“Multiples”: to “politely frazzle” the “whole category of the original”
Thirlwell has selected 12 stories whose originals (which are not printed) are variously written in Danish, Spanish, Dutch, Japanese, German, Arabic, Russian, Serbo-Croat, Italian, Hungarian, English and Italian again. Ten stories are first translated into English, the other two into German and Spanish. The first translation is translated, and then the subsequent translation is translated again. The translators only see the preceding version of the story. The longest chains contain six translations, though every other version is in English. Thirlwell has corralled an illustrious international group of 60 novelist-translators into taking part and we end up with an intriguing literary version of Chinese whispers.
Lucian Robinson, for the Guardian, reviews “Multiples, a new book edited by the novelist and critic Adam Thirlwell, [that] seeks to undermine the idea of the original in literary translation.”
UPDATE – here is Thirlwell on the conception of this project, hinting at why it now is becoming a book (and is even published as an ebook). First, what motivated him -
In fact, I’m stealing this idea from David Bellos, a Princeton professor and, more importantly, translator of Georges Perec and Ismail Kadare. Around the time I was first putting this project together, the NYT asked me to review his new book on translation: Is That A Fish In Your Ear? and one of his arguments is that we have to stop thinking of translation as substitution
Second, the format (and hint about the later book) -
BLVR: Finally, you guys designed the issue so the far edges of the pages aren’t protected by firmer stock. Do you worry that the pages will get damaged? Or do you not care about damage?
AT: I do worry slightly about this. On the other hand it’s a very beautiful object. And also, if this project’s proved anything, it’s that we really don’t need to be so precious about endless and irreparable damage.