Pièce #5 :« In-between-ness »


Intervention à l’occasion d’une journée dédiée à la traduction, à la NYU, oct 2014, en présence de Jacques Lezra, Frédéric Boyer, Avital Ronnell, Ester Allen…

On pourrait présenter les choses ainsi : chaque langue porte en elle une double potentialité. Une tension vers une forme d’intégrisme, de réductionnisme, qui tend à vouloir figer la grammaire, à déplorer le més-usage de sa syntaxe, à condamner les intrusions étrangères ou bien une aspiration à l’ouverture, à l’hybridation, à l’extension du domaine de la langue. Pour ce qui est de la langue française, nous vivons hélas dans le temps d’une double négation : un intégrisme de la pureté de la langue qui se présente comme une réaction contre une forme d’hybridation laquelle prend la forme, bien souvent, d’une réduction matérielle. Dans ce contexte, je vois, pour ma part, le chantage à la loyauté qui se met en marche chaque fois qu’il m’est arrivé de parler en anglais ou d’écrire en anglais, une langue qui est, pourtant, à mes yeux, comme un second pays, un souvenir de mon enfance, un espace où je peux être autre chose, autre part, où je peux atteindre à une forme indéfinie de ma présence au monde : qui est celui qui parle anglais ? D’où vient-il ? L’espace de la langue est si vaste et la variété des accents pour le parler est si grande que, d’une certaine manière, est libre celui qui parvient à en user en multipliant les accents. Je fais des fautes en anglais. Je n’écris pas non plus correctement l’italien. Je tends à massacrer l’allemand quand je le parle. Et pourtant, je me sens autorisé à user chacune de ses langues, à jouer avec elles, à les traverser. C’est en ce sens que j’ai proposé à la publication, dans ce puzzle, sur Remue.net, des textes en anglais. À ceux qui ne peuvent les lire, je dis : ne soyez pas en colère, nous sommes tous un jour ou l’autre face à l’illisible et c’est peut-être là l’expérience d’humilité la plus importante. À ceux qui écrivent parfaitement l’anglais, je dis : ne soyez pas en colère si j’ai fauté, car nous sommes tous un jour ou l’autre, amenés à devenir l’étranger, le barbare, celui qui a été arraché à la maîtrise. La littérature est une école des multiplicités, des sub-jectivités infinies. Et les langues sont elles aussi un accès à cette multiplicité des mondes. Dans une époque où chacun est susceptible de finir accusé de « trahir la langue et avec elle son pays », je me dis qu’il est urgent de réhabiliter ce verbe : « trahir » comme un appel à une énergie nouvelle, pour ré-ouvrir la langue, pour la faire danser, l’étendre, la pendre, l’envoyer en l’air ou la massacrer.


Camille de Toledo, octobre 2014



1. I call “antre-des-langues” the gap in-between languages. In French, we would call it the “interstice”. In the London metro, the automatic voice says : Mind the gap. In a post-exotic world where living-in-exile becomes the rule, this gap is where we stand. It is both mind the gap & the mind of the gap. So the poetic and political question becomes : How can I inhabit this in-between-ness ? What is the mind that lies in this gap ? And how can I make this “entre-des-langues” a home, an “antre” ? In French, “antre” means refuge, shelter. So how can we make a “Heimat” out of this “Zwischen-sprachlichkeit” ? Switching from “entre-des-langues” to “antre-des-langues” is the actual movement in which translation takes place.


2. Thinking the in-between is what the language can’t conceive, but what the translation does experience. Language cuts reality into pieces, in two pieces. Something and its contrary. Language – and especially Western philosophy as a belief in logos and ordre des raisons – tends to split reality in words that, in the end, would only be transitory body refering to pure meanings. François Julien, in the past decade, has tried to think the in-between using Chinese signs, especially one refering to in-between. His theoretical propositions coincide with an endeavour to trans-pass the Western way of thinking. In another field of existence – and yet, in my eyes, connected to a growing interest for in-bewteen-ness – Judith Butler has tried to give space to the in-between of genres. In the field of translation studies, also, the last twenty years renewed interest in the process of translation – from Antoine Berman to “le projet des Intraduisibles” carried by Barbara Cassin – is giving a new profundità to the in-between of languages.


