Academic journal article Style

Re-Reading the Desert in Hypertranslation

Academic journal article Style

Re-Reading the Desert in Hypertranslation

Article excerpt

Terre, poussiere, un paysage sans fenetre, sans abri. Terre observee du silence, beaute anterieure, le desert est indescriptible. (149)/Earth, dust, a landscape without windows, without shelter. Observed land of silence, preexistent beauty, the desert is indescribable.

--Nicole Brossard

What drove me to this obsession? The beauty of language, the character of Melanie, the images flying about in my head as I was reading? The all-encompassing nature of Brossard's project and its confluence with my own cultural practice of revealing the process of production? My fear of the future?

--Adriene Jenik

Quebecoise writer Nicole Brossard's novel, Le desert mauve (1984), is a dialogue between two versions of a story. In the imaginative space between the words of the writer and the desire of the reader, the process of translation enacts a shifting narrative in which the relationship between reality and fiction, the reader and the writer, is always questioned. Brossard, one of Quebec's most important writers, and a crucial feminist writer and theorist, was interested in "translation as an act of passage [..., as] the transformation of a reality" (Interview 1996). Brossard developed her novel as an "interactive discourse" (Parker, "Mauve Horizon" 109) interrupting her own writing process in order to read and imagine dialogues between the characters she had already created. Within the novel, this strategy is found in the conflation and cleavage of Laure Angstelle's novel, Le desert mauve, with its translation, Mauve, l'horizon, by Maude Laures. In the space between the two sites of writing, the translator imagine s the possibilities of the text she has read, creating a fluid dimension of desire, a "space in which to swim with the words" (Brossard, Interview 1996).

Brossard's provocative writing has seduced many readers and inspired some brilliant translations. One of these is Adriene Jenik' s CD-ROM translation, Mauve Desert. From her first reading of the English translation of Brossard's novel, Jenik realized that she had found a book that would transform her own life. [1] As she explained in a letter to Brossard, exploring the possibility of her project at an early stage, Jenik was fascinated with not only the transformation from written words to image-sounds, or from French to English, but also the movement from North to South, from night to day, from your generation to mine. [2] The translation from print to electronic text recaptures that process's "root sense of movement through language [...] of language that moves" (Hayles 804).

Brossard, in a discussion with Jenik included in the CD-ROM translation, says that "before the idea of the novel had definitely shaped itself," she knew that it would be in "a hot place, where the weather, la temperature, would be almost unbearable; people would be sweating; the light would be difficult." That site became the American desert because of that desert's beauty and danger, its timelessness and history; and because in the desert there are the "traces of the decadence of civilization" in the litter of old bottles and the abandoned, rusting cars. Brossard imagined the desert through the images and words of books about the desert, appropriating the flowers and cacti that excited her through naming, through language. Her translator, Maude Laures, too, finds the desert as a dimension of her reading. But Jenik locates the site of translation in the desert where she lives, and writes the desert from her own experience as well as from her desire: "I live out in the desert, and essentially the desert has b een seen as this kind of trashcan, a waste land for all the worst of civilization" (Interview).

In her CD-ROM translation, Jenik creates a space, "un paysage, une enigme dans laquelle je m'enfoncais a chaque lecture" (143), "a landscape, an enigma entered with each reading"(133). In the interactive reading, originally conceived as a film, the process of production is consciously on display, as Jenik "shows the seams" of her work by including scenes of the video shoot and her correspondence with Brossard about the project within her translation. …

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