promising “vues photographiques de tout l’Orient,” the pictures visually construct a set image of one of the central figures in the nineteenth-century voyage to the Orient. The dragoman was originally employed for political and diplomatic purposes by the Ottoman government; but the figure portrayed by Felix Bonfils represents the more traditional notion of the dragoman as the guide and translator who serves as a linguistic and cultural intermediary between west and east, specifically in countries where Arabic, Turkish, or Persian is spoken. These portraits speak eloquently to the difficulty of translation in general, though they particularly address the problem of translating between what Talal Asad has called “unequal languages.”2 In their participation in the genre of costume studies, the portraits offer in minute detail full depictions of the dragoman in appropriate costume. Two of the portraits seem to form a diptych, and present front and back views of the same figure. In one, he is shown frontally and is seated; in the other, a back view of the standing figure is presented. The portrait on which I here focus my attention is entitled simply, “Drogman, guide de voyageurs,” [Figure 1]. The other portrait is entitled more 8
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specifically, “Drogman ou guide de voyageurs en Syrie” [Figure 2]; while the third, which offers an alternative costume on the same model, is specifically located as a guide to travelers in Palestine [Figure 3]. Set against a backdrop of incongruous natural elements drawn from a variety of environments, the dragoman adopts a deliberate and dramatic pose in order to offer the fullest possible view of his costume. The dress is loaded with detail and stereo-typical signifiers of the Arab Orient. The costume is a series of layers of different garments—shirts, vests, shawls, and head coverings, each differently patterned and heavily embroidered. Those materials that are not decorated, the pantalons and the leg coverings, for example, have a noticeably tactile and textured quality to them. The pouches the dragoman carries about his waist, presumably to carry money and ammunition, are fine and careful in their decoration; and the cords to which the pouches are attached are bound around the man’s torso, as if to constrain and constrict him. The weaponry—the rifle, the sword, and the knife—are attached to the dragoman at different points on his body, and crossreference various military strategies. In the same way, the stone and the tree and the grass offer potentially different natural environments. In its embarrassment of texture and detail and accessory, the portrait seems to offer multiple semiotic possibilities, and references a range of interpretive options drawn from different cultural locations. The dragoman’s gaze is averted—in all three of the portraits in question, the dragoman refuses to return the photographer’s gaze. In averting his eyes, he perhaps signals
his reluctance to lock himself within a single frame and to engage in direct, one-on-one contact, insisting instead on the possibility of multiple contexts and cultures. In the surfeit of detail and the insistently constructed, dramatic nature of the setting and the costume, the dragoman seems to speak to the complexity of wearing two skins, of crossing between two linguistic and cultural universes, and meeting in the contact zone between them. The artificial quality of this portrait is enhanced by the suspicion that the model for the dragoman is simply playing a part, that he belongs neither ethnically nor linguistically to the territory he is helping the traveler to negotiate. And indeed, the model has been identified as one Rolla Floyd, a Mormon from Jonesport, Maine, who went to the Middle East in a ship full of merchandise for travelers to the Holy Land. By the late 1860s, he had begun conducting tourist parties and serving as an authentic dragoman; and in 1898 he served as the official escort for the Kaiser’s visit to Jerusalem.3 It is perhaps no accident, then, that this portrait speaks symbolically to the difficulty of linguistic and cultural translation, of the necessary artificiality of constructing a place in which communication between two radically
different parties can occur. ******* The Oxford English Dictionary offers multiple definitions for the verb “to translate.”4 The first is etymologically derived: translate, from the Latin transferro, the past participle of which is translatus: “to bear, convey, or remove from one person, place or condition D R U G G E R M E N AT B A B E L
to another; to transfer, transport.” The OED notes that this meaning is referenced when speaking of the removal of a bishop from one see to another, or the removal of a dead body of the remains of a saint from one place to another (OED, p. 2086). The secondary definition offered under this category by the OED interestingly sustains this emphasis on body and weight. Yet in so doing, it undercuts this very materiality in its suggestion of the potential for bodily decay. “To carry or convey to heaven without death” summarily encapsulates this variation on the meaning of the verb in question. The quotation used to support this usage is drawn from Coleridge’s “Fears in Solitude:” “As if the wretch, Who fell in battle . . . Passed off to Heaven, translated and not killed” (OED, p. 2086). The third alternative, by contrast, is strictly of this world in its medical emphasis: “To remove the seat of (a disease) from one person, or part of the body, to another.” The example of this obsolete usage is, “The humours frequently settle, or are translated to the lungs and other bowels” (OED, p. 2086). From heaven to earth, from health, indeed life without death, to disease. All translation is a journey between two poles, a voyage from the mother tongue to that of the step-mother, from a near and familiar culture to one distant and often alienating. Translation always exists in a state of radical tension. This tension is reflected in the words that various languages use to name the act of “turning from one language into another.” (This is the second definitional category defined by the verb “to translate” (OED, p. 2086)). In English, we also use the verb “to interpret” to signify the act of expressing in other words, or paraphrasing. Although this verb implicates the creative register of textual and dramatic interpretation, it also suggests, in the context of translation a kind of literal transformation, what Dryden calls in his “Preface to Ovid’s Epistles,” metaphrase, “turning an author word by word, and line by line, from one language into another.5 This is the spectrum covered by the German word Dolmetschen and appointed 10
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by Friedrich Schleiermacher in “On the Different Methods of Translating” to cover the lower register of the translation scale, the reproduction of common matter and private, clerical information.6 It is also the term used by Martin Luther in his “Sendbrief vom Dolmetschen” to indicate all aspects of translation. It opposes Übersetzen, that act of re-creative translation from one literary, philosophic, or religious text to another. This term corresponds in turn to Dryden’s paraphrase, “translation with latitude, where the author is kept in view by the translator, so as never to be lost, but his words are not so strictly followed as his sense, and that too is admitted to be amplified, but not altered.”7 The opposition is between the literal, on the one hand, and the hermeneutic on the other. The French language continues the tension: interpréter versus traduire. But French brings in a third term: truchement, one who interprets and translates, but who, in so doing, does not quite accurately replace meaning for meaning, and, in consequence, betrays and deceives. The word derives from the Arabic word turjuman, meaning originally one who translated between Moor and Spaniard, and later, more generally, a translator. The English dragoman also derives from this word; and although the definition of this term itself does not speak to the necessity of betrayal, of deception, of disguise in every act of translation, Bonfils’s portrait of the dragoman, guide of travelers, eloquently does. ******** The field of translation studies has exploded over the past six years or so, but in many ways, we have returned to the translation issues and tensions embodied in Bonfils’s dragoman. The events of 9/11 prompted the media to pay attention to the important role that (the absence of) good translators and good translation practice can play. As Emily Apter notes in her article entitled “Translation After 9/11,”8 translation stories following the 9/11 tragedy and the Iraq War frequently focused on the very limited
number of experienced Arabic translators and the various government initiatives developed to recruit knowledgeable translators. Academic interest in the field, which had been growing stronger in the years immediately prior to 9/11, (see, for example, The Translation Studies Reader, first published in 2000 and edited by Lawrence Venuti who has an article in the current collection) also picked up considerable steam post-9/11. Scholarly works like Apter’s The Translation Zone and Sandra Bermann and Michael Wood’s Nation, Language, and the Ethics of Translation (both featured in Princeton’s Translation/TransNation series), testify to the increasing role that translation studies are playing in the expanding interdisciplinary discourse of the Humanities and Comparative Literature, in particular, and to the way that nation, language and culture often collide both inside and outside of the academy. On a more popular front, Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky’s translation of Anna Karenina which was chosen as an Oprah book club selection and subsequently listed on the New York Times paperback best-seller list speaks to the possibility of the growing (though still relatively limited) interest in American publishers (and readers) to consider works not originally written in English. Lest one overstate the importance of this particular success, however, it should be noted that, according to the data presented in the April 15, 2007 issue of The New York Times Book Review which was devoted to works in translation, a paltry 2.62% of all books published in the Unites States in 2004 were translations, as opposed to the 29% of books published in the Czech Republic and South Korea, the 25% published in Spain, and the 22% published in Italy. Nonetheless, the necessity of acknowledging the value of translation as both theory and practice in our fully globalized, multi-cultural world is undeniably felt with increasing urgency by our government, our research institutions, and our readers alike. This issue of The Advocate takes its rightful place in the line-up of recent works that address the value and importance
of translation today. Richard Sieburth’s retrospective assessment of the first issue of The Advocate devoted to translation some twenty-five years ago reminds us of the fact that translation has long been acknowledged by Harvard as a field worthy of consideration well before the current trends in translation studies. One of the first collection of essays devoted to the practice and criticism of translation was the 1966 collection of essays titled On Translation, edited by Harvard professor of English (and beloved master of Adams House) Reuben Brower. This 2008 winter issue of The Advocate participates in this tradition. Twenty-five years after the first translation issue, leading translators and scholars in the field are still, under The Advocate’s aegis, suggesting “questions about translation as an activity, as a theoretical riddle, as a form;” but they are, I suspect, a bit closer to answering those questions. The druggerman is still waiting at Babel.
NOTES 1. For full information on the history and content of the Bonfils collection, consult Carney Gavin, Images of the East: Nineteenth-Century Photographs by Bonfils (Chicago, 1982) . The photographs are reproduced courtesy of the Harvard Semitic Museum Photographic Archive, Visual Collections, Fine Arts Library 2. Talal Asad, “The Concept of Cultural Translation in British Social Anthropology” in Writing Culture: The Poetics and Politics of Ethnography, eds. James Clifford and George E. Marcus (Berkeley, 1986), p. 156. 3. See Gavin, Images of the East for a longer discussion of Rolla Floyd’s situation. 4. The Compact Oxford English Dictionary, 2nd edition, (Oxford, 1991), p. 2098. 5. John Dryden, “On Translation” in Theories of Translation, eds. Rainer Schulte and John Biguenet (Chicago, 1992), p. 17. 6. Friederich Schleiermacher, “On the Different Methods of Translating” in Theories of Translation, pp. 36-54. 7. Dryden, “On Translation,” p. 17. 8. Emily Apter, “Translation After 9/11” in Transit, vol.2, Issue1, 2006. D R U G G E R M E N AT B A B E L
Flowers: Five Attempts at a Translation MARTA FIGLEROWICZ
One and Two (Through taste and sound) Taste and sound tell us what flowers are not as objects of our attention.
We do not pay attention to flowers merely because they are indicators of future fruit. A few centuries of examining budding roses would surely have taught us that a rose is a rose is a rose and will never be coaxed into producing a banana. * Flowers cannot be reduced to metaphors of beautiful objects because they render absurd the distinction between the signifier and the signified of such a metaphor. Is a lady’s slipper pretty because it looks like a real lady’s slipper, or did we start noticing the beauty of female footwear because we saw its shape abstracted into something that does not get all sweaty and give us blisters when we wear it for too long? Tantalizing in mid-air, the flower we call a lady’s slipper is both an ideal form and a formal derivative of the human-made object for which it is named. This must have given Plato quite a headache. Three and Four (Through sight and smell) “When you are a flower, anyone can see the color of your soul.”
After Avrom Sutzkever
* There is an irony to the myth of Narcissus unparalleled by any other myths. The man who would not share himself with anyone flips his whole self inside out as if it were a freshly laundered glove. The beauty others had despised him for hoarding suddenly makes itself available to all who wish to be its admirers. It mutely propagates itself further and further out from the place where it originally sprouted until no-one can remember the exact location of its origin. Five (Through touch) Harming a flower is inexplicably cruel and nurturing one is inexplicably kind in a double sense. The cruelty of ripping apart a rose is inexplicable both because it can do nobody any good and because we are unable to explain why destroying so ephemeral a life should cause us any feeling of guilt. The kindness of watering one is inexplicable both due to the short-lived effect of our labor and because we are unable to explain why we are hesitant to deem it a purely selfish act. Kant wrote the Categorical Imperative on the petals of a trillium. 12
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Translation and Modernist Transculturation: T.S. Eliot and Langston Hughes ANITA PATTERSON
Translation, in recent years, seems to have suffered a decline in its reputation within scholarly debates. Once revered as a mark of high intellect and transcultural communication, it is now being considered in light of its broader, far more negative ramifications as a cultural practice burdened by the fraught legacy of ethnocentric nationalism and empire. Lawrence Venuti, for example, has shown how translation became a tool in dominating a source culture and its language. The desire of a translator to “domesticate” the original text, to render it “transparent” by removing all traces of foreignness or difference, in his view, is integral to the act of political domination, in part, because it conceals the conditions of its own production.1 Recent work on translation in postcolonial contexts has shown how this domesticating standard can destroy the cherished uniqueness of local cultures, reminding us that we should keep in mind how nationalist pressures towards linguistic conformity in the U.S., the Caribbean, and elsewhere have threatened to sap emergent writers of their individuality.2 Losing sight of “multilingual America,” the range and richness of texts published in languages other than English, we lose our capacity to explain the history of language diversity in the United States, or what Marc Shell has called “social language engineering.”3 At the same time, however, we should also keep in mind the many ways translation has also proven to be historically essential for the development of modern and modernist poetics; and that the practice of translation is valuable, as Eliot averred in 1917, almost a century ago, because it fertilizes literature
through the importation of new material, while at the same time restoring essential methods that would otherwise have been forgotten.4 Seven years later, in his 1924 introduction to Mark Wardle’s translation of Valéry’s Le Serpent, Eliot remarked, The best stimulus to influence is good translation; the Elizabethan age, as we must not tire of reminding ourselves, was the age in England which produced the most numerous and the most living translations. To translate a poet like Valéry, even into tolerable prose, is extremely difficult: Captain Wardle has succeeded—and success in a translation is no vague commendation—in a task which I should have considered impossible.5
A successful translation, in Eliot’s view, need not be an exact reproduction, or equivalence, of the text being translated; to be “living,” a translation necessarily involves the interpretation, and even invention, of other literatures for the translator’s own place, time, and generation. But having said this, Eliot does not rest content with the notion that no cultural exchange whatsoever has occurred as a result of translation. What matters most, clearly, is that translation somehow enables the stimulus, the transmission, of poetic influence; and even a flawed translation of such a difficult, late Symbolist poet as Valéry is an experiment in cross-culturation that could, he implies, have consequences for the development of modernism on both sides of the Atlantic. It is intriguing to consider how the practice of translation helped Eliot navigate the murky waters of mixed feeling and influence, especially when the poetic influ-
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ences were American, poets such as Poe and Whitman. Hugh Kenner, Christopher Ricks, Ronald Shuchard, Helen Vendler, and others have thoroughly studied Eliot’s formative, early debts to French Symbolists such as Baudelaire and Laforgue; we know, furthermore, that although Eliot spent a lifetime overcoming his ambivalence towards Poe and Whitman as American antecedents, when the young Eliot turned abroad for influences he would have encountered their styles indirectly, in part as a result of translations rendered by Laforgue and other French Symbolists.6 But given the importance of translation for his own lyric practice, it is remarkable that Eliot says next to nothing about the role played by translations of Poe and Whitman in the development of French Symbolist poetics. Certainly, in such well-known commentaries as “From Poe to Valéry,” a lecture delivered in 1948, Eliot gives passing consideration to Baudelaire’s translations, remarking that Baudelaire improved upon Poe’s language.7 But he never lets on, for example, that Poe’s transatlantic influence was, in its earliest phase, fostered by Baudelaire’s shocked identification with his American precursor: in a letter, Baudelaire once described the uncanny experience of translating Poe, whose subject matter and phrases felt as if they were Baudelaire’s own.8 We also know, though Eliot never mentions it, that Laforgue translated and published ten poems by Whitman in the summer of 1886, the first to receive wide circulation in France, and collaborated with André Gide, Valéry Larbaud, and others, translating poems for the 1918 volume Œuvres choisies de Walt Whitman produced by the Nouvelle Revue Française. (Evidently, Laforgue was so taken by Whitman he planned a complete translation of Leaves of Grass, and even went so far as to secure permission from Whitman to do it.) It is likely that Eliot’s reticence on the subject of these Symbolist translations reflects a pained, lifelong ambivalence about his Romantic antecedents in America. (In “From Poe to Valéry,” he criticized Poe’s 14
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“carelessness and unscrupulousness in the use of words,” offering a memorable caveat against his stylistic penchant for privileging of sound over sense.9 And on numerous occasions, he explicitly distanced himself from Whitman, a poet whose influence was constrained, he said, by the uniqueness and limited applicability of his idiom.) Still, his conviction regarding the importance of translation as a means of cross-cultural encounter is strongly expressed through action, even if it has not been put into in words. Just two years after Eliot published his remarks on Wardle’s translation of Valéry, he began work on his own translation of Anabase, an epic poem by the Guadeloupean Creole poet, St.-John Perse. Published eight years after the opening Song of Perse’s Anabase first appeared in an April 1922 issue of the Nouvelle Revue Française, Eliot’s translation was painstakingly revised in subsequent editions. A year after the unbound copies of the 1930 edition were reissued in England in 1937, Eliot made changes for an American printing a year later, and further changes for the second edition in 1949. Regarding the final, 1959 edition, Eliot informs us, all revisions were done at the request of Perse himself, tending “to make the translation more literal than in previous editions.”10 Perse was so closely involved in the translation that Eliot identified him as a “half-translator,” and the time and effort involved in the collaboration indicate his strong admiration for Perse’s poem.11 In 1927, he wrote a letter in French to Perse saying, “The poem is one of the greatest and most original in modern times, and if I can render a translation worthy of such a masterpiece, I shall be completely satisfied.” Three years later, weighing the importance of Anabase in his 1930 Preface, Eliot raised a telling comparison with Joyce’s Finnegans Wake.12 It is well known that Eliot began work on his translation of Perse in 1926; what is less known, however, is that two years prior to that Perse had published a translation of Eliot’s fragment, “We are the hollow men,” in the French periodical Commerce. Like Baudelaire’s inventive translation of Poe’s
poems, Perse’s translation of Eliot was evidently not intended to be literal. Not exactly a translation nor something completely new and original, titled “Poème” and parenthetically described as an “Adaptation” in Commerce, Perse’s work was less ambiguously renamed “En hommage à T. S. Eliot: ‘Traduction d’un poème’” in his Oeuvres completes. Whatever we call it, Perse’s “Poème,” his only known translation, gains significance when we consider that it was published en regard with the original fragment by Eliot, a fragment that would eventually be called “The Hollow Men” and marked a critical turning point in the formation of Eliot’s style. These reciprocal acts of translation not only call attention to a transatlantic, Symbolist heritage Perse shared with Eliot; they also illuminate how the practice of translation itself was crucial for sustained, refreshing intercultural dialogue and influence between Eliot and Perse as New World poets. At least one critic, Sophie Levie, has noticed echoes of Eliot in Perse; and, conversely, Eliot himself would observe, in a letter published in 1950, that his encounter with Perse exerted a definite influence on the rhythm and imagery of his own poetry.13 Thus far, I have been speaking of Eliot’s modernism and the importance of translation as a means of exchanging poetic influences across national and cultural borders in the U.S., Europe, and the Caribbean. What about modern African-American poets such as Langston Hughes? Is translation a resonant concept, or significant practice, in Hughes, and the tradition of poetry that his work embodies? Here, again, the answer is yes, and understanding why will lead us to some surprising findings about the constellation and character of Hughes’s influences. Critics have dwelt at length on Hughes’s importance to the aesthetic philosophy of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the cultural distinctiveness of his sources and idiom. Steven Tracy and James Emanuel, for instance, have studied the centrality of the blues to Hughes’s lyric practice, and Richard Barksdale, R. Baxter Miller, and Onwuchekwa Jemie have shown how Hughes adapted
vernacular forms at a time when folk literature and song were unjustly derided and neglected by a black literary establishment bent on assimilation with the mainstream.14 Hughes’s adaptation of folk sources laid a foundation for the flourishing of twentiethcentury African-American literature, and even the briefest poems in his poetic oeuvre engage sociohistorical contexts such as slavery, Reconstruction, the Great Migration, and the pernicious threat of racial violence against African Americans. While maintaining a clear sense of Hughes’s cultural distinctiveness, however, we should also examine Hughes’s affinities with Eliot’s transnationalism, affinities that are more apparent when we look at his work as a translator. Only by doing so will we grasp the full extent of Hughes’s contribution to the rise of black internationalism and the hybridity of the Harlem Renaissance, as well as the volatile interplay of influences between the Renaissance and other avant-garde movements in the U.S., Europe and the Caribbean. Consider, for example, the possibility that Hughes, like Eliot, was influenced by St.-John Perse. Hughes never claimed the influence of Perse or other Caribbean poets on his own style, even though he traveled extensively in the Caribbean, and his effort to popularize Caribbean writing culminated in anthologies such as The First Book of the West Indies, published in 1956. Still, it is significant that Léopold Sédar Senghor, one of the principal theorists of Négritude, remarked that Hughes’s poetry absorbed the shaping influence of Perse and other modern French poets.15 Although the transmission of Perse’s modernism to Hughes could have come indirectly, through Eliot, it is illuminating to recall that Hughes was also extensively involved with French avant-gardists such as Louis Aragon, one of the founding members of the Surrealist group, a leading practitioner of Dadaism in the early 1920s, and an active promoter of Hughes’s work. If Hughes was directly influenced by Aragon, he would also have absorbed the influence of Perse: like other Surrealists, Aragon’s poetics derived, in part, from his reading of
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Perse’s Éloges.16 Here, as in all the previous instances I have already discussed, a formative experience of intercultural dialogue and influence came about, in part, as a result of the practice of translation. In 1933, Hughes first met Aragon and his wife in Moscow and, hearing Aragon recite his revolutionary poem “Magnitogorsk,” Hughes was inspired to translate it. Littérature internationale published the translation, Hughes’s first from French, later that year.17 Read with the benefit of historical hindsight, Aragon’s celebration of the Russian revolutionary ideals, emanating from the “Komsomols” (a word that bears associations with totalitarianism and the ideological indoctrination of youth), has a dated, chilling ring to it. The poem, after all, is named after a city whose industrial development stood at the forefront of Joseph Stalin’s agenda in the 1930s, a city that never fulfilled the expectations and dreams of its planners. Still, there are many reasons, in addition to the eloquent simplicity of Aragon’s style, Hughes would have been drawn to this poem. The substitution of human for divine agency in the story of creation, Aragon’s reference to the conquest of masters, his ardent celebration of people who till the earth, and his poem’s figurative questioning of racial distinctions are all in keeping with Hughes’s worldview: In the little houses of black earth lived the human mole In the little houses of black earth laughed the child with the slanting eyes In the little houses of black earth sleeps the woman on the smoky hearth In the little houses of black earth one day more is dead One day more in the little houses of black earth One day more in the shadow of the church or the mosque One day more to sew on the dead days like coins on the breasts of the women here […]
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The agitator comrade from the Komsomols in the dusk of the village re-tells in one breath the modern legend Marx, October and Lenin […] he explains the world he explains what will be Magnitogorsk, Magnitogorsk Do you hear Magnitogorsk At his feet little naked children crawl in the black earth One day more in the little houses of black earth one day more.18
Perhaps most important, Aragon’s poem shows the influence of Baudelaire, a poet to whom Hughes, like Eliot and Perse, was profoundly indebted. Baudelaire wrote numerous poems about love and dusk, or “les ténèbres,” as a trope that suggests the erotic beauty of blackness. As Hughes himself remarked in a January 1926 essay published in Crisis, the fascination of dusk purpling to night outside his windows in Montmartre inevitably summoned up Decadent associations with Baudelaire: Springtime—Paris—Dusk, opalescent, pale, purpling to night—Montmartre. The double windows of my high little attic room open to the evening charm of the city….And we search for the things we know and watch the lights come out beneath us and the stars above….And I think of the many illustrious ones who, through the centuries, have been her lovers,—the strange satanic Baudelaire; Wilde, and the gorgeous Bernhardt.19 The importance of Baudelaire’s dusky imagery for Hughes’s coming-of-age as a poet helps to account for the way Hughes translates parts III and IV of Aragon’s “Magnitogorsk.” It is telling and apt that Hughes, by selecting this particular excerpt for translation, indirectly calls attention to Aragon’s own use of the dusk as a quintessentially Baudelairean trope. In Aragon the two parts are titled, respectively, “Hymne” and “1930,” but in Hughes’s version the two parts are untitled and conjoined.20 The translation, like the original, is syntactically straightforward, with simple diction, and only two
metaphors. The first occurs when Aragon compares the earth to a worker, writing “Ils ont mis en chantier la terre,” “They have put the earth to work.” Hughes translates this with another metaphor of his own choosing, comparing the earth to fermenting grapes: “they have put in ferment the earth.” His merging of “Hymne” and “1930,” moreover, draws attention to Aragon’s second, more hidden metaphor, his use of blackness, the color of dusk in the village, as an image that evokes not race, but the hope, ability to survive, and latent power of downtrodden working people. Focusing on translation calls attention to suggestive parallels between Eliot and Hughes. Both men were influenced by modern French poetry at a formative, early phase of their careers; both were committed to transnationalism and understood the necessity of translation as a means of preserving precious traditions and texts. And both, significantly, fostered intercultural dialogue, despite their knowledge of the limitations which the very nature and conditions of any given translation impose. We have them to thank for this enrichment of our self-awareness, both as translators and critics.
NOTES 1. Lawrence Venuti, The Translator’s Invisibility: A History of Translation (New York: Routledge, 1995), 61. 2. Susan Bassnett and Harish Trivedi, eds. Post-colonial Translation: Theory and Practice (New York: Routledge, 1999). 3. Marc Shell, “Babel in America; or, The Politics of Language Diversity in the United States,” Critical Inquiry 20 (Autumn 1993), 103; Werner Sollors and Marc Shell, eds., Multilingual America: Transnationalism, Ethnicity, and the Languages of American Literature (New York: New York University Press, 1998). 4. T. S. Eliot, “The Noh and the Image.” The Egoist (August 1917), 102. 5. T. S. Eliot, “A Brief Introduction to the Method of Paul Valéry,” Le Serpent by Paul Valéry, trans. Mark Wardle (London: published for the Criterion by R. Cobden-Sanderson, 1924), 15. 6. Edward Greene, T. S. Eliot et la France (Paris: Boivin, 1951); Warren Ramsey, Jules Laforgue and the Ironic Inheritance (New York: Oxford University Press, 1953); Hugh
Kenner, The Invisible Poet: T. S. Eliot (New York: McDowell, Obolensky, 1959), 13-39; Christopher Ricks, ed., T. S. Eliot: Inventions of the March Hare (New York: Harcourt Brace, 1996), 399-410; Ronald Schuchard, Eliot’s Dark Angel: Intersections of Life and Art (New York: Oxford University Press, 1999), 70-86; Helen Vendler, Coming of Age as a Poet (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press); Sydney Musgrove, T. S. Eliot and Walt Whitman (Wellington: New Zealand University Press, 1952), 32; Betsy Erkkila, Walt Whitman Among the French: Poet and Myth (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1980), 69-70; Gregory Jay, T.S. Eliot and the Poetics of Literary History (Baton Rouge: Louisiana State University Press, 1983),168; Lee Oser, T. S. Eliot and American Poetry (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1998), 17. 7. T.S. Eliot, “From Poe to Valéry,” To Criticize the Critic and Other Writings (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1965), 36-37. 8. Charles Baudelaire, Correspondance, vol. II (Paris: Gallimard, “Pléiade,” 1973), 386. 9. Eliot, “From Poe to Valéry,” To Criticize the Critic, 40. 10. T. S. Eliot, “Note to the Third Edition,” Anabasis, trans. T. S. Eliot, third edition (London: Faber, 1959), 15. 11. T. S. Eliot, “Preface” (1930) Anabasis, trans. T. S. Eliot, first edition (London: Faber and Faber, 1930), 11. 12. Letter from T. S. Eliot to A. Leger (January 15, 1927), Honneur à Saint-John Perse (Paris: Gallimard,1965), 419; Eliot, “Preface” (1930), 10. 13. T. S. Eliot, “Un feuillet unique,” Saint-John Perse: Hommage international des “Cahiers de la Pléiade” (Paris: Boivin, été-automne, 1950), 8; Sophie Levie, Commerce, 1924-1932: Une revue internationale moderniste (Roma: Fondazione Camillo Caetani, 1989), 170. 14. Steven Tracy, Langston Hughes and the Blues (Chicago: University of Illinois Press, 1988); James Emanuel, Langston Hughes (New York: Twayne, 1967); Richard Barksdale, Langston Hughes: The Poet and His Critics (Chicago, IL: American Library Association, 1977); R. Baxter Miller, The Art and Imagination of Langston Hughes (Lexington, Ky.: University Press of Kentucky, 1989); Onwuchekwa Jemie, Langston Hughes: An Introduction to the Poetry (New York: Columbia University Press, 1976). 15. Henry Louis Gates, “Preface,” Langston Hughes: Critical Perspectives Past and Present, ed. H. L. Gates and K. A. Appiah (New York: Amistad, 1993), x. 16. Louis Aragon, “Car c’est de l’homme qu’il s’agit,” Les lettres françaises, 3 Nov. 1960, rpt. Honneur à Saint-John Perse (Paris: Gallimard, 1965), 576-77. 17. Louis Aragon, “Magnitogorsk,” trans. Langston Hughes, Littérature internationale 4 (1933-34), 82-83. 18. Aragon, “Magnitogorsk,” trans. Langston Hughes, 8283. 19. Langston Hughes, “The Fascination of Cities,” in The Collected Works of Langston Hughes, ed. Christopher de Santis (Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2002), 31. 20. Louis Aragon, “Magnitogorsk,” Hourra l’Oural (Paris: Denoel 35 Steele, 1934); Louis Aragon, “Magnitogorsk,” trans. Langston Hughes, Littérature internationale 4 (19331934), 82.
