Translation's homeopathic gesture
Each text tells us how it wishes to be translated, demands its “proper” translation. Points the translator to its own pulse and propulsions. And “I”—unha cousa sentida e sensíbel, a felt and feeling thing, already socially constructed and hard-wired, yet, a nervous being, with nervature—I have already sensed the text; I receive the text into myself.
I extend my hand to mark a letter, some letters. One language enters and another emerges. This möbius strip operation—for text remains text, letters remain letters—passes by way of a body. This body may be, at times, a machine (as in legal translation, often done by machine so as to stabilize the terminology before being corrected by a human being) or it may be human cells. It can’t be cells of trout. The difference between machine and body is that the body does unpredictable things, makes leaps… Though it chooses (or is blind to, but this body, as much as is possible, chooses) where to situate itself in relation to the socius of the book (as it perceives it) and the socius of the receiving language, this body can also absorb things that have never before been absorbed.
Few things are lacking to this body at the moment when it adopts the position of a translating body. Human bodies are always translating things, images, light, darkness, the fungibles of this world which, once they have entered the body, are no longer fungible. They are contents, observed and regarded. By the very functioning of the cells.
It is this light (excelsior) and this circulatory interruption and corporeal penetrability that, together, make translation possible. And condition it as well. The body responds to the text. Each time, the text also demands a comportment from the body.
The body responds, but cannot ever forget or avoid its cellular infarction, movement or life below conscious choice. Its response is different to different texts, and to the same text at different intervals. The text always demands something of the body seated in front of it; it urges something from that body.
As translator, I respond to the urge of the text, its urgency. This involves my mind, which, like any mind, is acculturated, constructed by the culture in which it lives. Tripwire. In the words of Giorgio Agamben, the process is one of subjectivization and of desubjectivization at the same time. It is a process that cannot be fully controlled by society, however, because it passes through a human body.
The homeopathic gesture that propels translation comes from the interior heat of a set of cells. Outside of any theory of translation, these cells function. They renew the fibres of their DNA. Proteins. In the moment of translation, there is no theory possible. Only this relation of light and cell which has a homeopathic influence on the language that results.
All this was written, invented in the Galician language. You have just read it in translation.
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