Bref, I read a lot of poetry translated from German and a lot of nonfiction translated from French. This is not very shocking. Much of my non-book reading happened at Asymptote: this reading (plus editing) is far more diverse and includes work by poets like Vicente Huidobro (Chile), Jan Dammu (Iraq), and writers who push at the limits of what translation means (the Special Feature in our January issue). One of my favorite pieces of this latter sort is Bronwyn Haslam’s anagrammatic translations of Nicole Brossard’s poetry (“Soft Links” becomes “Silk Fonts,” for example):
It’s nouns that gulp fire and life, one can’t tell if they’re Latin, French, Urdu, Veda, Cree, Mandarin, Aleut, Creole, Basque, English, secrete a number, deed, quorum, animal or accelerate old anxieties eddying before us in doubled somber contours full of luster and immense legends.
I also got to collaborate with my friend Michael Joseph Walsh to put together a different sort of experimental translation portfolio for Denver Quarterly 50.4 I have a few extra copies and would be happy to mail them to anyone interested (or you can subscribe). Joshua Ware’s visual translations of Celan appear as an online supplement to this portfolio here.
Photographs by Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault
For some years now I’ve been obsessed with a film by Yvon Marciano called Le cri de la soie (1996), which fictionalizes the life of pioneer psychiatrist Gaëtan Gatian de Clérambault. This year I read two texts relevant to this film, de Clérambault’s case studies of women who developed an unusual sexual “passion” for silk and other textiles: Passion érotique des étoffes chez la femme (1908) and its suite (1910). Read More
It amazes me constantly that adults say things like “My dream is to . . .” or “My dream came true” or “I know if I work hard enough, my dream will come true.” On American television, of which I am a passionate viewer, such things are expressed all the time. Which is odd to me because I work hard not to make my dreams come true.
I’ve been keeping a dream diary for about six months now; here are some excerpts, dates and names redacted:
I’m on a terrace observing a sort of kingfisher that can stand on its head. We (elsewhere in the house) are deciding how a string of murders took place. The kingfisher is an immediate suspect and in the distance a wolf is the other suspect. But perhaps we are wrong, because later I am in bed in a deep, unremitting sleep in a room that looks uncannily like the room I live in now and uncannily not. Though asleep, I am strongly aware that a man (whom [sic?] in my sleep I have deduced is the actual murderer and who perhaps is aware that I am aware) is trying to get inside, through the door and windows. Outside, of which I am also profoundly aware—though asleep—it is incredibly bright. Somehow I am able to thwart the murderer’s attempts to enter, but I am still in bed and asleep and able to sense mounting danger. I am afraid for my death and still I cannot get out of bed. This is how much I want to sleep.
. . . I work for a business (am a partner in?) that washes women’s hair and promises improvement. (No hair is cut.)
A blonde client with curly hair. A bathtub full to the brim. Its temperature is hard to maintain.
The blonde woman asks if we do psychological testing in order to determine why she has bad hair.
I am confused. I say the bath will take care of everything.
Here is a list of translated books I am currently reading or have recently read or re-read or plan to read or have recently bought or plan to buy or have been thinking about for whatever reason. They are all excellent.
Samuel Beckett. The Unnameable. Tr. SB. 1953/1958.
Samuel Beckett. The Unnameable. 1953. Translated from the French by the author. Grove Press, 1958.
Beckett, the great self-translator. I recently finished this, the third of the trilogy whose other two books are Molloy (1951) and Malone Dies (1951). The Unnameable is not surprisingly the most difficult of them all, but glorious. A thing to note: I have the Grove Press editions for all three of these, but for The Unnameable I was able to find one with the (above pictured) Roy Kuhlman cover. I will also say that my copy is less beat-up looking than the one above and at this moment there is a smug look on my face.
Inger Christensen. alphabet. Tr. Susanna Nied. 1981/2001.
Inger Christensen. alphabet. 1981. Translated from the Danish by Susanna Nied. New Directions, 2001.
Wow—is there any other way to describe this book? Read More