For this issue, Translation at Drunken Boat decided to indulge our love for experimentation and playing around the margins of what translation is and does. To that end, we sought out alternative, exploratory projects along the lines of translators' notes as translations; adaptations that move beyond genre- or time-shifting and into a kind of commentary on/conversation with the original; critical essays that play with translation to reflect on literature, poetics, and translation; and new translation manifestos.
We were lucky to receive a wide and sparkling range of responses to that call, eight of which we've selected to share with our readers.
These include genre and sometimes sense-defying "limit" experiments such as Joshua Daniel Edwin's "Doppelgänger Doppelganger," which reframes translations of Dagmara Kraus’ already inter-lingual poems in a multi-lingual meditation on the experience of working between English and German. In a less lyrical vein, Lily Robert-Foley's "Keepin' It Queer" takes up selections from queer theory and translation theory, productively deforming both by swapping the terms so that Jorge Luis Borges comments on queerness and Eve Sedgwick on translation.
A bit more traditionally, in his excerpt from Hungary-Hollywood Express, translator Dimitri Nasrallah makes himself "complicit" with author Eric Plamondon in a hybrid project that seeks to interrogate the domestic foreignness of Quebecois literature and culture. Another innovative Canadian translator, Lida Nosrati, gives us Fereshteh Molavi's "Yellow Grey" in an English that privileges the work's defiance of genre, attending to "the rhythm, syncopation, and simple yet intricate and layered structure."
Translator Tony Brinkley provided the ground—or sea—upon which DB20's flotilla of experimental drunken boats set sail, and he returns in this issue with his own radical Baudelaire. With his sparkling "Voyage," he aims not to translate Baudelaire's apparent meaning, but to take the source text as a Deleuzian point of departure—"to translate in ways that participate in [Baudelaire's] experiment." Ben Adam invokes a very different touchstone of translation theory, pushing Eugene Nida’s theory of dynamic equivalence "to its logical conclusions" in "an attempt to produce the most Americanized version of Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi possible."
Finally, Jeff Diteman's "The Contact Lens" and Derek Mong's "Melancholia (after Jacob Balde)" most emphatically center the translator as creator. Mong takes inspiration from projects such as Robert Lowell's "Imitations" and Spicer's "After Lorca," "pilfering" lines and images from lesser-known, latter-day Latin poets as the points of departure for his own creations. Diteman likewise understands his project as going well beyond the usual bounds of translation, explaining that he has herein "rubb[ed] the two works together to see what sort of sound they would make, what sort of fire they might start." His careful abuse of Oulipean Raymond Queneau's previously untranslated “Il y a dans le fond quelque chose qui beugle” against Georg Büchner's “Lenz” does indeed throw off sparks.
With so much translation understandably aimed toward that noble—if unattainable—goal of fidelity, this issue of Translation@Drunken Boat seeks to highlight irreverent, generative, pilfering experiments such as these that remind us of the creative might of translation as subversion, creation, conversation and, as Anne Carson might say, decreation. This is not a time to skip the translators' notes.