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A Few Words for William Tyndale CHARLES PECK
o translation is ever original or final; yet it is certain that William Tyndale’s New Testament of 1526 “as it was written and caused to be written by them which herde yt”1 is the most influential and enduring rendition ever made into English of anything. What it gathered there was an adolescent language; what it brought in was cultural and political dynamite; the result was a modern English, still familiar to us today, confident then, as now, of its forceful ability to describe, in a range of tones, the social, political, and spiritual issues which an increasingly literate society needed to discuss easily in its own tongue. These debates led in time to an ongoing practice of revolution and reform of church, state and cultural institutions. In the linkage of language and thought, this translation affects us to this day. It is easy now to underestimate the great unbundling of church, state and other institutions of power and wealth-production which took place as Henry VIII cleverly broke the English church out of its thousand-year-old place in the ecclesiastical Roman Catholic empire, with its pope in the place of a Caesar. Supplanting the pope, Henry achieved his divorce and, more significantly, could now better meet financial and political demands with the seized church property he had for some years worked to acquire. His changes were not so fundamental as to lead to the rioting and strife seen along the CatholicProtestant fault lines in continental Europe. The English church was allowed to retain its old Catholic hierarchy of bishops, who in turn were now eager to retain the power allowed them, including what was at times the 18
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corrupt practice of raising money through the sale of indulgences. As will be seen, it was therefore very much against the interest of the established English church for the full contents of the Bible to be known; the English church could see that when rendered into German, an increasingly literate population on the continent was eager to recast the church along radically simpler lines suggested in the New Testament, especially in the writings of the apostle Paul. In practices enduring into Henry VIII’s time, the mediaeval church did not use or preach from the whole Bible. Instead, priests, with their backs turned to the congregation, read out or declaimed selected small texts of scripture, in Latin, to parishioners who could not entirely hear what was being said and only rarely understood the words. “Hoc est meus corpus” of the Mass transmogrified into “hocus pocus” to the communicants, gaining an unintended and even sinister meaning. William Tyndale (1494?-1536) had a facility for languages (he knew eight), including the late Greek of the New Testament and the Hebrew of the Old, rare enough acquisitions for a western European at that time, almost unique in an Englishman. Most important, at a time when the language of literacy was Latin, and English was only awkwardly practiced by many of the best scholars (e.g. Thomas More’s early writings), Tyndale wrote English in a direct, fluid, confident manner, pitching its tone just above the level of common speech, so that it was, and is, clear, vivid and still remarkably free of archaicisms. “Because it was largely the current language of his day, it remains
largely a current language of ours.”2 Tyndale’s goal was to enable even “a boy that driveth [the] plough”3 direct access to the Bible as originally written. In such a good translation, the power of priests—even the “hocus pocus”—would shrink. Many church practices, such as the sale of indulgences and the veneration of saints, find no authority in the scriptures, nor do some of the sacraments, all of which non-scriptural practices are derived from an oral tradition of the church which is outside the constitutional scope of the Bible. These traditions and practices, and the priestly class which profited from them, were therefore threatened by a Bible in English which through the new medium of printing was now available to the growing mass of literate middle class English people. The state shared the concerns of the church; translation of the Bible into English had been a criminal offence since the Constitutions of Oxford in 1408.4 Nevertheless, preceding the work of Tyndale there was a long, if slim, history of English bibles and portions of scripture rendered into Old or Middle English. All, however, were made from the Latin Vulgate Bible, which is Jerome’s translation, itself completed by about 405, of the Greek and Hebrew originals. These were derivative renditions. The circulation of these early and middle English translations was limited; even where the reading of them was not illegal, they were not habitually used as instruments of worship. Still, some, such as the Lollard or Wyclif bibles of the 1380s, were extensively copied and constituted a great threat to the church authorities of the day.5 The Lutheran revolution in 15th century Germany—it is simplistic but sufficient to say that it held, upon Paul’s authority, that faith alone was all that was necessary, and much of the rest was unnecessary or worse!— came slowly over to England, with scholars at Oxford and Cambridge divided on the question of its validity. As with any political controversy, there was turbulence. Had Tyndale been more politically skilful, he might have accomplished his work in London, as he first tried. The threats to his liberty and
life were such that he removed his work to the continent, from which his New Testament of 1526 was produced and smuggled in large numbers into England, where it caused a sensation. Pocket-sized, they were rapidly and widely distributed. Now anyone who could read—and this Bible was almost certainly an inducement to literacy for anyone who could not—could see for himself, without priestly intervention, the revolutionary Pauline doctrine that salvation depended upon faith alone. Furthermore, one’s accomplishments or good works, often as evidenced by money, land and other tangibles, was authoritatively irrelevant to salvation, a conclusion which cut at the heart of the economics of the English church, which lived off the flow of goods and money tendered by parishioners encouraged to believe that such demonstration of good works enhanced their prospects of heavenly reward. It is therefore no surprise that Tyndale’s translation was straightaway denounced as heresy. The authorities seized and publicly burnt hundreds of copies in London in order to encourage orthodoxy. Burning the Bible proved, of course, a losing battle for them. Even after Tyndale himself was burnt at the stake for heresy in 1536—a shameful loss in that he had not completed his Old Testament—it was only a short time later that the English Bible was licensed in 1539. In 1611 the “King James,” or Authorized Version, was published after its committee of editors incorporated most of Tyndale’s text. Generally praised for completing its vast labors so quickly, the King James committee ascribed nothing to Tyndale. Convicted heretics get little credit, even where they have done three-quarters of the work. It is unlikely that he would have minded his obloquy. His sincere intention to put the Bible in the hands of every plough boy was fulfilled, and his work, as carried on in the Authorized Version, engaged everyone reading, writing, and speaking English for the next 450 years. Tyndale’s words are now part of the structure of modern English. They are phrases common enough to be clichés, but because of their strength and simplicity reA FEW WORDS FOR WILLIAM TYNDALE
main vivid. “The salt of the earth;” “the signs of the times;” “riotous living;” “eat and be merry;” “killed the fatted calf;” “the spirit is willing;” “fight the good fight;” “in my Father’s house are many mansions;” “the powers that be;” “let there be light;” “there were shepherds abiding in the field” are a few of the vivid expressions which William Tyndale brought into the language and which have endured as English matured. The frisky, evolving English of 1500 was clarified by Tyndale, prepared, and made confident for its modern triumphs in the work of Shakespeare and all who have followed. The rate of change in the language had been rapid. For the Tudors of the 1520s, the Old English of Beowulf, written down in about 900, was as inaccessible as it is to us today. And in the century between Chaucer’s death in 1400 and Tyndale’s work after 1500, the strong regional differences in English evolved rapidly, probably competing in something like the competition of regional politics and economies of the period, while the variants of English seemed to wait for some great force of coalescence. It can only be a matter of speculation what further quick shifts and uncertain feints might have been characteristic of English had Tyndale’s especially strong translation of a book in universal demand not taken place when it did, fixing the language in place with an appropriate standard of clarity that satisfied a universal appetite. His great faithfulness to the Greek and Hebrew of the New and Old Testaments was matched by his appreciation for English word order, rhythm and syllabification. He was confident enough to employ these at a time when scholars, where they did deign to write in English, wrote in awkward, derivative and latinised fashion. It is easy to appreciate this accessibility and strength in the Parable of the Prodigal Son from Tyndale’s second edition of 1534, best detected if read aloud: And he said: a certain man had two sons, and the younger of them said to his father: father, give me my part of the goods that to me belongeth. And he divided unto them his substance. And not long 20
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after, the younger son gathered all that he had together, and took his journey into a far country, and there he wasted his goods with riotous living. And when he had spent all that he had, there rose a great dearth throughout all the same land, and he began to lack. And he went and clave to a citizen of that same country, which sent him to his field, to keep his swine. And he would fain have filled his belly with the cods that the swine ate: and no man gave him. Then he came to himself and said: how many hired servants at my father’s have bread enough, and I die for hunger. I will arise, and go to my father and will say unto him: father, I have sinned against heaven and before thee, and am no more worthy to be called thy son; make me as one of thy hired servants. And he arose and went to his father. And when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him and had compassion, and ran and fell on his neck, and kissed him. And the son said unto him: father, I have sinned against heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But his father said to his servants: bring forth the best garment and put it on him, and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet. And bring hither that fatted calf, and kill him, and let us eat and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again, he was lost, and is now found. And they began to be merry. The elder brother was in the field, and when he came and drew nigh to the house, he heard minstrelsy and dancing, and called one of his servants, and asked what those things meant. And he said unto him, thy brother is come, and thy father had killed the fatted calf, because he hath received him safe and sound. And he was angry, and would not go in. Then came his father out, and entreated him. He answered and said to his father: Lo, these many years have I done thee service, neither brake at any time thy commandment, and yet gavest thou me never so much as a kid to make merry with my lovers: but as soon as this thy son was come, which hath devoured thy goods with harlots, thou hast for his pleasure killed the fatted calf. And he said unto him: Son, thou wast ever with me,
and all that I have, is thine: it was meet that we should make merry and be glad: for this thy brother was dead, and is alive again: and was lost, and is found.6
The modern, regular spelling is the only change to Tyndale’s text. The plain rhetorical strengths of Tyndale surmount the variant spellings of different centuries, and this one would not tax his contemporaries.7 Today we may hesitate in the first paragraph over “clave,” but no more so than when considering that cleave, transitive, and cleave, intransitive are, like butchers and lovers, concerned with opposite actions. This is not a heavy burden for today’s reader. Perhaps in the same paragraph only “the cods that the swine ate” seem elusive. But the Oxford English Dictionary quickly reassures us, on what is only a matter of vocabulary, that these pigs ate the “husk of peas or beans”, not fish.8 No translation can be final, because the needs of the receiving language alter over time, and it is far easier to justify and fashion a new response to those needs than it is right to bowdlerize the originating text. Still, Tyndale comes very close to writing something original, and originality cannot be supplanted. His effects on English and the English-speaking world far outweigh any direct significance of Jerome’s Vulgate Bible or even the Greek and Hebrew original texts. Without Tyndale, the English Protes-
tant revolution might have been different, if only because of delay. The change in religious thought was accompanied by political and cultural reassessments. Language, politics, religion and learning began to flower in new and energetic ways. It might be a step too far to argue that without Tyndale, there would have been no Puritans and no Harvard College. It is sounder ground to say “without Tyndale, no Shakespeare.”9 NOTES 1. The New Testament, tr. William Tyndale, (Worms, 1526) title page. 2. William Tyndale: A Biography, by David Daniells, (New Haven & London, 1994) at 135. 3. The Acts and Monuments, by John Foxe (1563) quoted in The Bible in English, by David Daniells, (New Haven & London, 2003) at 142. 4. Biography, at 57. 5. See “The Wyclif (‘Lollard’) Bibles” in Daniells’s The Bible in English at 66 et seq. 6. Quoted in Daniells’s The Bible in English at 159. 7. It is easy to compare this with the original spelling: see Luke 15 in The New Testament 1526, translated by William Tyndale, the Text of the Worms edition of 1526 in original spelling, ed. by W.R. Cooper (London, 2000) at 165. The 1526 and 1534 editions do not differ significantly here. 8. Oxford English Dictionary, compact edition, (Oxford, 1971) at 456. 9. The Bible in English, David Daniells, (New Haven & London, 2003) at 158.
A FEW WORDS FOR WILLIAM TYNDALE
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Diary of a Madman LEO TOLSTOY TRANSLATED BY RICHARD PEVEAR AND LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY
883. 20 October. Today I was taken to the provincial board for examination, and the opinions were divided. They debated and decided that I am not mad. But they decided that only because, during the examination, I used all my strength to keep from speaking out. I did not speak out because I am afraid of the madhouse; I am afraid that there they would keep me from doing my mad deed. They declared me to be subject to affects and something else of the sort, but – in my right mind; they declared it, but as for me, I know that I am mad. The doctor prescribed me a treatment, assuring me that if I follow his prescriptions strictly, it will go away. Everything that troubles me will go away. Oh, what I’d give to have it go away! It’s too tormenting. I’ll tell you in due order how and why this examination came about, how I lost my mind, and how I betrayed my madness. Until the age of thirty-five I lived like everybody else, and there was nothing noticeable about me. Maybe only in early childhood, before I was ten, there was something in me similar to my present state, but even then only in fits, and not, like now, constantly. In childhood it came over me a little differently. Here is how. I remember I was going to bed once, I was five or six years old. My nanny Evpraxia– tall, thin, in a brown dress, with a cap on her head, and with the skin hanging down under her chin – was undressing me and putting me to bed. “Let me, let me,” I said, and stepped over the rail. “Well, lie down, lie down, Fedenka – look at Mitya, the good boy, already lying down,” she said, nodding towards my brother. I jumped into bed still holding her hand. Then I let go, kicked my feet under the blanket, and covered myself up. And it felt so good. I quieted down, thinking: “I love nanny, nanny loves me and Mitenka, and I love Mitenka, and Mitenka loves me and nanny. And Taras loves nanny, and I love Taras, and Mitenka loves him. And Taras loves me and nanny. And mama loves me and nanny, and nanny loves mama, and me, and papa, and we all love each other, and it’s good for us all.” And suddenly I hear the housekeeper run in and shout something crossly about a sugar bowl, and nanny answers crossly that she didn’t take it. And it’s painful for me, and frightening, and incomprehensible, and terror, cold terror, comes over me, and I hide my head under the blanket. But the darkness under the blanket doesn’t make me feel any better. I remember how a boy was once beaten in my presence, and how he cried out, and how terrible Foka’s face was as he beat him. “You won’t, you won’t,” he kept repeating, and he went on beating him. The boy said, “I won’t.” And the man kept repeating, “You won’t” and went on beating him. And then it came over me. I began to sob and sob. And for a long time no one could calm me down. This sobbing, this despair were the first fits of my present madness. I remember it came over me another time when my aunt told us about Christ. She told us and was going to leave, but we said: “Tell us more about Jesus Christ.” “No, I have no time now.” “No, tell us,” and Mitenka begged her to tell us. And our aunt began telling us again what DIARY OF A MADMAN
she had told us earlier. She told us that they crucified him, beat him, tortured him, and he kept praying and did not judge them. “Why did they torture him, auntie?” “They were wicked people.” “Yes, but he was good.” “Well, that will do, it’s past eight. Do you hear?” “What did they beat him for? He forgave them, so why did they beat him? It was painful. Was it painful, auntie?” “Well, that will do, I’m going to have tea.” “Maybe it’s not true, they didn’t beat him.” “Well, that will do.” “No, no, don’t go.” And again it came over me, I sobbed and sobbed, and then started beating my head against the wall. That was how it came over me in childhood. But from the age of fourteen, when sexuality awakened in me and I gave myself up to vice, it all went away, and I was a boy just like all boys. Like all of us, raised on heavy, overabundant food, pampered, with no physical labor and with every possible temptation for arousing sensuality, and in a milieu of equally spoiled children, the boys my age taught me vice, and I gave myself up to it. Then this vice was replaced by another. I began to know women, and so, seeking pleasure and finding it, I lived to the age of thirty-five. I was perfectly healthy, and there were no signs of my madness. Those twenty years of my healthy life passed in such a way for me that I now remember almost nothing of them and recall them now with difficulty and loathing. Like all mentally healthy boys of my circle, I went to school, then to the university, where I took a degree in the faculty of law. Then I was briefly in government service, then I became acquainted with my present wife and got married and lived in the country, as they say, raised children, managed the estate, and was a justice of the peace. In the tenth year of my marriage, I experienced the first fit since my childhood. My wife and I had saved money from her inheritance and my activity as a notary and decided to buy an estate. I was very concerned, as I ought to have been, with increasing our wealth and with the wish to increase it in the most intelligent way, better than others. I found out wherever estates were for sale and read all the announcements in the newspapers. I wanted to buy in such a way that the produce or timber of the estate would cover the purchase, and I would get the estate for nothing. I was looking for the sort of fool who has no sense of these things, and once it seemed to me that I had found one. An estate with large forests was for sale in Penza province. From all I could learn, it appeared that the seller was just such a fool, and the forests would cover the price of the estate. I got ready and went. We went first by railway (I went with a servant), then by stagecoach. For me it was a very cheerful trip. My servant, a young, goodnatured man, was as cheerful as I was. New places, new people. We traveled, felt cheerful. The place was some hundred and fifty miles away. We decided to travel without stopping, only changing horses. Night fell, we kept going. We began to doze. I dozed off, but suddenly woke up. I was afraid of something. And as often happens, I woke up frightened, animated – it seemed I’d never fall asleep again. “Why am travelling? Where am I travelling to?” suddenly came into my head. Not that I didn’t like the idea of buying an estate cheaply, but I suddenly fancied that there was no need at all for this long trip, that I would die here in a strange place. And it felt eerie to me. Sergei, my servant, woke up, and I took advantage of that and began talking with him. I talked about the local area, he answered me, joked, but to me it was dull. We talked about home, about how we’d make the purchase. And it was astonishing to me how cheerfully he responded. For him everything was good and cheerful, while for me it was all hateful. But all the same, while I was talking with him, it was a relief for me. But besides 24
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its being dull and eerie to me, I began to feel fatigue, a wish to stop. It seemed to me that to go into a house, to see people, to have tea, and, above all, to fall asleep would be a relief. We were approaching the town of Arzamas. “Shall we stop here? We can rest a bit.” “Fine.” “Is it far to town?” “Five miles from that post.” The driver was staid, precise, and taciturn. He drove at a slow and dull pace. We went on. I fell silent, feeling relieved because I was looking forward to the rest ahead and hoped that there it would all go away. We drove on and on in the darkness, it seemed terribly long to me. We neared the town. The folk were all asleep already. Little houses appeared from the darkness, there was the sound of harness bells and horses’ stamping, especially resonant, as happens near houses. Large white houses came along here and there. And it was all cheerless. I was waiting for the posting station, the samovar, and rest – to lie down. We drove up, finally, to some little house with a hitching post. The house was white, but it looked terribly sad to me. So much so that it even felt eerie. Sergei briskly, energetically took out all that was needed, running and stamping on the porch. And the sound of his feet drove me to anguish. I went in, there was a little corridor, a sleepy man with a spot on his cheek – that spot seemed terrible to me – showed me to the main room. The room was gloomy. I went in and it felt still more eerie. “Isn’t there some little room where I could rest?” “There’s a bedroom. It’s right here.” A clean, whitewashed, square room. How tormenting it was to me, I remember, that this little room was precisely square. There was one window, with a curtain – red. A table of Karelian birch and a sofa with curved armrests. We went in. Sergei prepared the samovar and made tea. And I took the pillow and lay down on the sofa. I didn’t sleep. I heard Sergei drinking tea and calling to me. It was frightening for me to get up, frightening to drive sleep away and sit in this room. I did not get up and began to doze off. And I must indeed have dozed off, because when I came to myself there was no one in the room and it was dark. Again I was as wide awake as in the cart. I felt there was no possibility of falling asleep. Why have I driven here? Where am I taking myself? What am I running away from? I’m running away from something frightful and cannot do it. I’m always with myself, and it is I who am my own torment. I, here I am, all here. Neither the Penza estate nor any other will add to or take away anything from me. I, though, I am sick of myself, I can’t stand myself, I torment myself. I want to fall asleep, to forget myself, and I can’t. I can’t get away from myself. I went out to the corridor. Sergei was sleeping on a narrow bench, his arm hanging down, but he was sleeping sweetly, and the attendant with the spot was sleeping, too. I had gone out to the corridor hoping to get away from what tormented me. But it came out with me and darkened everything. I felt just as frightened, maybe even more. “What is this foolishness?” I said to myself. “Why am I anguished, what am I afraid of?” “Me,” the voice of death answered inaudibly. “I am here.” Chills crept over me. Yes, of death. It will come, it’s here, but it should not be. If I were actually facing death, I could not experience what I am experiencing, I would be afraid then. But now I was not afraid, but I saw and felt that death was coming and at the same time felt that it should not be. My whole being felt the need, the right to live and at the same time the accomplishment of death. And this inner rending was terrible. I attempted to shake off this terror. I found a copper candlestick with a burned-down candle and lit it. The red flame of the candle and its size, slightly smaller than the candlestick, all said the same thing. There is nothing in life, but there is death, and it should not be. I tried to think about what interested me: my purchase, my wife – not only was there nothing cheerful, but it all became null. Everything was overshadowed by terror at my perishing life. I had to fall asleep. I lay down. But as soon as I lay down, I suddenly jumped up from terror. And anguish, anguish, such spiritual anguish as comes before vomiting, only DIARY OF A MADMAN
spiritual. Eerie, frightening, it seems you’re frightened of death, but then you recollect, you think about life, and you’re frightened of your dying life. Somehow life and death merged into one. Something was tearing my soul to pieces and yet could not tear it. Once more I went and looked at the sleeping men, once more I tried to fall asleep, it was all that same terror – red, white, square. Something was being torn, but not coming apart. Tormenting, and a tormenting dryness and spite, not a drop of goodness did I feel in myself, but only a level, calm spite against myself and what had made me. What had made me? God, they say, God. Pray, I recalled. I hadn’t prayed for a long time, some twenty years and did not believe in anything, though for propriety’s sake I prepared for and took communion once a year. I began to pray. Lord have mercy, Our Father, Hail Mary. I began to invent prayers. I crossed myself and bowed to the ground, looking around, afraid of being seen. It was as if this distracted me, I was distracted by the fear that I might be seen. I lay down. But I had only to lie down and close my eyes for the same feeling of terror to jostle me, to get me up. I couldn’t bear it anymore, I woke the attendant, woke Sergei, ordered the horses harnessed, and we drove on. In the open air and in movement, it got better. But I felt that something new had settled on my soul and poisoned my whole former life. By nightfall we reached the place. All day I had struggled with my anguish and overcome it; but there was a frightening residue in my soul: as if some misfortune had befallen me, and I could only forget it for a time; but it was there in the bottom of my soul, and it possessed me. We arrived in the evening. The old steward received me well, though not joyfully (he was vexed that the estate was being sold). Clean rooms with soft furniture. A shiny new samovar. Big tea cups, honey with the tea. It was all very nice. But my questions to him about the estate were reluctant, as if it was an old, forgotten lesson. It was all cheerless. I slept through the night, however, without anguish. I ascribed that to the fact that I had prayed again in the evening. And then I began to live as before; but the dread of that anguish hung over me ever after. I had to live without pause and, above all, in habitual conditions, like a student who, out of habit, without thinking, repeats the lesson he has learned by heart, so I would have to live in order not to fall again into the power of that terrible anguish that had first appeared in Arzamas. I returned home safely, not having bought the estate, because I didn’t have enough money, and began to live as before, with the only difference that I began to pray and go to church. It seemed to me as before, but I now recall that it was no longer as before. I lived by what had been started before, I went on rolling with the former impetus along tracks that had been laid down before, but I no longer undertook anything new. And I now took less interest in the things started before. It was all dull to me. And I became pious. And my wife noticed it and scolded and nagged me for it. The anguish did not repeat itself at home. But once I went unexpectedly to Moscow. I made ready in the afternoon and left in the evening. There was a case being tried. I arrived in Moscow feeling cheerful. On the way I got into conversation with a Kharkov landowner about farming, banks, where to stay, the theaters. We decided to stay together at the Moscow Inn on Myasnitskaya and go to Faust that same evening. We arrived, I went into the small room. The heavy smell of the corridor was in my nostrils. The porter brought my suitcase. The floor maid lit a candle. The candle flared up, then the flame sank, as always happens. Someone coughed in the next room – probably an old man. The maid left, the porter stood asking if he should undo the straps on my suitcase. The flame revived and threw its light on the blue wallpaper with yellow stripes, a partition, a shabby table, a small sofa, a mirror, a window, and the narrow dimensions of the whole room. And suddenly the Arzamas terror stirred in me. “My God, how am I going to spend the night here,” I thought. “Undo them, please, my dear fellow,” I said to the porter, so as to keep him there. And to myself, “Get dressed quickly and go to the theater.” 26
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The porter undid the straps. “Please go to the gentleman in number eight, my dear fellow, the one who arrived with me, and tell him I’ll be ready presently and will come to him.” The porter left, and I hurriedly began to dress, afraid to look at the walls. “What nonsense,” I thought, “why am I afraid like a child? I’m not afraid of ghosts. Yes, ghosts . . . it’s better to be afraid of ghosts than of what I’m afraid of. Of what? Nothing . . . Myself . . . Well, nonsense.” Anyway, I put on a stiff, cold, starched shirt, inserted the studs, put on a frock coat and new shoes, and went to the Kharkov landowner. He was ready. We went to Faust. On the way, he stopped to have his hair curled. I had my hair cut by a Frenchman, chatted with him, bought some gloves, everything was very well. I completely forgot the oblong room and the partition. It was also pleasant in the theater. After the theater, the Kharkov landowner suggested that we go and have supper. That was not my custom, but when we left the theater and he suggested it to me, I recalled the partition and agreed. We came home past one o’clock. I had drunk an inhabitual two glasses of wine, but I was cheerful. But as soon as we entered the corridor with its dimmed lights and I was enveloped by the hotel smell, cold terror ran down my spine. But there was nothing to do. I shook my friend’s hand and went into the room. I spent a terrible night, worse than in Arzamas, and only in the morning, when the old man had already begun to cough next door, did I fall asleep, not in bed, in which I had tried several times to lie down, but on the sofa. All night I had suffered terribly, again my soul and body had been painfully torn. “I live, have lived, must live, and suddenly death, the annihilation of everything. Why life, then? To die? To kill myself at once? I’m afraid. To wait till death comes? I’m still more afraid. To live, then? What for? In order to die.” I could not get out of this circle. I would pick up a book and read. For a moment I would forget myself, and then again the same question and terror. I would get into bed, close my eyes. Still worse. God made this. Why? They say: don’t ask, but pray. All right, I prayed. I prayed now, too, again as in Arzamas; but there and afterwards I prayed simply, like a child. Now my prayer had a meaning. “If you exist, reveal to me why and what I am.” I bowed down, recited all the prayers I knew, invented my own, and added: “So, reveal it.” And I would grow quiet and wait for an answer. But there was no answer, as if there was no one to answer me. And I remained alone with myself. And I gave myself answers in place of the one who would not answer. So as to live in the future life, I answered myself. Then why this unclarity, this torment? I cannot believe in the future life. I believed when I did not ask with all my soul, but now I cannot, I cannot. If you existed, you would tell me, tell people. But you don’t exist, there is only despair. But I don’t want it, I don’t want it. I was indignant. I asked him to reveal the truth to me, to reveal himself to me. I did everything that everybody does, but he would not reveal himself. “Ask, and you shall be given,”1 came to my mind, and so I asked. It was not comfort that I found in this asking, but rest. Maybe I didn’t ask, maybe I renounced him. “You make one step forward, he makes ten steps back.” I didn’t believe in him, but I asked, and still he did not reveal anything to me. I settled accounts with him and condemned him. I simply didn’t believe. The next day I tried as hard as I could to finish all my business during the day and avoid a night in the hotel room. I did not finish everything and returned home during the night. There was no anguish. My life, which had begun to change in Arzamas, was changed still more by this Moscow night. I became still less concerned with affairs, and apathy kept coming over me. My health began to fail. My wife demanded that I be treated. She said that my talk of faith and God came from illness. But I knew that my weakness and illness came from the unresolved question in me. I tried not to give way to this question and tried to fill my life with habitual conditions. I went to church on Sundays and feast days, I prepared for communion, DIARY OF A MADMAN
I even observed fasts, having begun to do so after my trip to Penza, and I prayed, but more as a habit. I expected nothing from it, as if I did not tear up a bill of exchange and made claims when it was due, though I knew it was impossible to get anything for it. I did it just in case. And I filled my life, not with estate management – I was repulsed by the struggle it took; I had no energy – but with reading magazines, newspapers, novels, playing cards for small stakes, and the sole manifestation of my energy was hunting out of old habit. I had been a hunter all my life. Once in the winter a neighbor came with his hounds to go wolf hunting. I went with him. We arrived at the appointed place, put on skis, and went on. The hunt was not successful, the wolves broke through the battue. I heard it from far off and went through the woods, following the fresh tracks of a hare. The tracks led me deep into a clearing. In the clearing I found him. He leaped so that I could no longer see him. I went back. I went back through a big forest. The snow was deep, my skis sank, I got tangled in the brush. It grew more and more dense. I began to wonder where I was; the snow changed everything. And I suddenly felt that I was lost. Home, the hunters were far away, nothing could be heard. I was tired and all in a sweat. Once you stop, you freeze. If you keep walking, you lose strength. I called out, all was quiet. No one responded. I walked back. Again it wasn’t right. I looked around. It was all forest, no telling east from west. I walked back again. My legs were tired. I felt frightened, stopped, and the whole terror of Arzamas and Moscow came over me, only a hundred times greater. My heart pounded, my arms and legs trembled. To die here? I don’t want to. Why die? What is death? I wanted to question, to reproach God as before, but here I suddenly felt that I didn’t dare, that I shouldn’t, that I couldn’t have accounts with God, that he had said what was needed, that I alone was to blame. And I began to pray for his forgiveness, and I felt myself vile. The terror did not last long. I stood for a short time, recovered myself, went in one direction, and soon came out. I wasn’t far from the edge. I walked to the edge, to the road. My arms and legs were trembling in the same way and my heart was pounding. But I felt joy. I reached the hunters; we returned home. I was cheerful, but I knew that in me there was something joyful, that I would sort it out when I was left alone. And so it happened. I was left alone in my study and began to pray, asking forgiveness and remembering my sins. They seemed too few to me. But I remembered them, and they became vile to me. Since then I began to read the Holy Scriptures. For me the Bible was incomprehensible, tempting, the Gospels moved me to tenderness. But most of all I read the lives of the saints. And this reading comforted me, presenting me with examples that it seemed more and more possible for me to imitate. Since that time the affairs of my estate and family interested me less and less. They even repulsed me. It all seemed not right to me. How and what would be right I did not know, but that which had been my life had ceased to be it. Again I learned that while buying an estate. Not far from us a very profitable estate was for sale. I went there, everything was excellent, profitable. It was especially profitable that the only land the peasants owned was their kitchen gardens. I realized that they would have to harvest the landowner’s fields for nothing in exchange for pasture, and so it was. I evaluated it all; it all pleased me out of old habit. Then I left for home, met an old peasant woman, asked her the way, talked with her. I came home and, while telling my wife about the profits of the estate, I suddenly felt ashamed. It became loathsome to me. I said I couldn’t buy the estate, because our profit would be based on people’s poverty and misfortune. I said it, and suddenly the truth of what I said lit up in me. The main thing is this truth, that the muzhiks want to live as much as we do, that they are people – brothers, sons of the Father, as the Gospel says.2 Suddenly something that had long been aching in me tore free, as if it had been born. My wife got angry, scolded me. But for me it was joyful. This was the beginning of my madness. But total madness began still later, a month after that. It began with my going to church, standing through the liturgy, praying well 28
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and listening and being moved. And suddenly they gave me a prosphora,3 then we went to kiss the cross, began jostling, then at the door there were the beggars. And suddenly it became clear to me that all this should not exist. Not only that it should not exist, but that it does not exist, and if this does not exist, then there is no death or fear, and the former rending in me is no more, and I am no longer afraid of anything. Here the light shone fully upon me, and I became what I am. If none of this exists, then first of all it does not exist in me. Right there on the porch I gave the beggars all I had with me, thirty-six roubles, and went home on foot, talking with the people. (1884-1903; unfinished)
1. See Matthew 7: 7, Luke 11: 9. 2. See Matthew 5: 45 (RSV): â€œthat you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven.â€? 3. In the Orthodox Church, a small roll of leavened bread offered by an individual for the sacrament of communion. After blessing it and removing a piece for the common chalice, the priest returns the prosphora to the communicant. DIARY OF A MADMAN
Hansel and Gretel LAURA KOLBE
The blond child on The bank, hands full of difficult marvels, stays Now in bliss, now in doubt. - James Merrill, “The Black Swan”
e do not know how this place became our place. Each day I wake, Hansel beside me, and I shake him so that I am not the only one whose mind is sharpening under the sun-stricken windows glassening over us. At night nothing is itself, but as soon as we awaken the windows glassen, the curtains fabrikize, the bed beds, and Hansel boys. Things rebecome themselves. So I shake Hansel, and he turns over so that the knobs of his spine form a broad smile at me and my long unsmiling belly. Then I hear him start. “One. Two. Three. Four. Five. Six. Seven. Eight. Nine. Ten.” Every morning he wakes and counts the fingers of his hands, attending to them like a cobbler finally ravels laces through the holes of new boots. It settles the eyes and heart to begin each day with a fact. ***** I make birds with my hands. They whistle out my thumbs and spill paper cries. This is a game my father taught us, long back when Hansel and I lived under cloud-thick trees and over moss that smelled like boiled apples and cough tonic. We kept pigs to graze in the woods, and when Father marched them away to be killed in town, he always returned with a box of paper for lessons. “A” he wrote the first time, strong and broadening at the base like an old fir, reft, or hinting at it, from the first whistle of axebreath across. “B.” And so forth. Turning thought into ink lines is the most difficult work in the world, and I cannot believe that so many millions of lives have survived the experience of literacy. Father kept us to the task only with desperate bargains: I could raise a hutch of rabbits under my bed; Hansel could paint all our mugs and saucers yellow; we could eat nothing but maple sugar for a week. But what Hansel and I really wanted to have at, to alter mercilessly somehow, was that white smug-cornered paper. After enshrining it with loops and lines, the olive- and honey-scented pronouncements of Father’s dictation or the godlike truths of our household bookkeeping, we had changed the paper’s emptiness until it was full and different, but still we wanted the next change. We were, like all writers, going crazy. So Father showed us how to fold and twist the used lesson sheets into animals. My specialty was the bird, an unreal kind long in the neck and short in the wing, without feet or eyes. Hansel was good at all the animals, bearded goats and almost-wet fish and flop-eared spaniels. I saw them hidden under his overcoat and grazing in his wooden box of real pet ants. But in Father’s company and mine he would only ball up the paper into the familiar barrel shapes that browsed our woods and shout “Pig!” Then he would throw the paper pigsbody into the cookfire, and usually my footless sightless birds along with it, where they darkened and smoked just like real creatures do. HANSEL AND GRETEL
