Literature from literature test

(translation as quotation)

Edward Balcerzan

Translated by David Malcolm


Either a struggle for the sovereignty of the study of literature, or interdisciplinary contacts. Jerzy Ziomek analyzes these two possibilities for the development of literary studies: they are, in fact, the eternal, fundamental energies of the life of the humanities, the sources of its never-ending methodological disputes. Both the former and the latter tendency can be dangerous. The danger is that the ostentatious autonomy of a given field of knowledge (not just the study of literature) turns into its isolation. However, differentiated and multi-directional interdisciplinary contacts often end with the obliteration of the borders between specializations; they threaten to bring chaos. And, further, the value of both tendencies is not something settled once and for all; it changes in the course of history, and has a situational dimension, a pragmatic one. How are things today? Today what is better for literary studies? In Ziomek’s view, the opportunity, indeed the obligation, for literary studies today, in relation to other areas of science and scholarship, is the interdisciplinary path. Young branches of scholarship, Ziomek argues, which deal with young arts (film, radio and television art), must think of autonomy, seeking their own separateness. With literary studies, it is the other way round. Literary studies clearly realizes that “what is most interesting in them, is, at the same time, not-sovereign.” J. Ziomek, Powinowactwa literatury…, pp. 8-9.

Can we repeat this verdict with reference to the study of translated literature? With reservations and with modifications of many arguments – yes. The parameters of choice are different here, the forms of compulsion different. The scholar of original literature has incomparably more latitude; the scholar of translation knows what, in the subject of their research, is not-sovereign, and it is difficult for them to abandon the relations that are imposed in advance, those of “translation-original,” and of “translation-the translator’s native literature.” In whatever direction the translator looks, be it toward the foreign-language writing from which the prototype of the translated work derives, or toward the verbal art in which the translation appears, they see original literature everywhere, and it is in relation to its norms that they define the norms that govern and steer translation. “Literature withers in a state of endogamous relations: its sense,” writes Ziomek, “is to enter exogamous relationships and thereby to possess numerous relatives out of necessity and much kin out of choice.” Ibidem, p. 9. The translator’s list of achievements is a phenomenon that is certainly connected with original literature “by virtue of kinship out of necessity.” However, while original creative writing does not know any limits in its “kinship out of choice,” creativity in translation (unoriginal?) is – in the mind of the scholar – enclosed within a very limited space. Let us note that for centuries translation studies has maintained an irreproachable fidelity toward categories and disciplines that are specifically those of literary studies, such as style and stylistics, poetry and poetics, genre and the theory of literary forms. It is often the case that the history of original literature has forgotten about these; has allied itself with ethnology and historical materialism; has gone off into sociological diagnoses and expert opinions inherited from depth psychology; and has appealed to experiences derived from a knowledge of painting or musicology, and so on, and so forth. But translation studies always asks the same thing – about the language of prose and verse, about metaphor and the image of the subject, about the most subtle functions of temporal and spatial constructions in the presented world of an individual text… If in reality the translator is customarily the betrayer of the author, the interpreter of a translation rarely permits themselves to betray what in literature is literary.

No: for translation studies to break with the basic issues of “literariness,” with poetics and theory of literature, does not seem to me a sensible way of achieving the opportunity of interdisciplinarity for translation research. Rather one must look for that opportunity where – within the cultural system – the roles of original creation and translation activity are differentiated. The most precisely known differentiation of roles and, simultaneously, of places within the cultural system is of an axiological nature. It appears in the history of the reception of translations – as those translations are confronted with original works – and sometimes it constitutes the general evaluation of a translation as a phenomenon among other literary phenomena. We have a tendency to identify axiological reception with criticism. However, although evaluation is the natural privilege of criticism, one cannot call every evaluative judgment a literary-critical one. In discussions of the art of translation (in distinction to reactions to original literature), views appear that so adamantly annihilate every effort of the translator that we have a right to speak of quasi-facts, ones that go beyond what a critical position is customarily entitled to. Blastingly negative or inquisitorial pronouncements – directed against the entirety of work in translation – are sited in an anti-critical space. Indeed, it is through anti-criticism that – it appears – the path to “kinship by choice” leads (and that is a motivated choice) on the part of translation studies and other offshoots of humanist knowledge.

Only some kinds of human artistic activity develop in an environment of anti-critical evaluation. Original literature is not one of these. Secondary arts belong among them, those that are in their genesis clearly dependent on other arts; alongside translation, for example, we could place acting or, at the start of the twentieth century, film. The primary arts do not know a partner like the anti-critic. Thus, on the one hand, the aggression of anti-criticism; on the other hand, the lack of anti-critical operations would offer a possibility of establishing a typology of the arts, a criterion for dividing them, and, as a consequence, a placement of translation studies among research activities that are not just part of the study of literature. If we are able to establish what literary activities are adjacent to the translator’s work, what the mechanisms are – close to the mechanisms of translation – that function within contiguous territories (plagued by anti-criticism), we will be able to describe more precisely the language of translation studies, and to monitor more accurately the interferences of styles and the flux of experiences from different fields of knowledge.

Criticism and Anti-Criticism

One must emphatically stress that even the most severe verdicts on individual, concrete works are still not anti-criticism. Exposing the failures and defeats of this or that translator – and what field of art can be free from those? – the stigmatizing of the sometimes-terrifying curiosities of translators’ excessive production (graphomania) – and in what cultural mechanisms do afflictions not manifest themselves? – these are part of the domain ofappropriate criticism. A criticism worthy of its name begins precisely where the heights and depths of artists are perceived, where we become enthusiastic over masterpieces and fall into despair over the vacuity of the tawdry. Anti-criticism does not distinguish good works from bad. It is not interested in the internal conflicts of the historical poetics of translation or in manifestations of personality expressing itself through the art of translation. Anti-criticism does not accord translation the right to exist within the artistic system. It declares that translation is an invalid art, in other words, a non-art.Its conviction embraces all translated texts, without exception. In consequence, the spokespersons for anti-critical ideas – making translation illegal in the light of artistic culture, demanding its internment beyond the borders of creativity – turn eo ipso against criticism of translations. In their eyes, it seems to constitute the same kind of failure of understanding, since it wastes energy on the artistic evaluation of texts that are quite devoid of artistic features.

