Letters to and from the Editors


From: Gilmore, Sara A
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 1:23 AM
To: Schorsch, Michael A
Subject:

Dear Mike,

Did I tell you about my recent trip to the doctor? I guess there’s nothing actually wrong with my ears—they’re fine. That’s what the doctor said anyway and he was very happy for me. But that means I still don’t have an explanation why language is breaking apart as I knew it. I’ve especially noticed it whenever I think about translation, whenever I translate. There’s this noise. At first I was a little worried, and repulsed, but sometimes when I turn my ears into it, it’s almost like a signal that comes and goes. Sometimes it rings like a bell.

Even now I’m looking at our winter issue and the translations we’re putting in this time and the noise keeps ringing. Maybe it’s like the noise of a city, or more like the noise of a suburb, a parasite city built up around the city center which is silent because it’s been bombed. This is what I hear when I make choices as a translator, when I read translation.

They say translators are supposed to be faithful. But how can you be faithful to a noise?

Your friend,
Sara


From: Schorsch, Michael A
Sent: Thursday, November 19, 2009 9:12 AM
To: Gilmore, Sara A
Subject: RE:

Dear Sara,

It's interesting that you mention fidelity, because as I frequently tell you, I have a recurring dream in which I'm walking on a radius that leads from the center to the circumference and the center is fidelity and the circumference is infidelity and the radius is translation as we know it and there is this music playing, it is sort of like Bob Dylan, except Bob Dylan is writing in German and Bob Dylan is a German who has never lived in the United States before, he is a German living in the mid-19th Century, there was this uprising in 1848 and Bob Dylan is still there and he is speaking German. Meanwhile what happened next in the dream (at least as I was dreaming it the other night) was that I tried to explain the walk I was taking from the fidelity-center to the infidelity-circumference to a man sitting next to me who spoke neither English nor Swedish (a translator of the Bhagavad Gita wearing black glasses kept appearing to fill our coffee cups with pear champagne and we asked her to pour it in our ears instead and the result was a delicate fizzing that softened the wax in our ears which *just made it harder and harder to hear each other* and the fluid that overflowed ran down our necks and made them sticky, I think both of our shirts got ruined, my shirt was inexpensive though, this was in fact the entire problem of communication on this particular evening), this German poetry kept throbbing in my neck and what was most surprising about the German poetry is that *it was nothing like Bob Dylan whatsoever*, there were no similarities, and yet I was hearing this German poetry in English. And this voice was ringing, yes Sara, yes there was a ringing that seemed like a rumbling, and it kept on saying there’s no native speaker there’s no native speaker there’s no native speaker. So that makes three of us.

But the point was that freedom has nothing to do with the fidelity-center and the infidelity-circumference.

OK, I have to eat a vitamin bar.

Your friend,

Mike
~
Id isti vituperant factum atque in eo disputant
contaminari non decere fabulas.
Faciuntne intellegendo ut nil intellegant?
 - Terence


From: Gilmore, Sara A
Sent: Friday, November 27, 2009 9:55 PM
To: Schorsch, Michael A
Subject: RE:

Dear Mike,

Hhm. I have the feeling we are talking about the same things. The walk you take from the fidelity-center to the infidelity-circumference sounds like a walk I’ve taken too. So, I’m inclined to think we understand each other perfectly. And then just as I write this, I wonder if actually what’s going on is that we're misunderstanding. How do you know in the moment whether you’re misunderstanding? You say the champagne softened your earwax and made it harder to hear. But how would you know when the champagne hardened the wax and you could hear more and more clearly, but all you heard was your own breathing? I think that happens to me sometimes.

It’s warmer than it was last year but it’s still getting cold in Iowa City. Lately the people I talk to here are speaking in riddles. Once in awhile I get one or two of the riddles right and then I think maybe it isn’t quite as bad as I thought—the misunderstanding I mean.

Did you read those poems about the unicorns? You should pass them along to the friends you met at the dinner party you wrote about. They sound nice. 

Your friend,
Sara


From: Schorsch, Michael A
Sent: Sunday, November 29, 2009 11:31 AM
To: Gilmore, Sara A
Subject: RE:

Dear Sara,

Perhaps we do misunderstand each other, but we have no time to figure out what dinner party you were talking about. We have no time to parse out misunderstandings of any kind. But what dinner party were you talking about? We have this issue of eXchanges to edit and it is very important to stay on track but this issue of the dinner party is just going to have to be resolved. Perhaps you were talking about the dream? The dinner I was having in the dream with the man who couldn’t speak Swedish or English and the translator of the Gita? But the thing is Sara that this was a dream and so I can’t return to the dinner party to give these people the unicorn poems, and I thought you of all people would understand that none of this is real, it’s all fake. Fake fake fake fake fake.

Recently though when I was trying to resolve an issue that did not involve fakeness I went to Scandinavia and it struck me that Scandinavian governments try to get Scandinavians to be healthy all the time, to have hard, strong bodies that go outside with great frequency, to be like Robert Frost and the rest of New England and all these Americans who write about the woods and the ocean and the ships. And the goal is to write about how they realized the woods are like life, and they only ever realized this because they took their hard bodies and put them outside to get even harder and more chiseled and smooth, and then they sat beside the ocean and wrote in chiseled, smooth language.

I bring this up because we forgot to ask Johannes how often his body goes outside. Or maybe hard bodies going outside is what is lost in translation? Yes, that’s it, translation increases the chances that you are inside a building, that you are inside the building but you are outside the body. That you are outside the body but attached to the body: you are the exoskeleton. And, without being in the center, you are attached to the center. To the central thought, the central spine, the central civilization of the civilization rampant: the city.

What I am saying is that when you translate you are captured by an uncertainty, and by a toxicity and an exoticity, that translation greatly increases the chances that you are inside not just any building but a building in the exocity.

Your friend,
Mike
~
Id isti vituperant factum atque in eo disputant
contaminari non decere fabulas.
Faciuntne intellegendo ut nil intellegant?
 - Terence

 

 

Sara Gilmore and Mike Schorsch are the editors of eXchanges.