***** One day Father came home from the town market without a new box of lesson paper, though we had none left from the previous month. My right middle finger sighed relief, wrapping the sigh like a quilt around the pearled hillock of my writing callus. And I sighed too, safe from the madness paper and ink woke in me. Hansel, though, turned black as a bat and splayed his hands and arms angry-wide as if he had just grabbed a hot iron and dropped it. “No! Paper!” he shrieked, and I knew the madness had hit even without the writing to provoke it. Hansel had always seemed to hate lessons, so Father could hardly understand why Hansel stood that way all day, glowering, still splayed as if he would rush on me or Father like a bear, or as if paper would rain from the firs into his waiting palms. I slept alone that night, listening to Father’s muttering over his books and Hansel’s slow, angry breathing as he still stood rigid outside. The books must have spoken to Father because the next morning he had composed a plan. He sent us to the city beyond the town, which would certainly have paper though the town had run out, and which would take all day on the cart track road. Hansel’s mania for paper seemed worse for the sleepless night. As I packed bread and apples, he stood on the hearth, chewing pensively on the stalactite head of a paper rhinoceros taken from his ant farm box. It was the first time he had allowed his finer paper animals to be seen. Noticing a few red flecks of ants crawling over the rhinoceros’s broomy tail, I pried it out of Hansel’s mouth and rummaged our loft for a more suitable toy. When my hand passed over Hansel’s oiled blue rain cape, I heard a scratchy rustle underneath like a mouse’s nest. I lifted the cape and found a miniature aviary of paper birds: peacocks and ravens, faverolle chickens and starlings, all kinds in turn, and all paperwhite and inkblack but otherwise as seeming-real as dreams. They were better than any bird I had ever made, and they bore Hansel’s hot silence. I gathered them into another satchel that swung along my waist as Hansel and I left the house. We two had never before taken the cart track. It had always been enough to trace the thin paths of deer who wandered out of the night woods and into the sweet town gardens. We knew that the two ruts would continue side by side like a skier who never stopped. We knew that the track bore south. But that was all. Moreover it was an April after much rain, and Father had not told us that spring carts often move off the muddy ruts and gouge new tracks of their own. Even in fine weather, carts move off track so that their drivers can sleep or piss or cook. The net of roads was a drunk man’s scrawl. We moved over a muddy tangle of intersections and culde-sacs, dead ends with smoldering campfires and long shady detours where rows of travelers napped in haycarts or caravans. After we passed the same spreading elm for the fourth time, its burls covered in sweethearts’ initials, I stopped and opened the bird satchel. Hansel had not spoken our entire walk, though his eyes were furiously alive. Now his arms rose to the terrible bat-bear he had been the night before. I took out a small paper finch and placed it at the foot of the elm. “I’m sorry, brother. But we need to find our way.” I took his elbow and we walked another hundred paces south as best I could reckon, then I took a sandpiper from the satchel and placed it along the cart track we were currently following. Another hundred paces in the same direction, and I left a bobolink in the grass to mark our going. By this trail we could tell when we were veering or doubling back on ourselves, and progress became faster and easier. In late afternoon we saw the grey forest of city towers and ran the last mile to its stone-fastened gate. ***** I had never seen a city except in the pictures behind my eyes brought on by books. Waves of people crashed down sidewalks, ploughing their own shadows and mowing them flat again. Greyness hovered over most of the city, buildings occluding the sun, though sometimes a stray 32
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beam made its way down and hit the glass storefronts in weird fractures like a tooth hits ice. Father had told us to go to the stationer just west of the park at the city’s center, but we had lost our sense of center. It vanished the moment we made our faces stop nuzzling the city’s outer walls, when we stepped into the throng of city people who seemed to be chasing after a thousand invisible rabbits – eyes trained five feet below and twenty feet ahead, nostrils flared almost back to the cheeks, chins tucked into ribs for additional speed. I looked in every direction for some sign of the brink of the park. Whenever my sight managed to bob around the rush of heads, though, I saw only more stone and glass. A man with a nose like a kettle spout tripped over the toe of my boot, stained the same dark dust as the road. He whirled around with wild eyes, then, regaining his balance, tucked his chin and prepared to chase forward again. “Oh please – where is the park?” I ventured. The man’s accent was thick as cold oatmeal, but the meaning was sharp enough in the way his arm and nose pointed down a dark side street. Hansel dove toward its darkness and I followed him. This little alley was a relief. Its only noise was a dull murmur like the wizened sympathy of a root cellar; its only inhabitants, a few lean vagrants shambling in charity-grade coats like Father’s. At our backs past the mouth of the alley crowds hurled down the sidewalks, but for a moment we were behind the waterfall. Still I feared losing the way again, so I pulled out a scrawled-over ptarmigan and nestled it in the thin gutter between sidewalk and pavement, where neither the crowds nor the screaming wheeled machines of the streets would crush it. We picked our way along the holy silence of the alley until we found the park before us and stepped again into open streets’ burning greys and shards of plateglass sun. Hansel crowed delight. But my heart sank. I had thought the going would be easier once we reached this cityforest: I can find my way among trees just by feeling the vapor rise from their moss or studying the wet ringlet curls of their grubs. This was no forest, but marching rows of dandied trees cut in lollipop shapes and swept bare beneath. Once inside this cloying grid we were more lost than ever, and it took a paper bird under every tree to find the west face of the park. Hansel leapt across the street, almost smashing his skull against a shrieking, smoke-spitting wheeled machine. I waited for the machines to pass by and followed after. He was already inside the small cave-like store marked “Stationery” in gilded letters, already holding a box of paper to his chest like a younger boy would hold gingerbread. Being older, I spoke to the stooped man who sat on a swivel stool behind the display counter picking his teeth. “Pardon me, but we’d like to buy this box of paper.” I had never bought anything in my life except from peddlers and worried that there was some more sophisticated way to go about it. I felt for the coins and bills in my pocket and tried to jangle them in a way that would seem accidental, in case this man didn’t believe we had the money for such luxuries. The man raised his eyebrows, and for a moment I was preparing an apology, but he only stretched out his arm. His coat was a little too short, and when he reached out, the brown wiry hairs of his forearm sprung out from under the wool sleeve. “Well, then, bring it here.” I worried about Hansel’s recent madness and tried to coax the box from his grasp finger by finger, lightly, as if we were playing this-little-piggy, but his hands loosened into mine and he never made a sound. I placed the box on the counter, the man punched out a little squealing tab of paper that told the bill, and I paid quickly. “You’re from the lumber towns?” the stationer said, more in appraisal than inquiry. I nodded. “Getting home tonight?” I nodded again, trying to measure the hour by the occasional stains of sun that rubbed the sidewalk outside. It was probably late afternoon, but I couldn’t be sure. “There’s cheap rooms a few flights up,” he said, jabbing a thumb at the ceiling. “You might HANSEL AND GRETEL
want to stay, try and make a go of it on strong legs in the morning.” I was tired and the roof of my mouth tasted like mud and stale bread. Hansel was quivering, too, though perhaps maybe from the box perched on the counter. I might have said yes, but just then a new surge of groaning machines tore down the street and I remembered how terrifying this world was. I shook my head. Hansel took the box and we left, waiting for a break in the street current to let us re-enter the park. The park trees had no canopy to form the early dusk that settles on true forest. But I could feel them preparing for night, settling into their rings. It was later than I had thought. But it was easy to find our way, following the trail of paper birds that sat patiently waiting, ruffling inky feathers under the groomed trees or roosting silently in the alley. One by one we reclaimed the birds, tucking them back inside the satchel now held between us like a heavy harvest of strawberries. In this way we found home. It was well into night when we padded the final mossy steps outside the cabin. Father stood in the doorway, a black ogee in the puddled light of beeswax. He was even more indulgent than usual, letting us slurp soup straight from the ladle and pot. After we were full, we three sat by the fire together, and I drew hieroglyphs on Father’s socked feet and shins, which he propped up along the hearth to stave off warts. Hansel offered very sweetly to make an animal, and Father was so happy to hear him speak that he gave Hansel the first of the precious new blank sheets. Hansel went up to the loft and returned a few minutes later with a marvelous paper cobra, complete with a hood that flared if you tapped its nose and a skin that slid off to reveal new paper skin beneath. ***** The next morning after chores we began lessons again, copying out epigrams that Father shouted while he split wood. Hansel didn’t seem any more eager to study than usual, and as soon as we each filled a page he dropped his pen and ran off into the woods towards the stump where he kept his butterfly net. In the evening Father used some of our paper to line the bottom of our tin cake mold, but Hansel made no protest. We studied when we were made to, but somehow I felt no insanity for paper either when Hansel looked so indifferent. Somehow, though, we were flying through the new paper at a spectacular rate, and within the week we had emptied a month’s supply. Father picked up the empty box and sniffed. “Maybe we’ve been working too hard.” He scratched his chest thoughtfully. “Very well, no more lessons until next month.” I shrugged and went back to braiding collars for the pet rabbits in the hutch beneath my bed. A moment later I heard a thumping, rasping sound beside me, where Hansel was writhing on the wooden floor in a fit. “Paper!” he wailed over and over, rolling and flailing. This time Father was firm. Since there was nothing else we needed, he wouldn’t go to the town market until it made sense to sell some pigs. We would have to wait. Hansel moaned unbearably. I didn’t want to leave the woods just now, but it sounded like this time my brother would escape sanity for good. “I could go back to the city,” I offered. Father shook his head. “It’s much too far. I shouldn’t have let you go last time – no doubt the city air worsened Hansel’s sickness.” ***** That night I slept alone in the loft, a thing I had scarcely ever done since Hansel’s birth. Now for the second time in a week I listened to the night sounds alone. I shrugged the blanket up to my ears, but still Father’s book-mutterings reached me, along with the slow sliding noise of Hansel where he still lay on the floor downstairs, occasionally rolling or flicking a limb. I was dreaming of trees lined up in a funny way that reminded me of dactylic hexameter 34
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when I felt a hand shaking me awake. I opened my eyes and Hansel put his hand over my mouth. “We’re going to the city for paper,” he whispered. He was starkly sane, I thought. I shook my fogged head and shut my eyes. “Gretel! I’m going no matter what. Will you come with me?” His voice began with all the tinkling tin bravery of a toy soldier but ended with the quaver of a top unspinning. He went to his pile of clothes in the loft’s far corner and pulled the satchel of paper birds from under his rain cape. “Nothing easier. Remember?” Outside the treefrogs were beginning to stutter and the first songbird was testing its throat in the dark. We had only an hour until the first glow of dawn, I guessed – just the right time to leave before Father’s waking but still have daylight for most of the walk. And now we were practiced in finding our way. I put on my overthings and we crept down the loft ladder, holding our boots in our hands. Leaving the woods was easy — we had only to listen to the old familiar mosses and catch the paler blue streaks of sky. The cart track was scrawled as ever, but with dawn now strong in the east we flew along the running lines that seemed most southerly, gaining on the city, now and then tossing down a paper bird in case we should somehow get confused. As the sun rose higher it lost its powers as a compass, and our going slowed, but the paper bird waypoints kept us from losing too much time. The loops of cart ruts were starting to become legible signs, too, and we could read in their lineaments the difference between the headlong course of a city-bound wagon and the dizzy footing of a tired beast and rider making a detour for water or sleep. We ignored the latter and kept to the way of faster travelers. Hansel was alive now not only in eyes but in limbs, and instead of pleading silent horror at the abandonment of his marvelous birds, it was now he who tore open the satchel with hunger, plucking out a jackdaw and letting it float to the grass without even righting it to sit feet-down, head-up. Bird after bird he threw them away. The sun was high and strong when we saw the city. As we came nearer the city haze, the sunlight shuddered. The air was now dim and weak, now crackled through with shots of spunglass light. We shivered but moved faster than ever until we stood breathless at the city wall. Now like kingfishers we dove through its gate. The thick speed of the city crowds was as terrible as before, only now it felt worse because I knew the enormity of it all, that this crowd ran and rushed not only down this street but the one behind that and the one behind that, and this wall of buildings was only the first of a deepening tangle of walls after walls. Hansel and I linked arms and ran across the street into the alley we recognized, laughing all the way down its cool damp passage. Our laughs rang loud in our mouths but softened mossily on the alley walls. The vagrants in their poor priestly coats hardly heard us. Faced with the park, Hansel threw down a dove in the mouth of the alley and again we crossed the machine-ridden street. Dotting our way with a careful trail of birds, we still dizzied ourselves in the too-perfect trees, but by late afternoon we came to the stationer’s. The same man sat on his stool, still leaning, still preoccupied with some unnamable substance between his teeth. Hansel darted around a display of goods and came back a moment later with a brand new box of paper. “Pardon me, sir, but we’d like to buy more paper.” He looked hard at us, stooping down even farther to read my eyes. I set the money on the counter firmly. “You’re very young.” He looked at the damp flush on Hansel’s face and laughed without smiling. “And fast travelers.” Hansel lifted his quiet, furious face. “We’re not thieves, and it’s our money. Sell us the paper, please.” HANSEL AND GRETEL
The man frowned but took the money and handed me change. “Getting home tonight?” We nodded. “Very well.” Pleased with ourselves, we left the store. In the park across the way I looked for the paper pigeon that was the first of our homeward markers, the one that would point out the proper direction through the monotonous grid of trees. Hansel and I hunted at the foot of every nearby tree but found nothing, though a real pigeon of warm purple-grey paced on the grass, jabbing at crumbs. I thought I remembered the way anyway, so we moved farther into the park, looking for the robin that should have been next. We found no robin, and no paper at all, only a scrap of green-blue eggshell that must have come from a live robin in one of the trees. Missing our second marker made me think we had gotten off track, so we retraced our steps and came to the point where the park almost touched the stationery store. We veered off in a different direction, but finding no paper pigeon or robin we abandoned the search and hunted down our third marker. At some point we gave up the search for individual paper birds and simply wandered the park, looking for anything at all to put us back on our way. Not a single scrap of paper could be found on the whole park floor, bird-shaped or otherwise. I kept my eyes to the ground, chin lowered, while behind me Hansel swept his face side to side, lighthouse-fashion. He grabbed my elbow. “Look.” He lifted his arms to the trees. The park that had seemed lifeless as trees and land could be was now the roost of a mass of birds. Just over Hansel’s head a peacock sat on a low branch. In the next tree a gull watched us sidelong. A tiny silhouette farther up called “whippoor-Will,” its last note drowned in the rasp of a nearby crow. For a moment this calling, feather-crossed roof seemed to push us out of time. “How beautiful,” I murmured. But if it meant what by now we both expected... We rushed on, now trying only to get free of the park, but kept rearing up against the studded grid of trees that felt thick with our panic. When we came to a street on its border, we crossed over into its most promising alley, one cool and dark just like the passage we had traveled earlier. Damp and laced with thin gutters, it had the hush of a church in the rain, but its vagrants were not those we had seen before and its way was not ours. Now nearing dusk we began circling the perimeter of the city park, trying each alley that radiated from it. Not one seemed right. We found one where a quail and a mourning dove were browsing the gutter. This seemed like a promise, but the alley dead-ended and when we searched the neighborhood, we found that living birds were beginning to scatter among all the alleys. Their little chortles murmured off of every dark wall. We circled the park again until we finally came to the stationer’s shop again, though even that place seemed to dodge our sight for hours. It was fully night and the stationer stood in the doorway, stooped and curiously ready. He made a polite bleat of surprise. “Too late for home?” the stationer inquired, clucking his tongue on his teeth. We nodded. “There are rooms upstairs, and you’re welcome to take one. Of course, the city has many rooms,” he added, almost apologetically, as if to avoid the presumption that we would choose his room from a vast array of possibilities. I thanked him, and he waved us inside, pointing to a narrow stairwell behind the store counter that I hadn’t seen before. “Of course you know... some nominal...normally one might...” Now the man looked intensely embarrassed, and for the first time I wondered whether he was really a city man at all, or whether like us he had come from a beginning far away. I took the box of paper from Hansel, drew out half the sheets, and handed them to the stationer. Hansel looked too worn to be wounded. 36
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“Oh, thank you. Thank you. Good night.” We slept on a narrow mattress in a low room with a glass window flimsily curtained. The next day we went outside and hunted for the way home. By now I was desperate enough to try main streets, pulling Hansel with me into the careening rush of people, all of them also hunting some unseen thing that seemed always ahead of their steps. Hansel and I found nothing, and that night we returned to the stationer’s and offered him half of our remaining paper. He said nothing about the smaller payment and only waved us up the stairs. The following day, failure again, and half our small remaining store forfeited to pay our keep. And so forth. Some nights live wings brushed the window. Nothing pointed a way home. ***** I try to unravel what happened to the birds. That they are Hansel’s paper birds is sure – for all their warm bodies and darting eyes, they move with the pondering heaviness of a child’s dream. In the moment just before flight they share his hot silence. Their wings, too, can almost, almost be read. Then they move off. I can only imagine that they objected to our trust and hated to be taken for tame. This, anyway, is what the morning seems to spell: I am lacing my boots now at the brink of this room, about to step into the street to find my way out of the city. Hansel looks asleep again, but I know that as soon as I begin to move he will put on his things and follow me. My eye follows the splinter of light that shudders through our window, and past the glass something is rising on wings that crease and fold the air. It is shaping the airworld, and when the wind fails to cooperate the thing flaps and batters the airworld new. When the wind picks up, then the thing only holds it in perfect frozen motion. The dark flyer turns, returns, and returns.
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Red (Excerpt) MARYA SPENCE
CHAPTER TWO OLD MAN I’m so tired of my wife. I’m so tired of wives. She wants me to care, and she knows she will have to force me to. But my foot hurts, it aches – I stepped on a piece of coral in Portofino, two summers and one spring ago, and I think I will never get it out. I loved it when she was pregnant. I love her, because she was pregnant. Our baby will learn to swim. LUCY I’ve been in the sun too long. I should go in. I put my hand over my eyes and I squint into the sun. It hangs like a clock on a cannonball, causing me to sweat down the small of my back. The sky burns flat and salty blue, pressing all of Portofino between the sky and the ground, as if we are cooked-up food for a hungry giant. I get up on my elbows, to see how my skin is turning brown. Surprisingly, the hair on my thighs is golden, not dark like the hair on my head. It has become the mission of my days, to spend all the days in Portofino, to lie upon the stones of the square, to wear my red bikini and to never look men in the face. I never say too much out loud. I keep my thoughts to myself. We live beside a taverna up a twisted arm of stone steps, passively extended for our entrance. The building is forlorn and medieval, stuck staring at the sparkling cellophane sea. There is me, a father, a wife and a baby. I am nineteen years old, pretending to need a job. We share our stone terrace with the taverna. Our house and their restaurant are only separated by a low stone wall, a Frostian import, coming up no higher than my waist. It seems odd, this separation: a civilized gesture which neither party needs. We try to ignore it by passing objects between us. But nonetheless, the wall is a third presence, and an uncomfortable one at that. It is as if someone tried to build “difference.” Everything is made uncomfortably real, here. The wife tells me when I am in the shower for too long, when the bread is stale, when I left the chair out and she tripped on its leg in the night. When I missed my train on the day I arrived, she informed me that this was my fault. I should have let them know sooner what day I would be coming to Italy, she said. Then they would have picked me up in the car, at the bigger station in Monterosso. That way I wouldn’t have had to take the smaller one that cuts on the side of the mountain. Make sure for the baby that “there is no earth in the dishes,” she says often, or that there is no “earth on your hands.” By this she means dirt. Her English is more than imperfect, but I nod my head when she asks me to wipe the bowl again. I cannot ignore her. Paolina should not eat the earth. I turn to the wall outside. It is half in light, half in the shadow of night already. 38
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Beyond it is the restaurant, full of Germans and Canadians in teams of two and three. They all wear socks, an inconvenience in this salty seaside town. Their shoes say, “I will gladly climb whatever beauty I discover. I am prepared to encounter wonders here.” But this wall beside me makes no sense. It makes me feel like an American bitch, and so I act like one. In the afternoons, I do the shopping, which consists of attending only two shops. First there is the panificio, where the focaccia is hot and oversalted, sweating thick oil-moons through the paper bag before I arrive back home. Then there is the co-op, the cop as they spit it, where I buy the lettuce, the cheese, the brand of pasta sold in all the Safeways in America. I want to tell the wife she is wrong to buy this pasta, doesn’t she know she is Italian? She is so halfhearted at this game. If only she could see my mother. She would envy the slick of my mother’s skin, and the way she wears only white linens in the summer, as if she lives in the pages of a Portofino catalog. The men who wait tables cast glances over my way, as I bring my fork down upon the watermelon, the speck, the anchovies in oil. I eat on the terrace around two or three p.m., when the baby has gone to sleep. I never turn my head to the men. This is the point at which I know I should try to speak to them. I speak little Italian, almost none at all. From my mother I know shapes of pastas, farfalle as the butterfly, and some manners, grazie mille and scusi senora. What I know, though, I could have found in a book sold in the shop below, where the Germans buy toothpaste and postcards, and the Americans buy chocolates in the sleepy lulls of afternoon, never full enough of what is offered here. I nod my head graciously when the men pass me more watermelon slices over the low stone wall, which they do almost every day now. One of them is ugly, with a flatter head and a small amount of beard – but this one seems to like me the most. Maybe I am cruel. It isn’t that he likes me the most; it is simply he who is chosen among the others to hand me the pieces of fruit, sprinkled with sugar, and to bow his head back and beg me to speak, by moistening his eyes to me. The others choose him to perform these imploring courtesies, because they know he will always do it. He probably has no girlfriend. He asks me to be his girlfriend one day in a choppy American slang, bruising each word with his angled i’s and flattened a’s, crushing them like petals between his tongue and his palate. I never speak to him again after that. No, it is the man in the back, with the cigarette, who looks at the girls laid out like scattered jewels on the cobblestone steps, whom I would like to meet. He never looks me in the eye, never watches my thighs when I turn around but I know he has seen them more than once. For that I only give him my shoulders, and the top of my head, when I pass below our shared terrace in the evenings, with the baby on my hip. I am too lazy to do the dishes, although sometimes when the baby cries I jump up and clean everything, even the counter and the little spoon we use to stir the milk. I’m afraid to touch Paolina when her mother—the wife—Silvia—is looking at me. Paolina is a girl and she is my girl and she is hungry hungry hungry. I like to stand at the kitchen window and stare out at the sea. I despise the sea for so many reasons, and I write them all down when I go to the back bedroom. I hate it for the lie of its endlessness, and for the stories my mother told me growing up, of seafaring gentlemen, salty and noble. I hate it for the way it leaps at me and bites my toes. I hate the way Silvia won’t let me take the baby into the water, and the way that she is right. But mainly, I hate the sea for the way it carries itself inside the wind. It lies. It lies to us every day. I stand with Paolina, fat and over-bellied girl, at the terrace wall. Her body is solid warmth in my arms, and she is still full on the milk her mother gave her. She is growing daily. I feel full of holes and wicker-chipped. A piece of furniture shipped from the coast of Maine. I am dry, but made only to hold Paolina. I stare out at the sea, and Paolina gapes wide up at the sharp edge of my chin. She never turns her head, but thinks old breath only blows on her. “It is the breath of captains,” I whisper to her when her mother turns around. RED
OLD MAN Silvia! You make me feel young! You are a different kind of woman. You don’t even know the name for your own eyes. Let me tell it you: hazel. Our baby’s eyes were blue when she was born, and I prayed, every night, beside you in the dark, although I am no religious man. I prayed that our baby’s eyes would be the color of yours, a wild olive bark. I love you because you are mean, because you are strong against strangers, because you remind me of my father when you tell a woman she is wrong. You are with me all the time and we speak slowly to each other. My Italian is growing. I love the clamminess to your skin, which I have come to discover since you have started holding my hands at night. My fingers shake and I should not hold the baby, you are right. But with a little time, just a little more time, beside the sea and with your hands around my own, clasped in a ball when we lay down at night, I should be able to do it. I can do it, I can do it, you should never leave me.
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The Harvard College Women’s Center salutes the Harvard Advocate Come visit us soon…Canaday Hall, B entry. We are your women’s center. |
Recipes for Tzimmes, Monica Lewinsky in Brazil, Illegally Reading Lolita in the USSR, and Other Anecdotes From Philip Roth’s Foreign Translators
INTERVIEWS BY GREGORY SCRUGGS QUESTIONS PREPARED WITH THE ASSISTANCE OF ALLIE PAPE
hilip Roth stands as an icon of sustained critical and commercial success in contemporary American fiction. His National Book Award-winning debut, Goodbye, Columbus (and Five Short Stories), is nearing the half-century mark in age, and his outlandish follow-up, Portnoy’s Complaint, is almost forty. Moreover, he continues to write critically acclaimed fiction, having garnered a slew of awards for novels he has written since the ’90s, including a Pulitzer Prize, another National Book Award, two National Book Critics Circle awards, three PEN/Faulkner Awards, and the first PEN/ Saul Bellow Award. In 2003, literary critic Harold Bloom called Roth one of four major American novelists still at work. It is no surprise, then, that Roth is translated far and wide, reaching most major book markets around the globe. But how do this ruthlessly American voice and its cultural context translate into foreign idioms? The Harvard Advocate interviewed four Roth translators to see how he is adapted in Brazil, France, Slovakia, and Russia. They were asked the same questions and the responses below have been edited for clarity, length, and relevance. Lazare Bitoun began studying Philip Roth for his master’s degree in 1967, and began translating him in 1993. He teaches American literature at the Université Paris-8 in Saint-Denis, France and is the author of Le roman américain après 1945 (The American Novel Since 1945). In addition to Op42
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eration Shylock and Sabbath’s Theater, he has also translated Jules Feiffer, Chang-rae Lee, John Haskell, Upamanyu Chatterjee, and Robert Cowan. Paulo Henriques Britto is a professor of letters at the Pontifícia Universidade Católica in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, where he teaches poetry and poetry translation. He has been working for publisher Companhia das Letras since it opened over 20 years ago and has translated recent epic works of American fiction, including Don DeLilo’s Underworld and Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow. Among Roth’s works, he has done first-time or retranslations of Goodbye, Columbus, Portnoy’s Complaint, The Plot Against America, The Human Stain, Everyman, The Dying Animal, and Shop Talk (forthcoming). He also translated Prose and Letters of Elizabeth Bishop. He has five published volumes of poetry to his name. Otakar Korinek, a freelance translator, has brought over 100 books, mainly by American authors, to the Slovakian reading public, including classic works such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, Moby Dick, On the Road, Lolita, and The Lord of the Rings. He translated Everyman, his first Roth assignment, in 2006. Korinek is also the author of Seven Years in the Centre of Power, a journalistic account of his time in Washington, D.C., and Once Upon a Time in Amerika, about his travels in the U.S. Julia Shor, a native of St. Petersburg,
is a professor of philology at St. Petersburg State University. She belongs to several Russian writers’ and translators’ organizations and has published extensively on the topic of translation in Russian academic journals. Shor’s translation credits include several children’s books and fantasy novels, as well as her soon-to-be-published translation of Everyman, also her first Roth assignment. The Harvard Advocate: What initially drew you to Philip Roth, and what, in turn, do you think draws readers in your language to his work? Otakar Korniek: His skepticism. And besides, Philip Roth wants to look at the people as they are, without racial, ethnical, religious, and other bonds. It is very appealing, the clash between this concept and reality, which still tends to label people. As for other people, I think that his themes draw them to his work as well as his mastery of style. Paulo Henriques Britto: I don’t choose the authors I translate. I’m a freelance translator, but I’ve been working for Companhia das Letras [Roth’s Brazilian publisher] since it opened over 20 years ago. I’m one of the founders, you might say. When Gravity’s Rainbow came out, everybody turned it down, nobody wanted to touch it, so I did it. And I fell in love with the book. But I don’t usually choose the authors I translate, except for poetry. So Roth was simply something they gave me to do. The first work I read of his was probably Portnoy’s Complaint back in the late ’60s. For Brazilians he’s very legible. You can read him for his story. He appeals to a naïve reader who just wants a story, and he’s also a very fine writer. He has critical appeal. He’s one of these relatively few writers who’s read by people who just want a good plot and also by serious readers and critics. Pynchon is one writer who’s read only by a very small sort of cult in Brazil. He’s [Pynchon] had a lot of critical success, but his books don’t sell. But Roth, no—I think he sells well.
from top: Lazare Bitoun, Paulo Henriques Britto,
Otakar Korinek, and Julia Shor. Photos courtesy of the translators. T R A N S L AT I N G R O T H
Lazare Bitoun: I had read Saul Bellow and a few of [Bernard] Malamud’s short stories, in the ‘60s, Jewish-American literature was in its golden age. Many books by Jewish-American writers were being translated here in France, which meant that they were reviewed, talked about, etc. Personally, I found in Roth’s first books an echo of things I knew and felt and lived with; but these feelings and emotions were vague. Reading Roth and others made things clearer to me. The French readers that are attracted to Roth are, it seems to me, culturally and sociologically akin to his American readers. I believe they read him because they feel they have something in common with the characters he depicts and live lives that are comparable to theirs. But one shouldn’t underestimate the fact that that Roth is an American writer, and that the French have always—at least since the end of World War II—loved American literature, if only because they find it somewhat exotic.
of his narrative. You see, sex was practically forbidden in the former U.S.S.R., there was no sex in our country officially. Censorship crossed out and cut all scenes and words that appeared in literature and in foreign movies. The situation radically changed after the so-called perestroika, the restructuring of society (the term invented and brought into life by [Mikhail] Gorbachev in the 1980s). For example, Lolita was prohibited, and in the late ‘60s I read it secretly at night, when I had managed to get a copy for a couple of days. Eroticism was always confused with bare and primitive pornography that had no relation to great literature. But in the present days the situation has changed. Of course, not only the writer’s sensuality and description of intercourse draw the Russian readers. They are also interested in the narrative itself—collisions, peaks and failures of the characters, their life across the Atlantic that is so different to ours but, nevertheless, has so much in common.
Julia Shor: This is a bilateral problem. One’s personal preferences do not always coincide with the choice of the publishing houses you work for. In the case of the Philip Roth novel, our tastes happily did not differ. I knew this writer well before I was asked to translate his book, and I hope my work will not be limited to this novel [Everyman]. Roth is a very keen writer with a fundamental knowledge and understanding of human nature at large. I also like the language and style, though very long phrases can sometimes make his narration tiresome, but such technique makes the writer’s style unique. Since Marcel Proust’s In Search of Lost Time, I have never come across such long and complicated phrases beginning on one page and continuing for three to four pages without a full stop. This fascinates me as a testimony of writers’ skills, though it is very difficult for the translator to find the right syntax in his native language to reproduce these constructions. One of the reasons of his growing popularity seems to be his frank, undisguised descriptions of sex scenes, the open eroticism
THA: How did you acquire a keen enough grasp of American—especially Jewish-American—customs and idioms to feel comfortable translating Roth?
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LB: I am a Sephardic Jew, born and raised in Morocco till the age of 14, and I knew nothing about European or American Jewry until at least that age. But the more I learned about European or American Jews, the more I found “them” akin to “us”. We lived in similar families, led the similar lives and had similar problems with, and outlooks on, religion, assimilation, going to school, public interest, etc. As far as language is concerned, though Jews from Morocco speak Judeo-Arabic and not Yiddish, the inflexions, the syntax, and the wit of these two languages are, if not similar, quite comparable. A Moroccan Jew whose mother tongue is Judeo-Arabic misspeaks French just as a European or American Jew in the beginning of the 20th century misspeaks the language of the country in which he lives. I found it therefore quite easy to translate his idiom into a comparable
one in French because it was what we spoke at home or what I heard from my Jewish friends and their parents who had, like him, originally come from Central Europe. For the rest, I owe my command of American English and my knowledge of mainstream American culture in its most intimate aspects to the fact that when my family moved to France, we lived near an American air force base. I made friends with a number of American soldiers, some of them Jews, got to know their children who were often my age, and picked up a number of things on the way. I then acquired most of what I now know about American Jewish culture from the books I read, just about everything I could get my hands on, and from the personal relationships I was able to develop when I taught in a college situated in upstate New York and in New York City in the ’70s. They were for the most part “New York intellectuals” who, essentially, could all be characters in a novel written by Philip Roth. PHB: I read a lot. Just reading. I lived in America twice, but of course most of my knowledge about American Judaism has to do with my reading of these authors. And not just American Jewish authors—I’ve been a Kafka reader since I was a teenager, and that led me to reading about Judaism, Jewish authors from other countries. THA: Yiddish is much more commonly integrated into American English than it is into many other languages. Do you keep the Yiddish words Roth tends to insert in the text, or do you translate them? Why did you make this choice? If you kept them, are readers able to understand them? PHB: In dialogue sometimes I keep it because I think it’s necessary, particularly when it’s a word that’s hard to translate, when it has a lot of different resonances. But when there’s an easy word, one that fits perfectly, I will opt for the translation. I don’t have a policy that’s absolute. It depends, each case will allow for a different solution depending
on if I feel I can translate it or not. In one book I did, an Isaac Bashevis Singer, there were so many Yiddish words that I had to include a glossary at the end. My publisher got me an informer, a lady in São Paulo who answered all my questions about Judaism and gave me all the words, but that was the only time I ever did that. With Roth you don’t need a glossary. About 30 years ago I lived in Copacabana and I would see Orthodox Jews on Saturdays. I realized they were the last Yiddish speakers in Copacabana. In 20 years, there won’t be a single Yiddish speaker left there. The younger generation can understand Yiddish but they can’t speak it. LB: What you say is true. French readers, in general, do not understand much Yiddish. I do suspect however that John Doe from Louisville, Kentucky understands much less of the Yiddish idiom than does John Doe from New York. But then, New York—or Newark for that matter—isn’t really America. In the same way, one should make a distinction between Paris and the rest of France as well as between “cosmopolitan” readers and others. In my translations, I chose to keep the Yiddish words because of the broken rhythm they bring to the sentence and also because they are what gives “color” to the language Roth and others like him use or have used. Bernard Malamud for example, was, I believe, the first to write down and formalize that particular brand of English laced with Yiddish inflections. But since Yiddish is, generally speaking, not as widely familiar to people here as it is in America, I found it necessary to add glossaries at the end of the two novels I translated. Here, I’d like to point out that Roth insisted on reviewing the glossary I had written for Operation Shylock; the result was that I had to substitute his mother’s recipe for tzimmes—a dish based on carrots and prunes for some and raisins for others— to the one I had gotten from the mother of a friend of mine. THA: Similarly, an American reader does not have to be Jewish to understand Roth’s T R A N S L AT I N G R O T H
Jewish humor, but how do you translate those jokes into your language effectively? PHB: The jokes in Jewish humor are pretty much universal. JS: Jews in Diaspora always lived in Russia. People here are acquainted with the works of Jewish writers and like them, such as stories by Sholem Aleichem, the Yiddish writer. All his good humor is preserved in the Russian versions of his texts. One of his stories about Tevye the milkman was staged in Moscow and St. Petersburg, and the Russian audience applauded the Yiddish humor and grief shown on the stage. There existed Russian writers, such as Isaac Babel, who wrote on this subject. His famous “Odessa stories,” amusing and touching at the same time, belong to our classical literature of the 20th century. A lot of humor and sadness can be extracted from them, not to mention the peculiar language of Russian Jews in Odessa so brilliantly recorded by the writer. One more point should be mentioned. There exist lots of jokes about Jews as well as about Armenians, Georgians, and great historic persons. This is our folklore. So, people do understand Jewish humor, both sad and bitter sometimes.
peculiar prose style. When you translate a Zuckerman book, is it difficult to differentiate his style of writing from the portions in Roth’s narrative voice? How much is lost when you add a third frame to the existing Roth/Zuckerman duality? In short, does the heart of the book start to seem far away? OK: Well, for the less experienced translator it might be difficult to change the styles. But Slovak language is mature and has a lot of stylistic possibilities and levels. It depends only on the translator’s abilities to preserve what can be preserved in this respect. Thus it is possible to distinguish between the Roth/ Zuckerman voices. As I say, the translator must be a stylistic “prostitute.” THA: Many of Roth’s books are focused on the tensions that resulted in America because of the Cold War, including McCarthyism and the latter-day puritanism of Clinton’s impeachment. Coming from a country that wasn’t a primary player on the American side in that conflict, how do you and your readers approach this kind of story? Do the situations presented seem outlandish to you or them?
