Untranslatability is a big claim frequently made. There are those who insist that a word is untranslatable because they are not sufficiently familiar with the target language. Then there are those who are too familiar with the target language, the bilinguals, for whom—since they never learnt either language artificially—the two languages exist in...
Esoteric Translation: 5. The Ekphrastic Method
Ensure the source text is in a language that you do not understand. If you are translating from a print edition, start by describing, in the target language, the physical appearance of the book. Try not to “read” the text: avoid the temptation of interpreting any words that seem familiar. If the book has any apparatus begin by describing its relative proportions.
Esoteric Translation: 2. The Thaumaturgic Method
Ensure that the source text is in a language you do not understand. Acquire a novena to Saint Jerome. If one is not available, adapt one intended for another saint. Choose a place and a time of day which will be available to you for nine successive days or nights. Recite the novena on nine successive days or nights. After your ninth and final recital, wait for up to one month. If the source...
Esoteric Translation: 1. The Oneiromantic Method
Ensure that the source text is in a language you do not understand. Go to bed early. Under moderate light, start reading the source text. Be sure to follow every word of the text; do not read it as a series of letters but allow your mind to parse the text as it would with a language you understand. Persevere until your eyes begin to feel heavy and your brain feels as though it is rubbing...
Jean Paul: Schulmeisterlein Wutz
What wonders hide within your letters, what adventures within your words, mysterious Schoolmaster Wutz! Pompous and mocked you make your entrance: a rustic pedant with eyes on the greater world, re-imagining the wisdom of ages at the kitchen table. The volumes in your library bind fancied epics, elaborated rumours of ideas and histories—a matchstick model of the soul! Since that day when I was...
Esoteric Translation: 4. The Tasseographic Method
Ensure that the source text is in a language that you do not understand Place the source text on a suitable piece of furniture at one end of the room Obtain a manual of Tasseography, preferably illustrated Walk across the room to the other end. You should be far enough so that the letters are no longer distinct, but close enough to still see the shape of the words. Compare the “image&quot
Esoteric Translation: 3. The Pareidolic Method
Ensure that the source text is in a language you do not understand Place the source text on a suitable piece of furniture at one end of the room Walk across the room to the other end. You should be far enough so that the letters are no longer distinct, but close enough to still see the shape of the words. Without forcing any interpretations on yourself, take note of the first image that comes...
“Have you read all these books?”
Anyone in possession of more than a handful of books, who is in the habit of standing them up side by side on a shelf, must be prepared for one particular question, “Have you read all these books?” Every time we have a guest over, or a man comes in to fix the heating, a quick glance at the shelves is enough to provoke this question. Walter Benjamin cites Anatole France’s retort to the...
When paper is blackened by ink in a printing press, we have the seeming transmutation of form into essence. This observation wouldn’t stand much scrutiny, of course, but it holds true in the sense that when a book is printed, the material world is permanently altered: there is now a string of words that exists in the physical world. The words have gone through several stages of abstraction in...
The Public Virtue of Spam
It may surprise the casual visitor to the Pantography Twitter stream how many attractive women this combinatorics project attracts. The account page looks like the paddock at a Formula 1 race. Unlike those silent women promoting Hawaiian Tropic, these women have a back-story. One says she’s, “exhilarating and beneficial. Also repulsive, domestic and 428.” Another says her “person...