From Éric Suchère’s Mystérieuse (after Hergé), translated by Sandra Doller

TRANSLATOR'S NOTE. Éric Suchère’s Mystérieuse is an image-to-word “translation” of collaged pages from Hergé’s TinTin comic books, rendered in painstakingly conceptual detail: each frame of each comic, and even each stroke of each drawing inside each frame, are accounted for linguistically, from TinTin’s unforgettable drops of sweat to Snowy’s emoticon-esque reactions, to the broad stroke backgrounds of the comic squares. Following a trajectory of Hergé admirers from Andy Warhol and Roy Lichtenstein to Steven Spielberg, Suchère’s text is an important contribution to the pop-art potential of representational language, contemporary conceptual writing, and word-image investigations. This short selection is a brief extract from the longer 100+page project, which I am currently translating in toto.

 21.

 Night, white stars on black, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: the figures walk on the line—in observation of a beautiful night, an unseasonable warmth.

 Night, white stars on black, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: the figures walk on the line, a star shoots in a bold white curve, bursts, the figure points, the animal turns around, drops of sweat splash—a bit of hope, a piece of advice.

 Night, white stars on black, one star brighter, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: the figures walk on the line, simple strokes, street lamp in relief, the animal figure hits the pole head-on, a crash and a light spiral, ripples emanate around colored stars—comments on a constellation.

Large vertical night, white stars on black, one star brighter, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: the figure, stopped on the line, points at the brighter star while the animal figure wanders, staggering, series of scrolls and twists around colored stars, drops of sweat splash—a summons to look, a question about the shining.

Large vertical night, white stars on black, one star brighter, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: the figure, stopped on the line, looks at the brilliant shining while the animal figure stops, not understanding, small stars all around, drops of sweat splash—amazement, and a question about the celestial phenomenon’s intensity.

Large vertical night, white stars on black, one star brighter, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: figures walk on the line—increasing amazement, relativizing.

Street, sidewalks in straight lines, house, street lamp, long wall, house and leafless tree in relief behind, night in front, white stars on black: two figures, jackets in hand, walk in opposite directions into the space defined by the lines, drops of sweat splash—an announcement of action, looking for an answer.

Simple background, telephone wire in twists: the figure telephones, drops of sweat splash—questions about celestial phenomenon and the weather.

Simple background, telephone wire in twists: the figure telephones, drops of sweat splash—question unanswered.

22.

Simple background, telephone wire in twists: the figure rests the handset, sponges his brow, drops of sweat splash—interrogation and amazement grow with the heat.

Wall and windowsill, some heavy curtains, the others light and clear, windowpanes, black and white strokes, reflections, white stars on black, night: the figure opens the window, drops of sweat splash, merging with the stars—questioning.

Ledge, curtains, windowpanes out onto the night, white stars on black, one star brighter: the figure looks at it, drops of sweat splash into the window he holds open—amazement and observation.

Night, white stars on black, one star brighter, town in blue relief, facades, roofs, chimneys: the figures walk on the line, fast, drops of sweat splash—determination.

Night, white stars on black, one star brighter, leafless trees in black relief, rotunda with white rectangle, window: no action—contemplation.

Door stoop, step: the animal figure sits and waits, drops of sweat splash, the figure rings, ripples emanate from a rectangle with a black circle—exhaustion and a determined gesture.

Night, white stars on black, one star brighter: the figure looks at it—observation.

Door in vertical lines: a porter figure half-opens it suspiciously, aggressively responds—asking and refusal.

Door in vertical and horizontal lines: it closes, slamming, ripples emanate from the double rectangle, the figures look without responding, drops of sweat splash, vibrant strokes gush from the animal’s tail, bursting into black stars all around—much surprise about such harshness.

Simple background: the figures stand on the line—nervousness.

Simple background: the figure rings, ripples emanate from the rectangle with the black circle—waiting for an answer.

Door ajar in vertical lines: the porter figure aggressively responds, the other figure, meanwhile, hides—trickery.