LB: Jewish humor has been popularized in France by the films of Woody Allen, who is quite respected in France. But again, here, one cannot speak of the United States or France; one must talk about a readership; and Roth’s readers are interested in Jewish humor. They know what it is and have developed a taste for it; otherwise, they stop reading Roth. As for the jokes, one always finds a way to translate them; the puns are more difficult, but here too, one finds ways to deal with these problems either by changing the words used for the pun in English or by moving the pun to another word or sentence in the paragraph.
PHB: The Cold War was a very real fact in Brazil, too. Of course we saw the whole thing from the sidelines a bit. Actually I was living in Washington, D.C. during the Cuban missile crisis in 1962 and Kennedy’s assassination. But even when I wasn’t living there, this was on everybody’s minds. We had a big communist witch-hunt in Brazil after ’68, the military coup was in ’64, but things became really tough after ’68. We had that sort of mentality here too a lot. All of those names are well known here—Senator McCarthy, etc. This never posed a problem for translation. In fact, the puritanism of Clinton’s impeachment is very prominent in the beginning of The Human Stain. Monica Lewinsky was all over the news; nobody talked about anything else for three months.
THA: One of Roth’s more noted tropes is the use of Nathan Zuckerman, who has a very
JS: The times of the Cold War are remembered only by our elder generation. The
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incident with Clinton caused not only aversion in public opinion but also a smile, because the whole affair is tragicomic. On the other hand, the ethical life of a president of any democratic country and especially the president of such a democratic country as America should not be above suspicion. Presidents cannot lie under oath. OK: In Czechoslovakia, of which Slovakia was part, 164 innocent people were executed during the Cold War for political reasons, whole families were persecuted, careers of talented people were destroyed, and children couldn’t study because of the “wrong” origin of their parents. So it doesn’t seem outlandish to us. It was very real. As for puritanism in the wake of Clinton escapades, Europeans asked, “Why do the Americans do this to themselves?” It was in my opinion whipped up politically by Republicans and by the political machinery functioning inside the Beltway. LB: One must understand that American culture at large, including the Cold War, McCarthyism and puritanism, is well known throughout the world and particularly in France. The French are therefore well acquainted with these various topics because of the worldwide diffusion of American culture, and also because the French do study history and read newspapers and read books and go to the theater and the cinema. For the rest, what you mention, together with much more, is the stuff novels are made of, and I would say that as a translator, I find no particular difficulty when dealing with books that mention such widely publicized topics. There are however a few instances involving minor events or real characters for which you do have to cheat with the text and manage to slip in some kind of clarification to give the foreign reader the information he needs and bring him to the same level of reference as the American reader. THA: Sexual mores in Roth tend to be very loose, but one of his major themes is that the sexually liberated tend to be repressed or
punished by American culture (The Kepesh books, The Human Stain). Does this echo the perception in your country of American sexual mores? JS: The U.S.S.R. was even more Puritan than America. I mean official attitudes towards sexual liberty, connections without marriage, adultery. Nowadays everything has changed. American liberal mores as described in a novel will not surprise anyone. LB: I am tempted to give the same kind of answer here as to the last question. The French do not live on a desert island; films and books and newspapers of all sorts from Playboy to Peanuts, The Feminine Mystique, Sports Illustrated, Mother Jones, or The Wall Street Journal have made these and other themes quite popular here. We know who you are and what your way of life is; we are not always aware of the origin of a particular attitude or reaction, but we know that this and that attitude or reaction is common in the United States; that it is what should be expected. And again, here, one should keep in mind that the people who read Roth know these sorts of things. THA: Have you translated Portnoy’s Complaint? If so, what sort of issues did you face in terms of the controversial material in the book? Were parts of the book censored or changed for your particular foreign market? PHB: No, no, not at all. Even the original translation back in the ’70s was pretty explicit. One of the things you have to understand about this country is that books are not widely read. So censorship was never very tough on books. Back in the days of the dictatorship, the censors came down really hard on television, a little bit easier on movies, but particularly the press—newspapers and so forth. Even during the worst of the military years between ’68 and ’72, just about everything got published. LB: No, I did not, to my regret, translate Portnoy, but offhand, I don’t see how that could T R A N S L AT I N G R O T H
have been a problem and I do not think that any part of the novel was censored. Besides, France has a long history of libertine literature, and France is also after all the country where such books as Ulysses or Lolita were published in English by the now defunct Olympia Press at a time when they were banned in the United States. However, I vaguely remember hearing that the Roth novel that was translated into French before Portnoy had been translated by a woman, and that when Portnoy landed on his desk, the French editor of the Roth novels reportedly said that he couldn’t possibly give that kind of a novel to a female translator. He gave it to a man. THA: Scaling down from the wider problems of translation brought on by culture and politics, what grammatical or punctuation habits of Roth do you find particularly tricky to translate? Which, in the end, prove more of a challenge to convey effectively to your readers: the subtleties of Roth’s prose style or the substance of the themes he addresses? JS: [In Everyman] Roth uses the pronouns “he” and “she” instead of names, so it is hard to define to which character these pronouns refer, because the sequence in the narrative does not always correspond to the succession of the events. LB: There are indeed differences between the rules of punctuation in French and in English and it is sometimes annoying when a copy editor refuses a comma before quotation marks and forces you to use a colon when you know that this will change the rhythm of the sentence. But one has to learn to live with this, and also with copy editors. As for the subtleties of Roth’s style; it is precisely the job of the good translator to find the tricks that will enable him to convey them in his language. THA: Finally, stepping away from Roth and reflecting more generally, to borrow Walter Benjamin’s phrasing, what do you consider 48
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“the task of the translator”? PHB: Benjamin has a very mystical view of translation and I haven’t got one mystical bone in my body. My whole view of translation is extremely prosaic. To quote from [Henri] Lefebvre, “The only reason why you translate is that you can read the two languages and someone else can’t.” A translator is, I think, a mediator between an author and a readership. I believe in a lot of the values that seem old-fashioned today in the circles of post-structuralist translation studies: I believe in transparency, I believe in fidelity. All of these values are extremely debatable: they are all quite relative, there is no such thing as absolute transparency, absolute fidelity. But I believe in a way a translator is in service of a text, and as much as possible he should try to erase his own style and function in the style of the author he is translating. Lawrence Venuti believes that a translator has to leave his mark on the text. I think that a translator necessarily leaves a mark, but that should not be your major or even minor goals—your goal should be to erase yourself as much as possible. If the translator has to appear, it is in the introduction, the notes, the foreword. The paratext is the place where I think the translator has the right to appear. Anthony Pym has an interesting observation concerning Venuti’s point. He says, “What’s to stop you from publishing your own book?” Whenever I want to make my own voice heard, I write my books. JS: You might know the well-known Italian expression, “Traduttore, traditore,” which means, “The translator is a traitor.” I do not want to be a traitor. My task and duty is to give to the Russian reader a new text of the original book, and this book should be read in Russian as though it were written in Russian, at the same time remaining the work of an American writer. OK: I say that translation is nonsense—but a beautiful nonsense, and it is worthwhile to do it. Why is it nonsense? The ideal would
be that the translated work bears upon the reader in the language of translation in the same way as it bears upon readers in the original language. It simply is not possible. Let’s take a very plain and simple word: “bread.” I have no other choice but to translate it like “chlieb” (the Slovak word for bread). But in America there is different bread or breads as in Slovakia, it has different taste, look, etc. An American reading the word “bread” imagines his bread, Slovak reading the word chlieb imagines his own. The whole picture, connotation is different from the original, there is a shift in translation, a shift with which we cannot do anything. The same is true for example of the word “window.” In America windows are usually opened vertically, in Slovakia horizontally. The vision is different, but we have only one word for it. And now take the character of the novel, determined by social, political, educational, cultural, and many other conditions. You simply cannot completely “translate” that character, determined by foreign milieu, into the milieu of the translation, even if you translate all the words. Something is necessarily lost. Therefore we never can reach the above-mentioned ideal. In this light, translation is nonsense, but as I said before, a beautiful nonsense. And what is “the task of the translator?” To play in that small, sometimes very tight area defined by what is impossible and what
is possible. And we can do much. We do not translate words or sentences. We translate metaphors, symbols, moods, artistic pictures—we convey what is “behind” words. There we can move or “shift” the translation closer to the ideal that we never reach. Much can be done in this respect by the method of “substitution.” A good example for it is puns. In Roth’s latest novel, Exit Ghost, there’s the pun “Jew York.” It cannot be translated into Slovak without losing something, because the Slovak word for Jew is Žid. That’s why I must look for some other place in the novel, where I can do the pun equally effectively. It then depends on the translator’s skill, the feeling and experience of how and where to do it. LB: When they wanted to say “to translate,” the Greeks used a number of different verbs according to the period or the nature of the text referred to; thus, they used verbs that meant to explain, to express, to interpret, to paraphrase, to transport, to transpose, to take across, to change the text, to falsify, to transcribe, to copy, to arrange in a different way, to dispose otherwise, and finally to Hellenize, to make the object of the translation into something Greek, to bring it into the Greek language and culture. I would say that the job of the translator is to do all of the above. But one thing is certain: The seams must never show.
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Traduttore non è traditore NANCY HUSTON
arina Tsvetaeva l’exprime à la perfection : “Écrire des poèmes, dit-elle (mais c’est vrai de toute écriture littéraire), c’est déjà traduire, de sa langue maternelle dans une autre, peu importe qu’il s’agisse de français ou d’allemand. Pour le poète, aucune langue n’est maternelle. Écrire des poèmes, c’est traduire (…). Un poète peut écrire en français, il ne peut être un poète français (…). On devient poète (…) pour ne pas être français, russe, etc., mais pour être tout. Ou encore : on est poète parce qu’on n’est pas français, etc.” C’est tellement drôle, au fond. Nous sommes là, chacun de nous, absolument seul à sa table de travail, à s’échiner à être tout, et, dès qu’un de nos livres paraît les gens se jettent dessus et s’escriment à lui flanquer des étiquettes, à le faire rentrer dans une boîte, à le réduire, à nous réduire. À la nouvelle de mon prix Femina, Michel Tremblay a caracolé à la radio québécoise : “On le prend un peu pour nous !” Edmonde Charles-Roux, dans Le Figaro littéraire : “La francophonie marque des points !” Et au Châtelet-en-Berry paraît-il, on a hélé en moi “la nouvelle George Sand !” Décidément, je fais mienne cette déclaration de Ying Chen, romancière québécoise d’origine chinoise installée en Californie : “S’il vous devez me mettre des étiquettes, de grâce, mettez-m’en le plus possible.” Il est essentiel que les écrivains se détournent de cette manie, qu’ils en rient, que poliment mais fermement ils la refusent, en expliquant de façon patiente et répétée qu’ils ne sont ni des footballeurs ni des beauty queens ni des partis politiques ni des 50
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armées, qu’ils ne “jouent” pas pour tel pays (ou telle langue), contre tel (ou telle) autre, qu’ils ne font pas la course, et que, exécrant toute forme de compétition – linguistique, nationale, régionale – ils se réjouissent au contraire de rencontrer aussi forts qu’eux, et plus forts qu’eux, leurs contemporains ou non, leurs compatriotes ou non. Tout ce qui nous nourrit et nous fait grandir est bon à prendre. J’aime la littérature. J’aime sa vastitude, sa diversité, j’aime qu’elle soit justement impossible à réduire, à définir, à prévoir. Tout bon roman est un miracle. J’aime pouvoir choisir entre un petit, un moyen et un grand miracle, entre un miracle qui dit la spécificité et un autre qui dit l’universalité. J’aime que, ça et là dans le monde, la littérature joue des rôles différents et réponde à des besoins différents, tant chez les écrivains que chez les lecteurs. J’aime même qu’il existe des livres que je n’aime pas et que d’autres adorent ! J’aime que dans la littérature il n’y ait aucune limite ; que le seul défi soit d’inventer une nouvelle vérité, sachant d’avance que les vérités possibles sont innombrables. Mon identité d’origine est faible et fade, je n’ai jamais été opprimée en tant que Canadienne ni en tant que Blanche ni en tant que petite-bourgeoise ni en tant que Protestante renégate. La lâcheté de mes attaches originelles, à laquelle est venu s’ajouter mon exil choisi, me permet de me glisser dans la peau de tout le monde et de n’importe qui. J’aime qu’il y ait des écrivains enracinés, et d’autres divisés, et d’autres encore, multiples. J’aime qu’un roman puisse être infiniment local et trouver les trente-cinq lecteurs susceptibles de l’apprécier, et qu’un autre
puisse emporter l’adhésion dans toutes les langues de la planète. J’aime que certains écrivains brassent large, arpentent à grands pas les continents et les époques, bourrent leurs ouvrages d’érudition et de considérations philosophiques . . . et que d’autres sondent un seul événement d’une seule vie pour en révéler et en déployer les mille nuances. Je fuis les écoles littéraires, les donneurs de leçons, et les petits nihilistes (un nihiliste est forcément petit : c’est tellement minuscule, ce “rien” qu’il tient à nous dire !) Un vrai écrivain n’écrit ni pour être célèbre ni pour décrocher un prix ni pour s’enrichir ni pour dire ce qu’il pense ni pour enseigner la vérité aux autres ni pour améliorer le monde. Il écrit pour aggrandir le monde, pour en repousser les frontières. Il écrit pour que le monde soit doublé, aéré, irrigué, interrogé, illuminé, par un autre monde, et qu’il en devienne habitable. Ce faisant, l’écrivain traduit. Ce n’est jamais chose facile. On fait ce qu’on peut. Tant de facteurs conspirent pour nous empêcher de pouvoir. Ce qui nous aide à pouvoir, on le prend. On choisit et on soigne les mots qui acceptent de venir, quelle que soit la langue dans laquelle ils viennent. Pour ma part j’ai commencé par écrire en français afin d’échapper à ma langue maternelle. Je peux dire avec Cioran que la langue française m’a apaisée “comme une camisole de force calme un fou. Elle a agi à la façon d’une discipline imposée du dehors, ayant finalement sur moi un effet positif. En me contraignant, en m’interdisant d’exagérer à tout bout de champ, elle m’a sauvé.” Ou, avec Beckett, qu’elle m’a aidée à “’retrancher le superflu, (...) décaper la couleur’ pour mieux s’attacher à la musique du langage, à ses sonorités et à ses rythmes.” Pour autant, je refuse de faire l’éloge de la langue française. A vrai dire, n’importe quelle langue étrangère aurait fait mon affaire mais, Canadienne ayant étudié le français depuis l’école primaire, j’ai choisi la voie de la facilité. Une quinzaine d’années après mes premières publications en français – là encore comme Beckett – j’ai décidé de revenir, ponctuellement, à la langue mater-
nelle comme langue d’écriture, et me suis mise à pratiquer l’autotraduction dans les deux sens. J’appartiens donc (si tant est qu’il faille déclarer ses appartenances) au groupe relativement restrait des écrivains bilinuges, groupe où se trouvent – chacun à sa manière, chacun unique, comme tout le monde – Beckett, Brink, Alexakis, Gary, quelques autres. J’écris dans la langue que veulent bien parler mes personnages, j’écris les histoires qu’ils veulent bien me raconter, je les traduis de mon mieux en mots, scènes, dialogues et intrigues ; en les lisant, chacun de mes lecteurs les traduit à nouveau dans sa langue ou plutôt ses langues à lui, celles qu’il reconnaît, celles qui l’aident à vivre et à comprendre ce qu’il vit. Il est désolant de voir un écrivain de l’envergure de Romain Gary, qui parlait couramment sept langues et écrivait dans deux d’entre elles, qui bourlinguait de par le monde, campait ses intrigues sur tous les continents, et déclarait se sentir “une responsabilité planétaire”, réduit par certains à son identité juive, par d’autres à son identité russe, par d’autres encore à son identité de diplomate... Gary se traduisait lui-même (parfois, pas toujours : car, dès qu’une généralité pointait le bout de son nez, il n’avait de cesse de lui faire mentir) – et, quand il le faisait, il adaptait ses blagues, jeux de mots et références en fonction des connaissances et habitudes de ses lecteurs, quitte à sabrer des chapitres entiers et à en ajouter d’autres, il délirait différemment en anglais qu’en français, n’avait cure des esprits mesquins universitaires qui, plus tard, développeraient des théories sur le pourquoi et le comment des différences entre les versions, avait à coeur de communiquer, c’est-à-dire de faire réfléchir et rire, de faire adopter et aimer ses personnages par ses lecteurs, de les envoyer vivre dans leur coeur, de mettre en branle leurs aventures de par le monde, pour que ces aventures enrichissent les nôtres, les rendent pour nous lisibles. Beckett, en abandonnant l’anglais, délaissa par la même occasion tous les particularismes jusque-là propres au roman. Il TRADUTTORE NON É TRADITORE
voulut qu’il n’y ait plus de plate réalité référentielle. Ses personnages ne furent plus irlandais mais ils ne devinrent pas français pour autant, ils devinrent humains, trop humains, comme nous tous, c’est-à-dire faibles, infiniment faibles et découragés. N’ayant plus ni état civil, ni emploi, ni ville où habiter, ils élirent domicile dans cet habitacle familier à tous : le cerveau ; l’âme-corps ; et se mirent à tourner infiniment et drôlement en rond dans cet habitacle figuré par une jarre, une poubelle, un tas de sable, des arpents de vide, déblatérant infiniment et drôlement contre l’absurdité de leur état. Même en revenant plus tard à sa langue maternelle, Beckett ne quitta plus jamais cet universel, et du coup la traduction fut ce pour lui ce défi redoutable : dire exactement, dans une deuxième langue ce qu’il avait d’abord conçu dans la première ; s’acharner contre les syllabes pour forcer chacune d’entre elles à contenir un maximum de non-sens, de la façon la plus élégante et éloquente qui soit. Brink qui hérita des deux langues coloniales de l’Afrique du Sud, peut-être pour n’avoir pas à déclarer son allégeance à l’une ni à l’autre et s’arroger le droit de parler de tout, se mit très tôt à écrire indifféremment en anglais et en afrikans, se traduisant vice et versa. Moi, ayant donc passé de longues années à écrire dans la langue étrangère et ayant constaté (pour mon plus grand bonheur) qu’elle n’occupait pas dans mon cerveau la même place que la maternelle, ayant pris mon envol grâce à la liberté et la légèreté que me conférait le français, l’illusion qu’elle m’octroyait de n’avoir pas d’enfance, pas d’inconscient, pas de racines, pas de déterminisme, je revins enfin à l’anglais avec Plainsong, déclenchant une avalanche de malentendus rocambolesques. Car c’est la traduction (l’autotraduction) de ce roman, Cantique des plaines, qui se vit couronné d’un grand prix littéraire dans mon pays natal, ce qui n’eut pas l’heur de plaire aux journalistes et éditeurs québécois frileux et chatouilleux à l’endroit de leur identité. Je me souviens de la paralysie qui s’empara de moi pendant la cérémonie du prix à Ottawa 52
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en novembre 1993, quand je me trouvai dans l’obligation de lire en français, devant un public majoritairement anglophone, ce livre que pour une fois j’avais écrit en anglais. Je me souviens de la rubrique “Cantique des plaintes”, dans le journal montréalais Le Devoir. Je me souviens aussi d’avoir réussi à grand peine, en parlant de mon voyage de retour en Alberta devant un public francophone à l’Université de Montréal, à réprimer la folle envie de ponctuer mon discours par de petits cris de mon moi anglophone : “Help ! I’m locked up inside this body ! I need to express myself, too ! Why doesn’t anyone want to listen to me?” Après cette première expérience pourtant seulement moyennement concluante, je n’eus de cesse de récidiver car je m’étais aperçue que traduire mes textes me permettait de les améliorer, et que c’était une grande chance de pouvoir ainsi passer la première version par les fourches caudines de la traduction pour en éliminer les scories. Avec Instruments des ténèbres, dont la moitié des chapitres furent écrits en anglais et l’autre moitié en français, je décidai une fois pour toutes : tant pis pour les étiquettes et ceux qui tiennent à les coller ; tant pis pour les prix et ceux qui tiennent à les décerner ; tant pis pour ceux qui ne lisent que la surface d’un roman et ne savent pas se laisser bousculer, envahir, occuper et transformer par lui. Ce n’est pas à eux que je m’adresse mais aux lecteurs vrais, que ce soit dans cette première traduction qu’est la v.o., dans la traduction subséquente d’une de mes langues vers l’autre, ou dans la traduction d’un tiers vers une autre langue encore, dont je ne puis contrôler les pertes et profits. Traduire, c’est ça qu’il faut : tradutorre è non traditore, c’est même la seule façon de ne pas trahir, il n’y a que ça de vrai. Traduire, éternellement traduire. Que serait ma vie sans Dostoevsky, Rilke, Sophocle, Marquez, Lägerlöf ? Je suis éternellement reconnaissante à leurs traducteurs. Quand les gens me demandent quel effet ça me fait de me traduire moi-même, je réponds (citant Beckett à nouveau) : “L’autotraduction est la seule forme de torture poli-
tique que je connaisse.” En effet c’est épouvantable, je n’aime pas le faire, je mets autant de temps sinon plus à traduire un livre qu’à l’écrire et, de la première à la dernière page, c’est une expérience fastidieuse et frustrante, d’irritation contre les dictionnaires, contre mon propre cerveau, contre les langues elles-mêmes, d’être si rétives à coopérer et à se ressembler, de refuser obstinément de communiquer entre elles, de se fondre l’une dans l’autre, de se mêler et de se marier l’une à l’autre, du reste certains jours, les jours où je donne dans la psychanalyse à deux sous, ce qui arrive aux meilleurs d’entre nous, je pense que c’est peut-être ça au fond : une histoire de mariage, oui, comme si je faisais inlassablement l’aller-retour entre maman et papa (même si les pannes de communication entre eux n’avaient rien à voir avec un problème de langue, l’anglais étant même l’une des rares choses qu’ils avaient en commun, hormis trois enfants et des ambitions élevées), m’efforçant d’expliquer maman à papa et papa à maman, écoutez, écoutez, ça n’en a peut-être pas l’air mais en fait vous dites exactement la même chose, écoutez, vous êtes compatibles, restez ensemble, ne rompez pas, ne vous séparez pas, ne fracassez pas tout en fracassant votre mariage, même s’ils l’ont fait depuis belle et même très belle lurette – et peut-être, aussi, une tentative pour guérir mon pays, pourquoi cette faille profonde entre anglophones et fran-
cophones, c’est ridicule, les choses importantes ne sont-elles pas les mêmes pour tous, l’amour, la douleur, le passage du temps, la quête du sens, ainsi je reste là jour après jour, assise à ma table de travail, glissant de l’ennui à la frustration et de la frustration à la rage, feuilletant des dictionnaires, lisant mes phrases à voix haute encore et encore, jusqu’à ce que, pour finir, non seulement elles ne veulent plus dire ce qu’elles avaient l’intention de dire au départ, elles ne veulent plus rien dire du tout, et pourtant, et donc, la question suivante, évidemment, c’est pourquoi le faites-vous alors, si vous n’aimez pas ça, si c’est tellement fastidieux et harassant, pourquoi ne laissez-vous pas quelqu’un d’autre traduire vos livres à votre place, de français en anglais et de l’anglais en français ? Et la réponse à cette question-là est la suivante : parce que quand c’est fini, quand c’est vraiment terminé, quand, après tout ce dur labeur, le livre prend enfin forme et réussit à exister dans l’autre langue, eh bien là je me sens bien, là je me sens mieux, là je me sens guérie, parce que c’est le même livre, il raconte les mêmes histoires, suscite les mêmes émotions, fait entendre la même musique, et alors là je suis contente, là je suis ravie, comme si ça prouvait qu’en fait je ne suis pas schizophrène, pas folle, puisque finalement la même personne dans les deux langues. Traduire, non seulement ce n’est pas trahir, c’est un espoir pour l’humanité.
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Traduttore non è traditore NANCY HUSTON
arina Tsvetaeva expresses it perfectly: “To write a poem,” she says (but in fact this applies to all forms of literary writing), “is already to translate—from one’s mother tongue into another, and it matters little whether the other is French or German. For the poet, there is no such thing as a mother tongue. To write poetry is to translate.... A poet can write in French, but he cannot be a French poet.... One becomes a poet... in order not to be French, Russian, etc., but to be everything. Or again: one becomes a poet because one is not French, etc.”1 It’s really very funny, when you think about it. Here we all are, utterly alone at our writing tables, desperately striving to be everything—and no sooner does one of our books get published than people leap on it and do everything in their power to label it, squeeze it into a little box, reduce it, reduce us. When my latest novel (written in English, self-translated into French) won France’s Prix Femina, Québecois playwright Michel Tremblay declared triumphantly over the radio, “We take it a bit for ourselves!” ; Edmonde Charle-Roux told Le Figaro littéraire, “More points for francophonia!” ; and the mayor of Le Châtelet-en-Berry apparently hailed me as “the new George Sand!” Ah, no doubt about it; I wholeheartedly agree with Ying Chen, a Québecoise novelist born in China and currently living in California: “If you must put labels on me, please give me as many as possible.” It’s so important that writers take their distance from the labelling mania, laugh at it, reject it politely but firmly, explaining patiently and repeatedly that they are neither baseball players nor beauty queens nor po54
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litical parties nor armies; that they are not “playing” for one country (or one language) against the others, that they are not running a race—and that, eschewing all forms of competition—lingusitic, national or regional—they are actually delighted to encounter writers as good as or better than they are, regardless of whether they happen to be their contemporaries or not, their compatriots or not. Everything that feeds our work and helps us grow is found money. I love literature. I love its vastness and diversity. I love the fact that it can never be defined, predicted, reduced to this or that. Each and every good novel is a miracle. I love having the choice between small, medium-sized and large miracles, between miracles that express specificity and others that express universality. I love the fact that literature plays different roles in different parts of the world. I even love the fact that there can be books which I dislike and which other readers adore! I love the fact that there are no limits to what a novel can do; that the only challenge in writing one is to invent a new truth, knowing in advance that there are infinite numbers of possible truths. My original identity is weak and pale. I was never oppressed as a Canadian, as a white woman, as a member of the middle class, or as a lapsed Protestant. The weakness of my original attachments, compounded by my voluntary exile, has made it easier for me to slip into other people’s skins. I love the fact that some novelists are rooted, others divided, and still others multiple. I love the fact that one good novel can be “regional” and find the thirty-five readers capable of
appreciating it, and that another good novel can find readers in every language on the planet. I love the fact that some writers have enormous ambitions, go striding across various continents and epochs, cramming their books with erudition and philosophical reflections... and that other writers explore a single event of a single life in order to reveal its thousand subtle shades. I shy away from literary cliques, know-it-alls and petty nihilists (nihilists are always petty : the “nothingness” they wish to convey to us is so very tiny!). True novelists write neither to become famous nor to win prizes nor to get rich nor to say what they think nor to teach others the truth nor to improve the world. They write to enlarge the world, to push back its limits. They write so that the world may be lined, aired, irrigated, illuminated by a second world and thus become inhabitable. In so doing, they translate. It’s never an easy task. Novelists do what they can. So many things prevent them from doing. Whatever empowers them, they take. They choose and coddle the words that agree to come to them, no matter what language they arrive in. In my own case, I started out writing in French so as to escape from my mother tongue. I could say, along with Romanian philosopher Emil Cioran, that the French language calmed me down “the way a straight-jacket calms down a madman. It acted upon me like a discipline imposed from the outside, ultimately having a positive effect on me. By constraining me, by preventing me from exaggerating all the time, it saved my life.”2 Or I could say, along with Beckett, that French helped me to “cut away the superfluous... strip away the color,” the better to “pay attention to the music of the language, its rhythms and sonorites.”3 For all that, I refuse to sing the praises of French. The truth is that any foreign tongue would have done the trick but—being Canadian and having studied French since elementary school—I chose the easy way out. After having worked exclusively in French for fifteen years or so, I decided (again, like Beckett) to start using
my mother tongue in my writing every now and then and began translating myself in both directions. I thus belong to the relatively small group of bilingual writers—a group whose other members (each of whom is unique, like everyone else) include Samuel Beckett, André Brink, Vassilis Alexakis, Romain Gary, and a few others. I write in the language spoken by my characters; I write the stories they deign to tell me, translating them to the best of my abilities into words, scenes, dialogues and plots. As they read these stories, each of my readers translates them anew into their own language or languages—the ones they recognize, the ones that help them live and understand what they have lived. It bothers me to see a literary giant of the ilk of Romain Gary, who spoke seven languages fluently and wrote in two of them, who travelled far and wide, who set his novels on every continent and declared his responsibility to be “planetary,” reduced by some to his Jewish identity, by others to his Russian identity, and by others still to his identity as a diplomat. Romain Gary translated himself (sometimes, not always—it’s almost impossible to generalize about him); when he did so, he adapted his puns, jokes and cultural references to his readers, even if that meant deleting entire chapters and writing new ones to replace them. He ranted and raved differently in English than in French, and could have cared less about the petty academics who would later spin theories about the hows and whys of the different versions of his novels. What he cared about was communicating, that is, making his readers think and laugh, sending his characters into their hearts to be loved and adopted, having them travel all over the world, so that their adventures might enrich our own and help us make sense of them. When Samuel Beckett renounced his native English, he also abandoned all the particularities which had until then been defining traits of the novelistic genre. Down with plain old referential reality. His characters ceased being Irish, but they did not become French for all that; rather, they beTRADUTTORE NON É TRADITORE
came human, all too human, like the rest of us—that is, infinitely weak and discouraged. No longer having birthdates, nationalities, ancestors or jobs, they set up housekeeping in that abode we all know well: the brain; the soul-body (whether it took the shape of an urn, a trashcan, a mound of sand or an empty landscape) and started going endlessly and hilariously around in circles inside of it, endlessly and hilariously bemoaning the absurdity of their condition. Beckett never left universality again, even upon returning to his mother tongue many years later. Thus, in his case, self-translation entailed the formidable challenge of saying precisely, in the second language, what he had originally conceived in the first; working and reworking syllables to force each and every one of them to contain a maximum of meaninglessness with the utmost elegance and eloquence. Brink, having inherited both of South Africa’s colonial languages –– perhaps so as not to have to declare his allegeance to either—chose from the start to write indifferently in English and in Africaans, translating himself vice and versa, thereby protecting his right to discuss anything and everything. As for myself, having spent long years writing exclusively in the foreign idiom, and having come to see (with relief) that it was not stored in the same lobes of my brain as the mother one; having managed to take wing literarily thanks to the freedom and lightness afforded me by French, thanks to the illusions it gave me—namely that I had no childhood, no unconscious, no roots, no determinism whatsoever—I returned at last to English in 1993 with Plainsong, setting off an avalanche of misunderstandings. The fact that this novel’s French translation Cantique des plaines won a major literary prize in Canada was not to the liking of Québec journalists and publishers, who tend to be touchy on the subject of their identity. Never shall I forget the paralysis that came over me during the prize ceremony in Ottawa in November of 1993, when I found myself obliged to read in French, in front of an mostly English-speaking audience, passages from this book which—for the first time ever!—I 56
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had written in English. There were petitions demanding that my prize be revoked by the Canada Arts Council. Several Québecois writers rushed bravely to my defense. The controversy went on for so long that a column entitled “Cantique des plaintes” (Complaint Song) sprang up in Montreal’s daily newspaper Le Devoir. Some months later, in front of a French-speaking audience at the Université de Montreal, I gave a talk about my first trip home to Alberta in twenty-five years, and I found it hard to repress the impulse to punctuate my talk with little yelps from my English-speaking self: “Help ! I’m locked up inside this body! I need to express myself, too! Why doesn’t anyone want to listen to me?” That not entirely positive first experience with self-translation did not prevent me from performing the same linguistic acrobatics the following year with Slow Emergencies—for I had noticed that translating my work helped me improve it, and that I was in fact fortunate to be able to pass the first version of my books through the Caudine Forks of translation. By the time I embarked upon Instruments of Darkness (1996), writing half the chapters in English and the other half in French, I had made up my mind once and for all: too bad for labels and those who need to use them; too bad for prizes and those who hand them out on the basis of language or nationality; too bad for those who skim the surface of a novel and refuse to allow it to shake them up, invade, occupy and transform them. My books are not addressed to those people; they are addressed to true readers. True readers don’t care whether they read my books in their first translation (the original version), their second translation (from one of my tongues to the other), or yet another translation, by a professional translator, into a language I cannot read myself. Translation is, to my mind, the only truth there is. Tradutorre non è traditore. Not only are translators not traitors; translation is the very opposite of betrayal. What would my life be like without Dostoyevsky, Rilke, Sophocles, Márquez, Lagerlöf? I am eternally grateful to their translators.
