THE CHRONOTOPE || Yvette Siegert on poetry + translation

Barthes

Posted in foreign, Foreign Literature by Yvette Siegert on Monday, 24 May 2010

This week, the weight of following blogs, the news–it all became too much to process or carry, to the extent that I could barely manage to hear word from the people I love. Overload means that I stopped thinking in paragraphs. The sight of manuscripts dismayed me. I didn’t check my mail. I stopped speaking, except when it was absolutely necessary, and then the words I did manage to say sounded translated and stammered, as if I’d stored them in the freezer for safekeeping, then left the country and forgot language, and had now come back bankrupt of any expression and had decided to defrost a handy arsenal of phrases to get me through the day. I’ve spoken idiomatic American for 23 years, yet there are still moments when I feel like a kindergartner, at once fascinated by the world but impossibly bombarded by English. This week I hit a limit. My hands ached, my back was beleaguered, like that image by Lorca of Antoñito the Camborio moving through a sluggish day with the “afternoon slung from his shoulder” until he gets thrown in jail. Keeping up with opinion about the world felt oppressively antithetical to the act of living in it. I took lunch by myself in Times Square several times this week and watched the crowds and sat blankly in the sun. If you’d asked me to be analytical about the weather, I would have stared at you in panic. As it is, I decided that I didn’t care about “Lost” or about media walls or the annoying things that clever people post on Twitter. I have a television in my bedroom but no cable service, and my friend upstairs has cable, but no television, but somehow this arrangement works for me right now, as hapless as it may be. Why this incredible need to be in the know about ephemera? The problem with consuming this information is that it tends to make me lose all sense of priority. If I could read just one thing this week, if I could sit for hours with one delicious text and not have my mind flit from thoughts about magazines and the iPad, to the Colombian elections, to my students’ final projects and the many graduations I’ve missed this month, to real estate, to the difficulties of bel canto and the squeamishness I feel singing art songs in Italian (something about scaling “svegliatemi Ninetta, perchè non dorma più” makes me cringe the first couple of times)–if I could put all this aside and read any text this week, I’d curl up in the rocking chair and go back to Barthes, to The Grain of the Voice, which, incidentally, is the book my cat loves most:

The adjective is inevitable: this music is this, this execution is that. No doubt the moment we turn an art into a subject (for an article, for a conversation) there is nothing left but to give it predicates.

One Response

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  1. nadia said, on Friday, 28 May 2010 at 01:10

    really who ever thinks in paragraphs these days. That’s so 1980’s.


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