Monday, February 04, 2008

Dolores Dorantes and Translation

I'm glad to see that Ron is continuing his forays into the foreign with a review of Dolores Dorantes.

For a very fine essay on this very fine book, see Mark Tursi's review in Raintaxi.

Some of Ron's commentator reveals what I think is a pretty important aspect of the threat/anxiety about translation: How can we possible be asked to master another canon from a totally different culture? Of course you can't, but you can't master the US canon either. In fact there is no US canon (you can't have the US 20th century without Marinetti, Breton etc).

This is an important part of engaging with foreign literature - such illusions are lost. You cannot "master" literature.

Another wrinkle on this: Dolores Dorantes herself has translated and published translations of Paul Celan in her broadsheet journal.

Reading literature in translation is important not just because one reads texts one would not otherwise be able to read (though this is certainly true), but also because the act of engaging with foreign language changes one's perspective on texts. That is why Raymond Williams so perceptively noted that the avant-garde comes out of a bunch of artists and writers who were displaced or emigrants/exiles.

Speaking of crosscultural exchanges, I'm working on a project for Raintaxi that will involve Jen Hofer, Dolores and Aase Berg.


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