When people ask me what it feels like to translate to translate my own work, my answer is again the same as Beckett’s, i.e.: “Self-translation is the only form of political torture I know.” It feels dreadful, that’s what it feels like. I dislike doing it. It takes me much longer to translate a book than it does to write it, and from the first page to the last it is an experience of tedium and frustration, irritation against dictionairies, against my own brain, against the languages themselves for being so uncooperatively unalike, for not wanting to communicate with one another, float into one another, meld and marry. Some days (those days when I think in cheap psychoanalytical terms, which happens to the best of us) I think that deep down it might be just that, a question of marriage, as if I were perpetually running back and forth between mummy and daddy (though the communication problem between them was not a language problem, indeed English was one of the few things they had in common, apart from three kids and lofty hopes), trying to explain mummy to daddy and daddy to mummy: listen you guys, it may not sound like it but in fact you’re saying exactly the same thing, listen, listen, you’re compatible, stay together, don’t break up, don’t fly apart, don’t destroy us all by destroying your marriage, even if they did so four decades ago; or maybe healing my country too: why such a deep rift in Canada between Anglophones and Francophones, when the important things (love, pain, the
passage of time, the search for meaning) are the same in all our lives, aren’t they? So I sit there day after day, bored and frustrated and angry, flipping through dictionaries, reading my sentences out loud over and over again until not only do they no longer mean what they originally set out to mean but they don’t mean anything anymore; and yet, and so, the next question, obviously, is why do you do it if you don’t like it? If it’s so tedious and annoying why don’t you let someone else translate your books for you, from French into English and from English into French? And the answer to that question is because when it’s done, when it’s actually finished, when after all that work the book has finally taken shape and has managed to exist in the other language, then I feel good, then I feel better, then I feel healed—because it’s the same book, telling the same stories, eliciting the same emotions, playing the same music; then I’m elated, then I’m delighted, as if this somehow proved that I’m not a schizophrenic, not crazy, because I’m ultimately the same person in both languages. Translation is hope for humanity.
NOTES 1. Marina Tsvetaeva, Boris Pasternak, Rainer Maria Rilke, Correspondance à trois, Gallimard, p. 211. 2. Quoted in Gabriel Liiceanu, Itinéraires d’une vie : E.M. Cioran. 3. James Knowlson, Beckett.
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Fabricating Fabiola ANNA BARNET
he painting itself was simple: a heavy red hood and the pale, sullen head of a saint in profile against a black background. Ostensibly, Jean-Jacques Henner’s now lost depiction of Saint Fabiola (d. 399), completed in 1885, might have disappeared forever. Yet today two hundred and eightysix Fabiolas hang on the Hispanic Society of America’s wood-paneled walls, sundry renditions of Henner’s oft-copied original painting. Ripped and raw-edged, many of these paintings were stripped from their frames for logistical reasons after the Belgian artist Francis Alÿs unearthed them in flea markets and rummage sales from all over the world. Suspended from wires in a jigsaw puzzle of a display, there are Fabiolas facing right instead of left, Fabiolas done in knotty needlepoint, Fabiolas clad in cloaks that range from orange to aquamarine, a Fabiola on a porcelain plate—even a Fabiola comprised entirely of seeds and beans. However, despite the many manipulations, the image manages to remain instantly recognizable in each. The collection of the works hangs as a nearly three-hundred-headed testament to the countless copycats Henner’s academic portrait spawned. And yet, it is precisely due to their similarities that exhibition, presented by the Dia Art Foundation, emphasizes their differences, illustrating how a subtle change in hue or an unpracticed hand produce a distinct work, translating an image — creatively, crudely or both—into a unique visual language. In the pamphlet accompanying the show, an unassuming and informative affair, Dia curator Lynne Cooke refers to Henner’s original as the “definitive, albeit fictitious, portrayal of Fabiola.” The painting arrived 58
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on the tail of the success of Fabiola, or The Church of the Catacombs, a bestselling novelcum-hack-hagiography written by Cardinal Wiseman in 1854. The novel brought an entirely new level of celebrity to Saint Fabiola, a fourth-century Roman matron who remarried before her first husband’s death. Her actions made her a heretic and a sinner until her repentance under the influence of Saint Jerome, after which she devoted herself to God and to hospice work. In time she became an important protective figure to victims of abusive husbands, especially as people came to believe that her first husband beat her, forcing her to seek asylum in a second marriage. The religious nature of this saintly subject usually demands that the viewer take into consideration the sacred context of each copy’s creation. A Byzantine icon, for example, was believed to mediate the presence of its holy model creation. The undertaking of the creation of such an image commonly involved a degree of piety or an element of worship for many. Likewise, the austere style of Henner’s painting itself evokes the restraint that characterized Fabiola’s ascetic life as she atoned for her sins. However, individuals’ motivations or beliefs are not discussed directly in the installation of the show. With no labels and no explanatory wall text beyond the pamphlet, the only information the curators offer comes in the form of black binders, which contain maps of the galleries and blank squares numbered and drawn to scale. These charts are followed by an inventorylike list of dimensions and brief condition reports. It is understandably spotty on dates and artists, but helpful in locating where each work was found, from Estonia
ILLUSTRATION BY LAUREN PACKARD
to Espa単a. The lack of labeling preserves the anonymity of the Fabiolas, so many of which are actually anonymous, leaving the images themselves to speak for the artists
who created them. There is a refreshing lack of preoccupation with the attribution of each work to a known artist. Instead, the identity of each artist, amateur or otherwise, FA B R I C AT I N G FA B I O L A
is expressed in his translation of the austerely iconic image into his own visual language, his manner of rearranging elements into new semantic constructions through an added pout in a lower lip, or a more rigid articulation of the cloak’s drapery. In other instances, far more drastic changes have been made to the composition itself, such as the introduction of a trinity of Fabiolas in one painting and an incongruously abstract pastel skyline in another. From downcast Little Red Riding Hood look-alikes to a staid matron with an abnormally large pate protruding from beneath her cloak, Fabiola takes on many different forms in copies that aren’t exact replicas, whether deliberately or due to a lack of skill. Regardless, the decision to change the color of the cloak to an emerald green or the background to a light aqua isn’t one easily elucidated. There is no obvious answer to such a puzzle, and the show does not attempt to answer it. Rather the viewer is confronted with the question of whether each choice extends beyond issues of personal taste on the part of the painter to questions of deliberate alteration and transformation of meaning. How does the work change when the image is taken off of the canvas and put on a pin that can be worn or a plate that can be eaten from—or transformed into a mosaic made of legumes? It was important to Alÿs that “Fabiola” not be installed in a sterile gallery intended for modern or contemporary art. Rather, he wished it to be shown in an environment in which Old Masters might once have hung, creating a site-specific installation meant to both contextualize and historicize the paintings. Although the Fabiolas that can be dated range predominantly from the middle to late twentieth century, for the most part they maintain (or at least attempt to maintain) the ethos of the nineteenthcentury work. Furthermore, the pamphlet states that the show is meant to be understood in conjunction with the Hispanic Society of America and its own extensive collection. Issues of visual translation and appropriation evident in the show extend not only to works 60
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in the Museum’s main building but the 1908 Beaux-Arts building complex itself. Henner himself was an academic affiliated with the Académie des Beaux-Arts. The academic appropriation of classical architecture and the eclecticism inherent in BeauxArts render its architecture a pastiche of translated visual tropes, both structural and decorative. Inscribed in the building’s white stone, the founder’s couplets are a rhyming articulation of the attitude in which the appropriation of the past and the translation and conflation of classical characters and themes was approached. The exterior wall beside the North Building’s entrance reads: “Shall deeds of Caesar or Napoleon ring More true than Don Quijote’s vapouring? Hath winged Pegasus more nobly trod Than Rocinante stumbling up to God? AMH”
Its ersatz allusions and forced rhyme scheme make the stanza a complementary companion to the sculptures of ancient heroes (a canon and El Cid) designed by his wife, Anna Hyatt Huntington, that populate the courtyard outside. That the self-conscious verse manages to conflate in four lines Caesar, Napoleon, Pegasus, Don Quijote, and Rocinante, Quijote’s horse (itself a fictional symbol of Spanish culture coming into contact with the mythical and historical figures of both the classical world and the early modern Europe), is an odd and telling achievement. Or perhaps it is simply an oddly telling one, illustrating the degree to which the pastiche is deployed to imbue meaning both in and on the building. Inside, protected by heavily decorated, Renaissanceinspired, cast metal doors, the reiterated image of the hundreds of Fabiolas covers the interior walls with vacillating senses of the past in their pastiche of style, representing alternate examples of translation through appropriation. The exhibit’s showcasing of copies is not at all foreign to the Hispanic Society of America’s collection, which contains many duplicate sets of its own. Both their original version of Francisco Goya’s Pedro Mocarte and Mariano Fortuny’s copy of
the same name were recently included in a traveling show called Goya to Sorolla. In the most straightforward way, the copy points to Goya’s influence on Fortuny’s work, an influence also evident in the subjects and style of Fortuny’s original paintings. It is thought that Fortuny sought to hone his own skill by painting copies as an artistic exercise. (Fortuny’s Mocarte has a face that is slightly longer, and his shirt and vest are a little more disheveled.) The mystery of the Fabiolas’ origins, though largely dateless and nameless, is not entirely universal. Some artists have copied the original down to Henner’s signature; others omit it entirely or replace it with their own, while some include both in a dark corner of the canvas. Each is a choice that helps to identify the intent behind each copy’s creation by pointing to the distinction between a replica that strives for exact mimesis and one that is content with approximation, while also raising questions about the identity of the copyist in relation to Henner. In her article “Discerning Goya,” Priscilla Muller, Curator Emeritus of the Museum, discusses the ways in which Goya himself worked with copyists, sometimes painting works in tandem with a copyist at his side. In some instances a well-executed copy could even be more valuable in the eyes of contemporaneous connoisseurs than a mediocre original. In her analysis of Goya and the minute gradations between paintings that are copies, school works, precise replicas, or repetitions (paintings that are Goyesque, after Goya, or fakes), a litany of different likenesses takes shape.1 The difference between a facsimile, a carefully rendered copy, and a deliberately duplicitous fake is still very much a concern in the modern art market—a fake Pollock creates a scandal, and a pricey one at that, while mass-producing replicas for sale is burgeoning big business in places like Dafen, China. The difference, though subtle, illustrates the import of intent and execution on a fine scale that are at play
in Alÿs’ collection. No deception here, the primary elements at work are appear to be trifold—devotion, diversion, and didacticism present to varying degrees in each image. Alÿs takes on the roles of curator, collector, and artist in the creation of the show, bringing together others’ works to become his own. In this way the show parallels the creation of the Hispanic Society of America collection, which was produced through the effort of an individual through his own collection as well. In some ways, considered all together, the collection is not unlike the work of modern artists like Eva Hesse’s Repetition Nineteen, III (1968), nineteen cylinders made of polyester and resin that resemble each other in shape but are not identical. Both feature repetition without replication, meant to be considered as a unified—but not uniform— unit. Likewise, “Fabiola” demands to be considered as whole, adding yet another layer of translation and transmutation, this time into a far more sprawling beast—a twohundred-and-eighty-six-headed one. The early ecclesiastical sense of the word ‘translation,’ referring to the movement of the relics of a saint from one place to another, echoes in Alÿs’ project. It is the fact that the Fabiolas are not carbon copies of one another—though one is comprised of a beautiful light dusting of charcoal—that makes the show so mesmerizing. Taunting and tantalizing the viewer with the mystery of why only one Fabiola out of hundreds has even a hint of tooth while the rest remain close-lipped, or why needle-point became the medium of choice for so many, the cloaked profiles populate the galleries with as many novel translations of a hood and a head as there were hairs on top of it.
NOTES 1. Priscilla Muller, “Discerning Goya,” Metropolitan Museum Journal, 1996.
FA B R I C AT I N G FA B I O L A
Concert This Evening TOM CONLEY
n its heyday in the 1970s and 1980s what today François Cusset calls “French theory” (in his book of the same title) was translated with alacrity and gusto.1 For many Anglophone readers the French of its principal authors was felt to be difficult, abstruse, even willfully obscurantist. Yet, at the same time, the yields for its patient readers seemed to acquire such unforeseen value that its translators become pivotal and indeed decisive figures in a longstanding intellectual Franco-American dialogue. They were bringing to North American shores vital reassessments of the conditions and effects of new scrutinies of knowledge. Through their efforts many ways of thinking about the world were changed. It suffices to recall the impact of Gayatri Spivak’s copious and informative—and lately, revised—introduction to her translation of Jacques Derrida’s De la grammatologie, or the lasting effect of Alan Sheridan’s meticulous treatment of many of the writings of Michel Foucault. A list of outstanding translators includes Peggy Kamuf, who brought to Derrida’s later writings their keenest and most elegant rendering in English; Jeffrey Mehlman, whose incomparable treatment of Jean Laplanche’s Vie et mort en psychanalyse did as much to explain French inflections of Freud than much of the English that had sought to approximate the gist of Jacques Lacan; Brian Massumi, whose doctoral dissertation was a translation and, to a strong degree, a critical edition of Deleuze and Guattari’s Mille plateaux; Catherine Porter, who put Louis Marin into such clear and elegant diction that the formal tenor and rigor of his thought became, it appeared, more pliable and seductive in English than 62
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in French. A great deal is owed to these and other translators who have made the practice of theory what it is in the Americas. With the writers who have inspired them, as Cusset has shown, they have implemented and innovated theory in places far from its sites of origin. The aim of the paragraphs to follow is less to reassess the labor of translators responsible for the success of theory in North America than to take note of some of the difficulties they have faced. What happens when a translator encounters variously intractable sentences that communicate obliquely or in veiled form? How do they render a manière de penser, the term with which Gilles Deleuze describes the style of thinking that marks major works of philosophy or criticism? A good deal of theory owes its shape and force to its manner: to its ways of turning sentences for topical needs; to the politics of a specific rhetoric that moves between argumentation and poetry; to implicit identification with écriture, or writing, understood in the sense that its style seeks to be co-extensive with the force of its thought. A titre d’exemple, as goes the French: an exemplary and somewhat baffling title is Deleuze’s own Le Pli: Leibniz et le Baroque [The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque], a short work that belongs to what might be called to the philosopher’s “late” phase. Appearing seven years before his death in 1995, it followed two major and closely related studies on cinema (Cinéma 1: L’Image-mouvement and Cinéma 2: L’Image-temps in 1983 and 1985, respectively, and Foucault, in 1986). Le Pli bore little resemblance to the polemical writings, such as L’Anti-Oedipe and Mille
Plateaux, co-written with Félix Guattari. A book that may remain one of Deleuze’s most intensive studies of aesthetics, Le Pli did not have the signature of contestation marking the writings associated with May 1968, such as Nietzsche et la philosophie or Logique du sens; nor did it display the traits of a philosophical “dissertation” in the manner of Différence et répétition. It appeared, somewhat like the same author’s (often forgotten) jewel of philosophy and criticism, Proust et les signes, a limpid reflection engaging a singular relation with a writer who tended to philosophize infrequently or with unconvincing (but highly entertaining) flippancy. Deleuze took care to compare Leibniz to the author of A la recherché du temps perdu. With the mention of the monadologist he fashioned a “sign” of things to come. Taking account of the fragmentary nature of experience in Proust’s novel, a register of perception that refuses any redemptive unification in the name of logic or logos, he noted that for Proust “communication”—what great writers seek to call in question—is never “put forward as a principle.” It is, rather, a result “of the play of machines and their detached pieces, of their unconnected parts [parties non communicantes].” Leibniz, he says, was the first philosopher to set forward “the problem of a communication [or a play of connections] resulting from closed parts or from what does not communicate [or get connected]: how can the communication of ‘monads’, that are without doors or windows, ever be conceived?”2 The answer to the question falls, first, somewhere between Leibniz and Proust and, second, in the greater parabola of Deleuze’s writing, from his early philosophical reflections on the novel that reach back to “Causes et raisons de l’île déserte” of 1953 and forward, thirty-five years later, to a central and crucial chapter of Le Pli. First: in Proust et les signes Leibniz’s solution is truquée, that is, rigged, fixed, or as it were in cinema, “special-effected.” Insofar as they are closed, he argues, and belong to the same stock, “enveloping and expressing the same world in the infinite series of their predi-
cates, each [monad] is blessed with a region of clear expression, distinct from that of others, all of them thus being different points of view on a same world that God caused them to envelop. Leibniz’s answer hence restores a unity and a pre-given totality in the form of a God who slips the same stock or information of the world (‘pre-established harmony’) into every monad and who grounds a spontaneous ‘correspondence’ among their solitudes” (196). For Proust, however, the answer is not so simple. There can be as many diverse worlds that respond to the points of view on the world and for which (or for whom) “unity, totality, communication can result only from machines not constituted from a pre-established stock” (196). Deleuze adds a footnote, no doubt to send to the margins the traces of himself as a literary historian who would stabilize the work, to the effect that “Proust surely read Leibniz, if only in a philosophy class.” The conjecture is obliquely confirmed in the Recherche itself, in SaintLoup’s recall of a “’philosophy book that we used to read together at Balbac’” (196n1). The episode in the novel, adds Deleuze, confirms that Proust’s singular essences are closer to the Leibnizian monad than their ostensibly platonic counterparts. Second: in Le Pli, in a central and decisive chapter, titled “What is an Event?” Deleuze addresses the same point from a different angle. Juxtaposing Alfred North Whitehead to Leibniz, he implicitly asks a question related to the title of the last book, What is Philosophy? (co-authored in 1991 with Félix Guattari). If philosophy is a discipline whose goal is to develop a process of thinking capable of creating events, the title of the sixth chapter of Le Pli can be inferred to oscillate between something of an ephemeral, ineffable, even fragmentary quality— an event—and something of a total or encompassing reach—philosophy—of which it would be a part. When set against each other the titles indicate that in Deleuze’s way of asking questions, the conundrum of partsand-wholes and of the events they inspire creates confusion. What demarcates philosCONCERT THIS EVENING
ophy as such from the events it inspires? Is philosophy a tout that trumps the events being created, or are events, all multiple, what unify and cause philosophy to scatter and, in turn, to inaugurate new events in different places? A response to this question might be found at the beginning of the sixth chapter of Le Pli. An event, he notes, can be not just something that falls or that happens to happen, such as “a man is crushed.” It is also an object in its duration. If Whitehead’s conclusions are juxtaposed to those of Leibniz, an event can include three components. One, extension, becomes a coordinate implicitly felt by sensation but effectively compassed by time. A second component, “series” (or seriality) intervenes to lend to it the character of “intentions, intensities, degrees.”3 The third component, the individual, is a “concresence” of elements, “something other than a connection or a conjunction, rather, a prehension” (105). One thing is always prehending and prehended by others. As subject it both predicates and is predicated. “A datum, the prehended, is itself a preexisting or coexisting prehension, and the event a ‘nexus of prehensions’” (106). Each datum or thing prehended is “folded” into the perceiving subject. Deleuze delineates three other qualities of the event, that include (1) the form or manner by which the datum is folded in the subject; (2) how the perceiving subject “assures the passage from one datum to another in a prehension, or from one prehension to another in a [process of] becoming [devenir], and sets the past in a present pregnant with [gros de] the future.” Finally (3) self-enjoyment or satisfaction “marks the way by which the subject is filled with itself, attaining an increasingly rich private life when prehension is filled with its own data” (106-07)—in other words, when it takes pleasure in its own sense of becoming. Deleuze goes on to remark that the becoming, promise, or creative agency associated with self-enjoyment shapes Leibniz’s idea of the “best of all possible worlds” insofar as it is one in which the whole (Tout) allows for creativity and multiplication in what 64
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would otherwise seem to be an immutable eternity—say, of the kind suggested by the shape and presence of the Great Pyramid. In all of these there can be discerned “[f]igures, things and qualities” (109) that Deleuze calls “schemas of permanence that are reflected in fluxes and flows; even composite substances…need an ultimate quality that marks each and every one” (109). At this point Deleuze writes, at the beginning of the next paragraph, Il y a concert ce soir. C’est l’événement. (109)
The reader following the argument up to now would be its translator. He or she would be the subject “prehending” the “data” of the text as they are both read and seen. The reader wonders why an argument of a high degree of abstraction would regress to an innocuous “example.” It appears odd that the context calls for staging a narrative situation in which a speaker utters, “There’s a concert this evening. It is the event.” Is Deleuze referring, as he soon notes, to the conditions of the choir in a letter that Leibniz wrote to Arnauld in April of 1687? Or might it also allude to “la petite phrase,” the Vinteuil sonata in Un Amour de Swann?4 Each would be a virtual “event” in the terms Leibniz and Whitehead set forward, but with the bonus that the movement of its sonorous waves and vibrations, what the reader brings forward in his or her imagination, is exactly what the next sentence describes. “Vibrations of sound disperse, periodic movements move about space with their harmonics and submultiples. The sounds have inner properties: pitch, intensity, timbre. Whether instrumental or vocal, the sonorous sources are not merely satisfied with [ne se contentent de] emitting them: each perceives its own and perceives others in perceiving its own” (109). The English translator of The Fold (alas, also the author of these pages) finds no easy solution for the first sentence. There is not “a concert tonight,” nor is there “a concert being performed tonight.”5 The sentence has little harmonic virtue when turned in a literal and graphic way, in the pidgin “[t]
here is concert tonight.” Yet if concert there is or will be, in the context of the argument and the description of inter-prehending monads, the pre-established harmony of the syntax requires that “concert” extend infinitely, beyond the simple time and place attributable to “a” concert. For the sake of the argument and the poetry of the theory, a concert in chronological time must project into a timeless continuum. The infinite harmonics of the concert take place “this evening,” but only when the specific moment of the performance opens onto concerted duration. Such is what Deleuze brings forward in the simple turn-of-phrase, “il y a concert ce soir.” This evening there will be, as there is here and now, concert. The communication of what cannot be communicated or connected is felt in the minuscule gap between “there is” and “concert.” At this juncture in Le Pli the philosopher becomes a poet who tenders insurmountable obstacles before his
translators. In view of the obstacle, however, the translator discovers the force and virtue of the event at the basis of the theory.
NOTES 1. François Cusset, French Theory: Foucault, Derrida, Deleuze & Cie et les mutations de la vie intellectuelle aux Etats-Unis (Paris: Editions de la Découverte, 2003), now available in an admirable English translation by Jeff Fort as French Theory (Minneapolis: Universityh of Minnesota Press, 2007). 2. Gilles Deleuze, Proust et les signes (Paris: PUF, 1979 re-edition [of a work dating to 1964]) 196. Here and elsewhere all translations form the French are mine. 3. Le Pli: Leibniz et le Baroque (Paris: Minuit, 1988) 105. 4. Marcel Proust, A la recherché du temps perdu 1, ed. Pierre Clarac and André Ferré (Paris: GallimardPléiade, 1954) 347-50. 5. Gilles Deleuze, The Fold: Leibniz and the Baroque, translated by Tom Conley (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1993) 80.
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A Very Big, White Elephant TS BAVUUDORJ TRANSLATED BY SIMON WICKHAM-SMITH
A very big, white elephant has passed through the world. He’s left with the calmness of the mightly ocean. He’s left, uprooting the serenity of the earth. He’s left, shaking dew from the topmost leaves. He’s returned, disturbing the sun gods. He’s left, comandeering golden temples, shining with blood. He’s left, waking grey peaks under snow. He’s left, shutting the eyes of the mighty. He’s returned, shaking East and West. A very big, white elephant has passed through the world. A very big, white elephant…
translator’s note: Ts Bavuudorj was born in 1969. To date he has published six books of poetry and in 2006 was awarded the D Natsagdorj Prize. “A Very Big White Elephant” was included in his book Sarni Shülgüüd (“Moon Poems”), published in Ulaanbaatar. Mongolia in 2006. A VERY BIG, WHITE ELEPHANT
Academica, II. (Lucullus), xxvi. P. 82—83 MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO
…maiora fortasse quaeris. Quid potest esse sole maius, quem mathematici amplius duodeviginti partibus confirmant maiorem esse quam terram? Quantulus nobis videtur! mihi quidem quasi pedalis. Epicurus autem posse putat etiam minorem esse eum quam videatur, sed non multo; ne maiorem quidem multo putat esse, vel tantum esse quantus videatur, ut oculi aut nihil mentiantur aut non multum. Ubi igitur illud est ‘semel’? Sed ab hoc credulo, qui numquam sensus mentiri putat, discedamus, qui ne nunc quidem, cum ille sol, qui tanta incitatione fertur ut celeritas eius quanta sit ne cogitari quidem posssit, tamen nobis stare videatur.
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Academica, II. (Lucullus), xxvi. P. 82â€”83 MARCUS TULLIUS CICERO TRANSLATED BY WILL JEFFREY AND MICHAEL STYNES
Maybe you want bigger things. What could be bigger than the sun, which mathematicians claim is more than 18 parts bigger than the earth. To us it looks so little. To me it looks about a foot. Epicurus thinks it may even be smaller than it looks, but not by much; or not that much bigger; or else
it is as big as it looks, so the eyes do not lie at all, or not much. Then where is that Once? But let us walk ab hoc credulo, who believes the senses do not lie, not even now when the sun is carried so fast that its speed cannot even be conceived of, though it looks like it stands.
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translators’ note: The text on which the translation is based
is an excerpt from the prose dialogue Lucullus—the second book of Academica by Cicero—named for its principle interlocutor, L. Licinius Lucullus. Cicero argues on behalf of the Academic skeptics (those members of the academy after Plato and Aristotle) while Lucullus argues on behalf of the Stoics. The Academics believe that knowledge is impossible, the Stoics believe otherwise. In the excerpt, Cicero is trying to convince Lucullus that the senses are dubitable. Cicero and Lucullus were both Roman statesman, though Cicero was more notable. An enemy of Antony and victim of the proscription, Cicero exerted significant influence on Roman life, even after his execution: “When the parts of Cicero were brought to Rome, Antony […] ordered the head and hands to be fixed over the Rostra, an awful sight to the Romans; and they did not think they saw Cicero’s face, but instead the likeness of Antony’s soul.”
from Plutarch’s Lives
De Rerum Natura, 4.364-378 / Purgatorio XXVI.1-24 LUCRETIUS
umbra videtur item nobis in sole moveri et vestigia nostra sequi gestumque imitari (aera si credis privatum lumine posse indugredi motus hominum gestumque sequentem nam nil esse potest aliud nisi lumine cassus aer id quod nos umbram perhibere suĂŤmus) nimirum quia terra locis ex ordine certis lumine privatur solis quacumque meantes officimus repletur item quod liquimus eius propterea fit uti videatur quae fuit umbra corporis e regione eadem nos usque secuta simper enim nova se radiorum lumina fundunt primaque dispereunt quasi in ignem lana trahatur propterea facile et spoliatur lumine terra et repletur item nigrasque sibi abluit umbras (Lucretius)
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De Rerum Natura, 4.364-378 / Purgatorio XXVI.1-24 LUCRETIUS
TRANSLATED BY CHRIS VAN BUREN
just so our shadows appear to be moved in the sun and follow our steps and imitate our gestures (if you can believe air marches forward cut off from light following the motion of men and their gestures for it can be nothing else save air hollow of light, what we are used to call our shadow) doubtless because the earth in certain places, in succession, is deprived of the sunâ€™s brightness, wherever we, passing by, block its path. likewise that part which we left empty is filled. this makes it seem that what was the shadow of our body is continuous, following the spot at every point around usâ€” for always new rays of light are pouring themselves out: the first perish as wool drawn in a flame and thus easily the earth is robbed of light and filled again as it washes the black shadows from itself.
D E R E R UM N AT UR A / P UR G AT O R I O
mentre che sì per l’orlo, uno innanzi altro, ce n’andavamo, e spesso il buon maestro diceami: “Guarda: giovi ch’io ti scaltro.” feriami il sole in su l’omero destro che già, raggiando tutto l’occidente mutava in bianco aspetto di cilestro e io facea con l’ombra più rovente parer la fiamma: e pur a tanto indizio vidi molt’ ombre, andando, poner mente. questa fu la cagion che diede inizio loro a parlar di me: e cominciarsi a dire: “Colui non par corpo fittizio”; poi verso me, quanto potëan farsi, certi si fero, sempre con riguardo di non uscir dove no fosser arsi. “O tu che vai non per esser più tardo ma forse reverente, a li altri dopo rispondi a me che ’n sete e ’n foco ardo né solo a me la tua risposta è uopo ché tutti questi n’hanno maggior sete che d’acqua fredda Indo e Etïopo Dinne com’è che fai di parete al sol, pure come tu non fossi ancora di morte intrato dentro de la rete. (Dante)
translator’s note: Dante and Lucretius, though separated by thirteen centuries, are remarkably parallel minds. Both were philosophers and poets, what Patrick Boyde calls the “philomythes,” or the mythographer of wisdom. Such a combination makes sensuality think and thinking sensuous; take, for example, the shadow, which for both poets is not simply the sensory proof of illusion, but the phenomenon which most carries us to think philosophically about ourselves. The shadow is our inexorable influence. Who are we to block the 76
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while just along the verge, one and then the other, we went along, and often my good master said: “watch: take care that I make you clever.” the sun was striking me above the right shoulder that already, coming down in rays, all the west was changing its cerulean face to white and with my shadow, I made the flame seem smelted, fired hot; and, at such a sign, I saw many shades walking, bringing this to mind. this was the reason that they gave themselves at first to speak of me. they began to say to one another: “he doesn’t seem a fictitious body”; then toward me, as much as they could make themselves, certain shades came, always with care not to exit where they would not burn. [a poet said:] “O you who goes behind the others, not to be behind, but perhaps more reverent, answer something for me who in thirst and flame are burning, nor only for me is your response desirable that all these here have greater thirst than Indian or Ethiopian of water tell us how it is you make a wall to the sun, really as if you were not yet by death drawn inside the net.”
sun with our atoms? And if, Dante asks, we die, are we not shades or shadows of our former selves? Both poets also attempt to encode into a young and immature language the grandeur of the tongue preceding it (Lucretius from Greek to Latin, Dante from Latin to Italian), and in this, they are shadows of shadows, and unknowingly (Lucretius’ De Rerum Natura was by 1300 lost in a monastery north of the Alps), of each other. My translation, I’m afraid, is at best the outline of what this means, the penumbra of its truth. D E R E R UM N AT UR A / P UR G AT O R I O
Ich finde dich in allen diesen Dingen RAINER MARIA RILKE
Ich finde dich in allen diesen Dingen, denen ich gut und wie ein Bruder bin; als Samen sonnst du dich in den geringen und in den großen giebst du groß dich hin.
Das ist das wundersame Spiel der Kräfte, daß sie so dienend durch die Dinge gehn: in Wurzeln wachsend, schwindend in die Schäfte und in den Wipfeln wie ein Auferstehn.
translator’s note: I recently encountered this small poem in a popular bilingual edition of the selected poems of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated in a way that obscured both its inherent interest and its connection with the poet's later writings, especially the first poem of the Sonnets to Orpheus. The translation I offer here is a provisional attempt to restore the work's inner coherence and reveal what I see as its external significance. As far as the first objective goes, the German text reveals a poem tightly constructed around the image of "forces" (Kräfte) moving up through the roots and trunk of a tree, and up into the sky. This image originates in the more abstract first stanza, which is dominated by the opposition between the narrator and a godlike second-person figure already metaphorically characterized Als Samen, "as a seed." The image is 78
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Resurrecting the Tree RAINER MARIA RILKE TRANSLATED BY PAUL FRANZ
I notice you in all these things, those I am good and like a brother to; like a seed you bask in what is lowly, in what is tall you give yourself up.