Door in vertical and horizontal lines: the porter figure stands on the sidewalk line, the figure leads him away by the arm—a trick.

Door in vertical and horizontal lines: the porter figure stands taken aback, drops of sweat splash, the other two are now in the house, a moving spiral, the door closes again, slamming, ripples emanate from the double rectangle—the trick is pulled.

23.

Empty corridor, black windows, beamed ceiling: strokes reflected on the ground from the light, the figures approach the staircase slowly—ominous calm and silence.

Stairs with a banister shaped like a planet: strokes reflected on the lit ground, the figures stop, drops of sweat splash, someone else all dressed in black leans on a wavy wooden cane—surprise and a warning.

Stairs with a banister: strokes reflected on the ground from the light, the figure asks the sketch a question, drops of sweat splash, the other one walks past, a paper in his pocket, his right arm raised, moving spirals—a request and a prediction.

Corridor: the figure all dressed in black walks out while the others watch him go, drops of sweat splash—questions.

Stair rail, at the top a door with do-not-enter sign: the figure climbs slowly, drops of sweat splash, the animal figure watches him climb—waiting for something to happen, a careful advance.

Blank wall and closed door in rectangle shapes: the figure knocks on the door three times on the door, ripples emanate—anxiety and waiting for an answer.

 Blank wall and closed door in rectangle shapes: the figure knocks on the door six times, drops of sweat splash, ripples emanate—anxiety and waiting for an answer.

 Observatory dome, vertical and horizontal curves, circular footbridge, underneath a movable staircase leading to a large telescope, wheels, cranks, large gyration systems, eyepieces and telescope lenses: all opening onto the sky of white stars on black, which the figure looks at mid-step, little strokes in splinters—amazement.

 24.

 Observatory dome, vertical and horizontal curves, movable staircase leading to a large telescope, wheels, cranks, large gyration systems, eyepieces and telescope lenses and in front of it all, a table and chair: two figures seated at the table, scholars leaning over their calculations in perplexity, drops of sweat splash, a figure comes towards them—total concentration.

 Simple background, table and chair: the figure approaches one of the scholars who gestures for silence, drops of sweat splash—an imperative gesture.

 Simple background, table and chairs,: one of the scholars sits and calculates, symbols all around, drops of sweat splash, the other scholar tries to make excuses or explain—an invitation to go have a look.

 Movable staircase, leading to a large telescope: the figure climbs up—nearer the explanation.

Simple background, telescope, lens: the figure looks in and lets out a frightful cry, drops of sweat splash—an abomination.

 Simple background: two concentric circles in which the silhouette of a hairy spider shines in the middle of the stars—an improbable vision.

 Simple background, chair: the figure comes back all excited, drops of sweat splash, describes what he has just seen to the scholar, who sits at the table: falling on deaf ears.

 Simple background, chair: the figure tries to explain all excited, tries to explain to the scholar, who sits at the table, what he has just seen, drops of sweat splash: falling on deaf ears.

 Simple background, chair: the figure explains all excited what he has just seen to the scholar who sits at the table, who understands none of it, drops of sweat splash—lack of understanding.

 Simple background: drops of sweat splash, the figure explains, all excited, what he has just seen to the scholar, who gets up—lack of understanding.

 Simple background: the figure invites the scholar, who gets up to go have a look, to follow him to see, drops of sweat splash—a verification.

 Simple background, telescope, lens: the scholar figure looks deeply in, drops of sweat splash, he agrees and then comments to the one standing by—hardly astonished.

 Simple background, telescope, lens: the scholar figure looks deeply in, drops of sweat splash, describes precisely what he is seeing—truly scientific.

 Simple background, telescope, lens: the scholar figure looks deeply in, drops of sweat splash, the other thinks, he puts forward a hypothesis—a guess.

[Addendum: Sandra Doller's translation of Mystérieuse by Éric Suchère has won the 2012 Anomalous Press Translation Prize, selected by Christian Hawkey, and will be published as a chapbook in 2013. Information at: http://www.anomalouspress.org/chapbooks.php]