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Blake Butler Interviews Johannes Göransson

By Harriet Staff

Blake Butler of HTMLGIANT interviews Johannes Göransson today. Author of Dear Ra, A New Quarantine Will Take My Place, Pilot, and most recently Entrance to a colonial pageant in which we all begin to intricate (Tarpaulin Sky); co-editor of Action Books and Action Yes; blog auteur at Montevidayo; and translator of the stunning Aase Berg, among others, Göransson is a busy and talented bee. Why, just the other day, they arrested a student for plagiarizing him! But Butler and Göransson are talking assemblages, pageants, the interaction between art and the body, “the invention of things objects or gestures that are given space often only as names, or as employments,” and Poe’s “The Fall of the House of Usher”: “I love [it] because it shows everybody, everything possessed by art, everything collapses into the eye-wound-lake. I love the sister who is/ins’t dead, a body seeming both killed and animated by Art. A little like the un-kill-able girl in Ringu, who seems to be animated by the duplications of artistic montages. The Twist is such an amazing name: since it suggests a horribly torturous movement. Something Patti Smith brings out in her song on ‘Horses.’”

They also discuss translation:

BB: I wonder also about the influence of your interest and activity in translation in your work, how the experience of shifting the language of people like Aase Berg and Jönsson and the like ends up affecting the way you think about connecting language in your own writing? Does the act in some way change the way you are wired? Is that act of translating political in another kind of way from writing itself?

JG: This is something I have thought about a great deal. American writers/readers are so troubled by translation: it’s inauthentic, counterfeit, kitsch. They want the real thing, not this fake, possibly pathological thing that foreigners peddle. Part of being an immigrant is being suspect, part of translating is the same suspicions. We’re cheaters, we’re not quite real. I’ve been repeatedly accused of making up the poets I translate (I take it as a compliment!). But then I’ve also been suspected of fucking Lara Glenum. We’re pathological agents, foreigners and translators, treasonous kitsch-makers with unofficial access to jouissance. One way of solving this problem is not to read things in translation (very common); or to see it as a necessarily flawed imitation but necessarily good for you; or to focus on interlingual writing. The last one is seductive indeed, and in part I have participated in this answer: in a lot of my works there are interlingual puns or auto-translations (in a variety of ways – homophonic, stutttery, infected, bled-out etc, all very technical terms), especially in my book Pilot (“Johann the Carousel Horse”), which aims to create a kind of leaky in-between language that sounds like partly a backwards-tape that drags and partly like Swedish and partly like English. I get all spassy when I read it, so I don’t read it very often, but it’s more like a performance piece, something that needs to be read (as Stina Kajaso just wrote on her blog “performance” really basically means “show your tits!”); I want to hear English as a foreign language. The problem is when such interlingualism becomes an excuse not to deal with foreign lit in translation, and more importantly, a way of dealing with foreign languages that does away with the scandalous counterfeit nature of translation. I don’t want to remove that. That’s the politics of translation in a nutshell.

The entire interview can be read here.

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Posted in Uncategorized on Friday, June 3rd, 2011 by Harriet Staff.