Arthur Schopenhauer wrote that “a library of translations looks like a picture gallery of copies. Translations of the authors of antiquity are the most obvious surrogates, the way coffee made from chicory is a surrogate for real coffee.” A. Schopenhauer, “Equivalence and the Atomization of the Original,” trans. A. Lefevere, Translating Literature: The German Tradition (From Luther to Rosenzweig), A. Lefevere (ed.), Assen 1977, p. 98. The two metaphors for translation, “copy” (instead of the real picture) and “chicory” (instead of real coffee) most vividly reveal the worldview of anti-criticism. The author of the quoted aphorism seems to hesitate for a moment whether in “a collection of books consisting of translations” it would not be possible, however, to distinguish books that are somewhat better. He says: even translations of classical authors… But no, they too are surrogates, products of an ersatz art. The possibility of real criticism, distinguishing gradations of value, flickers indistinctly for a moment only to be immediately extinguished.

I wrote earlier that original literary creation does not have its anti-criticism. But, in fact, it did once, long ago. When the beaux arts were linked with handicrafts, poetry was placed outside the borders of art. “For in antiquity,” the Polish philosopher Władysław Tatarkiewicz writes, “and even more so in the Middle Ages, [poetry] was seen as a kind of philosophy or soothsaying, not as art. The poet was an oracle, not an artist.” W. Tatarkiewicz, Dzieje sześciu pojęć, Warsaw 1975, p. 25.

Against this background, a new, positive aspect of the anti-criticism of translations can be seen. Questioning the artistic nature of translation, anti-criticism highlights the artistic qualities of original literature. It protects literature against another incorporation of many extra-artistic phenomena within it, phenomena such as philosophy, ideology, and journalism. The attack on translation takes place here in the name of estheticism. That is why the translation is opposed to the original: the artistic inadequacy of the translation makes evident the artistic adequacy of the original writing. The translation is slain – out of love of literature. So, it is no wonder that anti-critical verdicts are also passed on writers who are fine translators. The Ukrainian poet and translator Maksym Rylsky once claimed that “All translations – even those that are ‘better than the original’ – are merely reflections, lifeless shadows of a living organism, which, like everything that is alive, is unrepeatable.” М. Рыльский, “Чехов в украинском переводе,” Мастерство перевода, Сб. 7, Moscow 1970, p. 421. Here we meet with a paradox. Anti-criticism negates translation, but translation as a fact of culture is necessary to it – namely, in order to be able to deploy an argument that is not straightforwardly in support of the artistic quality of original writing. Indeed, from these sources flows the conviction that the gauge of the value of an original work is its untranslatability into other languages, or at least the serious resistance, that a truly valuable text presents the translator.

Let us cite the Polish poet Julian Przyboś here.

In modern poetry, the word means many times more than what it would mean in prose. The works of many poets are a system of allusions, in which sense (not only conceptual meaning) is multiplied by the sum of meanings of all other words in the poem. Every expression is a polysemantic function of the whole. Remove one word – and the poem collapses.

How to translate such a poem? […] Poems like these cannot be translated; it is only possible to create them. Or to describe the foreign text approximately. That is to give, word for word, the literal meaning of the original. The sensitive listener will give song to the poetry in their imagination from out of the raw literalness. E. Balcerzan, Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu…, pp. 342-342.

We can see that in Przyboś’s terms, the criterion of untranslatability (“poems like these cannot be translated”) not only serves to divide literature in the most general way into artistic and non-artistic texts. It also facilitates internal divisions within the sphere of artistic literature (poetry-prose), divisions that are further oriented toward the history of written art (modern lyric poetry-traditional lyric poetry).

Let us return to Schopenhauer’s aphorism. A translation, any translation, claims the prophet of the philosophy of despair, is a substitute for authentic art. Translating, explain other heralds of anti-criticism, is a parasitical procedure, in which the public theft of writers’ biographies is perpetrated. The exceptionally important issue in the arguments of anti-criticism turns out to be the moral implication of the accusation, in disputes about culture the most painful and defamatory, captured in the famous phrasetraduttore-traditore (translator-traitor). Parasite, thief, traitor… is that enough? Today, when the number of translations in the world is increasing in an impressive fashion, and the contacts between the literatures of various peoples – implemented by the mediation of translation – are for the thinking reader an unquestionable attraction of participating in the life of verbal art, is it worth getting worked up about anti-criticism? Anti-criticism is unjust. But it is a sharp blade, laying values bare, and, thus, it may help us to see what it is hard to notice in the glow of apologia. Perhaps, as it were, against its will, it shows the real place of translation within the cultural system.

