Translating afternoon, a story by Michael Joyce, or How to Inhabit a Spectral Body

If we are to follow Paul de Man’s reading of Walter Benjamin’s famous essay “The Task of the Translator” , the translating process, far from being an attempt at totalization, further fragments the already fragmented pieces of a greater vessel, "die reine Sprache", or pure language, which remains inaccessible, and stands for a source of fragmentation itself. The work exists only through the multiple versions it comprises. As claimed by Walter Benjamin in « The Task of the Translator », a work always demands a translation which is both an alteration and a guarantee of its perpetuation : "(…) it can be demonstrated that no translation would be possible if in its ultimate essence it strove for likeness to the original. For in its afterlife -- which could not be called that if it were not a transformation and a renewal of something living -- the original undergoes a change."
Quite similarly, the hyperlinking process on which electronic hypertext relies defies totalization as it keeps fraying a textual fabric that is bursting at the seams and begging for an endless recomposition which points to the seriality inherent in the concept of translation. Each reading is akin to a versioning of a text that remains ungraspable as a whole.The cognitive overhead any attempt at holding all the threads in one hand would most certainly cause confusion for the translator/reader.
The inaccessibility of the work as a whole etches out a ghostly body of text, a blurry halo that haunts the margins of each lexia notwithstanding the underlying layers of code. I would like to contend that the translating process may be construed as a form of archiving as it involves a necessary selection which is also a destruction of “the original” text paradoxically meant to ensure its survival as the translated fragments migrate into a new spectral body of text spliced with updated strings of code enabling its performance, or becoming-text. Reading/translating afternoon, a story is akin to being caught within an infinite feedback loop which exacerbates the iterability of any textual form in its very performance. Each attempt at translation can be interpreted as a terminating condition which interrupts the potentially infinite loop on which afternoon’s performance is based and thereby offers transient islands of stability in a sea of proliferating and monstrously hybridized possibilities, each time begging anew for a redrawing of the limits of the wor(l)d.

Conference_year: 
2013