Against Translation: Displacement is the New Translation

Against Translation: Displacement is the New Translation

Kenneth Goldsmith

Against Translation is a text by American poet Kenneth Goldsmith (born 1961) published in eight volumes–English, French, Spanish, German, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic. The author discusses the impasses and shortcomings of translation and the virtures of an unapologetic linguistic “displacement.” “Translation is the ultimate humanist gesture,” he states. “Polite and reasonable, it is an overly cautious bridge builder … in the end, it always fails, for the discourse it sets forth is inevitably off-register.” Displacement, by contrast, never explains itself. Goldsmith cites the example of Mexican-American poet Monica de la Torre, who, in the middle of a presentation at a 2010 poetics conference at Columbia, “broke out, full on, for ten minutes entirely in Spanish, leaving all those who pay lip service to multilingualism and diversity angry because they couldn’t understand what she was saying. De la Torre thereafter resumed her talk in English, never mentioning her intervention … Comprehension is optional; displacement is concretely demonstrative.”





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