The Genesis and Poetics of Reception

In anti-criticism, an indivisibly genetic canon of thinking dominates. The point of departure for anti-criticism is the process of translation. The secondary genesis of the literary text, which – in the form of the translation – always constitutes an answer to the work that is ready-made and prior, ought, in the view of anti-criticism, compromise the translation text in the eyes of its readers. Just like all that is secondary, all that is unoriginal. Here genesis and genesis alone is to be the crown’s main evidence in the arraignment proceedings. But on the level of the poetics of reception, this accusation becomes problematic. It is, after all, impossible to maintain that translated literature – in general terms – gives a reader less than original literature. Original literature knows no stylistic form, nor any singularity in structure of narrative or construction of verse, which is not also known to translated literature. Attempts at the stylistic delimitation of the “translatedness” of a translation, allegedly distinguishing the translated text from the original one, are condemned to failure in advance. If we do not know the genesis – and, thus, facts that are external to the text – we will never be able to establish beyond any possible doubt whether a given text is a translation or an original. Equally, the functions of a translation within a cultural system – in the historical process, in the antagonisms between conservative and innovatory trends – must, by no means, be of less importance than the functions of an original work. Ziomek states that the elementary unit of literary-historical synthesis is the individual work. At the same time, however, he calls a work “one of the fragments of the historical process,” and to a literary-historical synthesis he opposes the possibility or the need for other “syntheses of a genotypical character (the history of genre, of verse),” J. Ziomek, Powinowactwa literatury…, pp. 249-250. syntheses that have recourse to other “fragments.” Indeed, from a genotypical perspective, the chances of a translation are not just equal to those of an original (innovations in genre, in style, in versification, and so on), but often they turn out to be even greater. The situation in which a work translated from a foreign language initiates new tendencies in the development of the translator’s native literature, is rightly called by Efim Etkind a “discovery of style.” Е. Г. Эткинд, Поэзия и перевод, Moscow–Leningrad 1963. In Poland, such discoveries of style have been – inter alia – Tadeusz Boy Żeleński’s translations of Rabelais, which inspired the prose of an artist as ostentatiously avant-garde and “idiosyncratically original” as Witkacy; M. Głowiński, “Witkacy jako pantagruelista,” Studia o Stanisławie Ignacym Witkiewiczu, M. Głowiński, J. Sławiński (eds.), Wrocław 1972, pp. 60-61. and, after the war, translations of Hemingway’s work, which influenced the debuts of the “’56 Generation” artistic group, particularly the style of Marek Hłasko. B. Sienkiewicz, “Deautomatyzacyjna funkcja przekładu w przemianiach prozy narracyjnej,” Sudio o narracji, J. Błoński et al. (eds.), Wrocław 1982, pp. 291-304. And, after all, in the very first beginnings of many a national literature (these are well-established facts), translations set out the first conceptions of the drama, the long poem, the epic tale, and the religious lyric.

It is here that we come across an even weaker link in the argumentation of anti-criticism. If substantially the consciousness of the secondary genesis of a translation meant the suspension (without possibility of appeal) of the reader’s esthetic experiences, if it ordered their “detention” on the charge of not being authentic, then by what miracle could that falsified, unwarranted artistic quality play a part in the creation of the original, full-blown artistic features of any national literature? Particularly because the experiences of translators are far from being only the material for original writing, since they also tend to set a pattern for it to imitate.

When we stress the problems of genesis, we turn attention toward the dexterity and the competence of the translator. We constantly suspect them of gaps in linguistic erudition, of inadequacies in a command of the idioms of the foreign language. An analysis of competence on this level becomes an analysis of correctness. The differences between the translation of utilitarian texts and the translation of literary works blur; from time to time, there is a temptation to formulate a general translation studies, See: H. Lebiedziński, Elementy przekladoznawsta ogólnego, Warsaw 1981. a discipline elucidating, via a coherent set of concepts, the process of translating school readers, business adverts in the press, international legal documents, living speech, and poems, novels, and dramas. It cannot be denied that the translator of literature is subject to all the rules of non-artistic translation. However, since that is so, the question of the value of literary translation in a system of literary culture is made dependent on the answer to the question as to the role of all the varieties of translation in non-artistic verbal communication. Here the mechanism of identification works with lightning speed and unnoticed.

Rainer Maria Rilke writes: “a few times, I even set myself the same theme in French and in German, which then, to my surprise, developed differently from each language: which would speak very strongly against the naturalness of translation.” R. M. Rilke, Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke, 1910-1926, trans. J. B. Greene & M.D. Herter Norton, New York 1945, p. 336.

This avowal by the poet, eschewing aggressive images and oratorical flights, more powerfully than many other anti-critical utterances, sets out anti-criticism’s main aims clearly. A naturalness of language, legitimate intellectual labor, and also the work of the artist in words – all this is something performed within the limits of one language: among all its riches and inadequacies. Translation is artificiality; it is a lie in relation to language, and, as a result, in relation to a person’s conduct in language. The thesis of the artificiality of translation is clearly meant here to discredit. It is true that artificiality does not constitute a denial of art. But artificiality in art is, as a rule, felt as an overcoming of what is natural in communication among people. This interpretation is pointed to both by commonplace formulas such as “art grows out of life” and by theories in semiotics which calls artistic languages “secondary modelling systems” that are built up on top of natural language. Ю. М. Лотман, Структура художественного текста, Moscow 1970, pp. 13-34. At the same time, as Rilke claims, literary translation is artificiality built up on artificiality, a procedure contaminated at the source, false in its genesis. Other arts are transformations of the common experiences of human beings, those that we call “natural,” thinking mainly that those are what is absolutely central to human life, and what is immortalized in artistic transfiguration. But, then, theater is the most organized theatricality of everyday life;

Ю. М. Лотман, “Театр и театральность в строе культуры начала XIX века,” Semiotyka i strukturaTekstu, M. R. Mayenowa (ed.), Wrocław 1972, pp. 337-356.

painting is a generalization that raises to the level of symbol the visual experiences of a culture linked to human existence among the signs of the iconosphere. And so on. But translation? What is it built upon? What does it bring to the upper floor of the edifice of human culture? If we develop Rilke’s line of thought, we are forced to say that translation, in contrast to original literature, to music, to painting, and to theater, is a superstructure built on the inadequacies of daily life; it is a result of a lack of knowledge of foreign languages on the part of persons who need a translator; it is a helpmeet for linguistic cripples. Other arts are based on strength; translation comes out of weakness. That is why in its genesis it is, as Rilke puts it, intensified artificiality.

Let’s start at the beginning.