That is the wonderful game of forces, to travel like a nutrient through things: growing in roots, narrowing into trunks and in the treetops like a resurrection.
concretized in the second stanza, whose initial pronoun (Das) indicates its dependent role of illustrating, or germinating, the contents of the first. Both stanzas locate such growth in Dingen, "things," the poem's focus of moral obligation, kinship, and worship. Such a close relationship between the two stanzas' imagery must specify the translation of potentially general terms. For instance, the “geringen … großen … groß” of the first stanza, which could mean simply "small things," "large things," and "largely," must indicate a contrast on the vertical axis, between "lowly things," "tall things" and "tall-ly," for which some other English substitute is needed. The translation above reflects my current results in addressing these problems. I hope it will be forgiven its liberties. R E S UR R E C T I N G T H E T R E E
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Love Poems of the Sixth Dalai Lama TSANGYANG GYATSO TRANSLATED BY NATHAN HILL WITH TOBY FEE
(1) From top the eastward peak, arose the clear white moon: her immaculate face turned and turned in my mind
(2) Last year’s cast seedlings this year ripple as hay. A stripling’s aging frame stiff as a southern bow.
LOVE POEMS OF THE SIXTH DALAI LAMA
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(4) On chance’s road I met a perfumed body’s girl. Like turquoise in my hand I threw its beauty back.
(25) A bee caught in a web: body of a Kong youth. Her bed mate for three days, he thinks to holy lands.
LOVE POEMS OF THE SIXTH DALAI LAMA
T H E H A R VA R D A D V O C AT E
(34) If my girl could not die there’d be no end to beer; we’d stay in youth’s haven. In this I put my trust.
(36) Is not my love since youth descended from the wolves? Once she’s known skin and flesh she bolts back to the hills.
LOVE POEMS OF THE SIXTH DALAI LAMA
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(43) Central kingly Meru, stay faithful, do not change; the rounds of sun and moon must not be thought to stray.
(49) I know all her soft flesh but not her constancy; by drawing in the dirt I measure to the stars.
LOVE POEMS OF THE SIXTH DALAI LAMA
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(50) Our tryst in the dense woods of the southern valley a parrot only knows, all else are ignorant. O parrot, please do not repeat our secret words.
(52) Hey, old dog called beard, more clever than a man, don’t say, “He left at dawn,” don’t say, “He came at dusk.”
LOVE POEMS OF THE SIXTH DALAI LAMA
translator’s note: The predecessor to our poet, the Fifth Dalai Lama (1617-1682), inconveniently died upon definitively becoming the political head of Tibet after a prolonged civil war, his new palace left unfinished. The Fifth Dalai Lama’s regent Desi Sangyä Gyatso (Sde-srid Sangs-rgyas Rgya-mtsho, 16531705) hid the death of the former for 15 years, in order to stabilize the country, consolidate power, and finish the palace. As a consequence, the Sixth Dalai lama, Tsangyang Gyatso (Tsangs-dbyangs Rgya-mtsho 16831705) was raised and educated in secrecy, his family virtually under house arrest, kept far both from their home and the capital. After the Regent revealed his deception, the youth was enthroned as the sixth Dalai Lama at the newly completed Potala palace on October 25, 1697. The young man did not find himself suited to monastic life. In 1702, the Dalai Lama disrobed, re90
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(57) I ask you, you white crane, give me your wing’s power. I am not going far, just ’round Li-Thang and back.
(65) Behind me a demon. Who cares if he’s fearsome? I saw a sweet apple and was compelled to pluck.
turning his novitiate vows. Although continuing in his exalted office, he devoted himself to poetry, women, archery and drink. More and more his behavior scandalized the monastic authorities, and the Regent sought to take exert his authority by refusing to grant the Sixth Dalai Lama his majority. In 1705, in part with the Sixth Dalai Lama’s behavior as a pretext, the Mongol leader Lhabzang Qan (?-1717) had the Regent killed, and with the support of the Manchu Kangxi emperor (1662-1723) arrested the Sixth Dalai Lama to escort him to Peking. Officially, he died en route, though many suspect foul play. An apocryphal autobiography holds that he escaped from the Mongol and Chinese forces and lived a series of fantastic adventures until 1746.
LOVE POEMS OF THE SIXTH DALAI LAMA
from Sarada kinebi TAWARA MACHI
T H E H A R VA R D A D V O C AT E
kanzume no gurinpisu ga mayonaka ni akero akero to tsubuyaite iru
T-shatsu o tsururi to nugeba teinei ni haha no shisen ni tadorarete iru
from Salad Anniversary TAWARA MACHI TRANSLATED BY EDWIN CRANSTON
Green peas in a can in the middle of the night whispering “Open! Open!”
All in one motion I peel off my T-shirt, a process followed very carefully by my mother’s gaze.
T H E H A R VA R D A D V O C AT E
chiisame no koi shite mitaki aki no yo paseri wazuka ni kibamu beranda
omraisu o makoto kiy ni tabeoreba â€œkechappu aji ga sukiâ€? to memo suru
Just a small affair was all I wanted that fall night the parsley on the veranda turned slightly yellow.
While with consummate skill he eats the rice omelet, I put down a memo: â€œLikes the taste of ketchup.â€?
T H E H A R VA R D A D V O C AT E
miokurite nochi ni futo miru hamigaki no ch bu no hekomi kesa atarashiki
botteri to daen no taiy mizukara no omomi ni taeenu y ni ochiyuku
I see him out, later I suddenly noticeâ€” this morning a new squeeze on the toothpaste tube.
The bloated sun, ovoid, crushed down under its own weight, flattens helplessly on the horizon.
T H E H A R VA R D A D V O C AT E
mada aru ka shinjitai mono hoshii mono sunaji ni narande nesobette iru
kimi o matsu doy bi nariki matsu to iu jikan o tabete onna wa ikiru
whatâ€™s left to believe to want we sprawl side by side on the sand.
It was Saturday waiting for you, waiting hours are what a woman eats so she can live.
SK 268 tameiki o d
T H E H A R VA R D A D V O C AT E
issh kan awazarikereba nikaeshite aji shimisugit daikon to naru
suru wake de mo nai keredo sukoshi atsume ni hamu kitte miru
When we do not meet for a whole week, I turn into warmed-over daikon— I taste too strong.
I keep heaving sighs—what to do? I try cutting the ham a little thicker.
translator’s note: Tawara Machi burst onto the Japanese literary scene in 1987, two years out of college, with a best-selling collection of tanka titled Sarada kinenbi (Salad Anniversary). She followed this with Kaze no te no hira (The Palm of the Wind’s Hand) in 1991 and Chokor to kakumei (Chocolate Revolution) in 1997. The selection printed here draws from the first of these three collections. SALAD ANNIVERSARY
Three Poems Night MARIIA PETROVYKH TRANSLATED BY OLGA KAMENSKY
The night beetles over, cooling and moaning And wrapping the darkness tightly about. A gentle image, drowning in lassitude Beckons, tricking at being you. Malicious sparks prick and riddle the snows. They conceal a creaking and droning within, A space too vast for flight. The cold, only sound Is the crush and the crunch of the starsâ€™ light-blue gristle. November 27, 1927
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*** Return! The tracks have not yet lost The heat of the wheel’s insistent refrain, The blizzards still whirl in pursuit of the train Cars that tear through the thick of unshedable tears. Wait! It’s difficult for me to run on the snowdrifts, And, sunk to the neck, grope for their icy crust, And dash, and again in my ague’s humid shadow… The whir of the wheels pounding firm in my breast. Running, gasping for breath… In my brain a metallic Glint of scream-splashes flashes again and again. I can see terror tear down the track, unrelenting, I can see, I can see you, but I cannot run. I collapse like a corpse and my helplessness numbs me As my deadening gaze follows you in farewell. All at once two huge wings shoot out from my shoulder blades, Soaring, tearing and rocking the breadth of the skies. It is night, sprayed with burning-hot stars, that flies on Never touching the crimson snow, And the breath of the flight swells the wings As they strike the stars, chase them away. The wind holds the trumpet of heavenly blazes, The howling beyond-the-grave horn of the depths. Do you see the dead body on the snow-whirling plain? I kiss you, I take on the weeds that were yours. 1943
Where the pine-needles and leaves Are piled up in blind abundance, There the nightingale splashed silver Into ditches. Overwatered, Ferns grew faint, exhausted, sunk To the soil and nestled, trembling… All in vain, the breeze that creeps Through the thicket’s budding rumble, To its kind. Where is its kind? Silent, I write off salvation: Nightingales are merciless, Squandering their spirit’s fire. And the broken cry of his Deathly injured, slighted passion Is so helplessly intense, Filled with accidental power.
translator’s note: Maria Sergeevna Petrovykh was born in 1908 in a small Russian town. At seventeen she moved to Moscow to pursue a career in literature. Petrovykh worked as an editor and translator, and was very reluctant to publish her own writing, despite the admiration of friends and fellow poets like Mandleshtam—who was, for a time, in love with her—Pasternak, and Akhmatova. Most of her original poetry only appeared posthumously. 104 |
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He shoots upwards and he soars, Without fail the same thing follows As the stutter of a rhythm Tickles out over the body… And the nightingale calls down Stars, down into his enchanted Web, to take a closer look, Or for friends to use in nesting… It could be an idle game, Or else is it sleepless labor— All this silver quivering, Yelling, splashing out and moaning, And the pecked moon of the night, And the pines, suddenly youthful, And the whistling, piercing, pierced, All-pervading reign of cold. 1929
In Russian, Petrovykh’s poems often read like an incantation, binding together unexpected combinations of words with strong rhythm, rhyme and alliteration. These sonic aspects were particularly hard to translate, not least because the formal fidelities so familiar in Russian poetry often sound old-fashioned and stilted to the American reader. The three poems translated here can be found in the posthumous collection . : ,2000.Theoriginaltextcanalsobefoundat http://www.litera.ru/stixiya/authors/petrovyx.html. THREE POEMS
La forêt vierge AIMÉ CÉSAIRE
je ne suis pas de ceux qui croient qu’une ville ne droit pas s’élever jusqu’à la catastrophe encore un tour de rein de cou d’étage ce sera le déclic du promontoire je ne suis pas de ceux qui luttent contre la propagation du taudis encore une tache de merde ce sera le marais vrai. Vrai la puissance d’une cité n’est pas en raison inverse de la saleté de ses ménagères pour moi je sais bien le panier où ne roulera jamais plus ma tête. Vrai la puissance d’un regard n’est pas en fonction inverse de sa cécité pour moi je sais bien où la lune ne viendra pas poser sa jolie tête d’affaire étouffée. Au coin du tableau le désespoir inférieur et ma gueule de primate caressée depuis trois cents ans. Au centre la centrale téléphonique et l’usine à gaz en pleine anthèse (trahison des houilles et des maréchaux). Au coin ouest-ouest le métabolisme floral et ma gueule de primate démantelée depuis trois cents ans la fumée nopal nopal au paysage repu les figuiers étrangleurs font leur apparition salivée de ma gueule de mufle de sphinx démuselée depuis le néant. from Les Armes Miraculeuses (1946)
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The Virgin Forest AIMÉ CÉSAIRE TRANSLATED BY GREGORY SCRUGGS
I am not of the type who believe that a city must not elevate itself until catastrophe still a tour of kidney of neck of stage this will be the trigger of the promontory I am not the type to fight against the propagation of hovels again a shit stain this will be the true swamp. True the power of a city is not in reason the inverse of the dirtiness of its housewives for me I know well the basket where my head will never roll again. True the power of a gaze is not in function the inverse of its blindness for me I know well where the moon will not come to put its pretty head of suffocated matters. In the corner of the painting the lesser despair and my caressed monkey’s mug for three hundred years. At the center the telephone central and the gas factory in full bloom (treason of the coal and the marshals). At the west-west corner the floral metabolism and for three hundred years my dismantled primate’s throat the nopal* smoke nopal in the full countryside the fig tree stranglers making their salivated apparition of my boor face of a demuzzled sphinx since the nothingness. from The Miraculous Weapons (1946)
*nopal: (Botany) Spanish word coming from the Aztec nopalli. Cactus plant of the Americas (Euphorbia lacteal), prickly pear whose fruit is edible (see the word euphorbia). [. . .] Other meaning: Old French word of the 16th century that means smoke. Voodoo mythology: This plant belongs to Obatalá, the creator of the world and of human beings. To treat asthma, cook this plant the fifth day of the new moon for three consecutive moons. Rub the chest of the patient with a mixture of the nopal and garlic and ensure that he is well covered.
translator’s note: The explanatory footnote is sometimes considered the translator’s last resort, but I have chosen to gladly insert my own, recognizing that Aimé Césaire’s choice of vocabulary often borders on the technical or obscure, especially when it comes to the flora of his native Caribbean. They also provide another venue for translation, as the eminently useful Glossaire des termes rare dans l’oeuvre d’Aimé Césaire (Glossary of rare terms in the works of Aimé Césaire) by René Hénane (Jean-Michel Place, 2004) is only available in French. It is the source for the footnote, which is a direct citation from the reference. THE VIRGIN FOREST
: ( –
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from ‘dear orphans,’ MIKHAIL GRONAS TRANSLATED BY JOSEPH QUINN
what we had, burned down: turned charcoal I am going to rake the ashes I might find a silver dollar (remember when we didn’t bother) or a whirling-top in what was once the children’s corner just don’t rummage in the kitchen, it’ll crash on you: those poor rafters, foundations, and wall-risers me my playmates and the grownups we all showed up on the street not knowing how to rummage and god he never grudges warm winters or free meals so who needs houses anyway since life outside’s no different but slowly everything settles down and our neighbors, also scorched-home owners, they rebuild their little household never really trusting in their bustle: they aren’t builders anyway, just scorched-home owners like the rest of us I guess though what I’m getting at is how simply and how strangely any house reminds you of your home houses remind you of homes people of people hands of hands but nevermind in our special language forgetting means beginning being forgetting means beginning being no there’s nothing nicer than forgetting and I think I’ve got to go but as I leave I’ll say it just a few more times so you can start forgetting too: forgetting means beginning being forgetting means beginning being forgetting means beginning being
F R O M ‘ D E A R O R P H A N S ,’
Translation: Between the Universal and the Local LAWRENCE VENUTI
ranslating is a supremely local practice. The very idea of what a translation is— and whether it is distinct from or overlaps with an adaptation or imitation, a paraphrase or parody—is a category that varies according to different translating cultures. A translated text, moreover, must answer to the intelligibilities and interests of the translating language and culture in order to be effective as a translation, whatever particular effect or function it may be designed to serve, whether literary or scholarly, religious or scientific, commercial or political, among many others. And although any translation project is usually initiated and executed in the translating culture, the local conditions that enable and constrain the resulting text are active even when the project is initiated in the culture of the source language. Bilingual or multilingual cultures where a great deal of internal translation routinely occurs—where readerships might know the source and translating languages equally well, putting into question whether either of them can truly be called foreign—such cultures are no exception to this localism: the translating language, with its structural differences and its patterns of usage, its literary traditions and its social affiliations, inevitably assumes a decisive importance in shaping the translation. This fact makes translation an indissolubly historical practice, rooted in cultural situations at particular historical moments, and it points to the necessity of a historicist approach to translation studies. I use the term “historicist” advisedly as a way of stressing the local nature of knowledge about past translation practices—the fact that scholarly
histories of translation must answer to the intelligibilities and interests that currently prevail in academic disciplines and that vary as those disciplines unfold in time. Disciplinary trends enable and constrain the study of translation, which has to a significant extent been governed by linguistic research or philology, or what Sheldon Pollock in an essay on Sanskrit translation has defined as “the disciplined historicization of textual knowledge.” And the range of discourses that are today brought to bear on translation—linguistic and literary, academic and professional—are far from consistent and resist any facile attempt at reconciliation. Today, perhaps more than ever before, commentators who would not otherwise address the issue of translation, including practicing translators who rarely submit their practice to a searching critique, are moved to do so. Yet their comments remain within rather narrow creative, disciplinary, intellectual, or professional borders, annexing translation to their particular fields and interests. As a result, you might find that the position I’ve rapidly staked out here—even if you might be inclined to agree with it—is peculiar, possibly paradoxical. In my very insistence on the local and historical nature of translation, I have formulated a universal. Translating, I have suggested, is everywhere and at all times characterized by a fundamental localism that informs as well the study of translation. Although without exception translation practices are devised in response to particular historical moments, often unwittingly, they reveal recurrent issues that support the formulation of universals—that is to say, theoretical concepts and B E T W E E N T H E UN I V E R S A L A N D T H E L O C A L
practical strategies that need to be contextualized to be understood fully, inserted in the historically specific cultural situations in which they emerged, but that nonetheless obtain in every language, culture, and period where translation might be practiced and studied. The possibility of translation universals raises a number of questions that have yet to be sufficiently addressed in translation studies, whether in the fledgling discipline that goes by that name or in the various disciplines that have increasingly made translation an area of research and practice. Perhaps the most urgent of these questions is methodological: to what extent does the notion of translation universals force on our thinking a level of abstraction or generality that eclipses the historical specificity of translated texts and proves of limited or no use in illuminating or advancing translation practices today? There are also questions concerning what might be called institutional territoriality, questions about the sort of scholarly or creative preparation and expertise needed to research and practice translation. What impact, we may wonder, does the possibility of translation universals have upon the contemporary differentiation of academic labor, the disciplinary divisions under which we study and practice translation? Can a knowledge of these universals advance our work, perhaps by directing it into interdisciplinary forms that challenge those divisions? To explore these and other questions, I want to consider two interrelated categories that might be viewed as translation universals: interpretation and intertextuality. My comments, furthermore, will apply primarily to the kind of translation that figures in the work that many of us do: what might be called humanistic translation, or translation as studied and practiced across the full gamut of the human sciences. The sense in which humanistic translation involves an act of interpretation, although long a commonplace in translation commentary, has yet to be theorized with any precision. It requires that we qualify—if not jettison altogether—the communicative model of translation that is still widely held 112 |
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by readers, whether professional or popular, scholarly or student. To read a translation as communication not only locks translation studies and practices into a limiting and obfuscating comparison between the source text and the translation, but in fact collapses the translation into the source text and conceals both the translator’s interpretive labor and its linguistic and cultural conditions. Notions of translation as treachery rest on the communicative model, not only of translation but of language. But language does more than communicate; it is an active, shaping force. A translation, therefore, can never simply communicate the text it translates; it can only inscribe an interpretation that inevitably varies the form and meaning of that text. This interpretation, furthermore, should be studied or performed with close attention to the translating language and culture that both enable and constrain it and with the acute awareness that competing interpretations are always possible—interpretations which might arise not only within academic disciplines backed by philological research into ancient and modern languages, but within other cultural traditions, movements, and institutions backed by a broad and deep familiarity with styles, genres, and discourses in translating languages. This is not to suggest that no formal or semantic correspondences can exist between the source and translated texts, but rather that any such correspondences are subject to the exigencies of an interpretive labor that is decisively determined by the translating language and culture. Let’s take an example from antiquity. In the third century BCE, Livius Andronicus, thought to be a Greek born at Tarentum in what is now Apulia in southern Italy, worked as a grammarian teaching Greek and Latin, wrote plays and poems in Latin, and produced a Latin version of the Odyssey which today survives only in fragments—as many as 45 or so phrases and lines, some of doubtful authorship. Andronicus chose the Latin word dacrimas to render the Greek dakru in his version of a passage where Ulysses wipes away his tears while listening to a singer at
the palace of Alcinous (Odyssey 8.88). Dacrima is the archaic Latin form of lacrima, or “tear,” so for Andronicus’s first readers, many of whom were most likely familiar with the Greek text, his verbal choice was seen an interpretive move, producing an archaizing effect that can signal the historical remoteness of the Homeric epic. In fact, it would have produced this effect whether or not the Roman reader had read the Greek text insofar as Andronicus chose an archaism that could be perceived as such. The example demonstrates that even translations that adhere closely to the source text—so closely as to be calques that echo the very sound of its words—release resonances that exceed a formal and semantic correspondence and ultimately have more to do with the translating language. I would go further: Because translation performs an interpretation, it can never be literal, only figurative, or more precisely, inscriptive of effects that work only in the translating language and culture. Translation should be seen as interpretation because it is radically decontextualizing. The structural differences between languages—even between languages that bear significant lexical and syntactical resemblances based on shared etymologies or a history of mutual borrowing or analogous formal features like inflections—require the translator variously to dismantle, rearrange, and finally displace the chain of signifiers that make up the source text. Three source-language contexts are lost. The first is intratextual and therefore constitutive of the source text, its linguistic patterns and discursive structures, and its verbal texture. The second is intertextual yet equally constitutive, since it comprises the network of linguistic relations that endows the source text with significance for readers who have read widely in the source language. The third, which is also constitutive but both intertextual and intersemiotic, is the context of reception—the various intermedia through which the source text continues to accrue significance when it begins to circulate in its originary culture, ranging from book jackets and advertisements to periodical re-
views and academic criticism to editions and adaptations, depending on the genre or text type. By “constitutive” I mean that this triple context is necessary for the signifying process of the source text and for its capacity to support meanings, values, and functions which therefore never survive intact the transition to a different language and culture. As a result, a reader of a translation can never experience it with a response that is equivalent or even comparable to the response with which the source-language reader experiences the source text—that is to say, a reader who has read widely in the source language and is immersed in the source culture. Not even a bilingual reader familiar with both the source and the translating cultures will experience the two texts in the same or a similar way. The strategies that Andronicus implemented in his Odyssey included a Latinization of the Greek names for various mythological figures: Kronos became Saturnus, Musa became Camena (“Song-Goddess”), Moira (“Fate”) became Morta (“Death”), and the muse Mnemosyne was called Moneta (Odyssey 1.1, 1.45, 2.99, 8.480-1). These choices entailed the loss of Greek cultural references. The bilingual Roman reader schooled in Greek literature could no doubt have supplied the loss of context, but that reader would have simultaneously perceived the disjunction created by Andronicus’s interpretive moves. A reader of the Greek text, whether that reader was Roman or Greek, would have perceived no such disjunction. As this example suggests, the interpretive force of translation means that the source text is not only decontextualized, but recontextualized insofar as translating rewrites it in terms that are intelligible and interesting to receptors, situating it in different patterns of language use, in different cultural values, in different literary traditions, and in different social institutions. The recontextualizing process involves the creation of another set of intertextual relations established by and within the translation, a receiving intertext. When translated, then, the source text undergoes not only a formal and semantic B E T W E E N T H E UN I V E R S A L A N D T H E L O C A L
loss, but also an exorbitant gain: in an effort to fix the form and meaning of that text, the translator develops an interpretation in the translating language that ultimately proliferates cultural differences. The extant lines of Andronicus’s Odyssey indicate that his version may well have been not only Latinized, but more explicitly detailed than the Greek text. In the passage where Alcinous’s daughter Nausicaä invites Ulysses to visit her, Andronicus inserted the phrase me carpento vehentem (“driving in my carriage”) which has no Greek counterpart in the Homeric poem (Odyssey 6.295). The Latin version thus supplied a Roman context: Andronicus added a reference to the carpentum, a two-wheeled carriage that was used by Roman matrons in processions during public festivities. Such verbal choices are not simply linguistic, but cultural. They do not simply render words and phrases, but establish culturally specific meanings. The translator inscribes an interpretation by applying a category that mediates between the source language and culture on the one hand and the translating language and culture on the other, a method of transforming the source text into the translation. This category consists of interpretants, which may be either formal or thematic. Formal interpretants may include a concept of equivalence, such as a semantic correspondence based on philological research, or a concept of style, a distinctive lexicon and syntax related to a genre or discourse. Thematic interpretants are codes and ideologies: specific values, beliefs and representations; a discourse in the sense of a relatively coherent body of concepts, problems, and arguments; or a particular interpretation of the source text that has been articulated independently in commentary. Interpretants are fundamentally intertextual, based primarily in the receiving situation even if in some cases they may incorporate materials specific to the source culture. It is the translator’s application of interpretants that recontextualizes the source text, replacing intertextual relations in the source culture with a receiving intertext—that is, with relations to the translating language and cul114 |
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ture which are built into the translation. The concept of the interpretant helps to clarify Andronicus’s handling of the Odyssey. He applied several formal interpretants: they include an archaizing style that drew on lexical and syntactical items from Old Latin, but also a concept of equivalence, a fairly close semantic correspondence to the Greek text. Unlike such later writers as Plautus, Horace, and Catullus, Andronicus did not produce what we today would call an adaptation. Interestingly, he also adopted a certain poetic form, the Saturnian meter, which is thought to have been native to Latin poetic traditions. He chose not to develop a prosody based on the Greek hexameter, a practice that distinguished the work of later poets like Ennius. As this point suggests, Andronicus also applied a thematic interpretant, evident both in his Latinization of Greek cultural references and in his insertion of Latin terms like carpento: he encoded his translation with distinctively Roman values. The translator’s interpretation is usually performed in and influenced by a cultural situation where values, beliefs, and representations as well as the social groups to which they are affiliated are arrayed in a hierarchical order of power and prestige. And the intertextual relations established by the interpretation affect both the source text and texts in the translating culture. The intertextuality is created by reproducing a preexisting word, phrase, or text in the translating language, whether specifically through quotation or more generally through imitation of graphemes and sound, lexicon and syntax, style and discourse. In a translation as in an original composition, quotation and imitation do not produce a sameness or a simple repetition of the preexisting text. As soon as the reader recognizes the intertextuality, a difference also becomes apparent because of what Jacques Derrida has called the “iterability” of language: the meaning of any signifier can change because it “can break with every given context and engender infinitely new contexts in an absolutely nonsaturable fashion.” A translation, then, recontextualizes both the source text that it
translates and the translating-language text that it quotes or imitates, submitting them to a transformation that changes their significance. Hence the intertextual relations that a translation establishes are not merely interpretive but potentially interrogative: they inscribe forms and meanings that invite a critical understanding of the quoted or imitated texts—even the cultural traditions and social institutions in which those texts are positioned—while simultaneously inviting the reader to understand the source text on the basis of texts, traditions, and institutions specific to the translating culture. Andronicus is thought to have been a freed slave, and so his Latinized translation may actually reflect both his deep investment in his Greek cultural origins and his strong attachment to the dominant Roman culture of which he was a contributing member. His version of the Odyssey was subsequently regarded as the first great poem in Latin. Whether or not Andronicus’s hybridity is taken as complicating his intentions as a translator—whether, in other words, his agency as a colonial subject is conflicted in some decisive way — we can nonetheless see that his reference to the Roman carpentum constitutes a node of proliferating meanings in his translation. On the one hand, the specialized and privileged nature of this carriage—linked to Roman matrons, used most frequently on festive occasions, otherwise banned from the city during the entire era of the Republic—makes it an appropriate vehicle for a king’s daughter like Nausicaä and simultaneously points to the limited circumstances of the Homeric poem, the product of an oral archaic culture at a rudimentary stage of literary and social development. On the other hand, the Greek text comes back to worry Roman culture through the very word carpentum, creating a context that not only highlights the very sophistication of that culture but exposes the class and gender ideologies that informed it, even in such mundane objects as a carriage. This reading would have been available to Andronicus’s first audience, I suggest, again whether Latin or bilingual, because they would have been
sensitive to such cultural and historical distinctions. Today only an elite reader, a classicist, might entertain it. Yet what classicist would read the fragments of Andronicus’s translation in the way I have? It would have to be a reader who agrees with me that interpretation and intertextuality are universals of humanistic translation; that, if understood according to such a hermeneutic model, translation can be seen as performing an inscription of forms and meanings that rests on intertextual relations in the translating culture, even when—or perhaps especially when—the translator’s verbal choices reflect philological research. This interpretive act can and should be put to a thoroughgoing historical contextualization and should be understood as operating in a specific cultural situation where values and practices are arranged hierarchically; where hierarchical relations likewise characterize intercultural relations; and where practices like translation are active both in the formation of cultural identities for social agents and in the functioning of the social institutions where those agents work. Precisely how the translator’s interpretation is understood by readers, or how they process the intertextuality on which it rests, depends on the variables that always shape reading practices—factors that are personal and cultural, cognitive and institutional, psychological and ideological. The interpretive force of translation does, in any case, complicate the communicative model and question notions of cross-cultural understanding that do not take into account the complexity of the translation process (the manifold differences that insure translations are read differently from the source texts they translate) and that make any Gadamerian “fusion of horizons” a fond wish. To posit translation universals is not to lift research and practice to a level of useless abstraction or generality; these universals are rather heuristic devices, analytical tools that allow for a more incisive historicization. Here we might begin to see how translation studies requires a form of research and analysis that worries and cuts across B E T W E E N T H E UN I V E R S A L A N D T H E L O C A L
current disciplinary divisions. For to make sense of the interpretive force of a translation, it is necessary to be immersed not only in a foreign language but in the translating language; to be expert not only in a foreignlanguage literary and cultural history but in the literary and cultural traditions of the translating language; and to be conversant in developments in translation theory as well as in the theoretical discourses—literary and cultural, social and political—that bear on a particular text or discipline. Because the study of translation can always result in the creation of such interdisciplines drawing on different specializations, it is probably best not to leave it to a field called translation studies. Or is that field properly called “Comparative Literatures and Cultures”?
NOTES For Livius Andronicus’s fragments, I have relied on E.H. Warmington’s Remains of Old Latin, volume II (Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London, 1936) and Scevola Mariotti’s Livio Andronico e la traduzione artistica: saggio critico ed edizione dei frammenti dell’Odyssea (Urbino, 1986). For the meanings of Latin words, I have consulted Charlton T. Lewis and Charles Short’s A Latin Dictionary (London, 1879). Sheldon Pollock’s essay, “Philology, Literature, Translation,” appears in Enrica Garzilli, ed., Translating, Translations, Translators: From India to the West (Cambridge, Massachussetts, 1996). Jacques Derrida’s essay, “Signature Event Context,” appears in his Margins of Philosophy, trans. Alan Bass (Chicago, 1982). 116 |
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EMMA BLOOMFIELD THE POETICS OF SPACE, ALL PERIODS REMOVED Library Book 8” x 6” 2006
NINA KATCHADOURIAN TA L K I N G P O P C O R N Popcorn Machine (right): computer with custom-written Morse Code program, microphone, speakers, paper popcorn bags with Morse Code rubber stamp, scoop, salt shaker, plinth and floor circle, Machine and base 26” x 24” x 64” 2001 Popcorn Journal (left): Vacuum-formed plastic capsules, popcorn, paper, date stamp, Capsule: 11” x 8.5” x 2” 2001
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ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND SARA MELTZER GALLERY
In “Talking Popcorn,” a microphone in the cabinet underneath picks up sound of popping corn, which is translated into Morse Code. A computer-generated voice provides a simultaneous spoken translation. Talking Popcorn blurts out words in many different languages, but ultimately it speaks a “language” very much its own (one person dubbed it “popcornese”). | 121
NINA KATCHADOURIAN A DAY AT THE BEACH FROM SORTING SHARK C-print 12.5” x 19” 2001
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PRIMITIVE AR T
THE AKRON STACKS C-print 12.5” x 19” 2001
ALL IMAGES COURTESY OF THE ARTIST AND SARA MELTZER GALLERY
Sorted Books is an ongoing project that began in 2001. Since then, it has taken place on seven different sites over the years, ranging from private homes to specialized libraries. The artist sifts through a collection of books, selects particular titles, and eventually groups these books into clusters so that the titles can be read in sequence. When the project is done in a person’s home, the sorted books also function as a portrait. At present, the Sorted Books project comprises more than 120 photographs.
WO RD L I N K S Computer software 2007
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I designed this software for an English-speaking user to chat online with a Chinese-speaking user. User 1 inputs text in their native language, which is automatically translated into User 2's language. An individual user's screen displays the text that they have input and the translated text of the other user. Auto-translate functions are capable of simple phrasing and greetings that don't rely heavily on context or nuance to form meaning, and when using WordLinks one's conversations become increasingly unclear as the untranslatable spaces become nearly irreconcilable. WordLinks undermines software's promise of legibility and utilitarian function, as well as the lexical and grammatical ordering that translators scrutinize to bring one language closer to another. Linguistic divides and semantic errors are exaggerated to propose that if language is the principal medium of our construction as social subjects, then translation is always a process of approximations and substitutions that obscure one's identity. | 125
XU BING BOOK FROM THE GROUND Computer software 2007
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Book From The Ground is a software program designed for two users to communicate in a language of symbols. When text is entered into the program's chat window, each word is automatically replaced by a corresponding icon. Individual users can not view their chat partner's written words, only image substitutions. Inspired by icons found in airports and other international spaces, Xu Bing's Book From The Ground is an artistic experiment in the possibilities of a form of communication that does not depend upon literacy or locality.
