There is a sense in which every reading of a text by an individual is a translation, because ink and paper, or pixellated light and darkness, are “read” through a body, an individual apparatus impossible to replicate in terms of its cells and experiences and the ways that experience has affected its neural maps and capacities. This body may not even know its own filters and how they act when it “reads”. Because of this, we can study literature, which is the act of sharing readings and benefitting from other filters: in reading groups, in university classrooms and cafeterias and libraries, and on-line with brilliant teachers, in cafés, in living rooms, on ferries, at bus stops.
One question I am sometimes asked is: given this, is it possible to translate without having a second language? It’s a sly question, for people know very well that Elisa Sampedrín, my nemesis-polynym who has no interior, has done this.
A roundtable with Charles Bernstein & Leevi Lehto with Frederik Hertzberg, Teemu Ikonen, Karri Kokko, Hasso Krull, Leevi Lehto, Olli Sinivaara, and Miia Toivio at the Kiasma Art Museum, Helsinki, August 24, 2004
"But the basic conception that we realized last night was that there’s too much proliferation of the many languages in the world, and we need to understand what the root or the ur-language is that is behind all languages, the pre-Babelian state, and we are proposing that Finno-Saxon really is the mother of all languages, the deep language that underwrites all other human languages … because if we can establish that, we really could create much more stability in international semiotic exchange."
Where they’ve come from. We’re not even up to 23rd Street yet. Sings a little song in middle. ‘I hate driving.’ — Frank O’Hara, ‘The Sentimental Units,’ Collected Poems, 467.
In 1964, American painter and film maker Alfred Leslie and poet Frank O’Hara completed the movie The Last Clean Shirt. It was first shown at the San Francisco Museum of Modern Art in 1964 and later that year at Lincoln Center in New York, causing an uproar among the audience. The movie shows two characters, a black man and a white woman, driving around Manhattan in a convertible car. The Last Clean Shirt is a true collaboration between a film maker and a poet since Frank O’Hara wrote the subtitles to the dialogue or rather the monologue: the woman is indeed the only character who speaks and she furthermore expresses herself in Finnish gibberish, which demanded that subtitles be added.
Olivier Brossard’s article (with stills from the movie) is 9,000 words or about twenty printed pages long. You can read it all here, in Jacket 23.