A translation-studies theory of “translation in general” is, undeniably, possible, but only within certain limits. From a user’s perspective, the aims of particular acts of translation are divergent. They are different in language education, and different in the translation of utilitarian texts, and different again in the translation of literary works. In foreign language teaching, we translate foreign texts into our native language, and texts in our native language into a foreign one – finally in order to not translate and be completely absorbed by the foreign tongue. Here the aim is a bilingualism, in which – as Rilke has it – we are able to develop without interference any subject in one or the other language, in accordance with their peculiarities. In utilitarian translation, the main aim is to offer assistance to those who do not know a given language. In bilingual societies, there is no rational need to recode practical communications. Literary translation, however, is usually, first, an “integrated translation,” imposing on the reader communication with the prototype, maintaining in the recipient’s memory information about the prototype’s foreign lineage. See: S. Barańczak, „Artistic Translation as a ‘Self-Sufficient’ and an ‘Integrated’ Object of Interpretation,” in this volume. In this way, then, the experiences of bilingual education and of the art of literary translation pass each other by. Second, in bilingual societies, just as in the reading activities of bilingual persons, the translation of a literary work does not replace the original, but functions alongside the original (and more – alongside other variants of a series of translations). I write on the concept of the “series of translations” in “The Poetics of Artistic Translation,” in this volume. It is distinguished by some specific values which cannot be found in the concept of “translation in general,” nor can it be reduced to that concept.

From the perspective of the poetics of reception, and, as a result, from the perspective of the developmental interests of a given national literature, specific and particular contexts must come into play, ones that are different from what takes place in school education and different from the translations of utilitarian texts. Above all, these must be more universal experiences, but ones that are simultaneously – to remain in accord with the categories of anti-criticism – fully natural or, in other words, ones that are indispensable for the correct course of linguistic communication. It is often said that the ideal reader of an original work is a potential man or woman of letters. The most fruitful reading becomes in such cases a reversal of the process of writing. But one cannot say that the ideal reader of a translation is a potential translator! Such a formulation would restrict the reception of the art of translation to a narrow circle of reception.

While we argue with anti-criticism, we must bow to one of its ideas, that is that the model of creative labor consists of processes that go on within the space of one language. So we look for similarities, if not identity, between the translator’s labors and the work that takes place within monolingual culture; between the need for artistic translations and the economies of linguistic communication, in its practical and poetic manifestations, and also in all forms of speech that emerge between art and non-art.

In the Sphere of the Poetics of Reminiscence

My thesis is as follows. Dealing with artistic translation constitutes a generalization of what goes on when using quotation. Poetic translation is, in many aspects, similar to quotation. This similarity makes it possible to elucidate the most elementary sense of what takes place during translation. The same semiotic mechanism appears in the circulation of the quotation and the functioning of a translation. It is the mechanism of polyphony. Or perhaps it would be better to say: a mechanism of the self-regulation of culture subject to the norms of polyphony. Its operation consists in the fact that a process of differentiating what is innate and what is another’s is set against the process of the fusion of original thoughts with appropriated ones. Let us note that the quotation and the translation unite both tendencies. They introduce alien words into the present of artistic speech, and, at the same time, they command us to remember their alien lineage, which is not of today or not Polish. These two activities – seen together – organize the polyphony of the life of belles lettres, and also of related areas, for example, film or music.

With regard to quotation, the action of annexing a ready text, which we draft in to serve the interests of our poem, of our critical dissertation, of our film, or of our musical piece, is sharply contrasted with the activity of disclosing alien authorship. Disclosure does not, by any means, always take place on the surface of the text, as, for example, with the epigraph or literary motto (the motto from Jan Lechoń inTylko Beatrycze [Only Beatrice] by Teodor Parnicki, or the motto “Śniła się zima” [Winter was dreamt] in “Sen” [Dream] by Adam Ważyk). Often the decipherment of authorship is a task for the recipient. The theater audience may not catch the film quotes in Adam Hanuszkiewicz’s production of Juliusz Słowacki’s Balladyna (the character of Goplana is modelled on the comic and film character of Barbarella); in one scene from Konrad Świnarski’s production of Stanisław Wyspiański’s Wyzwolenie [Liberation], the spectator may not recognize the quotation from the staging of Słowacki’s Kordian, the staging suggested years previously by Jerzy Grotowski in Opole’s theater (the monolog on the hospital bed). The thing is, however, that revealing the source of the quotation does not mean in this game the uncovering of a “theft”; quite the opposite, it sets out the path to the interpretation that both directors aim for.

With regard to translation, the polonizing of a ready-made structure, which we force into service within Polish literature, is accomplished with the simultaneous marking of this structure as secondary in relation to the foreign-language prototype.

Employing a quote – the faithful repetition of some else’s words – is a universal practice, one that does not demand bilingualism, and that plays itself out on the territory of monolingual cultures. It is, at the same time, a graduated practice, one that has a significant role both in everyday life and in the shaping of artistic texts.

