I can’t seem to stop writing about the Cahier Series, published by Sylph Editions in collaboration with the Center for Writers & Translators at The American University of Paris. I have previously written about five earlier numbers in this series and now I’m blown away by the latest two, both written by eminent translators.
Clarice: The Visitor (Cahiers Series 23) is a series of two poem sequences by Idra Novey, the translator of a number of Clarice Lispector’s novels.The poems are accompanied by photographs from two different series by Erica Baum, an artist who usually works with texts and physical books. In one series, Baum folds book pages over into concrete poems. In the other series, Baum has photographed books opened up in such a way that partial illustrations from multiple pages appear along with the ends of the intervening pages, making the whole thing look like an image on a half-closed shower curtain.
What does the visitation of an author’s voice do to your relationship with your own mind – mind being the place where thoughts come and go but mind also being a verb, meaning ‘to be troubled by’ as well as ‘to obey’?…One way I have found to scurry around such questions is to draft a poem or two on the matter.
Angry in Piraeus (Cahiers Series 24) is an essay by Maureen Freely, a novelist who has translated five books by Orhan Pamuk (including Snow). Freely writes about growing up in Turkey (her family moved there from Princetone when she was eight) and the challenges of translating from Turkish. She begins the process of translating by trying “to feel my way to the centre of the maze,” getting to the place where she is “translating from the heart, not from the head.”
If I can begin to translate from that place, I can, if I am lucky, begin to understand the point from which the author created something out of nothing. I can, if I am patient, become attuned to the cadences, not just of the words but of the narrative.
The illustrator chosen for Angry in Piraeus is Rie Iwatake, who created a lovely series of collages using found envelopes, stamps, old book illustrations, hand-written documents, and probably a few other elements.
The illustrations by Rie Iwatake get better the more you study the free space that surrounds them. They show glimpses of other lives about which we will never know anything more: those to whom the letters were addressed, who was in Mainz and why.