Evening Will Come: A Monthly Journal of Poetics (Affect Feature—Issue 55, July 2015)

Erín Moure
Translation and Its Affective Challenges:
Bodies, Spacings and Locales from the Okanagan to the Deza, from Canada to Galicia

Writing a book, Insecession, to accompany my translation of Galician poet Chus Pato’s biography-memoir-poetics, or “biopoetics” as I call it, Secession, was a mad act. An echo book, Insecession was written two years after the translation, not to valorize the translator but to open the space between us as writers, between Chus and me, and to create a book-object that could be published by a literary council subsidized press in Canada, to bring Chus’s work into Canadian spaces. As such, my book is one word longer than Chus’s, to make it Canadian.

Its writing has enabled me, further, to speak about one of the crevasses of translation: the move from one culture to another. It is a change of space-time continuum that’s jarring to me, in many ways, for I know the average reader of Chus in English can’t possibly be aware of aspects of Galician culture with which I am familiar (and I am far from familiar with everything!).

How does a reader in Culture1 (America) receive a book from Culture2 (Galicia), translated by someone living in Culture3 (Canada) who has been steeped for fifteen years, yes, in Culture2, but still cannot avoid viewing it from Culture3? It’s a change of body, a body-altering machine, and anything that involves the body, thought, difference, involves affect.

Chus Pato writes, in her Secession, of writing, dismemory, the voice. If the poem is an animal voice, something voiced through the animal in us, affect might be located in the immaterial tissue composed of its reception and of its sounding. It can’t be otherwise, if we are (and we each are) embodied in these variegated but similar pouches of human cells.

If, as I say in Insecession, “translation is a way of bringing—into the secession or cut—another voice, her human voice, its markings in words from a culture across a far border, so as to mark these words into new ears and onto new bodies, under new skin, over those mountains,” then translation must find ways of laying bare the risks in altering the space/time continuum of a text: how can I write Chus’s text from the Galician of a rainy mountainous and very green landscape of mists into the English in Canada of the dry land of the Okanagan, where green means the presence not of rain but of irrigation?

Yet I can and do stand in the desert lands of the Ukwnaqín or Okanagan peoples and say in English: the poetry of Chus Pato.

As such the immaterial membrane of both sound and of hearing, its trous and buracos, the holes in its fabric, are laid bare and visible in the text not of each of us (our blind spots protect us) but in the third text that emerges when my text is lain beside Pato’s: this new text is immaterial but affect-ridden: it emerges where there is a permission that allows a traverse of human energy, regardless of the risk, and permits the violation, as Chus Pato writes, of “the state of permanent emergency that oppresses us.”

Translation’s affective challenge (and joy) then is this traversal, this seeding of a place beyond the text, where two texts shimmer and something more or else coalesces. Where we can inhabit an immaterial space that emerges from reading, a space too fleeting to be captured by the surveillance of Capital and the push to consumption, immune to the enforced cohesion of socially bounded singularites, and instead alive with a subjectivization-in-process that runs like a current through the readerly body.

This third text is the one that interests me now.