If we develop de Saussure’s notion of the conservative character of language, we can say that for the individual the entire linguistic system becomes asui generis quotation. At the moment when the individual realizes that language is a social institution, This thesis is also developed by the inheritors of Saussurean thinking. See: É. Beneveniste, “Struktura języka i struktura społeczeństwa,” Język i społeczeństwo, M. Głowiński (ed.), Warsaw 1980, pp. 27-40. in which laws obtain that are another’s and that belong to no one. A quotation from tradition is, thus, constituted by the experiences of the past stored and warehoused in speech, ready-made ways of knowing and evaluating the world via the word. The quotational nature of the individual utterance (acte de parole) is, as a rule, most strongly felt when one is dealing with phraseology. We know that phraseological expressions, the current well-known saying or the folk adage, and also frequently the literary quotation that circulates in speech on the principles of phraseology – all these are signs drawn not from our own biography, but are rather the expressions of others’ experiences. We also know that they have emerged in order to live in an infinite number of repetitions. The feature of repeatability is set out in the definition of literature offered by C.F. Hockett, A Course in Modern Linguistics, New York 1958, p. 554. Indeed, for how many poets is it not true that the inclusion of their poems, often the most distinguished “fragments,” within phraseological circulation means the most outstanding success? The word of great poetry, Przyboś wrote, always “proverbializes,” J. Przyboś, Linia i gwar, Warsaw 1959, pp. 44, 122, 190. becomes a proverb. However, when we repeat in common speech the formulations of the other, we have, indeed, our own egoistic interest in this. (Without that, the quotation would not be such a universal phenomenon.) When we quote, we appropriate others’ experiences, and we become richer by them, because we perform an act of linking our own considerations to the grand intellectual estate of some vast commonwealth. This will, perhaps, sound overemotional, but the quotation is a way of saving the individual from loneliness within a culture. Philosophy often focuses on human alienation in nature, See: R. Ingarden, Książeczka o człowieku, Cracow 1973. the drama of the expulsion of homo sapiens from nature’s cosmos. Human consciousness is also tormented by problems of being alien within conflicting cultural systems, especially when we become torn apart in the face of the culture’s ethical or ideological antagonisms. By means of quotation, two contradictory intentions are simultaneously realized: both that which accepts the other’s word and that which is polemically oriented toward that word.

Exactly the same needs are met by the art of translation.

Translation is a quote from another’s tradition, a joining on to another’s literary history. The entirety of the output of translators who work for the sake of a specific kind of artistic writing, is an identical resistance to loneliness in the cosmos of world literature. After all, not only individuals, but also nations sometimes become isolated, and are confronted with a sudden exhaustion of creative energy, perhaps finding themselves on a road that leads nowhere, into a vacuum. In Poland after 1956, both translations of Western literature, as well as translations of previously forbidden works by Soviet writers from the 1920s and 1930s, were an equally vital means of healing our creative work as the powerful explosion of innovation in original writing. The real value of the original literature of that time would necessarily have remained unclear and problematic, had it not been for the context shaped by translations of work by Sartre, Camus, Hemingway, Faulkner, the Surrealists, Tsvetaeva, Akhmatova, and others.

“Culture is collective memory,” Uspensky and Lotman claim.

Ю.М. Лотман, Б. А. Успенский, „Роль дуальных моделей в динамике культуры,” Трудыпо знаковым системам, Tartu 1977, p. 3.

Using the other’s word renews the system’s memory and is multiply justified from every perspective of social accord. From the author’s point of view, the word of the other is a condition of acceptance by the audience, whereby “another’s” means, initially, “no one’s,” and, at the same time, “common to the one acquiring it and to the recipient.” In 1921, the Polish writer Karol Irzykowski stated: “Not the essence but the condition of all art is echo, a certain notation of paths already cleared in the soul, because it makes possible sudden associations in thought, rapid connections of feelings over distant spaces.” K. Irzykowski, “Futuryzm a szachy,” Polska awangarda poetycka: Programy lat 1917-1923. Vol. 2. Manifesty i protesty, A. Lam (ed.), Cracow 1969, pp. 187-188. The idea is not new. But it gives one pause for thought that recent times – in their most radical avant-gardes, which, indeed, oppose the rule of a dependence on inheritance – have not succeeded either in withdrawing it from the cultural system, nor in invalidating it once and for all. What critic, attempting to unite the audience in favor of innovatory works, has not applied the device of setting out precedents – ones that presage, as it were, this particular type of innovation, and that are well-known from time immemorial? Not only inveterately traditional literary enterprises, but also radically anti-traditional poetics both look for cover in a nameless inheritance, belonging to no one and common to all. Let us look at absolutely “extremist” avant-gardes. Dadaism and transrational poetry. Dadaism appealed to play and children’s games. Here it had its predecessors and its “paths already cleared.” Velimir Khlebnikov and Aleksei Kruchenykh, the initiators of the transrational lyric, appealed to human linguistic behavior in situations of strong emotional tension, mystic ecstasy, and magic ritual. In the same way, the defenders of Miron Białoszewski, at a time when Białoszewski was seen a purveyor of ugly gobbledygook, said: How is that so? After all, even you, o readers, can be assailed by a language that is crippled, one steeped in an unmonitored privacy; Białoszewski makes poetry of it, for he extracts from your (for they are not his alone) linguistic tossings a new beauty, and, at the same time, a new ethics of praise of the everyday.

The authority of speech that is no one’s and is common, speech far off in the past or as it currently is developing, turns out, however, to be an authority that is insufficiently suggestive, since it is completely anonymous. In this way, literary innovations simultaneously refer to the other’s word, which is another’s ready-made formation, and which represents a concrete, individual output of a writer. The native literary output is linked to the new text via various technologies of citation, and, thus, within a play of allusions, reminiscences, and paraphrases. The foreign-language output is adapted by technologies of translation. Witkacy’s dramas and novels, Joyce’s Ulysses, Bely’s Petersburg, Białoszewski’s Wyprawy krzyżowe are all gigantic vortices of exactly such technologies of citation-translation. Dadaism and its extension, surrealism, developed rules of collage. Let us note that, as a poetics, collage reserves an important place for quotation; alongside ready-made products of an anonymous culture, collage can include quotations that reveal the author of a borrowed text. It is the same with transrational lyric verse; its occult and esoteric language, seemingly rejecting all compromises, reaching beyond the borders of the cult of humankind in the direction of the languages of birds, is not capable, in the long run, of doing without citation. One of the last manifestos of this doctrine А, Крученых, “Декларация заумного языка,” Манифесты и программы русских футуристов, V. Markow (ed.), München 1967, pp. 179-180. is, in a way, an anthology of others’ discoveries that anticipate zaum. Kruchenykh appeals not only to the situation of common speech, but also to Knut Hamsun (Ylajali, the name of an imaginary and invented girl), and he quotes Sologub, Dostoevsky, and Gogol, insisting that the strange names of places and characters that they think up are similar to the invented words in transrational poetry.

