Emma Ramadan on "Monospace": Part II [RTWBC]
Here’s the follow-up to the earlier post featuring Emma Ramadan’s essay on Anne Parian’s Monospace. Her piece prompted me to ask a few questions, which she was kind enough to reply to. Hopefully this will inspire all of you to pick up a copy of the book!
As always, anyone interested in participating in the Reading the World Book Clubs should feel free to email me their questions and comments. Or, if you’re more of a public sharer, feel free to post them in the comments section below, on Twitter at #RTWBC, or in the Facebook RTWBC Group. We’ll be talking about both of these books on our next podcast.
Chad W. Post: It might be due to the fact that I had been talking about Robbe-Grillet and Sarraute and Pinget earlier in the day before reading this, but I was reminded a bit of the nouveau roman when I was reading it. Something about the way the reader is put in the perspective of the creator, watching the creation come into being, seeing how the scene is set, so to speak. Do you know if this movement had a influence on Parian? Or are there other authors/ideas/movements that are more influential?
Emma Ramadan: While I would venture to guess that any French writer would have to be influenced by the nouveau roman movement to a certain extent, I would hate to speak for Parian in this case—but would be happy to email her asking if you’d like.
CWP: I think it’s interesting that there are no commas in the main poem. (Contrasted with the footnotes, which do have commas.) I found myself having to slow down, reread and parse the lines. I assume this is intentional and present in the original. Was this something that impacted your translation process? I really had to get used to it, as a reader, figuring out where to pause in the middle of lines—it was a bit of an adjustment.
ER: Oh man, the no commas thing. It did make translating this very difficult because it threw into confusion what the sentence structure was, whether a line was a list of adjectives or meant to be nouns modified by adjectives, etc. French can get away with that in a way, and I often felt like in places my translation was begging for commas. Where it was too confusing I sometimes reconfigured the sentences (I’m thinking of: “Wood piles and cardboard demarcate the zone enclosing a small mobile object position unknown compared to a bigger more stable object position known”). Sometimes I let the sentence be confusing if it seemed like it was just as confusing in French. I think there’s a certain aspect of confusion that’s purposeful here, since the narrator is figuring things out as she goes, piling things on, starting over. There’s a messiness to it that feels right. BUT—what was really interesting was that when I finally went and “translated” the index, I realized that she was indexing all the nouns in the book. And while it still remains a mystery to me why exactly she did that—to inventory the garden?—some parts suddenly became clear to me. Things I had previously decided were adjectives in a list were actually nouns! And so I was able to go back and fix some of those more confusing lines.
CWP: In your essay you mention that there are photographs at the end of the P.O.L. edition. What are those and why aren’t they in the La Presse one?
ER: There are two photos, they’re both the same, black and white of a tree and its leaves. I’m almost positive they were taken by Anne. But I actually couldn’t tell you why they’re not in the translation, either because Cole couldn’t get the rights, or because La Presse publications aren’t equipped for that kind of thing. Really not sure. For one of Cole’s translations, of Suzanne Doppelt’s Ring Rang Wrong (Burning Deck), Cole “translated” the photos from the original, taking photos of her own (at least, I know that was her plan). Maybe she felt it required something like that and we didn’t have the time. This was a very long response to say: I have no clue!