CESAR CORNEJO Q.E.D. (QUOD ERAT
Electrical transformers, light bulbs, electric cables 47.2” x 47.2” x 4.7” 2007
The light bulb on the right is plugged directly into the power strip and receives the full electrical current, while the electrical current on the left runs through a series of transformers, diminishing the left bulb's brightness.
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THE CORRESPONDENCE PROJECT A Collaboration between Harvard College, Cambridge, Hochschule für Künste, Bremen, The National College of Arts, Lahore This past fall, students at Harvard University’s Department of Visual and Environmental Studies participated in a collaborative projects with students in Lahore, Pakistan and Bremen, Germany. Students in each location made works that fit either in a shoebox or an A4 envelope. In November, primary works from Cambridge were sent to Bremen, works from Bremen to Lahore, and works from Lahore to Cambridge. In each city, each participating student chose a work from the received collection, and created a work in response to, or in correspondence with it. In December those first works and their response works were shipped again around the triangle. Organized by Helen Mirra, Beate Terfloth and Mohammad Ali.
THE CORRESPONDENCE PROJECT
E M M A B A N A Y, H A R V A R D JAR WITH CONTENTS
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R E B E C C A S O P H I E L L A N O S FA R F A N , B R E M E N VIDEO STILL
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BIRTE ENDREJAT, VO G E L M A N N
89 Drawings in a cardboard box
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NIZAKAT ALI, LAHORE M INIATURE PAINTING
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GUIYOUNG GELAUS, BREMEN INHALTE ENTFALTEN (“TO UNFOLD CONTENTS”) Ink on paper “I have written this in one day from 8 o’ clock in the morning to 8 o’ clock in the evening. I’ve noticed everything, what I’m just thinking and what I’ve heard and see by the way in newspaper, TV and Internet.”
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Hair embroidered on paper
THE CORRESPONDENCE PROJECT
Translating the Real: Chapter V of Howards End G. TIAO
“None of us can ever express the exact measure of his needs or his thoughts or his sorrows; and human speech is like a cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to, while we long to make music that will melt the stars.” —Gustave Flaubert, Madame Bovary
ll writers are failed musicians. This is because experience forever eludes works that attempt to represent it— and because music is the event itself, unfolding in time I can track on my wristwatch, music is too often the last thing heard in a page of prose. The fine art of music criticism— writing about the event itself (all too often with that wildly inadequate gesticulation and that airless, inherited vocabulary)—baffles me: it’s so hard, and even the best of it has death in it. Too often writing about primal experience at second remove—favoring the imitation over the genuine article—seems a preposterous exercise in misdirection, like taking up taxidermy as a hobby when what one really wants is a pet. To readers, I say—usually—Put on the record itself. Hear out Beethoven’s Fifth for yourself. The exception to this general rule comes along once or twice in one’s experience, and that experience, when it comes, is generally exceptional. On the theme of Beethoven’s Fifth, I think especially of Chapter V of E. M. Forster’s sublime Howards End. Chapter V lifts the curtain upon a ragtag assembly of characters attending a mundane concert at the “Queen’s Hall, dreariest music-room in London.” Helen and Margaret Schlegel, a pair of monied, 136 |
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charming, and exquisitely educated sisters, sit among family and friends as Beethoven’s Fifth plays around them. They listen to the music. The Schlegel sisters do exactly what they have been educated to do: Helen thinks and feels exquisite things; and Margaret pronounces them to a neighbor. Forster in the meantime must render faithful their lively thinking on the page through a description of the symphony itself. It is a novelist’s nightmare scenario—to match Beethoven on his home turf, the concert hall, and not to overpower one’s own characters with the first eight notes alone! The gust from the first violin section could knock over stronger, more tenacious personalities—Gilbert Osmond, Lady Macbeth, Mr. Collins. Impossible, fearsome task—but Forster bothered with it because he knew, by some strange calculus, that the translation of music, the hardest kind of translation—I mean from experience to representation—pushes the novel’s text beyond the realm of representation out onto the other side of experience. Chapter V describes a symphony, someone else’s symphony, but it becomes the event itself. How does this work? Forster begins as a music critic, a better one than average: “It will be generally admitted that Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony is the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of man.” He renders the judgment; very good—and passes on to some spectacular demonstrations and proofs: The music started with a goblin walking quietly over the universe, from end to end. Others followed him. They were not aggressive creatures; … they merely observed in passing that there was no
such thing as splendour or heroism in the world. After the interlude of elephants dancing, they returned and made the observation for the second time. Some time later, in the same movement: The goblins—they had not really been there at all? … The goblins really had been there. They might return—and they did. It was as if the splendour of life might boil over and waste to steam and froth. In its dissolution one heard the terrible, ominous note, and a goblin, with increased malignity, walked quietly over the universe from end to end. Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! Even the flaming ramparts of the world might fall.
Forster’s repetition and recapitulation— the goblin walking quietly over the universe from end to end—nicely mimics Beethoven’s musical version of those strategies. The double “panic and emptiness!”es fall differently on the ear in sequence, just as the opening phrase of the symphony, A-A-A-E, is immediately reinforced by its downshifted echo, F-F-F-D. These clevernesses might be convincing enough in themselves—at least for the purposes of music criticism. I’m moved to put on the recording and to hear for myself—mission accomplished, with a minimum of pain and suffering. (A round of applause!) But Forster is a novelist, not a music critic, and it is not in his best interest that I pause in the middle of Chapter V to revisit the allegro movement. He should want me to remain in my seat. I do, because Beethoven’s is not the only music I hear in those passages. If I revisit the first passage and listen a few sentences further, Forster’s theme emerges: …After the interlude of elephants dancing, they returned and made the observation for the second time. Helen could not contradict them, for, once at all events, she had felt the same, and had seen the reliable walls of youth collapse. Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! The goblins were right.
This is Beethoven’s music no longer: it belongs to this character, Helen Schlegel. Her consciousness seizes and then articulates the music absent to our own ears. She
hears on our behalf, and when she is convinced by it, she is utterly convincing: “The notes meant this and that … and they could have no other meaning, and life could have no other meaning.” Something in the music taps her being like a bell: she is set ringing and rushes out of the concert hall in a sublime sweep, setting off small disruptions of perfume and turbulent music in her wake. Her ecstasis is so real that the text itself responds to her passing: a few flustered lines of dialogue are required for recovery before the chapter can settle back into its normal activity (“Is Helen all right?” “Oh yes.” “She is always going away in the middle of a programme.” “The music has evidently moved her deeply.”). But then, unexpectedly, someone interrupts the fine finish of Helen’s theme; and he does so with the unconscious rudeness of someone clapping loudly and enthusiastically before the last note has concluded: “Excuse me,” said Margaret’s young man, who had for some time been preparing a sentence, “but that young lady [Helen] has, quite inadvertently, taken my umbrella.”
Till now, some conscious experience of Art, or Life, seems to have sprung up on the page, blossomed, and then floated away— there it goes, with Helen, out the back door of the concert hall. But here comes Leonard Bast, Margaret’s young man, ushered along by the author, asking after his umbrella and ruining the moment with his unromantic petitioning. Margaret’s young man is no Helen Schlegel; questions of life and its meaning are but vague destinations on the horizon of his consciousness. Bast is an under-clerk at a bank, a member of the lower working class who has been taken up by the two sisters as a pet project. They see promise in him and are determined to conduct a little social experiment by pursuing an apparently egalitarian (a liberal, and necessarily admirable) friendship with him. Widely-read as the sisters are, they might have done well to read Virginia Woolf in this respect, for Bast, if anything, is a literary first cousin to Woolf’s Charles Tansley. T R A N S L AT I N G T H E R E A L : H O WA R D S E N D
Both are carriers of purses, trotting toters— human accessories panting to keep pace with their patronesses. Bast, feeling uneasy after Helen accidentally pinches his umbrella on her grand exit, asks nevertheless to be entrusted with the delivery of Margaret’s cousin’s change-purse (“‘Might I—couldn’t I—’ said the suspicious young man, and got very red”). Charles Tansley does the very same: out on a walk with the beautiful and refined Mrs. Ramsay early in Woolf’s novel To the Lighthouse, Tansley, a poor university student (and uncomfortable, too, with this fact), takes hold of Mrs. Ramsay’s bag despite her gentle rebuff (“As for her little bag, might he not carry that? No, no, she said, she always carried that herself”). Bunglers both, Tansley and Bast manage to mangle that simple gesture of chivalry into desperate servility, and the bid for the bag is a rather tragic one in their hands. They grapple for purses, but that action alone gives neither character access to their contents: cultural currency. Tansley famously would have liked to say how he had gone to see Ibsen with the Ramsays; and Bast cherishes impossible hopes for the improvement of his conversation (“Oh, to acquire culture! Oh, to pronounce foreign names correctly!”), but when Margaret opens her mouth, her brilliant “speeches fluttered away from the young man like birds.” His clumsy attempts to keep up only interrupt their fleet trajectory: “My sister declares that [music and painting are] just the same. We have great arguments over it. She says I’m dense; I say she’s sloppy… Now, doesn’t it seem absurd to you? What is the good of the Arts of they’re interchangeable? What is the good of the ear if it tells you the same as the eye? Helen’s one aim is to translate tunes into the language of painting, and pictures into the language of music. It’s very ingenious, and she says several pretty things in the process, but what’s gained, I’d like to know? … If Monet’s really Debussy, and Debussy’s really Monet, neither gentleman is worth his salt—that’s my opinion.” Evidently these sisters quarreled. 138 |
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“Now, this very symphony that we’ve just been having—she won’t let it alone. She labels it with meanings from start to finish; turns it into literature. I wonder if the day will ever return when music will be treated as music. Yet I don’t know. There’s my brother—behind us. He treats music as music, and oh, my goodness! He makes me angrier than any one, simply furious. With him I daren’t argue.” An unhappy family, if talented.
Strictly speaking, Bast is not incorrect in his silent observations (“Evidently these sisters quarreled”—”An unhappy family, if talented”), but by Margaret’s speech we understand something very different: her apparent frustration is really tender fondness obliquely expressed, and her speeches at foundation aren’t about Helen or her brother at all. Margaret makes them mouthpieces for competing ideas, and every appearance of conflict in her talk is merely a platform momentarily constructed for her playful intellectualism. This is too subtle and finegrained for Bast’s brute calculation. Yet his calculation is unexpectedly compelling. It is compelling because it deals in hard currency. Bast worries about money, about real things—objects—like his umbrella, and this perhaps is more real, more life-like a gesture, than Helen’s aesthetic ecstasy, which scatters like a queue of goblins at a trumpet-signal to end the movement. How much anxiety coalesces around the handle of Leonard Basts’s umbrella! Its dumb and unyielding objectness apologizes for nothing. It is, and in the middle of our happy raptures of transport, we imagine through Leonard’s silence the worry of the umbrella, persisting “with the steady beat of a drum.” His silence becomes so expressive that it practically telepaths mortification when, standing on the door-stoop of the Schlegels’, Bast encounters Helen’s silly, flustered torrent of chatter: “Oh, I am so sorry! I do nothing but steal umbrellas. I am so very sorry! … Is yours a hooky or a nobbly? … Don’t you talk, Meg! You stole an old gentleman’s silk top-hat. Yes, she did, Aunt Juley. It is a
positive fact. She thought it was a muff… What about this umbrella?” She opened it. “No, it’s all gone along the seams. It’s an appalling umbrella. It must be mine.” But it was not.
Leonard needs neither to speak nor even to think here; we are the ones who move, swiftly, to understanding. Where the Schlegel sisters’ sparkling language transported and amused, Leonard’s silences are damning, his hesitations chafing and chastising. Language—human speech, the “cracked kettle on which we tap crude rhythms for bears to dance to,” and even the language of music and art—is revealed to be restrictive, exclusive, and ultimately insufficient, as narrow as needles, or, as Tolstoy wrote in The Death of Ivan Ilych, death’s “narrow, black sack.” A world of prosaic suffering exists inaccessible to speech or aesthetic expression, and once the awareness of that silent realm crowds in upon us, we cannot continue in the concert hall untroubled. Certainly Margaret cannot: The Four Serious Songs rang shallow in Margaret’s ears. Brahms, for all his grumbling and grizzling, had never guessed what it felt like to be suspected of stealing an umbrella. For this fool of a young man thought that she and Helen and Tibby had been playing the confidence trick on him, and that if he gave his address they would break into his rooms some midnight or other and steal his walking-stick too. Most ladies would have laughed, but Margaret really minded, for it gave her a glimpse into squalor. To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy can indulge; the poor cannot afford it.
At last comes the heart of the matter: What is more real—Beethoven or Bast? Disconsonant as these two experiences—the aesthetic and the pragmatic—are, they unfold in the same space. They are seat-mates in Queen’s Hall, and, having been shown the chasm that separates 14F from 14D, we are asked to choose. Forster puts forth the question to his readers: What is more real— Beethoven or Bast? The limitations of language or the limitations of matter? Yet how can we even trust the language
that conveyed the difficulty of reconciling these two registers if part of the discovery is that language itself is limited? How can we trust the novelist at his craft? Who or what guarantees the faithful translation of some empirical truth into the cramped medium of language? A few paces into the thinking, we are as troubled as Margaret. Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! The novel might not mean anything to us at all—how can we believe anything we read? We believe because the question— “Beethoven or Bast?”—it turns out, is itself real. The experience of the vertiginous drop, the restless and roving movement of consciousness from speech to silence, the experience of conflict and incongruity itself, is, above all, real. Chapter V reads credibly because it captures something of the flickering absoluteness of life. Each fresh paragraph is a fragrant lingering; and without warning, we are launched blindly into the air and land squarely in the center of the consciousness of a being as distinct and independent as a lone blossom on a long stalk. It seems real not because we constantly flip between our friends’ and neighbors’ consciousnesses in real life (if anything, we feel stuck in our heads, sentenced to our own lonely musings), but because the liveliness and diversity we recognize—which, on the page, belong to a small army of individuals—is all our own. Life proceeds through alternating states of conviction; we are constantly being jolted out of our skins, converted and converted again by some fresh feeling, a stray thought, an orphaned aesthetic waiting to be adopted and taken into the fold. We have believed things, have felt at times that life could have no other meaning. We’re also always interrupted. We have quivered in the concert hall; but the audience coughs and whispers and makes prosaic noise, and when it’s done we gather our coats and programs and shuffle out the side doors. The dull margins that press around Forster’s music-hall performance re-create in us the experience of life—or some generous portion of it (as much, at least, as T R A N S L AT I N G T H E R E A L : H O WA R D S E N D
Beethoven’s Fifth managed)—by enacting consciousness’s alternity within its genuine setting. The chapter’s key artistic innovation is not the restrictive translation of a single piece of music but a wholesale rendition of the operations of the human mind against a backdrop of banking and bad weather. Forster, unlike Woolf, Proust, and other authors associated with the modernist project, writes a narrative that is not exclusively caught up in the precarious subjectivities
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of his characters. Woolf would have left off with Helen’s bold vision and called it the world. But in Howards End, there is always an intermission, an allowance for objects and facts and uncomfortable realities (economic hardships and class distinctions and broken umbrellas) to make themselves known. The novel acknowledges that art’s realities take place in the real world, and that the relationship between them is not always an easy one.
Travel, Transposition, Translation VERENA ANDERMATT CONLEY
or centuries the art of translation has preoccupied French writers and philosophers. In 1540, in his La Maniere de bien tradvire d’vne langve en avltre, Etienne Dolet noted that good translators must know well and admire the “sense and matter” of the works they translate. If they are scabrous or obscure, it is up the translator to make them clear and pleasurable to the eye and ear. Translators must have a quasi-thorough knowledge of the languages they translate, but in all respect they will forever fail when they translate word-for-word or literally, ultimately doing little justice to the original. “Common” and accessible diction is preferred through a “bonne copulation” and “collocation pertinente des mots.”1 With much more fanfare, in his founding La deffence, et illustration de la langue françoyse (1549), a work that poet Michel Deguy believes to be a first work of “modern” vision, Joachim Du Bellay makes translation a first step in the direction of poetry. His rejection of servile “imitation” of classical models amounts, says Deguy, amounts to an “insolent and healthy fracas of a declaration of love” of other languages that the writer must somehow, in his own signature and with his own words, invent in his own idiolect.2 1 Etienne Dolet, La Maniere de bien tradvire d’vne langve en avltre. D’advantage. De la punctuation de la langue francoyse. Plvs. Des accents d’ycelle. Le tout faict par Estienne Dolet natif d’Orleans. (Lyon, 1540?) f. iiir°. 2 Michel Deguy, Tombeau de Du Bellay (Paris: Gallimard/Collection du Chemin, 1973), 112.
Despite Deguy’s resurrection of the Deffence and its ambiance on the heels of May 1968, Dolet and Du Bellay have since become history. It is in his renowned “The Task of the Translator” that the peripatetic German philosopher and Francophile Walter Benjamin inspired new reflection on the theory and practice of translation.3 Benjamin invokes a common etymology to connect the act of translation to that of betrayal. By transposing words from the source into a target language, the humdrum translator often alters the original text. It comes therefore as no surprise that, compared to the author, the translator of something assumed to be “original” is easily relegated to an inferior, if not even parasitic status. Benjamin thus both belittles and rehabilitates the task of the translator. The translator ought not to be left in oblivion on the shores of derivation, but considered a creator in his or her own right. Yet the process he or she uses and its implementation cannot be consigned to silence. For translation to merit consideration a theory of language is indispensable. The translator deals not only with concepts, but also with a linguistic part of the human being that exceeds its user. The translator has to remain as close as possible to the source language in order to enrich the target language. Of importance is not a smooth and seamless transfer of meaning but the rendering of the “original” syntax that 3 In Illuminations, translated by Harry Zohn (New York: Schoken Books, 1969), 69-82. T R AV E L , T R A N S P O S I T I O N , T R A N S L AT I O N
leads to a distortion—but also (and even as Du Bellay would have had it) to an enrichment of the target language. Benjamin wants to reach a kind of pure language on the way of achieving a harmony between inadequate human languages and the language of God. Ethereal in many ways, Benjamin’s essay has not lost its influence on recent theories of translation. Poststructuralist thinkers were quick to pick up on Benjamin’s pronouncements. Indeed, the philosopher and writer-poet Jacques Derrida argued repeatedly that one could not simply translate words since the latter are always connected to a person’s unconscious. The translator does not only alter words; she or he brings their own unconscious to bear on the “original” text and alters it to the point of betraying the author’s personal use of language or idiom. For Derrida, one cannot translate words that are connected to a person’s unconscious, and therefore one does not really “communicate” or get a pre-existing meaning across from sender to receiver. In “Freud and the Scene of Writing,” the philosopher shows how communication takes place between two or more unconscious words to create an event, touch a nerve, or reactivate something that was never present in the first place. Translation in a vulgar sense therefore does not exist. In fact, Derrida goes on to argue, one never translates an original text but something that was never present—always with a remainder. In the nineteen-seventies, in what Benjamin would have called the auratic moment of poststructuralism, writers, teachers, and philosophers dealt with the difficulty, even the impossibility, of communicating, or of translating from one language to another or from one person to another. For them, translation had never been a simple rendering of an existent meaning into another language. With globalization, that is, with quasiinstant electronic communication, the era of electronic media and mass travel (tourism), translation becomes more important than ever. The translation of concepts, what Benjamin called a form of betrayal, is now at the basis of an ongoing attempt on the part of the media to achieve global or universal communication. From instant translation of literary and even more often of political or juridical texts or summaries of current events on the Internet, perfected and effortless translations are said 142 |
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to guarantee seamless communication in our “information age.” Netlish, a kind of global English that cultural anthropologists such as Marc Augé have scorned as “linguistic enfeeblement,” is evidence of these attempts to translate pure information. The media produce quasi-instant forms of translation into a kind of transparent, universal language that would be (but are not) without remainder, thus of total transparency. Yet is it always that transparent? Films like Lost in Translation hint at some hidden difficulties and stubborn remainders that refuse simply to go away. Is Netlish or instant translation on the web and elsewhere but a language used primarily in what Augé has called “non-places,” that is, places devoid of anthropological structures? Has the poststructuralist dilemma of translation based on the privileging of an unconscious dimension and subjectivity not just disappeared with the advent of computers? The question can be addressed wherever the inevitable “remainders” of other or opaque discourses cloud the transparency of translation. They are what are felt to be (although not specifically discerned as) lost. Next to this kind of baseline translation practiced by the media, literary translations in the Benjaminian sense continue to exist. They are mainly done from the source language into the translator’s own language that it enriches by introducing variations. However, other forms of translation also exist, that are neither literary nor of the manner of Netlish. Not only with travel between countries but also with massive population flows accompanying those of finance, translation takes on renewed importance in official spheres as well as in the realm of everyday life. While tourists of the ilk of Bill Murray and Scarlett Johanssen might lose themselves temporarily in the fashionable non-places of Tokyo (hotels, airports, clubs), many immigrants, however, face the formidable “task of the translator” that entails displacing their own linguistic and cultural coordinates within those of their host country. They lose themselves between different languages and cultures where, against the dictum of the media, no simple continuity assures passage from one way of living the world to another. To the difficulty of linguistic translation there is added that of culture. Language is only one aspect of culture.
Other cultural codes are similarly in need of translation. Some cultural codes, such as food, music, and fashion translate easily; others that pertain to more symbolic dimensions and that bear their unconscious residue do not. Cultures have different relations to symbolic orders that against Jean Baudrillard’s predictions are far from having entirely disappeared.4 Beyond modernism, characterized by the imposition of a colonial order and postmodernism, with its belief in the eradication of symbolic networks in an age focused solely on quanta of input/ output, universalisms of different stripes have been undone by multiple and conflicting universalities that call for translation. The symbolic dimensions where walls of resistance in the media age have been erected are found in such areas as gender, sexuality, marriage, or death. In order to reduce conflict, they call for different kinds of translation. Writers, but cultural theorists as well, have to engage in translation as a form of ongoing negotiation. They translate not only from the foreign, source (but not original) language into their own target language; they also translate from various areas and levels in their own language: They transpose their cultural codes across the conscious and unconscious strata of their words. The latter are not untranslatable; they can be translated but always with a remainder in an ongoing gesture that links translation also to negotiation. To account for the transformation of today’s nation-states and increasingly of cities that include many people from all over the world, it is necessary more than ever to focus on the art of translation as well as on that of traveling mentally and physically. The danger consists in believing in a continuity between cultures and their practices—including language— where there are none. Homologies—and the widespread belief of being able to compare 4 In his late work Baudrillard dissolves differences into a general impression of inalterable chaos in which translation gets submerged under subjectivity: “Always the same dilemma: is it not man who, through his ambiguity, his alterity, his power of illusion, would finish by altering the world, affecting it or infecting it with the same uncertainty he experiences? Is uncertainty the objective certainty of the world or the subjective uncertainty of consciousness?” “The Futures of Thought,” in Lawrence D. Kritzman, ed., The Columbia History of Twentieth-Century French Thought (New York: Columbia University Press, 2006), 362.
languages—have to be replaced with what Michel de Certeau calls “heterologies.” People in the West wrongly assume continuities between disciplines—from anthropology to linguistics—and the possibility of comparing them in order to impose their own, particular sums of practices on others. These disciplines gloss over the heteronomies or embedded differences that exist between different types of linguistic practices and that allow the possibility of constructing (at the very least in language) different worlds. It is often wrongly assumed that language, although obeying different rules, is a single reality in all societies. Language functions have important consequences for the construction of reality. Spoken languages are different social practices in the Maghreb or in France, in Mexico or in the United States. They are distinguished by norms but also by functions that are qualitatively foreign to one another. Only by recognizing these differences can one attempt to translate less in order to enrich the idiom of the target language and to negotiate cultural differences in order to avoid imposing them through violence. The function and the task of translators (in the plural in the electronic age) are, in fact, expanding in a global world. Translators do not simply transpose a text from one language into another in transparent innocence. Next to translating cultural practices for others, critics also rephrase or translate them within their own language to introduce a performative of sorts, a creative dimension, into dominant discourses and the clichés that define them. As Etienne Balibar argues, writers, philosophers, and cultural theorists are translators and travelers. They must think from events, through difference and rectification. They cannot simply undo dominant paradigms but must travel in their own identities. They help mediate and construct. They transpose and translate the untranslatable. In today’s world it appears that more and more languages are coming into contact with one another. Increasingly important linguistic exchanges call for ongoing translations. If some translations of signs and codes that contribute to the functioning of a world with much increased population density can be facilitated through computers, the translation of languages and cultures remains complex. When looking for equivalences and ethical, aesthetic, technological, and T R AV E L , T R A N S P O S I T I O N , T R A N S L AT I O N
epistemological universals, it finds only cultural incompatibilities. Not only literature but also legal and religious texts that deal with symbolic dimensions have to be translated and transposed. Moreover, the world itself is in need of translation. As Balibar reminds his readers, gone are the days when they thought they could reduce the world to an object to be analyzed. Interpretation is a false politics. Singular and collective translation rather than interpretation is the real politics. Writers and theorists translate in order to create new spaces before effacing themselves. Through translation, they help displace or delocalize inner and outer borders that are both visible and invisible, and call for other spaces of encounters and intersections. The notion of translation subverts an earlier critical function that brought intellectuals too close to the figure of a judge or a censor. Critics as interpreters make their position indispensable. By contrast, the critic as translator disappears. It is, of course, possible even for critics to travel without any effort of translation by going though a kind of media hyperspace in a universalistic world of non-places, including those of many colloquia. Of importance today is translation, it can be repeated, as a form of mediation and negotiation capable of transforming extreme violence into civility and dialogue. Just as no seamless translation is possible, neither can there be a simple passage of information between people—even in the computerized age of YouTube and Facebook. In a world where emphasis on resolution of opposites has been summoned, where nationstates as self-contained entities are being transformed, where the imposition of one culture on others as at the apogee of colonial ventures and their idea of universalism has been invalidated, translation becomes an everyday necessity and an art. From immigrants trying to negotiate their spaces in a foreign country to ethnicities to critics negotiating various common spaces, the arts of translation cannot be separated from those of negotiation. The collective task of translators consists in opening passages, in traveling—not as tourists or as media intellectuals—and in mediating rather than of explicating and interpreting the world. The outcome is always uncertain but the act itself is never impossible. 144 |
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The shift in the emphasis of translation in a global world replete with often conflicting universalities does not eradicate the importance of literary translations. The latter continue not to be simply a transposition from one language to the other but, as Derrida had it, the communication between two unconscious spheres. The advocates of global culture wrongly want to delocalize and depoliticize literary texts that are always the product of a certain culture and even of a moment. While no translation can ever render an “original,” it becomes clear that literary translation continues to be a form of negotiation between different unconscious cultures that remains, in spite of everything, remarkably diverse. Though nomadic texts written in a certain media hyperspace tend to be privileged because their values can be easily understood, it is those literary texts presenting asperities and resistances that make up the real stuff of translation. At a time when machines are perfecting the art of instant translation and film scripts are written so as to translate with great ease from one market to the next, wars and conflicts all over the world show that that the construction of a common space is based on an ongoing art of translation that affects all spheres of our lives, including the everyday, the formal world of political negotiation, and even the art of transposing literary texts or films from one cultural space to another. They can be done in one’s own language as performatives, that is, as reformulations of dominant clichés. These clichés are often those that deal with the illusion of seamless cyber-communication. These acts of translation can be performed at the level of theory, where things happen so fast that they never congeal into concepts but are always in movement. They can be those of the literary not in a belle-lettristic fashion, but in the broadest sense of an art of the everyday, as an ongoing invention that is also translation.
TEXTS CONSULTED Apter, Emily. The Translation Zone: A New Comparative Literature. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2006. Augé, Marc. Non-Places: Introduction to an Anthropology of Supermodernity. Translated by John Howe. London and New York: Verso, 1995.
Balibar, Etienne. Droit de cité. Editions de l’Aube, 1998.
La Tour d’Aigues:
Deguy, Michel. Tombeau de Du Bellay. Gallimard, 1973.
Baudrillard, Jean. Simulations. Translated by Paul Foss, Paul Patton, and Philip Beitchman. New York: Semiotext(e), 1983.
Derrida, Jacques. Writing and Difference. Translated by Alan Bass. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1978.
---. “The Futures of Thought.” In Lawrence D. Kritzman, ed., The Columbia History of TwentiethCentury French Thought. New York: Columbia University Press, 2006.
Deleuze, Gilles and Félix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia. Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
Benjamin, Walter. Illuminations. Translated by Harry Zohn. With an introduction by Hannah Arendt. New York: Schoken Books, 1969.
Dolet, Etienne. La Maniere de bien tradvire d’vne langve en avltre. D’advantage. De la punctuation de la langue francoyse. Plvs. Des accents d’ycelle. Le tout faict par Estienne Dolet natif d’Orleans. France, 1540?
Certeau, Michel de. Culture in the Plural. Translated by Tom Conley. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
Lost in Translation. Features. 2003.
Dir. Sofia Coppola.
