There is no such thing as a perfect substitute in translation. There are instead, displacements and interpretations, which remain nevertheless within the limits of the text. But beyond this, translations can, in their more radical instance, release a surplus. This surplus of translation is neither solely of the original nor of the context of its destination, and not even of their differences. It is brought about by the excess in translation itself – through over-interpretation – in order to supplement what is left out from the text(s). The surplus has a life of its own beyond the binarism of translation. It is a bypass, a detour, for saying the things that cannot be said otherwise. The surplus is the braking of translation into excerpts, extending it to unsought relations. These passages diverging from translation may come to occasion the voicing of things other than that which the initial translation sought to speak of; they may come to engender desires, contradictions and struggles that make up the social to re-enter language.
Ever since the introduction of modernity in Iran, translation has played a very significant role in various social and cultural fields. In recent years however, translation has become the subject of intense debates among Iranian intellectuals, in regard to both its historical and political significance. The fact that translation is and has always been intrinsic to the Iranian experience of modernity – as in many non-Western countries – not only hints to the mode and the complexity of this experience, but also why discussions about translation cannot be limited to a mere transfer or exchange of meanings and concepts. Such an approach would disregard the critical and the political ‘space’ that translation can engender. The surplus of translation is its release from any fidelity to either contexts of the target or the source of the translation. With the political induced in translation, the question of cultural exchange and cultural translation become immediately problematic. Instead, translation then becomes a practice from within the conflict zone of the cultural and the social. The question is then not so much of how I translate the ‘Other’ into my own culture or vice-versa, or how I integrate into the global or let the global define my own place – but rather how translation can offer an instance of subversion, transgression, and political agency in my own immediate surrounding.
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Having experienced, each time anew, some of the challenges of translation with Pages’ previous issues, it seemed inevitable that we dedicate an edition to this topic. We often need to struggle with certain references in a text that are too specific to the context of the text or too alien for the reader of the translation, that even when clarified in footnotes or between brackets, still serve to break the flow of the text. The dilemma is that the more you clarify these references the more you displace them. But again isn’t this surplus of translation – the in between brackets or in footnotes – an instance of questioning and negotiating the very conditions – political and cultural – in which translation is pursued? What has made translation a unique experience for us in the last few editions of Pages, is not so much because of the ‘differences’ or the ‘similarities’ that we encounter between the conditions of the two languages. Translation on the contrary undermines articulating conditions in these very terms. Rather, with translation one gets closer to understanding the potentiality and the eventualities of each condition.
In this issue, we have put together articles and argumentations that address some of the specifics of the surplus of translation. As it is the costume with Pages, there is on the one hand, the focus on the Iranian context, with its current discussions and concerns about the historical and political implications of translation. The Iranian experience tells us about the potentialities of translation in engendering, however precarious, an emancipatory space and practice. On the other hand, there are readings of practices of ‘translation’ that exactly due to their operation within the excess of translation, retain an extra-geographical and cultural disposition, which make them political instances of translation. From the editorial point of view, this issue is an attempt, in raising the critical notions of translation, asking how is translation a dispositif for the political?
“For the dream may perhaps have another interpretation as well, an ‘over-interpretation,’ which has escaped him.” (Sigmund Freud, The Interpretation of Dreams)