3. Antre-des-langues and in-between-ness as powerful ignorance. The in-between-ness of antre-des-langues is different from all these approaches, since it does not have anything to do with genres (Butler), nor with transcending Western philosophy (Julien), nor with a translation turn engaging against the split between words and meanings, signs and signifiants (Cassin). The in-between-ness that lies in l’entre-des-langues is both po-ethical and political. It would relate more to Jacques Rancière’s book Le Maître ignorant. An inversion of the relation we have to the “power of knowledge” over the “weakness of ignorance”.


4. The ignorance as knowledge of the in-between.

The “untranslatable” hypothesis requires knowledge. It is both reterritorisalisation (what is lost of a word, when the meaning is translated) – i.e. an attention to the link between sign-and-meaning, as well as deterritorialisation (the never-ending translation as a result of the inherent imperfection of translation). The untranslatable requires a great amount of knowledge and erudition. With regards to this regime of knowledge that goes with untranslatableness, this place that I call in-between (l’antre-des-langues) is a place of weakness, a place of un-knowing, where one stands in a place without words. In a way, the “antre-des-langues” is the situation of the baby, when (as Daniel Heller-Roazen describes it in Echolalias) it is still possible to learn all languages, before any one of them has made us forget about the others. It would also be the sitution of the “exilé” who returned to ignorance, as he is not able to speak and master the language of his new home.


5. Making in-between-ness the centre.

National, cultural and linguistic orders are essentially monolingual power structures. In the history of translation, it was less seen as a way to bridge cultures than as a way to conquer them. By translating, one appropriates the knowledge of the “other”. Translation in itself is therefore not a progressive gesture. It can be reactionary – translating to defend one’s culture as a nationalistic/regional approach. Or it can accompany a domination process : Translating to get hold of the otherness of a perceived foreign culture. In regard of these “translative patterns”, the fact of designating “l’antre-des-langues” as the space where a “we” is still to be conceived and rendered possible (where translation is the central language), also shapes a new place : Like a center with a whole in the middle with branches towards a diversity of languages and words.


6. A center with a whole.

This center-with-a-whole can be linked to what Claudio Magris has described as the principle of “Mitteleuropa” both in Danube and L’Anello di Clarisse. A center with a whole in the middle is a model to think about Europe before (Magris commenting Musil) and after the destruction of european yiddishland (as I have commented in : Le Hêtre et le Bouleau, an essay on European sadness.) a. A place where translation is the common language. b. Translation as a language of languages replacing yiddish as the hybrid language linking countries beyond nation-states.
c. A centrality that has no center but points out towards linguistic plurality.
d. A language (translation) that needs to be learned by immigrants from post-colonial countries in a post-colonial Europe.


7. If “European literature” makes sense, its language is translation, its centre is as described by Claudio Magris – a center with a whole – and its place is “entre-des-langues”. Making this place, language and center happen consists in changing l’entre-des-langues – which is a nowhere land – into an antre-des-langues, an in-between-ness that can become home-land, a Heimat of in-between, a country entra-las-lenguas. So the question of a literary and intellectual Europe becomes : How can we learn this language (the language of this antre-des-langues) ? What kind of school can teach such a language – translation ? We usually answer for national languages such as English, French, German, or regional languages such as Catalan by saying that the cost of language is : school. The budget that goes into school is the cost for a language to be transmitted. Yet for translation-as-language, who will accept to pay ? As this language would actually make a European cultural and political entity a reality, it becomes also a welt-language of languages.


8. On three world languages : At the beginning of the 21st century, one can say there are three world languages : a. Global english, b. Technology, c. Translation. Global English carries cultural hegemony and is thus unacceptable as a cultural long-term option. Technology is the option pushed forward as a possible way for automatic translation, thus reducing languages to meaning or, using a hybrid between memory (the archives of translation) and machines, reaching the point where words and texts can be translated by machines. This, as a communication utopia, might be reachable. But it is not an option for arts and human sciences. In those fields that are at the very heart of politics – where there is a such thing as society and politics, there is expression, and where there is expression there is a need for human translation/voice – So, the third option, translation, remains as the only option. If there is a true understanding of the need to build a world-community, then the concern for human translation will become more and more strategic.



10 octobre 2014