Logos Multilingual Portal

9. From text to initial image: the psychology of artistic creation. Notes on the unconscious process that takes the author from vision to linguistic realization


c) The numen of the word

In contact with these recurring worlds, the translator is obliged to recover the ‘numinous’ value of the word, or its ability to convey luminescences (Andrea Zanzotto called them "Fosfèni") of lost knowledge; archetypes that become scenarios of drama in the consciousness of those who believe they are seeing reality.

In Billy Budd, that "parable on the death of innocence", centred on the hostility of the infernal world towards the handsome sailor, the fallen archangel, Melville places the action of story in 1797, during a disastrous period for the entire Western world: the French Revolution, which, for Ethics, represented what the Copernican revolution was for Metaphysics. Since then, man simply had the "soledad" as a corollary of Time; hence the meticulous and technological precision with which his consciousness has since prepared itself to do wrong.

For a translator, neglecting the ‘philosophical’ and dramaturgical aspects of such standpoints, by the writer-creator, towards his own imaginary worlds, involves permanent consequences. Unawareness of how a story states nothing but alludes to metaphysical meanings that are represented rather than told, will prevent the translator’s language from leaving the category of the likely.

Realism is the original sin of any translation that does not pass through this vitality of reflections: the subtle antitheology arising from any definition of ‘modern’ literature, and almost the shadow of a double incidentally projected on the wall by a moonbeam.

A useful picklock is represented by the interpretative categories of Heidegger: for a translator his distinction between Tatsächlichkeit and Faktizität becomes a true imperative. The two worlds – that of ‘substances which subsist’ and that of ‘events which occur’ - have the problem of becoming conveyed by the same instrument: the language. Whereas, it is on the boundary between them – awareness as a mirror – that things ‘really occur’. The quest for this boundary and its expression within the limits of a culturally determined language is the challenge that the rhetoric of points of view poses for any translator wishing to also be a ‘poet’, as a creator of worlds.