Translation as a 2-Step: Doing Nothing

Wabowden mapping....

A bit further in Blanchot and his step outside time, I arrive at sentences that sound like the translator at work. At work, yes, inside the “I” or subjectivity of a writer who has already written in another language, a translator enters “in vain” that space where writing speaks to its interlocutor: “J'essaierai en vain de me le représenter, celui que je n'étais pas et qui, sans le vouloir, commençait d'écrire, écrivant (et alors le sachant) de telle manière que par là le pur produit de ne rien faire s'introduisait dans le monde et dans son monde.” (my emphasis, for the translator, to many, brings “nothing” into the world—the consequence of the common belief that the translated work is written by the original writer.

(Thus writers continue to write beyond the grave. And translators, alive, are thus always already dead to what they write. Zombie me!)

Here is Lycette Nelson in the published English : "I will try in vain to represent him to myself, he who I was not and who, without wanting to, began to write, writing (and knowing it then), in such a way that the pure product of doing nothing was introduced into the world and into his world."

Or as my mind wants to read it: “I’ll struggle to represent to myself this person who I was not and, and who, without wanting to, started writing, writing (and thus knew it then) in such a way that, through writing, the pure product of doing nothing introduced itself into the world, and into ‘my’ world.”

That interior world. Elefant. 

A sentence or two later, Blanchot evokes further the two-step of the “I” and the subject writing, or the writing subject and the subject writing: “La certitude qu'en écrivant il mettait précisément entre parenthèses cette certitude, y compris la certitude de lui-même comme sujet d'écrire, le conduisit lentement, cependant aussitôt, dans un espace vide dont le vide (le zéro barré, héraldique) n'empêchait nullement les tours et les détours d'un cheminement très long.”

In my English, departing from Nelson and reading Blanchot’s “writing” as “translating”, and–why not–admitting myself as gendered:  “The certainty that, in the act of translating, she put certainty between parentheses, including the certainty of herself as writing subject, drove her slowly, but directly, into a void whose emptiness (the zero barred, heraldic) did not foreshorten the turns and detours of a very long working process.”

Translating, writing, always suspend that "self"-certainty. It's an emptiness not really empty but already full of language's buzz and admixtures, just empty of the "I" that is the "I" so many wish to bar. It's not there, that one. No need to bar or disdain it, but to work in and through it: like a stitch.