If a quotation can be an authority that aids acceptance of new ideas, then so may be a quotation from a foreign literature – one presented in the shape of a translation. Constructions tried and tested within other societies, poetics validated by others’ contemporaneity, cooperate with the development of a native poetry. They mobilize inventiveness. They shame us when we lag behind. They hearten us when the national audience rejects forms of expression or models of ethical positions that they find surprising. Translation soothes negative emotions, silences parochial conservatism, and favors humanist education.

It is not by chance that translation anti-criticism rouses itself where a quotation strategy conducted in original literature is also put in question. Maurycy Mochnacki, a Polish Romantic critic, anathematizes both the Classicist imitation of foreign patterns and the translation of foreign works (as a dominant of the literary culture of his predecessors).

The ease of attaining the most important results in the intellectual profession by means of translations, an excessively extensive knowledge of foreign languages, and, finally, the vast space that has separated the matters of our everyday life from the world of serious thought, rational reflections, and research, all this presages for us an epoch of torpor, and perhaps of complete intellectual stagnation. Thus, translations, which are most of all conducive to this stagnation, not just as regards language, but also as regards imagination and the thought that we express by language – translations are harmful. M. Mochnacki, “Kilka myśli o wypływie tłumaczeń z obcych języków na literaturę polską,” Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu, p. 150.

Adam Mickiewicz does the same:

The Dmochowski school of poetry is a school of imitators and translators from the French. Both contemporary ones and later ones. As their number has increased, perspectives have narrowed, learning has been limited, and talents have crumbled. A. Mickiewicz, ibidem, p. 156.

In the estimation of the Romantics, the poetics of reminiscence, the paraphrase of foreign developed above original creative work, brings the danger of uniformity, and, in consequence, the degeneration of national culture. Lack of a counterweight in the form of original works, growing out of native folk culture, reworking specific national experiences, deepens the crisis. Mickiewicz puts it ironically:

As to style, almost all translators, by virtue of long training, have reached the point that all, equally correctly, equally free of provincialisms and new forms of expression, all write verses well. These verses, strangely similar to each other, seem to proceed from one metal, from one mint. Ibidem.

But let us note that settling accounts with Classicism here means coming to terms with a certain historical convention assuming the concomitance of translation and imitation. But let us imagine another situation: translations open themselves up to varying initiatives of foreign literatures, contradictory in their poetics; further, their value becomes doubly dependent, both on the value of the “quoted” non-Polish literature and of the spontaneous “provincialisms and new forms of expression,” steeped in expressivity, ideas of the original “quoting” literature. The picture changes radically. This attitude leads to the intensification of the dialogic nature of literature, to its polystylistic qualities, to its momentum. In any case, it is not necessary to appeal to scholarly imagination, since this very possibility is authenticated by Polish Romanticism itself. The greatest of the Polish Romantics – Słowacki, Mickiewicz – did not give up translation; their original creative work finds a mirror in their Polish versions of Calderón, Byron, Schiller, and Pushkin. In this translation mirror, that creative work had to recognize itself continually afresh, and afresh it had to define its own identity.

The translator is a procurer of quotation. If we agree with this formulation, let us note the initial conclusions that follow from it. Despite the assertions of anti-criticism, literary translationdoes not entail an intensified artificiality of verbal communication; for the recipient, it does not constitute a system built upon the practice of translations of utilitarian texts (the recipient may have no conscious experience of such practices); but it is a higher form of the universal quotational nature of speech, something that is thus wholly “natural” or, in other words, completely indispensable for human linguistic behavior. Anti-criticism employs an absolute scale of measurement between “art” and “not art.” In anti-critical thinking, either a given text is part of art, or it is not. But, as was the case with the Romantics, anti-criticism itself weakens this antinomy: this is so whenever it sets translation alongside original literature that is derived from quotation, a literature that, as a result of imitative operations, it also removes outside the territory of art. Meanwhile, the poetics of reminiscence cannot be reduced to imitativeness. Today, after such outstanding successes for the poetics of reminiscence (of allusion, paraphrase, pastiche, quotation), such as Joyce’s Ulysses, Bely’s Petersburg, and Mann’s Doctor Faustus, after Bakhtin’s demonstration of the powerful force of “orientation toward the other’s word,” there is no way now not to perceive the role of quotation in original literature, and, indeed, in that of the highest quality. One must rather accept that “art,” like “value,” is a graduated concept. The translator (the procurer of quotation) is not a creator in an absolute sense, but becomes an artist if the translation orchestrates the same feeling of esthetic norm, function, and value in the readers as the original text.

We cannot place an equivalence sign between “quotation” and “translation.” Lexically, “quotation” is a negation of “translation.” When we quote, we cite the other’s utterance literally; when we translate, we perform a rewording. However, “translation” and “quotation” are situated in the same rhetorical field, represent the same poetics, which we have called here the “poetics of reminiscence.” There is no abuse of the word here; Słownik terminów literackich (the Polish Dictionary of Literary Terms) notes under the heading cytat [quotation/citation] the following related terms: “literary allusion, motto, paraphrase, stylization, winged words, travesty, epigrams.” M. Głowiński et al., Słownik terminów literackich, J. Slawiński (ed.), Wrocław 1976, p. 65. The translator’s text is close to quotation, exploits its privileges in reception, tends to be a “citation of structure,” See: D. Danek, “O cytatach struktur i ich funkcji w wewnętrznej polemice literackiej,” Prace z poetyki, M.R. Mayenowa (ed.), Warsaw 1968. and resembles the situation in everyday communication, when, quoting someone’s words, our interlocutor warns us: “I quote freely.” In the poetics of reminiscence, the orientation toward some ready-made, previously formulated utterance distinguishes the devices and means of rendering texts dialogic. Does there exist a device of reminiscence that is the polar opposite of the quotation and the translation? Do these operations have a common opponent? They do indeed. It is thedescription of the other’s text: the more superficial and general it is, the more strongly it contrasts with quotation and translation.

