translation

Kac, Cayley, and Kargl on translation

on translation || Michael Kargl
on translation || Michael Kargl

If you are reading this text in a browser window, you are reading it in translation. Right click right here. View Page Source. This is the original text, composed in and of the internet’s native languages. Note the head/body page division, a convention carried over from print. The < head > is primarily preoccupied with the text's contextual issues. It tells the browser what its title is, offers the search engines clues as to its contents, provides a required reading list of other texts it refers to, and outlines instructions on what to do in the unfortunate event of IE. The < body > is more concerned with appearances. It tells the browser what the contents of the text are and how best to present them. Why HyperText Markup Language continues to textually embody the Cartesian mind-body split I do not know.

Walter Benjamin objected to the binary nature of traditional translation methods, advocating for transparency between an original and its translation. In his influential 1923 essay The Task of the Translator, he wrote: “It [the translation] does not cover the original, does not black its light, but allows the pure language, as though reinforced by its own medium, to shine upon the original all the more fully.” The creators of following three works take the task of translation beyond the binary by creating transparencies between the original language and its original medium through intermediation and the application of what I am calling triple language systems, in reference to the translator of all translators, the Rosetta Stone.

'Authentic texts'

Translation is trade without commerce

Adrián Esparza, "One and the Same"
Adrián Esparza, "One and the Same"

Displacement. Chosen and unchosen migrations. Free and unfree trades. How displacement is also a kind of placement, an unfamiliar vantage point from which to renegotiate terms, terrains, parameters, possibilities. Translation is willing and willful displacement. In moving a word, phrase, line, sentence, stanza, paragraph, idea, framework from the space of one language to the space of another, something utterly transformed is created, and something that is still very deeply (though not essentially) the same as what it was to begin with (which was not immobile in the first place). Alchemy

In a conversation, Sesshu Foster recently referred to the space of translation as “no-man’s land.” I’d agree and also add the idea of “every person’s land,” in the sense that no one and everyone might belong there, or perhaps that the very concept of “belonging” no longer pertains—the question is one of moving through space, rather than claiming it. Of using the terms imposed upon us (as Adrián Esparza uses the typical Mexican blanket sold to tourists, for example) to subvert the intentions of their imposition. To unknit the weave that would bind us.

WCW's voice near the end: Green moss

typescript of William Carlos Williams translation of a poem by Li Po

One of my favorite bits of William Carlos Williams' writing in the last years. It is dated February 26, 1958. On that day WCW sent a letter of Chinese-American poet David Rafael Wang. Wang was something of a Poundian (a correspondent of Pound's - and a bit of a Poundian nut). WCW sent Wang a quick translation he'd just then done of a poem by Li Po, and added a note: "You can't translate it and give its brevity and overtones that are given in the original language." True enough, but what WCW does I find pretty compelling. Above I've reproduced the look of the letter's page. I've always felt that the voice heard (not heard--pictured) is simultaneously both that of WCW and of Pound and that this letter to Wang was a message to Pound. I haven't looked in the Wang-Pound papers to see if indeed Wang passed along some word of this to Pound but I'm betting he did.

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