Throughout the ideas, intuitions, research and work that have shaped my projects, both as an artist and a researcher, I have always come across the need to translate my words. Translation is essential in so many ways: to access documents or the contents of archives, to make contact with a fellow researcher, or to begin collaborating with other artists who speak a language I either don’t know, or don’t speak well enough. Finally, I need translation to be able to disseminate and share my work.
It was thanks to Nahal Tajadod’s remarkable book, “À l’Est du Christ”(1) that I truly became aware of translation issues. In the book, the author talks of the geographic, linguistic and spiritual journey of Persian Christians in China. The story of how Christian spirituality was translated into Chinese, from one language to the other as well as from one writing system to another, is all significant to the work of the translator. He/she must understand the distinct forms of thought and the specific linguistic mechanisms that underpin them, in order to conceptualize the translation according to the thought patterns of the target language, otherwise the contents would be unintelligible to the Chinese people, despite the fact it was correctly translated:
“By means of a genuine transportation of thought, they had to translate a spiritual conception of the world, in abstract terms, into a complex organisation of signs. It was not a simple case of just translating the words, they also had to translate their souls.” (Tajadod, 2000: 44)
Tajadod, who has mastered the Persian, Chinese, and French languages along with their respective writing systems, also talks about the translation of Buddhist texts into Chinese and, in doing so, highlights the specificity of Chinese Buddhism.
A piece of writing should not be translated: the thought it carries should be comprehended and trans-formed into another language so that its meaning can be transmitted to another world.
The very nature of all thought is movement; languages are constantly evolving. Therefore we want the Alexandria Project site to be a place of exchange and creation, and that’s the reason why we have set up our creative writing workshop.
That, in effect, is the choice we have made: being able to express the diversity of the world should, of course, be based on the acknowledgement of otherness, but it also must be built in step with time.
With all the linguistic services we offer, it may be that we dedicate a little more time to your translations, but in doing so, we will be using not only our knowledge and savoir-faire, but also our awareness. For Art, for Humanities, for Human Rights: for Humans.
We look forward to meeting you.
(1) Tajadod, Nahal. (2000) À l’Est du Christ. [In the East of Christ] Paris, Plon.