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How to Do Things with Style ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER
ity the poor translator. In the prisonhouse of language, he occupies the most forgotten oubliette. The writer, that noble savage, inhabits the virgin forest of his own style, in which every track is unbeaten. Aimless though an author’s path may be, the translator is expected to dog his every step. If the penman is a savage, the translator must be the quintessence of civilization: he is admonished by all the arbiters of elegance to capture the spirit and not just the letter, the manner and not just the matter, the style and not just the content. Spirit, manner, and style are of course whatever aspect of the text the critic, for his circumscribed and circumstantial purposes, chooses for the nonce to single out. The translator is consequently exhorted to be faithful, but not to just one god or one wife. He is expected to read with the eyes of all readers in all ages and states of receptivity and will be chastised for his inevitable failure to anticipate every conceivable readerly caprice. This no finite creature can possibly do. Hence all translation is defective. Defectiveness is the condition of its existence. The translator pays the price of his necessary civilization by accumulating all the purported vices of the civilized—artificiality, impurity, lack of sinew. On top of which the writer gets all the glory and most of the money: not a pretty picture. Yet translations still get done, and we can therefore look to see how. Translation, we can readily see, involves a congeries of small decisions, but how does the translator decide when one of these is better than another? Does he remain entirely within the text, or must he appeal to the world as arbiter? The style to which the translator is urged 148 |
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to remain faithful takes many forms. For the purposes of this paper, I want to distinguish between two of these, which I shall call the mimetic and the analytic. To clarify what I mean, I will draw examples not from the universe of writing but of drawing and then return in a moment to writing. Think, then, of a cylinder as represented by a novice artist in a drawing class, charcoal lines and smudges on a textured surface, and a cylinder as represented by a draftsman in three views, front, side, and elevation. Both drawings represent the same object, but their style couldn’t be more different: the one is mimetic, intended to evoke certain sensations; the other analytic, intended to detail a structure. Imagine a hole drilled through this cylinder. How deep is it? Does it continue all the way through the cylinder, or does it stop somewhere below what the perspective angle permits us to see? The artist’s representation leaves this question in suspense. By contrast, the draftsman’s representation is designed expressly to answer it. Indeed, if the draftsman’s style of representation has a raison d’être, it is precisely to answer questions of this kind, questions that primarily interest homo faber, not l’homme moyen sensuel. The artist’s style, on the other hand, is designed to mimic the appearance, as to contours and light patterns, of a three-dimensional cylinder and thus to evoke in the viewer similar sensations. Hence if meaning is use, as has been influentially urged, the two representations have very different uses, hence different meanings. Therefore one is not a translation of the other. Style thus has a utilitarian function, but it also has an existence in its own right. It
can give pleasure. All physical activity—and writing is a physical activity as much as drawing—has a ludic dimension, an aspect of play: we take a kinesthetic pleasure in making marks, and this pleasure, like any pleasure, can be playfully pursued for its own sake, quite independent of any communicative intent. Wherever there is pleasure, there is a compulsion to repeat, indeed to repeat with variation so as to avoid the extinction of pleasure that comes with mere accumulation. Hence style, reveling in the pleasure of its own making, tends to encourage distinctive forms of elaboration. Because each style produces its own characteristic kinesthetic pleasures, each encourages elaboration along particular lines. In the case of the mimetic drawing, that intrinsic penchant of elaboration is toward greater subtlety in transition, greater homogeneity of elements of contour and shading, in other words, toward a style in which, as Proust says of Flaubert’s style, “all parts of reality are converted into one and the same substance.” In the case of the analytic drawing of the draftsman, the intrinsic penchant of elaboration is different: toward finer detail, specification of dimensions and materials, indication of tolerances, and so on. In other words, toward a style in which, as Proust says of the style of Balzac, “coexist, undigested, not yet transformed, all the elements of a future style that does not yet exist.”1 The two styles are different, therefore, because they encourage, by virtue of the different pleasures they engage, distinct modes of playful elaboration and thus stand in different evolutionary lineages. Hence, again, one is not a translation of the other. I focus on these two particular forms of style, the mimetic and the analytic, for a reason. Indeed, the idea that art is bound to oscillate between these two poles seems to come up whenever one reflects not only on what translation is but on what art is. Witness Flaubert: “There are in me, literally speaking, two distinct persons: one who is infatuated with bombast, lyricism, eagle flights, sonorities of phrase, and the high points of ideas; and another who digs and burrows into the truth as deeply as he can, who likes
to treat a humble fact as respectfully as a big one, who would like to make you feel almost physically the things he reproduces.”2 At first sight, Flaubert might seem to be making a different distinction. For if the second part of his sentence describes his attraction to the analytic style, digging and burrowing into the truth, he nevertheless speaks of physical sensation with respect to it. And what is the connection of bombast and lyricism with mimesis? What I have in mind will become clearer, I think, if we look not at what Flaubert says about his practice but at what he actually does. There is no purer example of the two poles of Flaubertian style than the eighth chapter of Part Two of Madame Bovary, devoted to the Comices Agricoles in Yonville, the town in which Charles and Emma Bovary reside. The structure of this chapter could not be simpler. Flaubert describes certain aspects of the town and its inhabitants—this is the analytic portion of the text—and he reports instances of their speech and writing— this is the mimetic portion. Notice that I was careful to say that Flaubert describes not the town, but only certain aspects of it. Indeed, he takes Yonville itself quite for granted. It is like any other Norman sous-préfecture, and we know perfectly well that for Flaubert the neutral administrative term sous-préfecture connoted something like a cancer of the soul. One purpose of the Flaubertian style is to give us, as it were, that cancer’s stench. Now, this statement about stench and literary language calls to mind Wittgenstein’s olfactory challenge to ordinary language in the Philosophical Investigations: “Describe the aroma of coffee.—Why can’t it be done? Do we lack the words? And for what are words lacking?—But how do we get the idea that such a description must after all be possible? … Have you tried to describe the aroma and not succeeded?”3 Let us gloss this by saying that circumstances arise in which we feel our everyday language pressured by what seems an absence of words. Why does our language contain just the words it does and not others—rabbit, say, and not a word for that twitching movement characteristic HOW TO DO THINGS WITH STYLE
of a rabbit’s nose? Perhaps there is no utility in describing the aroma of coffee, as there is surely no utility in describing a Norman sous-préfecture, unless one wants to become a coffee taster or an immortal novelist. So, in the grip of such ambition, perhaps, one senses a pressure on language itself. One kind of style is the result of this pressure. It is a deformation of language under the influence of objects for which there are no ready names. Another kind of style is the result not of our feeling pressure but of our desire to exert pressure on the world, to assert our presence in it. This is the kind we have in mind when we say of a person, “He has style.” Style of this kind transforms mere presence into assertion, sometimes unwitting assertion. It may take the form of dress, gait, accent, tone of voice, or it may—and this is what particularly interests us here—impress itself on language. Flaubert is deft at mimicking this linguistic impress of character, especially for derisive and parodic purpose, while Proust, who is still more deft, is capable of even subtler effects. And of course these writers, not being devoid of character themselves, leave their own impress on their texts, what Michael Wood in his recent book on Nabokov calls the writer’s signature as opposed to his style.4 Let us return now to Flaubert’s text to see what these various ruminations might have to do with translation. The eighth chapter of part two of Madame Bovary begins with a sentence that seems straightforward enough on its face: “Ils arrivèrent, en effet, ces fameux Comices!”
How then can we account for the fact that no two translators seem to be able to agree about how to translate it? Consider four quite reputable translations:5 1. The famous Show did indeed arrive. (AR) 2. The great day arrived at last. (FS) 3. It came, indeed, that much-publicized Exposition! (JC) 4. At last it came, the much-awaited agricultural fair. (PDM) 150 |
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That there are two all but insuperable problems in this almost trivial sentence may be taken as emblematic of the intricacies of the language-game. The first problem is one of reference, the second of tone, or—what amounts to the same thing—diction and rhythm. Just how are the Comices referred to? The translators tell us, by turns, that it was a Show, a great day, an Exposition, or an agricultural fair. Now the matter is more important than it might seem, because what Flaubert describes in the rest of the chapter is not the town of Yonville but the transformation of the town effected by its inhabitants for precisely this occasion. Just what kind of “great day” this was bears crucially on everything that follows. So it is particularly odd that Steegmuller, who in his introduction prides himself on the careful research necessary to resolve ambiguities and archaisms in Flaubert’s text, here simply banishes the difficulty by replacing Comices with “great day.” The history books tell us that les Comices Agricoles were an important institution of the July Monarchy under which the story unfolds. To call them an exposition or show is to miss either their didactic mission (to spread the most modern and presumably efficient agricultural techniques) or their political function (to signal the proximate presence of benignly enlightened monarchy, represented by the prefect). De Man’s “agricultural fair” comes closest, no doubt, but a “critical edition,” which is what de Man purported to provide, might have preserved Comices Agricoles and provided a historical gloss, since literally every detail that follows is illuminated by precise knowledge of what the Comices Agricoles represented in the society of the monarchie censitaire. So much for the problem of reference. What about the tone? This chapter-inaugurating sentence happens to be a particularly well-honed instance of the style that the narrative adopts when it wishes to assert the presence of a narrating personality. What do I mean by this rather cumbersome formulation? Through much of the text, Flaubert’s narrator simply effaces himself. In the very next sentence of this chapter, in fact, he has
all but stepped out of the picture: Dès le matin de la solennité, tous les habitants, sur leurs portes, s’entretenaient des préparatifs.
Here, diction, rhythm, and syntax are all neutral (except perhaps for the slight coloration of solennité, a sort of appoggiatura that bridges the gap between the broken, dissonant opening chord and the smooth harmony of what follows). Listen again to that opening chord: “Ils arrivèrent, en effet, ces fameux Comices!”
A syncopated beat, a sentence that swings: Flaubert does not write, “Le jour de ces fameux Comices arriva” or “Enfin vint le jour si attendu des Comices Agricoles” or “La journée de l’exposition arriva-t-elle.” One has to imagine how this sentence might be spoken, with weary emphasis on en effet and drawled contempt insinuated through fameux, in order to catch the characteristic sneer of Flaubert’s narrator when he drops his mask. It is the same sneer that one hears in the very opening passages of the book, in what is perhaps Flaubert’s most celebrated description in the analytic mode: Charles Bovary’s casquette “de loutre et du bonnet de coton, une de ces pauvres choses, enfin, dont la laideur muette a des profondeurs d’expression comme le visage d’un imbécile.” Here enfin signals a jump in rhythm. Now, the problem for the translator is that such rhythmic shifts and syncopations all too easily disappear as the mind goes about its primary business of construing meaning. Once again Wittgenstein anticipates my point: “The employment of certain words for the sake of the rhythm of a sentence. This might be far more important to us than it actually is,” he wrote in Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology.6 I’m not sure whom he meant by us, but I’m confident that to writers like Flaubert and Proust, for whom linguistic pastiche was an essential expressive device, those rhythm words which on superficial reading seem to mean almost nothing are far more important than translators often conten. But why single out translators for censure? Don’t our sub-
tlest linguists, the Chomskian grammarians, leave the matter entirely out of their account of language? And are they not joined by philosophers who believe that in dealing with the foreign we cannot honestly get beyond the “stimulus-meaning” of sentences, to be ascertained through questions put to native speakers by investigators ignorant of almost everything about the languages they investigate and methodologically precluded from what Stanley Cavell calls “empathic projection”? So there is good authority for reading “Ils arrivèrent, en effet, ces fameux Comices!” blandly, as Steegmuller does with “The great day arrived at last”—as if it were simply an answer to the sentence, “I wonder what time it is.” About which Wittgenstein asks: And if this sentence has a particular atmosphere, how am I to separate it from the sentence itself? It would never have occurred to me to think the sentence had such an aura if I had not thought of how one might say it differently—as a quotation, as a joke, as practice in elocution, and so on. And then all at once I wanted to say, then all at once it seemed to me, that I must after all have meant the words somehow specially… The picture of the special atmosphere forced itself upon me.7
When reading a text, one has to summon up this “special atmosphere” from the context; it is a matter of sympathetic inference, alertness, readiness to respond to every tremor in the web of words as if one were the spider at its center. In Wittgenstein’s remark, moreover, there is practical advice for the translator: In order to picture the special atmosphere of a sentence, think, as an actor might, of how one might speak it differently. Flaubert helps us to do this. All his descriptive effort in the remainder of the chapter goes toward delineating that special atmosphere in which the first sentence is uttered. His notations uncannily anticipate how the production designer of a film might proceed in dressing up an unremarkable Norman village for a film of Madame Bovary: drape the town hall with ivy, set up a large tent in the main square, strew the main street with horse manure for RodHOW TO DO THINGS WITH STYLE
olphe to tread on with his boots polished to a mirror sheen that reflects the grass, send the church beadle teetering through the square with an immense stack of chairs balanced precariously in front of him. If you have seen Chabrol’s film version of the novel, you have seen how well Flaubert did his job as production designer. Again, the analytic mode of style is associated with doing, with man as maker: the problem Flaubert set himself and solved was to select those details that might most evocatively convey the transformation of an ordinary town into the scene of an event as contemptibly extraordinary, as wretchedly magnificent, as the Comices Agricoles. His raillery calls to mind entrées royales of old, whose memorialized grandeur, however detestable, mocks the paltry present in which what is sovereign is not the exceptional but the everyday. Yet Flaubert does not need, as Balzac would have needed, to describe these archaic rituals or map the relation of town hall to collegiate church or recount the days when the Black Prince galloped over cobblestones now moist with the urine of the day’s prize sheep. His procedure is rather to envelop his analytic description in a special atmosphere created by sentences that mimic his narrator’s disgust, his sense of emptiness, and because we sense the need of that special atmosphere we are alert to the importance of the time-serving en effet and the versatile if sinister fameux. We are therefore entitled, on Wittgensteinian grounds, to find the existing translations of the opening sentence wanting. Like so many of Flaubert’s best sentences, the specimen actually blends the analytic and the mimetic in a manner so characteristic as to constitute a distinctive signature. The worldly reference is precise, the special atmosphere in which that reference is made is diffuse. Think of how objects sometimes stand out with special clarity when gathering clouds filter the sun. The transfigured daylight turns things into signs of the atmosphere in which they are bathed. The sentence about the Comices Agricoles no longer answers the question, What day is it? but rather, What form of life are we dealing with? The world is singular, but forms of 152 |
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life are many; and translation must not allow itself to be hobbled by the protean variety of language. Now, let us recall the question that I asked some while ago: “If translation is a congeries of small decisions, how does the translator decide when one of these is better than another? Does he remain entirely within the text, or must he appeal to the world as arbiter?” I don’t see any reason to stand on principle here. Translation is hard enough without hamstringing yourself with theoretical partis pris. In approaching the specimen sentence, it helps to know something about the Comices Agricoles, but it also helps to have rhythm, to catch the syncopations and the slurs, to remember the previous occasions on which the narrator dropped his veil, to traverse as many times as you can stand the hermeneutic circle that feeds the whole back into its parts. For while it’s true that what we need to know in order to translate the sentence is the world in which Flaubert’s narrator lives, our best evidence about that world remains the text in front of us. That text is like the blueprint of the cylinder. It speaks to us as craftsmen collaborating with the author-draftsman. As collaborating craftsmen we know more than the sketch explicitly states. Flaubert gives us his narrator’s world not as an object circumscribed by an exhaustive list of predicates but as an act of creative imagination in which we are instructed how to participate. Hence our knowledge of that world does not end with what we are told. Take another sentence, another derisively deflating descriptive passage in which the narrator and his author remain as devilishly hidden as God in his universe: Et, après un port d’armes où le cliquetis des capucines, se déroulant, sonna comme un chaudron de cuivre qui dégringole les escaliers, tous les fusils retombèrent.8
Again, let’s see what the translators have done: 1. And after presenting arms, during which the clang of the band, letting loose, rang out like a brass kettle rolling downstairs, all the guns were lowered.
(PDM) 2. And after a present-arms during which the rattle of the metal bands as they slid down the stocks and barrels sounded like a copper cauldron rolling down a flight of stairs, all the rifles were lowered. (FS) 3. After a “Present arms,” in which the smacking of the bands came rattling out like a copper kettle rolling downstairs, all the rifles were lowered again. (AR) 4. And, after a shoulder-arms during which the clank of musket-slings traveling down the line sounded like a copper kettle rolling downstairs, all the firearms were grounded. (JC)
The first translator (Paul de Man) unfortunately mistakes the meaning of capucine in this sentence. Leave aside the solecism: “presenting” dangles because the guns did not present arms, the soldiers did; or, more precisely, they shouldered arms, as only Joan Charles seems to recognize. De Man may have gone to the dictionary for capucine; it is not, in the sense used here, a word that even a native French speaker is likely to know. If so, he would have found and dismissed the common definitions, “Capuchin nun” and “nasturtium.” Perhaps he went to a somewhat better dictionary that gave, as the Harrap’s Standard does, the definition “band.” Since a band might account for the sound that Flaubert describes as un cliquetis, the translator has leapt at a quick fix: and so we get a “clang of the band” ringing out. But he has misconstrued the meaning of “band” in Harrap’s definition. If we turn to the Grand Dictionnaire Larousse du XIXe Siècle, as Steegmuller very likely did, we discover that a capucine was not a music-making band but a band of metal used to fasten the barrel of a harquebus to its wooden stock or the barrel of an artillery piece to its base. Now, the harquebus was a sixteenth-century weapon, and it is unlikely that a National Guardsman in Yonville in the 1830s would have carried one, much less a field piece. What is more, Steegmuller is so enthralled with his discovery that he fails to notice that such bands would have been of little use in fastening barrel to stock if they were free to slide down the barrel. Alan Russell comes a little closer:
he has the “bands” smacking. The problem is that he, too, hasn’t formed a concrete enough image of the maneuver in question. Only Joan Charles pictures what is really happening: first, that the “bands” that once held harquebus-barrels to stocks have evolved into the part of a modern infantry rifle that not only holds barrel to stock but also provides an attachment point for the rifleman’s sling. She can envision the guardsmen lifting their rifles to their shoulders at the command, “Portez armes!” (not to be confused, as everyone else has done, with “Présentez armes!”) and furthermore lifting their rifles in sequence, with a slight delay between the first man in line and the second, the second and the third, and so on down the line—a standard routine in close-order drill. This is because she senses the pressure of the words “se déroulant,” which the others have simply ignored. I’m not sure about her use of the word “musket,” though; it seems out of date by about half a century—better than Steegmuller’s error of three centuries but still an error. The lesson here is, first, that obscure words need to be researched, but carefully, patiently; and second, that the excitement of discovery should not be allowed to foreclose the need to weigh every word in the sentence simply because the most obscure one has been deciphered. Some experience of the world helps here: when I served in the army, I was warned that the cliquetis des capucines could reveal your whereabouts and get you killed and was therefore advised to wrap the sling attachment in tape to silence that potentially fatal sound. Lessons like that one doesn’t easily forget. So we have learned an important lesson: in translating prose that avails itself of what I have been calling the analytic mode of representation, the essential thing is that the translator picture the scene as the writer does. For the writer in this mode is, as I said earlier, like the draftsman whose notations are intended not to give an exhaustive list of an object’s properties but to permit a reasonably competent craftsman to reproduce it. Having found Paul de Man wanting as translator—one kind of reader—I can now HOW TO DO THINGS WITH STYLE
compliment his perspicacity as a theorist— another kind of reader. For I think that his discussion of the “Intentional Structure of the Romantic Image”9 has interesting points of contact with my analysis of Flaubert’s style. De Man writes: “In everyday use words are exchanged and put to a variety of tasks, but they are not supposed to originate anew. … They are used as established signs to confirm that something is recognized as being the same as before; and re-cognition excludes pure origination. But in poetic language words are not used as signs, not even as names, but in order to name.” This is just what Flaubert’s words do: they name an absence, a void that Flaubert’s narrator fills with his spleen. A name, to do the work that it sometimes does in philosophical argumentation, requires a certain compactness and at the very least sufficient perspicuity to obviate interpretive chatter and the exfoliating quibbles such chatter occasions: one wants names to have the finality of tautology, of repetition without difference, as in “A rose is a rose is a rose.” But that is the philosopher’s problem. The problem for the translator is different. De Man’s use of “name” is metaphorical. With the word name he gestures toward something, call it a metaphysical or, at any rate, a metatextual meaning, to which the text points, and to which with the aid of the text we can also point. It is value added, a meaning cloaked in a text whose material concreteness does the duty that names sometimes do; for when pushed to the wall we can point to passages of the text as I have done in this essay, not perhaps with the confidence with which we point to “Napoleon III” or “the moons of Jupiter,” but with some assurance nevertheless that what we mean by its meaning may, if instanced with sufficient precision, be understood. For the translator, however, the problem is that what the style names, however conscious he may be of it, hovers out of reach as he creeps his way sentence by sentence through the text. Learning to translate—and you must teach yourself, there is no school—is therefore like learning to sculpt: you have to chisel sentences one at a time, but the figure you’re 154 |
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driving at emerges, if you’re lucky, only at the end. Miss too many strokes and all your effort is wasted; you might have achieved a fair likeness—fair but not good enough to fall in love with, as Pygmalion did. It isn’t easy to be both myopic scribe and far-sighted philosophe. But then writing is difficult in the same way, the only difference being that the writer, as I said at the outset, is free to roam like a savage wherever he will, while the translator languishes in the oubliette of the text, condemned for another man’s crimes.
NOTES 1. Proust, Contre Sainte-Beuve, p. 244. 2. Letter of Jan. 16, 1852 to Louise Colet. 3. Philosophical Investigations, 610. 4. The Magician’s Doubts: Nabokov and the Risks of Fiction (Princeton, 1994), p. 23: “A literary signature would then be the visible shorthand for a literary person; a style would be a more complex but still legible trace of that person’s interaction with the world. Writers usually have more signature than style, I think. Signature is their habit and their practice, their mark; style is something more secretive, more thoroughly dispersed among the words, a reflection of luck or grace, or of a moment when signature overcomes or forgets itself.” 5. Reputable and on the whole good. In casting the first stone, I don’t mean to imply that I’m without sin: every sin that I shall rehearse here is one with which I am on intimate terms. As I said earlier, vice is the inescapable condition of translation. 6. Wittgenstein, Remarks on the Philosophy of Psychology, Vol. 1, Number 298. 7. Philosophical Investigations, 607. 8. I select this sentence chiefly for the pleasure of taking a slap at Paul de Man, whose disparagement of translators’ errors was mitigated only by his superb confidence that as subtheoretical practitioners they did not merit the subtler contempt he reserved for potential rivals: one duels only with one’s peers. As you may know, de Man, before he became de Man, took on for Norton, no doubt as un travail alimentaire, the chore of preparing a
critical edition of Madame Bovary. For whatever reason, very likely the availability of a royalty-free copyright, de Man chose to use an existing English translation by Eleanor Marx Aveling, Karl Marx’s daughter, as the basis of his own “revised translation.” At the time there were already much better English translations available, as de Man surely knew, but business is business and the Norton Critical Editions are the Norton Critical Editions. Nevertheless, Professor de Man does not let Ms. Marx off lightly. “Several misleading inaccuracies and mistranslations have been corrected. … Entire pages
had, at times, to be rewritten. … One feels about this patching and mending job the way a surgeon must feel about a difficult operation: the patient is by no means as good as new, but he should at least feel some relief.” An odd simile, to be sure. If the patient is the Marx Aveling text, it was “as good as new” before de Man laid hands on it, and texts, marvelous as they are, are unlikely to feel relief at being tampered with. 9. In The Rhetoric of Romanticism.
HOW TO DO THINGS WITH STYLE
Niu Lang and Zhi Nu Or, the Cowherd and the Weaver Girl COLLATED AND TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE BY JUDITH HUANG FOR HZP
On the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar calendar, what has been called the “Chinese Valentine’s Day,” the Chinese celebrate the love story of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu. The story has two beginnings: one in heaven and one on earth. In some versions of the story, Niu Lang was a star in heaven called Qian Niu, while Zhi Nu was another star—both stars transgress the boundary of heaven by falling in love with the other, and Niu Lang is thrown to earth to become a poor cowherd, while Zhi Nu is condemned to weave the cloth of the sky in sorrow.. In other versions, their love first first occurs on earth: Once upon a time, there was a handsome young cowherd called Niu Lang. He lived with his elder brother and sister-in-law, who was jealous of him and treated him badly. Every day, he had to do hard work from morning to night, get up before daybreak, carry water, light fires, cook and wash; and every day he had to herd his brother’s water buffalos. He never had enough to eat, and his cruel sister-in-law assigned him many impossible tasks. One day, the sister-in-law called Niu Lang to her, and said, “Today, when you go out with the water buffalos, be sure to bring all ten of them home, or never come back again.” Since his brother only had nine water buffalos, Niu Lang realized he was being thrown out into the world. Steeped in sorrow, Niu Lang wandered the forests and mountains of the countryside with only his water buffalos for company, looking in vain for a tenth water buffalo so he could return to the only home he had known. In despair, he collapsed under a tree, sick with hunger and homesickness. Just as he was about to give 156 |
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up hope, an old man with a flowing white beard came up to him, and asked him gently, “Young man, what are your sorrows?” “My brother gave me nine water buffalos and has told me not to come back until I have ten,” Niu Lang replied. The old man smiled, and said, “Don’t be sad, for I know that over the seventh mountain and in the seventh forest there is an old water buffalo who is wounded and sick, and if you feed him, tend him and cure him, he will come back with you.” So Niu Lang dried his tears, and set out to find the old water buffalo. He traveled far and wide through the thick forests and through the high mountains, and finally found the old water buffalo. The old water buffalo was wounded and very ill, and Niu Lang tended him, feeding him for three days with the freshest grass he could find. On the third day, the water buffalo opened his mouth and said, “I was once the water buffalo star, but because I offended the king of heaven, I was thrown down from heaven to earth. My wound can only be healed by drinking the dewdrops of a hundred flowers every day for the time it takes the moon to become round again.” Niu Lang was filled with compassion for the water buffalo and did not mind hard work, so he collected the dew from a hundred flowers every day for a month and slept by the water buffalo’s side every night for a month. At last, the water buffalo was nursed back to health, and Niu Lang joyfully herded all ten water buffalos home. When Niu Lang reached home, his sister-in-law had no choice but to take him in again. Yet, she was even more cruel to him, making him do hard work from morn-
ing to night, get up before daybreak, carry water, light fires, cook and wash and herd the water buffalos every day. However, Niu Lang was happy, for he had the company of the old water buffalo, who told him marvellous stories. One day, the old water buffalo said, “Niu Lang, you are a good and virtuous young man, and I want to see you happy. The king of heaven has seven daughters, and the youngest is the most talented and beautiful. Go to the stream today and take her fairy robe of brightest red, and she will be your wife.” Niu Lang followed the water buffalo’s instructions and went down to the stream. There he saw seven beautiful fairies bathing, and he saw the youngest fairy and how beautiful she was, and he hid her fairy robe of brightest red. When the fairies saw Niu Lang and the old buffalo, they put on their fairy robes and flew away, but the youngest daughter of the king of heaven could not fly away. Niu Lang approached her and asked her kindly, “Here is your fairy robe—I will give it to you, but first, you must promise to be my wife.” The youngest daughter, Zhi Nu, whose name means Weaver Girl, for she wove the cloth of the sky, looked at the handsome young cowherd and agreed. As time went on, Niu Lang and Zhi Nu fell in deeper and deeper love with each other. He tended the buffalos and ploughed the fields, while she wove beautiful, luxurious cloths in their small thatched cottage. In some versions of the story, Zhi Nu taught the villagers the secret art of weaving silk. In the fullness of time, Zhi Nu gave birth to a son and a daughter, and the small family lived a blissful life together. However, the king of heaven realized that the colours of the sky were not as beautiful as before, and he asked his mother, Wang Mu Niang Niang, to look for his missing daughter. Wang Mu Niang Niang saw the happy family and saw how Zhi Nu had taught the villagers the secret art of weaving, and she flew into a rage. She was determined to gather the forces of heaven to snatch Zhi Nu away from Niu Lang and to force her to weave the cloth of the sky again. Just then, the old water buffalo said to
the cowherd, “Niu Lang, you have treated me well in this life. Now, I must die, and you must take my skin and make a pair of shoes out of them, for with my skin you will be able to fly.” Niu Lang was overcome with sorrow but agreed to take the water buffalo’s skin. With that, the water buffalo gave up his spirit, and the whole family mourned the loss of their kind friend. Zhi Nu knew that the water buffalo had foreseen something terrible and waited in fear for Wang Mu Niang Niang to find her. Wang Mu Niang Niang descended from the heavens in her rage, accompanied by the forces of heaven, and snatched Zhi Nu from her cottage home into the sky to the sounds of her weeping husband and children. Niu Lang cut the water buffalo’s skin into a pair of shoes, and, balancing two pails on a rod on his shoulders, he put one child in each pail and ran up into the clouds after her. Niu Lang ran as fast as the wind, and the shoes bore him up into the heavens. He got closer and closer to Zhi Nu until they were merely a hand’s breadth apart, and Zhi Nu reached out her hand to them. At that moment, Wang Mu Niang Niang threw down her diadem, and it changed into a vast river of stars, forever separating the two lovers. Niu Lang looked across the river at Zhi Nu; Zhi Nu looked across the river at Niu Lang—the river is what we call the Star River, or the Milky Way. If you look into the sky at night, you will see Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, two stars on opposite sides of the river, and if you look closely, you will see two smaller stars by Niu Lang’s star: they are their son and daughter. Moved by the true love of Niu Lang and Zhi Nu, the magpies of the world decided to form a bridge across the Star River once a year on the seventh day of the seventh month so that the two lovers and their children may meet again. Thus it is very difficult to find a magpie on the seventh day of the seventh month, for they have all flown into the heavens so Niu Lang and Zhi Nu may be borne on their wings. We on earth know that if it rains on the seventh night of the seventh month, the rain is the tears of the happy lovers. NIU LANG AND ZHI NU
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Note: The above text is an analytical essay about “Niu Lang and Zhi Nu” and was written by the translator of the story.
NIU LANG AND ZHI NU
CONTRIBUTORS’ NOTES ANNA BARNET
is terrible at taglines.
was born in 1969. To date he has published six books of poetry and in 2006 was awarded the D Natsagdorj Prize. “A Very Big, White Elephant” was included in his book Sarni Shülgüüd (“Moon Poems”), published in Ulaanbaatar in 2006. TS BAVUUDORJ
was recently named Vice President of China’s prestigious Central Academy of Fine Arts, and he is the recipient of a MacArthur Foundation award and the Fukuoka Asian Culture Prize. Xu was born in China and has lived and worked in New York since 1990. His large-scale printmaking and installation works have been exhibited widely. XU BING
recently concluded her studies at Harvard College, where she took courses in sculpture, art history, and literary theory. Her engagement with art has led her to a commitment to architecture; in the fall of 2008 she plans to matriculate in a Master’s of Architecture program to pursue the practice of conceptual architecture. EMMA BLOOMFIELD
Abbott Lawrence Lowell Professor of Romance Languages and Visual and Environmental Studies at Harvard, has translated writings and works by Marc Augé, Michel de Certeau, Gilles Deleuze, Jacques Derrida, Jean Louis Schefer and others. Forthcoming is a translation and a new edition of Augé’s Casablanca. teaches in the Departments of Literature and Comparative Literature and Romance Languages and Literatures at Harvard University. Recent publications include Ecopolitics: The Environment in Poststructuralist Thought (1997), Littérature, politique et communisme: Lire “Les Lettres françaises: 1942-1972” (2002) and The War Against the Beavers: Learning to be Wild in the North Woods (2003). She is currently finishing a project entitled Ecospaces. VERENA ANDERMATT CONLEY
Professor EDWIN CRANSTON has taught Japanese literature at Harvard for the past 42 years, with an interest in poetry and its translation. His main project is A Waka Anthology (Stanford University Press), of which the first two volumes, The Gem-Glistening Cup (1993) and Grasses of Remembrance (2006), have been published. He is currently at work on Volume Three. Volume Two has recently been awarded the Lois Roth Prize by the MLA. MARTA FIGLEROWICZ PAUL FRANZ
wins staring matches with her primrose.
doesn’t live here anymore.
is a translator and writer who has translated more than 100 books from the French. He is a Chevalier de l’Ordre des Arts et des Lettres and a recipient of the Medaille de Vermeil of the Académie Française. An affiliate of the Center for European ARTHUR GOLDHAMMER
Studies at Harvard, he chairs the seminar for visiting scholars there and serves on the editorial board of French Politics, Culture, and Society. He also maintains the blog “French Politics” (http://artgoldhammer.blogspot.com). JUDITH HUANG
is a junior from Singapore who owns more hats than necessary.
Born in Calgary, Alberta in 1953, NANCY HUSTON has been living in Paris since 1973. She writes both fiction and non-fiction, in both French and English, translating herself in both directions. Fault Lines, her eleventh novel, will be published by Grove Atlantic in October 2008. WILLIAM JEFFREY ’s OLGA KAMENSKY
Latin can beat-up MICHAEL STYNES’ Latin, but it hasn’t come to that yet.
would say, “My personality shifts depending on the language I’m in.”
work exists in a wide variety of media including photography, sculpture, video and sound. She is represented by Sara Meltzer gallery in New York and Catharine Clark gallery in San Francisco. Her work has been exhibited domestically and internationally at places such as PS1/MoMA, the Serpentine Gallery, New Langton Arts, Artists Space, SculptureCenter, the Palais de Tokyo, and the San Diego Museum of Contemporary Art. Katchadourian’s art may be viewed online at www.ninakatchadourian. com. LAURA KOLBE
is embarrassed, featherless, and beating.
is the Director of Studies in Literature and a Senior Lecturer on Literature and Comparative Literature at Harvard University. She also serves as the Director of the Freshman Seminar Program and the Master of Mather House. She has worked extensively on translations of the 1001 Nights and teaches an undergraduate seminar on translation theory and practice. Dr. Naddaff was the faculty adviser to the Harvard Advocate’s translation issue. SANDRA NADDAFF
BA ’83, PhD ’92 is Associate Professor of English and Director of the American and New England Studies Program at Boston University. She is author of From Emerson to King: Democracy, Race, and the Politics of Protest (Oxford University Press, 1997), and Race, American Literature and Transnational Modernisms (Cambridge University Press, 2008). She was a member of The Harvard Advocate as an undergraduate. ANITA PATTERSON
’67 repairs watches in East Sussex, England, where he serves as a District Councilor and Justice of the Peace. He was a member of The Harvard Advocate as an undergraduate. CHARLES PECK
and LARISSA VOLOKHONSKY have published translations of a number of works by Dostoevsky, Gogol, Chekhov, and Tolstoy. Their collection of Tolstoy’s shorter works, including “The Diary of a Madman,” will be published in 2008. RICHARD PEVEAR
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thanks Danya and Sasha.
is an anglophone, a francophone, and a lusophone. He would like to acquire other -phones. GREGORY SCRUGGS
taught at Harvard from 1970 to 1983, first as a graduate student in Comparative Literature, then as a junior faculty member in the Departments of French and Comparative Literature and first Head Tutor of the Literature Concentration. He has been at New York University ever since. His books include translations of works by Hölderlin, Büchner, Benjamin, Scholem, Scève, Nerval, Leiris and Michaux, as well as various editions of Ezra Pound. RICHARD SIEBURTH
knows that there’s no use in trying to deal with the dying, but he cannot explain that in lines. MARYA SPENCE
a senior at Harvard, owns a “nobbly.”
Professor of English at Temple University, LAWRENCE VENUTI is a translation theorist and historian as well as a translator from Italian, French, and Catalan. He is the author of The Translator’s Invisibility (2nd ed., 2008) and The Scandals of Translation (1998) and the editor of The Translation Studies Reader (2nd ed.,2004). Recent translations include Antonia Pozzi’s Breath: Poems and Letters (2002), the anthology Italy: A Traveler’s Literary Companion (2003), and Massimo Carlotto’s crime novel The Goodbye Kiss (2006). SIMON WICKHAM-SMITH
was born in 1968 and is a full-time translator of contemporary Mongolian literature. is a twenty-year-old video and installation artist from Yunnan Province, China. Her recent work has been shown at the Shanghai Museum of Modern Art, Art Basel Miami, and Marella Gallery. Zhang’s art may be viewed online at www.zhangyueindustries.com. ZHANG YUE