EP78circleMoney, Math, & Measure
Miscalculations in the Third Texte of Translation

Lily Robert-Foley

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The metaphor of mathematical equivalence in thinking on translation is an easy source of malentendues. That equivalence equivalence after the metamorphosis of metaphor is quickly exemplified in a simple reading of 1=1, read across two languages, French and English. For one = two (at least); one =/≠ un + une. In spite of this, arithmetic, algebraic, geometric, as well as marketplace metaphors of currency exchange and value measurements, are frequently deployed in translation theory. In this paper I make a “literal wager” (Craig Dworkin’s term) of Money, Math, & Measure metaphors in translation, using them performatively to reread Samuel Beckett’s self translation of L’Innommable/The Unnamable. These metaphors are used as reading filters, producing new figures of bad math, miscalculations, impossible numbers, fiscal fraud, and incalculable gifts in a Third Texte of translation.
“How many texts are there in a translation? The question of translation is naturally one of equivalence, as translators seek to make one text equivalent to another. Rhetoric in the meta-discourse on translation has often posed the question of loss and gain in the seeking of this equivalence, in the tabulating, weighing, and accounting for the credits and debits that accrue as languages are exchanged for one another (Bassnett, Berman, Venuti). But how is the language measured, how is it divided and counted?”
LILY ROBERT-FOLEY is Associate Professor of Translation Studies at the University of Paul-Valéry, Montpellier 3. She is the author of Jiji, a book of prose poems and conceptual writing, m, a book of poetry-critique-collage, graphemachine, a chapbook of visual poetry (Xerolage, 2013), and the annotations to the North Georgia Gazette (Green Lantern Press, 2009). She is a member of Outranspo, an international group of experimental translators. She is currently preparing a comparative study and pedagogical workbook of translation procedures and rhetorical figures, using feminist science fiction as a theoretical lens, that she plans to entitle Mass Transit.


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Essay Press is pleased to announce the two winners of the 2016 Essay Press Open Book Contest judged by Carla Harryman: Litany for the Long Moment by Mary-Kim Arnold and Of Sphere by Karla Kelsey, which will be published in Fall 2017.