b. Literary language as foreshortening
Everyday language differs from the language of letters in
the nature of the "vision" it conveys. In everyday language, the
vision is objective, and in literary language, subjective ¾ which means that in literature,
greater importance attaches to the implications and suggestions of the words
than to what actually is said. Intention has precedence over expression. The
desire to be challenged, so to speak, is stronger than the search for
clarity. Effectiveness is achieved in redundancy, in the aura created around
the text. In literature, sense is significance.
What is foreshortening?
Going into a gothic cathedral, the profusion of side
chapels, arches, columns and windows give the impression of plurality,
creating as many cathedrals ¾ identical in design, though differing in structure ¾ as the standpoints taken up by
the observer. The gothic cathedral seeks to transform time into space. To
suggest an escape from the temporal, even as human life is destined
ultimately to enter the serene uniformity of the City of God. The essential
purpose of foreshortening, therefore, is that it should stylize the
fundamental elements of the subject matter so that they can be freely
recombined and juxtaposed. If we consider our individual and collective
memory as the space encompassed by a cathedral, we will at once be in the
dimension that best reflects an ideal psychology for the translator.
In effect, this is a process that underlies any creative
enterprise in literature.
The most emblematic example is that gothic cathedral of
words erected by Proust in his Recherche, where the selfsame objects
bell-towers, seascapes, curtains, faces, discourses ¾ all take on new meanings
according to the connections in space that the memory establishes between
them, starting from two initial points of view: du cote de chez Swann, du
cote de chez Guermantes. Two roads, one leading to the home of the
Swanns, the other to the home of the Guermantes. But it is around the
divergence between these two areas of thought that the different points of
view in the narrative are articulated. "Of our body, where incessant
pleasures and many pains come together, we do not have a precise vision like
that of a tree or of a house or of a passer-by";, writes Proust, who
makes a theatre of the body, a stage on which to project events, like the
Chinese shadows of Li Po.
Thus, the first quality of the foreshortened view is its
density. The second is reversibility, whereby a detail formerly unremarkable
in character can take on a revelatory significance. Thinking of The Pit
and the Pendulum, by Edgar Allan Poe, the ticking that strikes the
consciousness of the protagonist ¾ the only sound perceived
¾ has no
significance at first on reawakening. Everything is in darkness. The fact
that the ticking denotes the inexorable descent of a chopper is understood
only as the character becomes conscious of the situation. In retrospect,
accordingly, we come to see that Death is the sound of time, and the ticking
takes on the expressive and deceptive force of a metaphysical symbol, though
without in any way losing its graphic and sensory impact. In Poe's tale, we
discover the external space from within the conscious of the protagonist.
The third quality of foreshortening is that it is related
to a point of view.