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quick review: Anne Carson’s Nay Rather

December 21, 2017

three notes, or four, for a quick review:

Three years or so ago, or a bit more perhaps, I learned that Anne Carson’s talk (with Alexander Nehamas in 2005) on “The Question of Translation,” that had been published with some substantial revision as her essay “Variations on the Right to Remain Silent” (in A Public Space, Issue 7 / 2008), had been republished as her exercise book or her notebook or her cahier, Nay Rather (as her talk-turned-essay-newly-revised with her revised seven retranslations of the poet Ibykos’s poem she called, “A Fragment of Ibykos”). What’s added is a colophon and, on it, a warning after the text copyright mark before author Anne Carson’s name (although she’s a translator as well) and after the Images copyright mark before artist Lanfranco Quadrio’s name (and he may be a translator too), is the following, which must be reproduced as the following quotation: “No part of this publication may be reproduced in any form whatsoever without the prior permission of the author or the publishers.” And, without the prior permission of the author or the publishers – or of the artist whose new works inspired by the author’s work are included, I may have just reproduced in some form some part of that publication. (Nay rather, am I not a translator also?)

And I would have purchased this little cahier right away. Except the price, in the United States, where I lived, was too high. Now that sellers are stocking it on this western side of the Atlantic, the prices are far below what I finally agreed to pay. Publishers and their authors and their artists must make a living, mustn’t they? (Nay rather, translators and their translators must also earn a penny or two too, right?)

On page 12 of the newer version (and we may reproduce a bit of a form of it again here) Carson writes:  “Francis Bacon does not invoke the metaphor of translation when he describes what he wants to do to your nerves by means of paint, but he does at times literally arrive at silence, as when he says to his interviewer, ‘You see this is the point at which one absolutely cannot talk about painting. It’s in the process’.2” (I won’t be silent that there’s a version of what Carson says and now writes available to us for free out on the internet here. And there, nay rather, that goes this way: “When I say Francis Bacon wants to translate sensation to your nerves by means of paint I’m using the verb translate metaphorically. In our usual usage, to translate is an operation of language, not paint. Silence also is something proper to language and Bacon does at times evoke it literally, as in interviews when he says (more than once), ‘You see this is the point at which one absolutely cannot talk about painting. It’s in the process.’ (4)”

What is of note is the variations of “metaphor,” “of translation.” Nay rather, “translate metaphorically.” There’s Greek rooted English, there’s Latin based English. How different are these?

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