Дед свел в рай трам из двери в дверь лез и не дошел туго. Дуй, Иван. Червонцли?... It is with these words that Mr Kitsch in The Bathhouse by Vladimir Mayakovsky wants to express some thought. The character uses a language invented by Mayakovsky, a nearly senseless succession of Russian words that imitates the sound of English. A literal translation would utterly destroy the whole effect. In Guy Daniels’s English translation, this fragment reads: “Grandpa took a streetcar to Paradise, crawled from door to door, and didn’t make it in a bad way. Blow, Ivan. Ten rubles?” [Decoded: “That’s all right. I’m very, very lazy and I shall to go. Do you want gold rubles?”]. See: V. Mayakovsky, Mayakovsky: Plays, trans. G. Daniels, Evanston 1995, p. 206. However, a translation that, for example, makes Polish sound like English is possible. It is also important to keep verbs of motion in the translation; Kitsch is a tourist and he is clearly tormented by the obsessions of a journey, that is, the overcoming of space. Artur Sandauer, the Polish translator, gave up rendering this passage, and limited himself to the stage direction to the effect that Kitsch “says something that sounds like English and ends with the word czerwontsil.” W. Majakowski, Łaźnia, trans. A. Sandauer, Warsaw 1956. The description meant to replace a translation is the more clearly distant from translation, the lesser the degree of its quotational nature. We have analyzed anti-criticism; here we are dealing with anti-translation. In both, quotation is bypassed. We do not need to assemble any particular proofs that this is anti-translation. It is sufficient to imagine a universalization of Sandauer’s method, one that would allow the “translator” of Mayakovsky’s “Левый марш” (“Left March”) to be content to offer the information that “the speaker shouts out some slogans that sound revolutionary, and end with the command ‘left! left! left!’.”

Rapprochement with the quotation stimulates the evolution of the translator’s art. Translation will never be quotation, but it may be a substitute for quotation – in a reconstruction of the poetics, composition, and artistic forms of expression of the other’s vision of the world. Conscious forgeries, deviations from the original – without any justification because of an objective untranslatability – evasive decisions that try to mask the translator’s incapacity: everything that today is subject to stigmatization simultaneously constitutes a weakening of the quotational function. It is not irrelevant to recall that in old Polish, to cite or quote meant “to summon before a court.” The quotational quality of translation is at the basis of the ethical code of the contemporary translator.

When we quote, we do not by any means always accept the system of values suggested by the other’s text. Indeed, how frequently we employ citation for polemic purposes, to unmask the other’s thought that we treat as a piece of alien thinking or indeed as hostile thinking. I have written elsewhere that literary translation, too, is customarily a field of polemics, tendentious quotation in which the features of the original are magnified in order that they compromise themselves. I call this “polemical translation.” E. Balcerzan, Styl i poetyka twórczości… See: the introduction to this volume. But since this is the case, an adjacent field to the criticism of translation, one seldom visited by translation specialists, is – if one can put it thus – the “philological” element of culture, those streams of disputes about the manipulation of the other’s word, the distortion of the intentions of a cited author, the tendentious “taking out of context,” etc. A very closely neighboring field is also the game of understanding and misunderstanding a text, one lying between interpretation and interpretative abuse, between hearing the other’s explanations and interpolating unwanted ones. If we use the distinctions introduced into translation studies by Roman Jakobson, R. Jakobson, “On Linguistic Aspects of Translation.” On Translation, R.A. Brower (ed.), Cambridge, MA 1959, p. 233. we will say that the surrounding context for the reception of translation, and also for the reception of foreign literatures by the medium of translation, is intralingual translation (“from Polish to Polish”), or the mechanism whereby a monolingual culture duplicates itself.

Let us add that in the process of self-reduplication on the part of a monolingual culture, translations play a no less active role than original works and critical and scholarly commentaries. Hitherto, we have viewed the quotational function of translation from one perspective: as a “supply form” of a text from a foreign literature. But, at the same time, literary translation makes self-quotational acts possible within a given national literature. I say possible, because this refers to a certain style in the art of translation, that is, specifically, to the school of translation that treats the language of works from the translator’s native literature (the language of the target tradition) as material for translation.

Robert Stiller, a Polish translator, writes:

[…] an adequate translation of Lewis Carroll would be impossible in Polish without what Witkacy, Bolesław Leśmian, and Konstanty Ildefons Gałczyński brought to our language and style: I would, indeed, defend the assertion that this should be visible as a result. R. Stiller, “Powrót do Carrolla,” Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu…, pp. 430-431.

It should be visible; it should not, however, exceed the limits of quasi-quotation. Nikolai Lyubimov confesses:

“When I translated Maupassant’s novel Bel ami, I read the whole of Chekhov – from cover to cover. I did not take a single sentence from Chekhov, but the whole time I was breathing in the stylistic atmosphere that I needed. From Chekhov I learned that concision, that lapidary quality that he shares with Maupassant.” М. Любимов, “Перевод – искусство,” Мастерство перевода, Сб, 1963, Moscow 1964, p. 236.

This fine Russian translator formulates the fundamental directives of his own method thus:

[…] we are allowed to and we ought to draw in the general linguistic atmosphere of this or that author, of this or that period, but we are not allowed to borrow expressions that are characteristic of a given author, ones that they introduced into literary circulation. Ibidem, p. 236.

Once more it must be said that mechanisms of intralingual translation play a role in the process of interlingual translation: a quality of quotation (in this case, self-quotation) is the aim here, one that can never be achieved in full.

