Stochastic Bookmark

abstruse unfinished commentary

about correspondence


Foreign Exchange

I've been accepted on to the Board of Directors for Archipelago Books, "a not-for-profit literary press dedicated to promoting cross-cultural exchange through international literature in translation", a mission I can get behind. Which is where I want to be, rather than out in front of it: I've never been in sales, relying instead upon the product to do the persuading, preferring to be cast as support rather than to the spotlight. That's just how I role. And getting on board isn't much about group identification for me; I'm more fitter than joiner, and this suits my journeymanic ramblings.

But I'd like to unpack that mission statement a bit, give some indication as to why it's important (beyond what I've already had to say about literary translation and awards [and much more passim/en passant]). Not to unpack all the way down to "literature" or "culture", other than to note that it is the individual writers that ultimately constitute both, and this is the most telling; such personal perspectives reveal much more than any pedagogy or punditry can, thanks to the tension, artistic and otherwise, between individual and literature, culture, society. As writers both refract and affect culture, so translators broaden its reach through artfully self-effacive impersonation. So what makes culture accessible is this double movement, this intensely personal interaction, window and mirror–the writer setting him/herself apart, the translator, within.

What's going on at the atomic level doesn't explain the interactions in aggregate. Culture is more than mere aggregation, more than history (rationalization of incidence, reconciling unlikemindedness), more like memory (not that I'm ascribing consciousness to it). The act of remembering alters the memory, brings it into current context, among other perspectival shifts. For the writer, one of the most fruitful modes of movement is to smuggle in something from outside the local culture and adapt it, whether by responding to writers from other parts, or importing forms from elsewhere, or, in extremis, exile. But what is new within the local (particularly non-European) culture may be the very thing affording purchase for the international reader to the established local matrix (in an echo of the writer-translator dynamic). And recognition from abroad may feed back into better reception at home and a consequent cultural enlargement and diversity.

So this notion of "cross-cultural exchange" is not just about the benefits to the reader, but to culture, whether regional, national, or global. But I'm happy to reap the benefits as a reader, in better understanding the world, and in better connecting with those I've worked with in finance, one of the more internationalized business venues, though these were not my principal motivations in exploring the territories marked out by literature in translation. And I am gratified to have an opportunity to encourage others to make the trip. Your mileage may vary, but you'll go far.


Blogger JAbel said...

Have you ever heard or read any Magnus Mills?.Came across him on Guardian UK tonight and some of his novels look very interesting.

6/12/12 02:08  
Blogger nnyhav said...

Sorry, don't know him, but my go-to in such cases does.

6/12/12 09:19  
Blogger JAbel said...

Nice! bookmarked this site.

6/12/12 16:53  
Blogger nnyhav said...

Oh, nice! [/Onslow] had to pick up The Restraint of Beasts, between you and Pynchon's blurb: "A demented, deadpan-comic wonder"

6/12/12 19:21  

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