At the end, I offer two observations, which need further elaboration and more complex discussion in interpretations of concrete texts.

The concept of the “quotation” in literary studies is, to put it in journalistic terms, undemocratic. Writers quote writers, and it is only in those circles that they acknowledge quotation. When they exploit non-literary texts (letters, journals, depositions recorded by the functionaries of relevant services, etc.), it varies with regard to the revelation of sources for their inspiration; quoting “living speech” sentences overheard in conversation, sayings stolen from interlocutors – literary ethics leaves this outside the range of an obligation to reveal the other’s authorship. But here it is not a matter of ethics, but of the status of original literature. Is it not so that in its many currents this literature is a montage of quotations drawn from spontaneous “creativity,” a creativity played out according to the principles of the folklore of artistic circles, one that anonymously aids professional creativity? If we want to analyze the quotational nature of translation and look for quotational qualities in original works, then we finally have to go beyond open games with the other’s word in texts that realize the literary poetics of reminiscence.In the introduction to this essay, I mentioned that the art of the translator is adjacent (in interdisciplinary research) to secondary arts, since the same tone and the same formulations of anti-criticism unite them. Let us add here that this is not all: they are arts that reveal their own status as quotations. Early film was a quotation from the theater. See: A. Helman, Co to jest kino? Panorama myśli filmowej, Warsaw 1978, p. 10. An actor’s performance is a quotation of texts setting out actions and behaviors (codified in theatrical tradition as well as captured in the extra-theatrical spectacles of everyday life). In some sense, the opposition of the originality and non-originality of art might be made weaker (but not eliminated!) by the opposition of overt quotation and covert quotation.
Balcerzan Edward (1968) Styl i poetyka twórczości dwujęzycznej Brunona Jasieńskiego: Z zagadnień teorii przekładu, Wrocław, Ossolineum.
Balcerzan Edward (1977) Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu (1440-1974): Antologia, Poznań, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie.
Danek Danuta (1968) "O cytatach struktur i ich funkcji w wewnętrznej polemice literackiej", in: Mayenowa Maria Renata; Sławiński Janusz (ed), Prace z poetyki, Wrocław, Ossolineum.
Etkind Efim (1963) Poezija i perevod, Moskva, Sovetskij Pisatel'.
Głowinski Michał (1972) "Witkacy jako pantagruelista", in: Głowinski Michał; Sławiński Janusz (ed), Studia o Stanisławie Ignacym Witkiewiczu, Wrocław, Ossolineum, pp.60.
Helman Alicja (1978) Co to jest kino?: Panorama myśli filmowej, Warszawa, Wydawnictwo Artystyczne i Filmowe.
Hockett Charles F (1980) A course in modern linguistics, New York, MacMillan.
Ingarden Roman Witold (1973) Książeczka o człowieku, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie.
Irzykowski Karol (1969) "Futuryzm a szachy", in: Lam Andrzej (ed), Manifesty i protesty: antologia, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie, pp.187.
Jakobson Roman (1959) "On linguistic aspects of translation", in: Brower Reuben Arthur (ed), On translation, Cambridge, Harvard University Press, pp.232-239.
Lebiedziński Henryk (1981) Elementy przekładoznawstwa ogólnego, Warszawa, Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe.
Ljubimov Nikolaj (1964) "Perevod - iskusstvo", Masterstvo perevoda 1.
Lotman Jurij Michajlovič (1970) Struktura chodužestvennogo teksta, Moskva, Iskusstvo.
Lotman Jurij Michajlovič (1973) "Teatr i teatral'nost' v stroe kul'tury načala XIX veka", in: Mayenowa Maria Renata, Semiotyka i struktura tekstu: studia poświęcone VII Międzynarodowemu Kongresowi Slawistów, Warszawa, 1973, Wrocław, Ossolineum, pp.337-356.
Lotman Jurij Michajlovič, Uspenskij Boris (1977) "Rol' dual'nych modelej v dinamike russkoj kul'tury (do konca XVIII veka)", Trudy po russkoj i slavjanskoj filologii 36, pp.3-36.
Majakovskij Vladimir Vladimirovič (1956) Łaźnia, Warszawa, Panstwowy instytut wydawniczy.
Majakovskij Vladimir Vladimirovič (1995) Plays, Evanston, Ill., Northwestern University Press.
Mochnacki Maurycy (1977) "Kilka myśli o wypływie tłumaczeń z obcych języków na literaturę polską", in: Balcerzan Edward (ed), Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu (1440-1974): Antologia, Poznań, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, pp.150.
Przybos Julian (1959) Linia i gwar I: szkice, Kraków, Wydawnictwo Literackie.
Rilke Rainer Maria (1945) Letters of Rainer Maria Rilke: 1910-1926, New York, Norton.
Ryl'skij Maksim (1970) "Čechov v ukrainskom perevode", Masterstvo perevoda 7, pp.421.
Sienkiewicz Barbara (1982) "Deautomatyzacyjna funkcja przekładu w przemianiach prozy narracyjnej", in: Błonski Jan (ed), Studia o narracji, Wrocław, Ossolineum, pp.291-304.
Stiller Robert (1977) "Powrót do Carrolla", in: Balcerzan Edward (ed), Pisarze polscy o sztuce przekładu (1440-1974): Antologia, Poznań, Wydawnictwo Poznańskie, pp.430.
Sławiński Janusz (1976) Słownik terminów literackich, Wrocław, Ossolineum.
Tatarkiewicz Władysław (1975) Dzieje sześciu pojęć: sztuka, piękno, forma, twórczość, odtwórczość, przeżycie estetyczne, Warszawa, Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe.
Ziomek Jerzy (1980) Powinowactwa literatury: studia i szkice, Warszawa, Panstwowe Wydawnictwo Naukowe.

This document is unfortunately not available for download at the moment.

Not implemented yet !
(1998) Literatura z literatury, Katowice, Śląsk.